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What Exactly is Cloud Infrastructure Management

Jan 28, 2014 6:00:00 AM

by Charles Bystock

cloud infrastructure managementCloud infrastructure management is the process of organizing and maintaining your IT underpinnings – at least some of them – virtually. You’re probably already drifting toward the cloud, and outsourcing, too, by using a commodity email or similar service.  

Cloud computing is often described as a layered stack. Infrastructure forms the foundation of computers, networking and storage. The platform layer contains system components and services and supports the applications layer, which orchestrates both user and machine interfaces. Finally, clients sit atop the stack. Perhaps on Cloud 9?

Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) is growing in popularity as an alternative for obtaining and managing IT services. Gartner defines cloud IaaS as “a highly automated offering where compute resources, complemented by storage and networking capabilities, are offered to the customer on-demand.”

Cloud infrastructure management supports the base and, therefore, affects every aspect of your IT environment.

How well you manage IT functions overall determines the quality of your outcomes. And transferring even a few commoditized services to the cloud requires a different kind of integration. You have to consider differences in architecture, and cloud infrastructure management has to address everything from security and risk management to process and governance best practices.

Someone has to coordinate cloud applications providers, etc. to ensure smooth integration and maximum efficiency throughout the system and throughout your enterprise. Even if you construct a private cloud, you add complexity to your systems and more management and support work for your IT staff.

The trend is toward hybridization.

Even many of the largest enterprises are now diversifying their infrastructure beyond traditional mainframes, because they recognize the cloud can help:

  • Reduce or repurpose physical space.

  • Eliminate facilities management time and expenses.

  • Reduce in-house IT staffing, redirecting effort to more strategic pursuits.

  • Eliminate most capital investment needs, converting outsourcing costs to operations.

  • Trade in fixed costs for variable.

Hybridization can extend to multiple outsourcing providers. Connecting with each one for the services that represent their strongest expertise enables you to precisely tailor a  composite solution that supports your enterprise’s ongoing ability and competitiveness. But a hybrid solution that involves multiple providers further exacerbates the challenges of cloud infrastructure management.

Moving your infrastructure to the cloud can bring broad benefits. But there are potential drawbacks, too. Effective cloud infrastructure management requires understanding both, so you can maximize one and minimize the other. The right provider can support your efforts to loft your enterprise into the cloud, or it can increase the likelihood your new plan will fall flat.

When is a cloudburst not “inclement?”

The cloud enables you to plan more effectively and manage more efficiently. Rather than basing forecasting and your capital and operations budgets on the worst-case scenario so you can meet the highest possible peak demand, you can readily scale up or down as needed – inexpensively – to meet the typical fluctuations of your organization’s normal flow of business. You can quickly ramp up for product development purposes.

Outsourced cloud computing management services allow you and your key IT staff to concentrate on the things that directly affect business growth and development, rather than day-to-day details that can draw your top brainpower away from those mission-critical activities.

But successful outsourcing depends on choosing the right provider(s). And without carefully-constructed SLAs and perhaps incentives and/or penalties to motivate top performance, your operation could suffer -- not just in terms of service availability or support, but in your ability to comply with increasingly numerous regulations from government and certain industries. That’s especially true for enterprises in healthcare, financial services or whose business depends on ecommerce.

Most industry-watchers agree the cloud will be your primary source of new technology in the coming years. Being prepared with a good cloud infrastructure management strategy in place will enable you to take full advantage of those new technologies, so you can remain competitive and profitable. 

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