In the last few months we’ve spent considerable amount of time investigating Cloud Management Platforms and trying to figure out their role within the broader cloud strategy that companies should implement. Interesting observation is that there is very little differentiation between the products and the functionality mostly boils down to spinning up and down virtual machines (and/or containers if you take into account the new players) in the cloud.
There is a lot of promise and expectations set for the CMPs:
- Ability to easily configure application stacks in a WYSIWYG (think visual) environment
- Ability to create application (or service) catalog that can be used by internal teams to spin up new environments
- Ability to smoothly migrate deployments between clouds (private to public, public to public, public to private)
- Ability to define flexible policies for governance
- Ability to integrate with external systems like Continuous Integration/Continuous Delivery (CI/CD), ITSM etc.
- Ability to apply financial control over the use of cloud infrastructure
And many more.
Unfortunately, despite all the superlatives from analysts and researchers, almost all of the CMPs we looked at fails to satisfy even the basic requirements above. Here are some of the gaps:
- Lot of the CMP vendors do not take into account that there is already some level of automation done in the enterprise using tools like CloudFormation, Chef or Puppet and reusing those is challenging. Most of the time you need to start from scratch and rebuild your automation in the CMP itself using their proprietary technology (scripts or UI)
- Although most of the CMPs offer application catalogs the management of those is weak – most of the times there is no hierarchical way to organize the catalogs the role access management is too basic to be applicable in an enterprise
- Multi-cloud support is lacking. While most CMPs support AWS for public cloud and OpenStack and/or VMWare for private clouds the support for Azure, Google Cloud Engine (GCE) and other public clouds is very basic or non-existent
- In most if not all of the CMP products policies are not first class citizens, which means that you are mostly stuck with what the CMP vendor thought you will need
- External integrations are mostly limited to exporting and importing data. Most of the CMP vendors concentrate on offering Jenkins and ServiceNow integrations however the approaches require work in both tools and some even require third party tools in between
- Financial control is limited to counting the hours a VM is running and additional costs like storage and traffic are not present. Financial modeling and projections are not possible in any of the products we looked at
In addition to all those the licensing model that all CMP vendors use requires you to pay not only initial licensing fee but also ongoing per VM (or with the new players in the market – per container) fee, which is comparable with the running cost of the VM in the cloud provider.
All things considered, the lack of differentiation and the ongoing licensing costs make it very hard to create a compelling business case for the CMPs in the enterprise. There is a high initial cost for implementing (which with all vendors involve Professional Services) and constant if not growing ongoing costs based on the number of VMs under management for value that seems to be mostly related to automating deployments on one or two clouds. In summary the value delivered does not justify the ongoing costs that vendors ask for.