Criteria for Evaluating Cloud Management Vendors

Cloud management platforms (CMPs) may perform the same basic functions, but they differ in design philosophies and the specific cloud environments for which they are built. You should evaluate cloud management vendors with a clear view of technical requirements and business objectives.

You’re unlikely to find a solution that’s perfect for all enterprises. This is because CMPs are still evolving. For this reason, you should select a vendor that’s pursuing a strategy consistent with the goals of your organization. This will allow you to progress forward as the CMP matures. Here are some of the considerations for evaluating cloud management vendors.

1. Cloud Provider and Integrations

Your CMP of choice should give you a single pane of glass view of all your cloud services. It should provide an abstraction and integration for each private, public, or hybrid cloud service the enterprise is using. Many CMPs provide integration with the same private cloud infrastructures and cloud service providers. However, vendor differences do exist that can inform a procurement decision.

2. Agent vs. Agentless Architecture

Some CMPs require the installation of a small software agent on the managed cloud services. The agent helps provide a direct connection to the cloud service instances. Some CMPs support both agent and agentless architecture. Both approaches get the job done. But it’s important to be aware of these deployment requirements and the implications they may have on your cloud services.

3. Tool Integrations

A CMP is only one piece of the puzzle in an enterprise cloud solution. Integrating with existing tools, DevOps and software configuration management tools, billing/finance, and data analytics tools is important. It helps support a complete end-to-end solution. The lack of built-in tool integrations in a CMP may necessitate the development of these interfaces using the CMP’s API (Application Programming Interface). This could mean additional costs and risks.

4. API Robustness

Enterprises often need to extend the capabilities of a CMP by using its API. An API allows for a variety of tasks. These include cloud instance management, logging and reporting, security and user administration, workflow automation, and integration. Pick a CMP with a robust API that allows for customization.

5. Security Design

Security is a core part of the cloud. It’s important to engage the team in charge of cloud security in the CMP evaluation phase. Vet the CMP to ensure there are no vulnerabilities and that it fulfills all regulatory and policy requirements.

6. Hosting Environment Requirements

You can either go for an on-premise CMP or one deployed within a cloud service. Alternatively, you can go for a CMP offered under a Software as a Service (SaaS) model. Whatever choice you make will affect the total cost of ownership, network connectivity profile, and skills requirements. It will also affect your ability to control sections of your cloud infrastructure, including SLAs (Service Level Agreements).

7. CMP Administrative Capabilities

This refers to the capabilities provided to administrators. They include operational visibility, security management, automation control, governance control, tenant resource quota assignments, and operational metrics and reporting.

8. Product Support and Patch/Release Cycles

Vendor patch releases are an important consideration when evaluating cloud management vendors. Find out about the release cycles and frequency of the releases in their development cycles. Vendors should provide regular fixes and functional enhancements. If you’re using a CMP with a SaaS model, you can usually minimize the impact of software releases. The process is usually more seamless than an on-premises deployment.

9. Total Cost of Ownership

One way to evaluate a cloud management vendor is to establish the total cost of ownership (TCO) of its CMP. This involves calculating the cost of acquisition and the recurring operational costs for the service. If there are any additional integrations required, it’s best to include the anticipated costs into the TCO estimate. Also, consider potential exit strategies from the CPO as part of the evaluation.

10. Product Licensing or Service Subscription Model

A CMP is either open-source, a vendor SaaS offering, or a licensed on-premises product. Acquisition and recurring costs will vary widely based on the model you opt for. Make sure to scrutinize the terms and conditions of the product support and licensing agreements or SaaS SLAs. Make sure you achieve enterprise goals within the defined OPEX (Operating expense) and CAPEX (capital expenditure) budgets.

11. Vendor’s Financial Stability

The CMP market is still evolving. For this reason, mergers and acquisitions are still taking place. This introduces some instability into the marketplace. Switching CMPs as a result of such instabilities can be a costly affair. Make sure to vet the vendor’s financial stability and market commitment before making a purchase.

12. Product Training and Professional Services

The vendor should provide staff training and professional services. Cloud management vendors can greatly reduce configuration and deployment time by getting you up and running quickly.

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