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The Management Gap Between You and Cloud Apps

Software-as-a-service (SaaS) and cloud computing have become fixtures in the enterprise, and that trend is sure to continue for a long time to come. But the reality is that, to date, those gaining real benefit from the cloud at the enterprise level have been limited largely to isolated pockets.

These include software development and operations teams leveraging infrastructure- and platform-as-a-service (IaaS and PaaS) to slash costs and improve agility; sales teams licensing their own SaaS CRM systems; or lines of business "going rogue" and sidestepping IT by using apps like Dropbox to facilitate easier file sharing inside and outside the company.

In my view, there are still some fundamental obstacles to widespread adoption of cloud apps. The two biggest are security concerns and a lack of confidence in app or service performance and availability. Recently, my company conducted a study asking IT teams about their current and planned use of cloud apps and services within their organizations. The full results are published here, but a few particular points stood out:

  • Fewer than 20% of the survey respondents felt that their tools were doing a good job managing their cloud-based apps. The rest were at best ambivalent; more than 20% said their tools just aren't up to the task.
  • More than 40% of the respondents had no tools at all to monitor and manage their cloud apps.
Figure 1:
What tools are you using today to monitor and manage your cloud-based apps and services?

What tools are you using today to monitor and manage your cloud-based apps and services?

How is this possible? The systems management software market is mature. Products from Microsoft, HP, CA, and BMC have been on the market for years. A look at their portfolios shows a wide range of sophisticated tools to manage everything from software distribution to monitoring to IT workflow and help desk activities. Surely these tools should be able to manage cloud-based apps and services effectively. As it turns out, they don't.

IT teams adopting cloud apps often find themselves in a challenging position. Their users and business management still look to them to "own" application availability and performance, even though they no longer own the application hosting environment.

The tools that they have used to manage their on-premises applications don't give them the same visibility and control in the cloud. Most of these tools have evolved alongside the on-premises applications, operating systems, server, and network infrastructure they have been used to managing.

These tools have relied on direct access to servers, network equipment, and log files, and APIs cannot effectively support cloud apps and services that do not expose those interfaces. Network management tools address part of the problem by focusing on network health, but they too are often limited in their visibility outside the company firewall, and they generally cannot provide insight into application and service health.

As they adopt more cloud applications and services, organizations are beginning to realize how profoundly a cloud-centric IT architecture differs from their legacy on-premises architectures and, with that, how different their management and monitoring needs will be.

For businesses to fully embrace the cloud, they will need management tools that are designed from the ground up to support the remote, distributed nature of cloud apps and services.