Welcome!

Microservices Expo Authors: Liz McMillan, Sematext Blog, Kalyan Ramanathan, Carmen Gonzalez, Pat Romanski

Related Topics: @CloudExpo, Microservices Expo, Containers Expo Blog

@CloudExpo: Article

Do-It-Yourself Cloud Computing Management – Is It Worth It?

Do all the math, not just some of it

Does your IT or devops team run a lot of do-it-yourself projects? DIY is tempting, isn't it? You have smart engineers, easy access to storage and computing power, and a mandate this year to start moving some of (or more of) your applications to the cloud. Why not do it yourself?

I'm not saying that you shouldn't try DIY cloud computing management, but if you're going that route, you should know what you're in for. In particular, you should keep a sharp lookout for the point of no (easy) return.

The Five Cs of DIY
First of all, what compels people to try to roll their own end-to-end cloud management strategy? There are five arguments we often hear for DIY (all of which begin with "C"), depicted in Figure 1.

  1. Control: When you do it yourself, you're able to control everything, right, wrong or indifferent. If there are problems, you can handle them internally. If your business requires custom scripts or exporting usage data into your own warehouse, you'll want to be able flip the levers and configure it yourself. And the images will be yours, all yours.
  2. Complexity: "What's to manage?" you ask. "We're just spinning up a dozen or so dev and stage servers in an Amazon EC2 public cloud to get our feet wet. Plenty of companies do this without all the fuss of additional management tools." When your initial objectives are modest and you want your DevOps team to learn how things work first, cloud computing management looks like just a nice-to-have.
  3. Conquest: Speaking of DevOps, plenty of them want the challenge of understanding what's possible and how to build it. Or some of them say, "If I can't get approval, I'll just do it myself on the side," and they jump in. Because we are still in the early stages of cloud uptake, your engineers and managers are experimenting to discover just how far DIY and cobbling different tool sets together will take them, as opposed to researching what is available in the market. Who can blame them? The cloud presents itself as one of the most powerful APIs ever, and what self-respecting developer or IT department can resist that?
  4. Cost: Everybody's eye is on cost. "For about $200 a month, I can get five large, on-demand Linux instances for 100 hours, 50GB of storage and 10GB of data in and out. With pricing like that, we'll figure out the management piece ourselves. Most of what we'd buy in a cloud management product is stuff we can do ourselves anyway." It certainly looks like that at first glance, and if the budget is tight and your cloud-based DIY deployment is humming along, you probably can't make the case for spending money on management expertise that you're convinced you can provide on your own.
  5. Convenience: It's convenient and easy to think about DIY cloud management because Amazon, for instance, gives you so many options and tools to start with. If there were many long-standing public clouds from which to choose, the water would be muddier, you'd use a sharper pencil in the vetting process, and doing it yourself would seem like less of a slam dunk.

People stack these five Cs against off-the-shelf cloud management offerings all the time. Our industry spends a lot of time hearing these arguments, patiently nodding our heads and repeating the counter-arguments, based on our own experience with customers:

If you really need control, you'd be surprised by how much control and customization you can have with a cloud management product, even when you start with pre-configured images and templates.

Cloud computing management is complex, but cloud management products are designed to shield you from most of the complexity. Besides, the sooner you see how simple it is to automate the management of five or ten servers, the sooner you can get up to the 50 or 100 your business really needs.

There's plenty of technology to conquer in cloud computing management, but the industry has already conquered most of it, which is why off-the-shelf products are so comprehensive and accessible.

The cost of DIY is usually a lot more than your monthly fees. There's recruiting, training, non-recurring engineering expenses, headcount and the risk involved in building and maintaining your team. People don't always think that far down the road.

The flip-side of convenience is lock-in. It's hard to resist the ease of spinning up a cloud with just a browser and a credit card; however, is the product you conveniently start with today going to grow and scale gracefully with your business? Do you want all of your eggs in one basket? You've got to ask yourself, "Do I feel lucky?"

Let's examine the technology more closely.

Eyes Wide Open: Know What You're in For
What does cloud computing management mean? How many different layers are there to it, and when will you hit each one? Figure 2 depicts the layers of cloud computing management you'll traverse eventually, whether you DIY or license a product.

Basic cloud offerings from Amazon and open source tools can cover the entry-level echelon of service (bottom of Figure 2). A combination of DIY and open source is not especially dangerous at these levels:

  1. You provision basic or pre-configured images to meet your specifications and the needs of your users and customers, with memory, computing power, storage, OS and geographic proximity.
  2. Once you've installed applications in your cloud, you'll want to monitor them. Are they running properly? Have any of them gone down? Can you get alerts if something goes wrong?
  3. After you've tweaked your images, you'll want to clone them, say, for development/staging/production, for multiple developers or to meet increasing demand and traffic.
    Once you've gotten this far, you can also try products for cloud auto-scaling (originally invented by RightScale). With a few months and several servers under your belt, you arrive at the advanced echelon of service in need of yet another tool, because entry-level products don't cover these (middle of Figure 2):
  4. It's easy to take snapshots of images; sometimes too easy. You forget why you created them, what's inside them and whether anybody is still using them. You need configuration management to deal with image sprawl. Once you have that under control, you also need configuration management to create repeatable applications and services (for your own mini Platforms-as-a-Service).

With people all over the organization clamoring for cloud-based apps, you're ready for user management to set permissions and audit activity.

The cloud may be inexpensive, but it isn't free. When Finance asks you about cost allocation and ROI by department, project and region, you need tools that can break out your expenses and revenues from activity in the cloud.

The last three items are the state of the art in cloud computing management, and if you can get that far on DIY, you deserve a big raise. On the horizon is a final layer, still in its infancy (top of Figure 2).

Most of your cloud assets need to work together; e.g., start the database server first, then start up the application tier, then start the proxy, run some tests to make sure the whole app is working, and then turn on the website. Orchestration and workflow automation will soon allow you to code how your system should operate so that you don't need to intervene.

That's the long view of cloud computing management. Set your expectations accordingly.

Are You Close to the Tipping Point?
The market is torn at the moment. On the DIY side, cloud computing is not very old, and lots of organizations are scrambling to figure out what it can do for them and their business. There are plenty of eager, curious engineers ready to dive in, fire up a few servers, cut their teeth on cloud computing and a few open source tools, and do their company (and their résumé) some good.

On the off-the-shelf side, the market is filled with entrants and it's growing up fast. Cloud management products are feature-rich because those of us who focus on them have already hit most of the roadblocks.

For some companies, the choice of off-the-shelf is obvious. They've looked at Figure 2 and decided that they don't want to have to do it themselves. They tried rolling their own CRM until they saw how effortless Salesforce.com made it, and they remember tinkering for ages with their own Web servers until they realized Apache had nailed it. They've learned that lesson.

What's the tipping point for everybody else? When do features, capabilities and price point tip in favor of off-the-shelf products? From our experience, here are three telling metrics:

  1. Forty images - Once people try to keep track of more than 40 images, DIY cloud management tools start to get creaky. "I see a whole slew of servers, and some have really short names...I've forgotten what that one does..."
  2. Fifteen users - If they have 15 people operating in the cloud after only a couple of months, they're liable to be at 200 in a year. User management tools need to scale and work with all the other DIY tools in use.
  3. Five accounts - To sort out their billing and ROI headaches, they write discovery apps or go through the Amazon API trying to figure out which instances are in use and which images they come from so they can allocate costs correctly.

Alas, some organizations stick with DIY past that tipping point, to the point of no (easy) return. They've made it well into the advanced echelon, but only by cobbling together a patchwork of three to four disparate tool sets and growing their DevOps teams to 50 or more. Or, perhaps they decide to move all their DIY stuff to a different public cloud provider, or to their own private cloud. An off-the-shelf cloud computing management can still help them when they get to these points, but the effort will cost much more time and money than if they had started there in the first place.

Do All the Math, Not Just Some of It
Many customers come to us after they've outgrown their DIY efforts. Eventually, they discover that there are too many things to stitch together: configuration management, systems automation, monitoring, application automation, provisioning, user permissions, reporting and more.

Even if you're happy with the DIY cloud computing management you've put in place, are you really sure that it's worth the investment in time, money and manpower, compared to an off-the-shelf offering? Not only that, but are you sure you're far enough away from the tipping point that DIY will still look good a year from now?


Cloud Management - Obstacles Overcome in Off-the-Shelf Products

  • Removal of a single user's SSH key from all managed instances
  • Volume striping for better database performance
  • Image fingerprinting to identify pre-rolled images in private clouds accurately

More Stories By Darryl Eaton

Darryl Eaton is the director of product management at RightScale Inc. Not only does he ship products that are ahead of their time and blog about it, but he has also been known to play the Carillon, the largest and loudest musical instrument in the world. He wants you to make the right decision about DIY and off-the-shelf, so contact him at [email protected] and find out more about cloud management and the Five Cloud Commandments in RightScale’s library.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


@MicroservicesExpo Stories
In IT, we sometimes coin terms for things before we know exactly what they are and how they’ll be used. The resulting terms may capture a common set of aspirations and goals – as “cloud” did broadly for on-demand, self-service, and flexible computing. But such a term can also lump together diverse and even competing practices, technologies, and priorities to the point where important distinctions are glossed over and lost.
Monitoring of Docker environments is challenging. Why? Because each container typically runs a single process, has its own environment, utilizes virtual networks, or has various methods of managing storage. Traditional monitoring solutions take metrics from each server and applications they run. These servers and applications running on them are typically very static, with very long uptimes. Docker deployments are different: a set of containers may run many applications, all sharing the resource...
Logs are continuous digital records of events generated by all components of your software stack – and they’re everywhere – your networks, servers, applications, containers and cloud infrastructure just to name a few. The data logs provide are like an X-ray for your IT infrastructure. Without logs, this lack of visibility creates operational challenges for managing modern applications that drive today’s digital businesses.
Financial Technology has become a topic of intense interest throughout the cloud developer and enterprise IT communities. Accordingly, attendees at the upcoming 20th Cloud Expo at the Javits Center in New York, June 6-8, 2017, will find fresh new content in a new track called FinTech.
You have great SaaS business app ideas. You want to turn your idea quickly into a functional and engaging proof of concept. You need to be able to modify it to meet customers' needs, and you need to deliver a complete and secure SaaS application. How could you achieve all the above and yet avoid unforeseen IT requirements that add unnecessary cost and complexity? You also want your app to be responsive in any device at any time. In his session at 19th Cloud Expo, Mark Allen, General Manager of...
@DevOpsSummit taking place June 6-8, 2017 at Javits Center, New York City, is co-located with the 20th International Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. @DevOpsSummit at Cloud Expo New York Call for Papers is now open.
The 20th International Cloud Expo has announced that its Call for Papers is open. Cloud Expo, to be held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, brings together Cloud Computing, Big Data, Internet of Things, DevOps, Containers, Microservices and WebRTC to one location. With cloud computing driving a higher percentage of enterprise IT budgets every year, it becomes increasingly important to plant your flag in this fast-expanding business opportunity. Submit your speaking proposal ...
"Dice has been around for the last 20 years. We have been helping tech professionals find new jobs and career opportunities," explained Manish Dixit, VP of Product and Engineering at Dice, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 19th Cloud Expo, held November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Rapid innovation, changing business landscapes, and new IT demands force businesses to make changes quickly. In the eyes of many, containers are at the brink of becoming a pervasive technology in enterprise IT to accelerate application delivery. In this presentation, attendees learned about the: The transformation of IT to a DevOps, microservices, and container-based architecture What are containers and how DevOps practices can operate in a container-based environment A demonstration of how ...
Cloud Expo, Inc. has announced today that Andi Mann returns to 'DevOps at Cloud Expo 2017' as Conference Chair The @DevOpsSummit at Cloud Expo will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. "DevOps is set to be one of the most profound disruptions to hit IT in decades," said Andi Mann. "It is a natural extension of cloud computing, and I have seen both firsthand and in independent research the fantastic results DevOps delivers. So I am excited to help the great t...
Without lifecycle traceability and visibility across the tool chain, stakeholders from Planning-to-Ops have limited insight and answers to who, what, when, why and how across the DevOps lifecycle. This impacts the ability to deliver high quality software at the needed velocity to drive positive business outcomes. In his general session at @DevOpsSummit at 19th Cloud Expo, Phil Hombledal, Solution Architect at CollabNet, discussed how customers are able to achieve a level of transparency that e...
Get deep visibility into the performance of your databases and expert advice for performance optimization and tuning. You can't get application performance without database performance. Give everyone on the team a comprehensive view of how every aspect of the system affects performance across SQL database operations, host server and OS, virtualization resources and storage I/O. Quickly find bottlenecks and troubleshoot complex problems.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Dataloop.IO, an innovator in cloud IT-monitoring whose products help organizations save time and money, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Dataloop.IO is an emerging software company on the cutting edge of major IT-infrastructure trends including cloud computing and microservices. The company, founded in the UK but now based in San Fran...
DevOps is being widely accepted (if not fully adopted) as essential in enterprise IT. But as Enterprise DevOps gains maturity, expands scope, and increases velocity, the need for data-driven decisions across teams becomes more acute. DevOps teams in any modern business must wrangle the ‘digital exhaust’ from the delivery toolchain, "pervasive" and "cognitive" computing, APIs and services, mobile devices and applications, the Internet of Things, and now even blockchain. In this power panel at @...
@DevOpsSummit at Cloud taking place June 6-8, 2017, at Javits Center, New York City, is co-located with the 20th International Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. The widespread success of cloud computing is driving the DevOps revolution in enterprise IT. Now as never before, development teams must communicate and collaborate in a dynamic, 24/7/365 environment. There is no time to wait for long developm...
SYS-CON Events has announced today that Roger Strukhoff has been named conference chair of Cloud Expo and @ThingsExpo 2017 New York. The 20th Cloud Expo and 7th @ThingsExpo will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. "The Internet of Things brings trillions of dollars of opportunity to developers and enterprise IT, no matter how you measure it," stated Roger Strukhoff. "More importantly, it leverages the power of devices and the Internet to enable us all to im...
Kubernetes is a new and revolutionary open-sourced system for managing containers across multiple hosts in a cluster. Ansible is a simple IT automation tool for just about any requirement for reproducible environments. In his session at @DevOpsSummit at 18th Cloud Expo, Patrick Galbraith, a principal engineer at HPE, discussed how to build a fully functional Kubernetes cluster on a number of virtual machines or bare-metal hosts. Also included will be a brief demonstration of running a Galera MyS...
Keeping pace with advancements in software delivery processes and tooling is taxing even for the most proficient organizations. Point tools, platforms, open source and the increasing adoption of private and public cloud services requires strong engineering rigor – all in the face of developer demands to use the tools of choice. As Agile has settled in as a mainstream practice, now DevOps has emerged as the next wave to improve software delivery speed and output. To make DevOps work, organization...
As we enter the final week before the 19th International Cloud Expo | @ThingsExpo in Santa Clara, CA, it's time for me to reflect on six big topics that will be important during the show. Hybrid Cloud: This general-purpose term seems to provide a comfort zone for many enterprise IT managers. It sounds reassuring to be able to work with one of the major public-cloud providers like AWS or Microsoft Azure while still maintaining an on-site presence.
Between 2005 and 2020, data volumes will grow by a factor of 300 – enough data to stack CDs from the earth to the moon 162 times. This has come to be known as the ‘big data’ phenomenon. Unfortunately, traditional approaches to handling, storing and analyzing data aren’t adequate at this scale: they’re too costly, slow and physically cumbersome to keep up. Fortunately, in response a new breed of technology has emerged that is cheaper, faster and more scalable. Yet, in meeting these new needs they...