Welcome!

Microservices Expo Authors: AppDynamics Blog, Pat Romanski, Elizabeth White, Liz McMillan, Jason Bloomberg

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
The goal of any tech business worth its salt is to provide the best product or service to its clients in the most efficient and cost-effective way possible. This is just as true in the development of software products as it is in other product design services. Microservices, an app architecture style that leans mostly on independent, self-contained programs, are quickly becoming the new norm, so to speak. With this change comes a declining reliance on older SOAs like COBRA, a push toward more s...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Peak 10, Inc., a national IT infrastructure and cloud services provider, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Peak 10 provides reliable, tailored data center and network services, cloud and managed services. Its solutions are designed to scale and adapt to customers’ changing business needs, enabling them to lower costs, improve performance and focus inter...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Stratoscale, the software company developing the next generation data center operating system, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Stratoscale is revolutionizing the data center with a zero-to-cloud-in-minutes solution. With Stratoscale’s hardware-agnostic, Software Defined Data Center (SDDC) solution to store everything, run anything and scale everywhere...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Men & Mice, the leading global provider of DNS, DHCP and IP address management overlay solutions, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. The Men & Mice Suite overlay solution is already known for its powerful application in heterogeneous operating environments, enabling enterprises to scale without fuss. Building on a solid range of diverse platform support,...
You deployed your app with the Bluemix PaaS and it's gaining some serious traction, so it's time to make some tweaks. Did you design your application in a way that it can scale in the cloud? Were you even thinking about the cloud when you built the app? If not, chances are your app is going to break. Check out this webcast to learn various techniques for designing applications that will scale successfully in Bluemix, for the confidence you need to take your apps to the next level and beyond.
Digital means customer preferences and behavior are driving enterprise technology decisions to be sure, but let’s not forget our employees. After all, when we say customer, we mean customer writ large, including partners, supply chain participants, and yes, those salaried denizens whose daily labor forms the cornerstone of the enterprise. While your customers bask in the warm rays of your digital efforts, are your employees toiling away in the dark recesses of your enterprise, pecking data into...
Wow, if you ever wanted to learn about Rugged DevOps (some call it DevSecOps), sit down for a spell with Shannon Lietz, Ian Allison and Scott Kennedy from Intuit. We discussed a number of important topics including internal war games, culture hacking, gamification of Rugged DevOps and starting as a small team. There are 100 gold nuggets in this conversation for novices and experts alike.
SYS-CON Events announced today that DatacenterDynamics has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7–9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. DatacenterDynamics is a brand of DCD Group, a global B2B media and publishing company that develops products to help senior professionals in the world's most ICT dependent organizations make risk-based infrastructure and capacity decisions.
With DevOps becoming more well-known and established practice in nearly every industry that delivers software, it is important to continually reassess its efficacy. This week’s top 10 includes a discussion on how the quick uptake of DevOps adoption in the enterprise has posed some serious challenges. Additionally, organizations who have taken the DevOps plunge must find ways to find, hire and keep their DevOps talent in order to keep the machine running smoothly.
Call it DevOps or not, if you are concerned about releasing more code faster and at a higher quality, the resulting software delivery chain and process will look and smell like DevOps. But for existing development teams, no matter what the velocity objective is, getting from here to there is not something that can be done without a plan. Moving your release cadence from months to weeks is not just about learning Agile practices and getting some automation tools. It involves people, tooling and ...
Between the mockups and specs produced by analysts, and resulting applications built by developers, there exists a gulf where projects fail, costs spiral, and applications disappoint. Methodologies like Agile attempt to address this with intensified communication, with partial success but many limitations. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Charles Kendrick, CTO & Chief Architect at Isomorphic Software, will present a revolutionary model enabled by new technologies. Learn how business and devel...
The notion of customer journeys, of course, are central to the digital marketer’s playbook. Clearly, enterprises should focus their digital efforts on such journeys, as they represent customer interactions over time. But making customer journeys the centerpiece of the enterprise architecture, however, leaves more questions than answers. The challenge arises when EAs consider the context of the customer journey in the overall architecture as well as the architectural elements that make up each...
Much of the discussion around cloud DevOps focuses on the speed with which companies need to get new code into production. This focus is important – because in an increasingly digital marketplace, new code enables new value propositions. New code is also often essential for maintaining competitive parity with market innovators. But new code doesn’t just have to deliver the functionality the business requires. It also has to behave well because the behavior of code in the cloud affects performan...
In 2006, Martin Fowler posted his now famous essay on Continuous Integration. Looking back, what seemed revolutionary, radical or just plain crazy is now common, pedestrian and "just what you do." I love it. Back then, building and releasing software was a real pain. Integration was something you did at the end, after code complete, and we didn't know how long it would take. Some people may recall how we, as an industry, spent a massive amount of time integrating code from one team with another...
As the software delivery industry continues to evolve and mature, the challenge of managing the growing list of the tools and processes becomes more daunting every day. Today, Application Lifecycle Management (ALM) platforms are proving most valuable by providing the governance, management and coordination for every stage of development, deployment and release. Recently, I spoke with Madison Moore at SD Times about the changing market and where ALM is headed.
If there is anything we have learned by now, is that every business paves their own unique path for releasing software- every pipeline, implementation and practices are a bit different, and DevOps comes in all shapes and sizes. Software delivery practices are often comprised of set of several complementing (or even competing) methodologies – such as leveraging Agile, DevOps and even a mix of ITIL, to create the combination that’s most suitable for your organization and that maximize your busines...
Struggling to keep up with increasing application demand? Learn how Platform as a Service (PaaS) can streamline application development processes and make resource management easy.
This is not a small hotel event. It is also not a big vendor party where politicians and entertainers are more important than real content. This is Cloud Expo, the world's longest-running conference and exhibition focused on Cloud Computing and all that it entails. If you want serious presentations and valuable insight about Cloud Computing for three straight days, then register now for Cloud Expo.
I had the opportunity to catch up with Chris Corriere - DevOps Engineer at AutoTrader - to talk about his experiences in the realm of Rugged DevOps. We discussed automation, culture and collaboration, and which thought leaders he is following. Chris Corriere: Hey, I'm Chris Corriere. I'm a DevOps Engineer AutoTrader. Derek Weeks: Today we're going to talk about Rugged DevOps. It's a subject that's gaining a lot of traction in the community but not a lot of people are really familiar with wh...
APIs have taken the world by storm in recent years. The use of APIs has gone beyond just traditional "software" companies, to companies and organizations across industries using APIs to share information and power their applications. For some organizations, APIs are the biggest revenue drivers. For example, Salesforce generates nearly 50% of annual revenue through APIs. In other cases, APIs can increase a business's footprint and initiate collaboration. Netflix, for example, reported over 5 bi...