Cloud Management Portals: Cloud Visibility and Control in a Self-Service World
Sep 16, 2015
Internet-based self-service has become a part of our cultural DNA in nearly every part of life. In our personal lives, we manage everything—from money and healthcare to all forms of entertainment—not only online, but through mobile-enabled applications and portals. Similar shifts have occurred in the workplace. Professionally, we:
Manage HR functions—like payroll, training, and benefits—largely through self-service portals
Manage sales, customer, and point-of-service requirements
Handle purchasing and procurement
Create, deploy, manage, and even consume marketing and advertising campaigns
Self-service is at the heart of cloud computing in particular. Self-managed cloud portals enable on-demand access for enterprise users, while allowing IT to retain a measure of control that safeguards the environment. Many robust portals enable service integration and management as well as automation of routine tasks, which, in turn, allows IT to focus more on innovative development. For providers, self-servicing offers a way to contain costs while enabling customer-managed services.
Today, cloud service providers vary in the functionality that their cloud management portals offer. Some supply basic service visibility and management capabilities, while others provide enhanced services that increase the usefulness of the portal. At a minimum, all portals must provide customers with a measure of visibility into their cloud environments, as well as some basic control over the infrastructure and services that comprise the cloud environment. More advanced portals offer greater automation capabilities, as well as functionality that helps IT manage enterprise consumption.
Robust cloud portals provide customers with two key functions: 1) visibility into their cloud environments, and 2) control over resources within those environments. Enterprise users expect a full-featured portal that provides online—and often mobile—access to their complete cloud environment from the provider. This includes multiple geographies, accounts, business units, and resource types, all in a single-pane-of-glass. Required functionality typically includes:
- Provisioning of new resources
- Changing the configuration or configuring new resources
- Environment health and wellness monitoring
- Smart alerts based on common usage metrics and pre-defined thresholds for service
- Drill-down capabilities to the individual VM or server
- Chargeback and billing support
- Backup and recovery, security, and compliance configuration and monitoring
- Comprehensive reporting capabilities, including the ability to export data to third-party systems
As the cloud matures, users will likely clamor for this functionality; and not all providers are prepared to meet these customer needs. While some providers are offering full-featured cloud portals today, others are barely scratching the surface when it comes to meeting customer requirements. The most glaring gaps in portal functionality are those that cannot support multiple cloud environments or accounts that the customer subscribes to within a single portal. Requiring customers to navigate between accounts, and manually compile cloud usage information for billing and chargebacks for the business units they serve, is an untenable reality for some customers. Providers lacking such capability must place greater urgency on their ability to offer visibility and control across multiple accounts or regions that they themselves offer to their customers.
A well-designed portal offers customers strong visibility and control capabilities, in turn, enhancing their experience with the cloud provider. It is unreasonable to expect that customers will patiently wait for portals that can provide basic, cross-environment visibility and control. And, with the many cloud options available in the market, there are always new and different options available. We advise providers to continue the rapid pace of enhancements to their portals, especially as they relate to multi-environment access, in order to provide customers with a satisfying experience that creates lasting relationships.
For additional insight on cloud management portals, please see my complete study online at frost.com.
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