Automation – A Critical success factor in the Cloud Strategy

Recently as per an Informationweek article,Rod Johnson ,Founder of the Spring framework project (now a part of VMWare) has said

  • Cloud applications will require more automated services than their predecessor enterprise apps.
  • “Innovation today is tending to be in frameworks, not languages”

The article further emphasizes on the focus required to shift  further towards the remote and flexible operation of the applications as they will need a lot more instrumentation built into them to signal how well they’re running, what conditions they are encountering, and how well they’re serving their end users so on.

In my viewpoint, Automation of the Cloud infrastructure and application layers are critical to effectively run the IT Operations/Services on the Cloud. This applies to both SMBs and large enterprise scenarios.

Here are some of the reasons

  • Cloud computing offers unprecedented flexibility and options from the system and application level infrastructure to be used by one that best suits their requirements . (for instance Terramark’s vCloud express mentions about 450 OS templates one can deploy on its Cloud) . What if one has to deploy and manage multi-tier architectures based applications on different types of such  elastic server layers. For instance Administration,Change management and control of  your production Apps run on heterogeneous cloud infrastructure (OS,Storage etc) layers cloudl be a daunting task from the perspective of resources, efforts,time,cost factors combined with the fact that efficient and predictable outcomes are required in such exercises. The larger the size of Cloud based operations, larger will be the challenges and risks. This is not some thing new. It is already being practiced in companies like Facebook(get a glimpse of how Facebook created and manages their massive online operations!).

This demands automation both system ,configuration and application layers, otherwise the efforts ,costs ,time and outcomes would not be in synergistic with the objectives of reaping the benefits of cloud computing models (elastic,scalable nature with pay per use modes)

This is equally important for smaller Organisations too ,especially ISVs transforming their (product) businesses from an  on premise ,shrink wrapped license models to on-demand, SaaS models are entering a different world altogether. They need to provide predictable ,24*7 – self-service operations to their clients for their SaaS businesses to work effectively calling for a high QOS (quality of services) .

Their challenges involve a number of things right from automated deployments configuration and provisioning,user , access ,security management, billing integration,cloud resources management, control,24*7 monitoring,reporting and optimization to time based software upgrades and maintenance all of which requires significant automation across various deployment layers to run a SaaS business with fewer resources and efforts. Ad hoc or even planned Human based intervention and IT service may not work well from a broader sense given the dynamics involved in the Cloud operations and the usage models of the cloud.

Briefly listed below are some of the emerging layers of automation

1. Software Development,Testing and Deployment on the Cloud

  • For new software application development on the cloud /SaaS model, there are a couple of distinct scenarios
    • Complete life-cycle based Development, testing and deployment automation is provided by Tools vendors as well as IaaS Vendors
      • Tools E.g. Springsource by VMWare, Microsoft development tools for Azure,Skytap for development,testing and muti-cloud deployment,Eclipse plugin for Amazon EC2 ,Iaas e.g :,Heroku for ROR  etc

2.Cloud Deployment and provisioning automation Tools and services like CohesiveFT,Kaavo,JumpStart,Righscale,Engine Yard,Open QRM Appzero ,CloudSwitch etc

3.Bootstrapping and Configuration management tools and frameworks like Puppet,Chef,CFEngine,Nanite etc
4.Monitoring and management tools and services : CloudWatch,CloudKick,GoToManage etc
I would like to refer to an excellent presentation (perspective) on the Cloud automation by the Chef founder ,Adam Jacob accessible here

To sum up , Automation is very  critical to running IT operations or running on-demand services on the Cloud . It will play a key role in determining the outcomes and success in the Cloud.So,Organisations having plans for the cloud should plan earlier on this. They can adopt a build or buy or a hybrid approach based on their requirements of moving to the cloud.

In my viewpoint , Emphasis on automation should be strategised and planned from the perspective of

  • Optimising the cost of running the operations or business on the Cloud and the ROI
  • Scaling the operations or services seamlessly with minimal change management and risks
  • Providing Flawless execution and services (Delivery efficiency,QOS)
  • Improving the efficiencies continually with reduced risks

Lastly,From a Cloudshoring perspective, IT Consulting and Services firms should realize there  is a significant opportunity to provide enabling and professional services to implement automation solutions for the organisations looking at moving to the cloud.


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4 Responses to Automation – A Critical success factor in the Cloud Strategy

  1. Nate Odell says:

    Development and Test is clearly reaching a critical mass from a cloud adoption perspective. Your comments about Dev/Test remind me of what I recently read. John Tredway @ CloudBzz blog wrote “Skytap has been at the dev/test cloud game for longer than most, and their solution is very well-regarded. I’ve written about them before, most recently when they rolled out a sophisticated virtual network provisioning capability.” Check Skytap out by signing up for a trial.

  2. Louis Bouwer says:

    I am currently researching security, management and automation tools for the Amazon Cloud. Thank you for your very good blog post on Cloud Automation, this is absolutely critical for the Cloud to be successful.

  3. Louis Bouwer says:

    I found “Morphlabs” which can be added to the list for “Cloud Deployment and Provisioning Automation”.

  4. Pingback: Moving to the Public Cloud, What Tools do I Need? « Louis Bouwer

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