16 of the most useful cloud management tools

One of the biggest concerns users have with public cloud resources is not knowing how much they will cost, given the pay-as-you-go model.

"IT shops are becoming cost centers for service delivery," says William Fellows, a researcher at the 451 Group. "But they're looking for ways to determine how their clouds are running, how much it's costing and whether it's a good value."

Vendors provide some services around tracking usage. Amazon Web Services, for example, last week announced more granular data, allowing users to track their services hour by hour.

But there is a growing ecosystem of cloud management tools. Some help companies manage, track and optimize their use of public or private cloud resources. Others help companies automate and deploy cloud resources. And others act as a platform for managing public cloud resources.

Below is a list of 16 cloud management tools, broken up by category: cost tracking, automation and provisioning, and cloud management platform. This is not intended to be an all-inclusive list, but rather an overview of some of the players.

Cost tracking

Cloudability: Provides cost usage metrics, as well as predictions of how much of certain resources users are consuming and which ones are under-utilized. The company's application programing interface (API) allows users to import metrics into various other tools for storage and analysis. Cloudability works across multiple public cloud providers as well.

More information: Cloudability

Cloudyn: Israeli-based Cloudyn provides tracking of cloud resources and recommendations of how to optimize cloud usage. It offers a free reserved instance calculator, which helps customers calculate costs related to reserving virtual machines in AWS's public cloud, and has a premium enterprise version that will provide recommendations of which cloud resources to use and alerts of underutilized cloud resources. The company claims that it helps customers avoid an average of 40% of their costs by optimizing their cloud usage. Cloudyn recently announced a partnership with Scalr to help customers automate the provisioning of cloud resources based on recommendations from Cloudyn's analysis tools.

More information: Cloudyn

Cloud Cruiser: Venture-backed Cloud Cruiser provides cost tracking and optimization analysis across a variety of IT platforms, from on-premise systems to colocation to private and public clouds. The Cloud Cruiser system allows users to measure usage and allocate costs, creating a chargeback billing model within an IT organization. The company was founded in 2010 by Dave Zabrowski, a former HP enterprise division vice president and general manager.

More information: Cloud Cruiser

Newvem: Israeli startup Newvem has focused its efforts entirely on Amazon Web Services and providing cloud metrics and optimization recommendations. Newvem Analytics software collects data from customers' use of AWS resources and provides metrics of usage patterns, as well as recommendations of more efficient resource allocation based on past use. Newvem recently launched a partnership with Datapipe, which is a provider of cloud and managed hosting services that also customizes cloud deployments for users, acting as a "gateway" to public cloud vendors, including Amazon Web Services.

More information: Newvem

Provisioning/automation

Chef: An open source systems integration framework that includes a library of configuration management tools. Developed by venture-backed Opscode, it integrates with existing applications, including various databases and LDAP directories, and allows for the discovering and provisioning of public or private resources. It has "cookbooks" which include "recipes" for launching OpenStack private cloud instances and AWS public cloud resources, for instance, and it also works across VMware and Rackspace environments, among others.

More information: Opscode Chef

enStratus: Based in Minneapolis, enStratus's technology enables consumption of multiple types of cloud resources from a single platform. Key features include the ability to manage public or private cloud environments, including security controls such as key management, automation of cloud resource provisioning and installing spending caps for specific projects. It's delivered either as an on-premise application or a software-as-a-service hosted platform and works across most of the leading cloud providers including: Amazon Web Services, AT&T Synaptic Storage, Bluelock, Cloudscaling OCS, Citrix CloudStack, CloudSigma, EMC Atmos, Eucalyptus, GoGrid, Google Storage, HP Cloud Services, Joyent Cloud, Nimbula, OpenStack, OpSource, Rackspace, ServerExpress, Tata InstaCompute, Terremark, VMware and Windows Azure.

More information: enStratus

Puppet Labs: Puppet Labs' software is meant to help users automate repetitive tasks, such as deploying applications and managing infrastructure. Within the Puppet Enterprise software, users can discover resources, provision them, configure and manage operating systems and applications, and update patches across public or private clouds. A trial version of the software allows users to manage up to 10 nodes for free.

More information: Puppet Labs

Next page: More automation, plus cloud management...

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