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Where Cloud-based Infrastructure is concerned, we certainly live in a time of plenty. We once had difficult decisions to make about where to procure datacenter space, how many chips of what speed and type we needed in our servers were available in either glowing green or blue or dell. The proliferation of Cloud service providers means no matter how you want your compute and storage sliced, you will find it in the ecosystem somewhere. This all falls under the umbrella of Cloud Management As a Service (CMaaS).

Whatever you decide, Infrastructure As A Service (IaaS) vendors will all agree that management of the servers is your responsibility. Make no mistake, they will supply you with portals for your convenience, and often monitoring data from the hypervisor in use by the vendor can be displayed in a graphical and meaningful way.

In some cases, traditional Hosting Service providers such as Rackspace and Firehost will supply a fully managed server; these are standard images on which the service provider has administrator privileges and manages the operating system administration, general maintenance and patching you get are provided with a Service Level Agreement (SLA) but are tied to using their services, and theirs alone.

IaaS vendors from the rapidly crystallising core of the market space (Amazon, Terramark, Google, HP, VMware and Azure) will all undertake management services to their premium customers. As an example, Enterprise support from Amazon commences at $15,000 per month in additional to your infrastructure bill.

So here you are; you have Office365 for your email, Salesforce for CRM, Dynamics for your Accounts team. You run your new web application on Amazon instances that have auto-scaling coded at the application level to handle seasonality and other fluctuations in on demand. You run an in-house Development platform on some Hyper-V instances running on hosts in your Server room. Despite your best efforts, Developers keep spinning up Amazon instances in favour of using Hyper-V as they perceive deployment as simplified.

Your core Document Management Solution (DMS), Directory Services and other Business Critical applications are running on resilient VMware hosts connected to your own NetApp SAN.

Your web application uses 3rd party Middleware currently running on your application vendor’s VMware based appliances that they insist can’t run on anything else.

Analytics is currently running on dedicated Microsoft SQL database instances in Azure Cloud. You’re hosting your legacy customers’ brochure ware websites at Rackspace, and they have been urging you to move over wholesale for years.

There’s an ongoing project to migrate all the content creation teams applications onto virtual desktops, and you are considering Citrix XenDesktop as a potential solution or VMware Horizon. In addition there are potential Cloud vendors offering desktops on a Pay As You Go (PAYG) model.

Finally, you have an overriding Disaster Recovery (DR) policy to consider that must ensure each application (wherever it might be) can provide the pre-agreed Service Level Guarantee (SLG) back to the business. In summary, your set-up has become very complex, very quickly. Because of a proliferation of vendors, who all insist they won’t take on management of each other’s infrastructure, the Business user or sys admin has swapped server sprawl for provider sprawl.

In addition, where Server sprawl only affected IT, provider sprawl is impacting the whole business stack from Customer Service (who don’t know where to route calls), as well as Finance, who don’t know who to pay or why their costs have now become virtually impossible to predict.

If there was an easy solution to this problem I wouldn’t be writing this blog, however as a business owner I can tell you that there are tools that will help manage this sprawl. The single most powerful tool is a strong, highly technical IT team. Either through contract, outsourcing to a Managed Service provider, or employing directly, theirs is no substitute for a trusted pair of hands at the reins of your IT organisation.

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