But others -- such as those who hope to sell systems management software to cloud customers -- aren't so sure. Along with concerns about security, one of the first questions enterprise customers ask is, "How do I know I'm getting what I'm paying for?" says Stephen Elliot, vice president of strategy for the datacenter automation business unit at CA. After independent monitoring of their cloud services, many customers have "gone back and renegotiated contracts" after receiving lower than promised levels of service, says Ramin Sayar, senior director of products for business service management at Hewlett-Packard.
Many customers take comfort in the fact that highly publicized outages, such as those suffered by Google's e-mail service and by Amazon.com's EC2 and S3 offerings, are poison to a provider's image. Many are comfortable with the dashboards published by Salesforce.com and Amazon.com, which provide varying levels of detail about the health of their services. (Later this year, Amazon.com plans to provide more real-time updates on metrics such as customers' CPU and network utilization.) Finally, most cloud providers provide SLAs spelling out the performance they will deliver and penalties if they fail.
A tool chest to check on -- and manage -- your cloud providers
But you don't have to trust the vendors' reports to assess whether they deliver the service promised. IT pros can use anything from simple network-sniffing tools to open source monitoring software and enterprise-class management systems to see what they're getting from the Web. While not all integrate seamlessly with mainstream systems management tools running customers' internal operations, they are often good enough to get the job done.
IT can expect to use open source management tools, vendors' performance dashboards, and -- in some cases -- root access to servers. What you can't expect to get are universal interfaces between cloud and legacy management tools and -- in some cases -- neither administrative access to servers nor the ability to install management or security agents.
Customers purchasing infrastructure as a service, and who have the greatest management needs, should ideally use "the same agents, the same tools, the same configuration, and management tools" as in their own datacenters to simplify and standardize administration, says Joseph Tobolski, a partner at Accenture Technology Labs. While there isn't universal integration between such tools and the cloud service providers' APIs, he expects such integration "pretty soon" because of the need for "some sort of control of the cloud."
Consider how these IT pros check up on and manage their cloud services.
OmniPresence, which sells videoconferencing and teleconferencing equipment and services, uses the Zenoss family of management software to monitor the equipment and services it provides to customers. Omnipresence's director of technical services, Chris Sanford, says he can monitor services in the cloud as easily as those located in-house, using Zenoss to create data collectors that "sit out in the cloud" and send information about system performance and reliability to a monitoring dashboard.