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Why compute management is moving to the cloud

Servers are everywhere now, at the edge and not just in the data center, so management on location no longer makes sense.

The software-as-a-service trend has infiltrated nearly every technology stack on the planet but has surprisingly eluded enterprise server management. Now, that appears set to change.

Gartner says fewer than 1% of IT organizations use cloud-based compute management platforms today but predicts that at least half will be doing so by 2025. What's driving such a radical shift? The need for organizations to enable data and applications on any platform, in any location, and at any time—especially as companies reimagine their digital infrastructure for the post-COVID-19 world.

"Enterprise customers have hesitated to adopt cloud-based tools for managing their compute infrastructure over security concerns," says John Gilmore, a senior product manager at Hewlett Packard Enterprise. "But those attitudes seem to be softening. IT teams are growing more comfortable with cloud security. At the same time, I think we will see increased adoption of management-as-a-service platforms very soon because their benefits are so clear and compelling."

Part of that benefit comes from how SaaS addresses many of the most pressing issues confronting today's organizations, Gilmore says. For instance, with the explosion of hybrid and private cloud environments, along with the rise of edge computing, many enterprises are struggling to understand and oversee increasingly complex and distributed environments. More servers. More workloads. More users logging on from disparate locations and devices. Gaining visibility across those environments while cost-effectively managing and securing them is becoming mandatory for digitally transforming organizations.

"In the past, most organizations had two core data centers: a primary and a backup," says Gilmore. "They had thousands of servers, but they were all concentrated in those two locations. The problem companies face today is that, with the explosion of cloud and edge technology, they can now have 1,200 different sites hosting thousands of servers and endpoints and no good way of managing all of them."

This is where the value of a SaaS platform becomes clear. Providing a single console for management allows administrators to use their tools without having to worry about the hassle of keeping them up to date—it's all handled by the SaaS app.

Compute management becomes a service

From an IT perspective, this can be huge. Accessing a common cloud platform on a service or consumption basis should let organizations transform and simplify provisioning and management of IT infrastructure by eliminating manual labor and enabling more consistent provisioning of servers. Indeed, the servers can be automatically discovered, onboarded, loaded up with operating systems software, configured, and updated with minimal human action. Similarly, having a common cross-cloud management control plane can also help optimize workloads for greater efficiency and less downtime, which is especially important to larger organizations, according to IDC. Most SaaS management platforms should also provide the ability to fortify digital assets and communications while infrastructure is monitored and maintained.

Gilmore says additional capabilities coming will be integrated predictive analytics and artificial intelligence to help IT professionals go about their jobs more intelligently. Indeed, IDC says the majority of cloud management tool kits currently focus on configuration and self-service but are evolving to address more advanced automation, analytics, and Day 2 operations (described by DC/OS as "the monitoring, maintenance, and troubleshooting that keeps apps, services, and hosts up and running").

"Monitoring servers today is pretty much the same as it's been for the past 20 years," says Gilmore. "IT admins come in each morning, and the first thing they do is follow the red, meaning they look at all the critical issues for keeping things operational. They are completely reactive. But with SaaS management platforms, intelligent analytics, and AI, everything shifts to a more proactive model. The system not only identifies critical issues but also makes hands-on recommendations, based on historical data, for how to correct the issue and prevent it from recurring."

Performing server management through a cloud service enables IT organizations to focus on more strategic matters, like delivering value to the business and enhancing customer experience, analysts say.

Please read The Doppler report: Your edge. Your future.

"Some of the customers we've spoken with look at cloud and edge computing and know they need some sort of unified management approach to support business priorities," says IDC analyst Stephen Elliott.

"They realize that, if a digital service is driving revenues and interfacing with customers, it better be reliable. So they're looking at infrastructure-as-a-service options for accomplishing that."

Gilmore agrees. For instance, he notes that by connecting the digital dots between cloud and edge computing infrastructure, organizations can more quickly implement analytics and AI to automate repetitive elements of online customer service, like FAQs, common complaints, or where to find basic forms or information, he says. Rolling in 5G wireless capabilities can also dramatically reduce digital lag times standing in the way of all sorts of emerging technologies, including self-driving cars, industrial robots, commercial and military drones, facial recognition, thermal imaging, and smart cameras.

"The COVID-19 experience convinced most organizations it was time to complete the last mile of their digital transformation efforts; now they're looking to extend their hard work to post-pandemic business scenarios," Gilmore says. "The beauty of having a central platform for securely managing servers is you're able to build upon it to deliver quite an array of new workloads and applications. That is why cloud-based compute management platforms are about to become commonplace in most IT organizations."

Lessons for leaders

  • Managing from the cloud once seemed like a bad idea, but it can be secured well and comes with numerous advantages.
  • Your computing assets may be in house, in the cloud, or at some edge location. Managing them with a cloud-based as-a-service product is the only way to unify the process.
  • Accessing a common cloud platform on a service or consumption basis lets IT infrastructure managers eliminate manual labor and enable more consistent provisioning of servers.

This article/content was written by the individual writer identified and does not necessarily reflect the view of Hewlett Packard Enterprise Company.