Last summer, Gartner for Technical Professionals (GTP) released an assessment framework to help organizations review and compare cloud management platforms (CMPs): “Evaluation Criteria for Cloud Management Platforms“.
In most cases, CMPs are massive software management, automation, and orchestration solutions that sit on top of a virtual infrastructure and turn it into a cloud environment. A CMP solution can include multiple software layers, as we describe in our reference architecture template for private clouds called “Infrastructure as a Service“. On average, CMP offerings certainly include a self-service provisioning portal, a back-end service catalog, and in most cases an orchestration engine. But the more sophisticated products can also present features in other areas, like performance and capacity management, life cycle and configuration management, charge back, as well as connectivity to and management for external clouds.
To meet the needs of our enterprise clients with large-scale production environments, all the software layers included in a CMP solution must be tightly integrated and offer new capabilities (or new implementations of existing capabilities) required to address the challenges of cloud computing. For example: do you think that capacity management is not too different in cloud environments compared to physical ones? Think again.
Evaluating the integration and feature set for such a broad and complex offering is a daunting task. Plus, the market is crowded by alternatives, as we describe in our “Market Profile: Cloud Management Platforms, 2013“.
That’s why, to help our clients untangle the intricacies of CMPs, our Evaluation Criteria for Cloud Management Platforms includes more than 200 criteria over 139 pages. And that’s also why Gartner is publishing a number of in-depth assessments for existing CMP solutions based on our own framework.
Microsoft System Center 2012 Service Pack 1
The first assessment we publish today is on Microsoft System Center 2012 Service Pack 1, a product that our clients look at with increasing interest.
Microsoft System Center 2012 Service Pack 1 only meets 58% of the criteria we consider indispensable in an enterprise-grade CMP for large scale production environments. There are a number of areas where the product can improve and mature, especially in terms of integration with third party tools, support for non-Windows guest operating systems, and functional areas like capacity management.
Anyway, the rating should not be considered overall negative. As our clients will see in subsequent CMP assessments that we will publish this year, no offering available today satisfies 100% of Gartner required criteria. We are in the early stages of the cloud management era, and major vendors are still redefining their technology road maps and adapting their current offerings (often augmenting them with a number of acquisitions).
Microsoft has some work ahead to evolve, refine and mature its CMP. Yet, the solution is still drawing considerable interest from our clients. Selecting a CMP is just as much about vendor relationship as it is about features and functionality. Some customers are willing overlook current deficiencies because they believe in Microsoft’s commitment to the platform and in its ability to deliver on that commitment.
Like Microsoft, all other CMP vendors have work to do, some more than others. Overall, I believe that game has just started and there will be ample room to compete and deliver what our clients are demanding.