10 Tools to Accelerate Your Cloud Journey

July 13, 2016 Brett Gillett

Responsible for your organization’s growing cloud strategy? Here are 10 free tools & resources to help with Infrastructure, Application, Monitoring and Security.

9 Powerful Tools to Accelerate Your Cloud Strategy

I spend the majority of my time talking to customers about how they can leverage public cloud for their infrastructure and application requirements. When I ask them why they are considering the move, more often than not, moving ‘faster’ is cited as the biggest motivator.

Being ‘faster’ is great, and you can realize big improvements in speed and agility very early in your cloud journey, particularly when creating new compute and storage resources. It becomes more challenging, however, as your solution grows and becomes more mature.

Whether you’re taking a do it yourself approach, or need to know enough to guide the development of your cloud strategy, there are a number of tools and resources that can keep you moving forward as your use of cloud becomes more complex. Here are a few of the ones I recommend most often to our clients.

Infrastructure Deployments

The dynamic nature of public cloud services like Azure means you can quickly stand up infrastructure to satisfy client requirements. I work with customers on a regular basis to create testing, development, and even new production environments. The issue here is that if you have to do this manually, it can take a long time and be prone to error. Below are the tools I recommend to clients who are practicing ‘Infrastructure as Code.’

Sometimes referred to as ‘programmable infrastructure’, Infrastructure as Code is a type of infrastructure that operations teams can automatically manage and provision through code, rather than manually. If you’d like a high-level introduction, this post I wrote a while back should do the trick.

Azure Resource Manager (ARM): This is a native Azure solution that allows you to define resources in JavaScript Object Notation (JSON) templates that can be integrated with Visual Studio. Microsoft also publishes tons of templates on GitHub that you can modify to meet your requirements.

Terraform: If you’re looking for a tool that is vendor agnostic, I recommend you look at Terraform from HashiCorp. The tool supports a wide number of private and public cloud platforms and is a great alternative. Plus it’s open-source.

Want to learn more? We recently hosted an ‘Azure Application Modernization ‘ webinar that covers these and other related topics.

Application Deployment Tools

When I talk to customers about automating application deployments, my primary goal is to allow their developers to spend more of their time developing their applications (updating, patching, etc.) as opposed to managing deployments. Here are two solutions I suggest to customers who want to automate these functions.

Visual Studio Team Services: This is a single tool that covers a broad range of features, including version control, continuous integration and numerous languages. It can also be integrated with a ton of third-party SaaS applications.

The best part? Try it for free and see if it’s the right fit for you and your team.

Jenkins: This is the grand-daddy of Continuous Integration/Deployment tools. This is where I start when I’m talking to customers about strategies to automate their application deployments. What I love about Jenkins is that 1) it’s open-source and 2) it has a huge user base and a diverse set of plugins that can help you get the most out of the tool.

Monitoring & Security

Let’s face it, if you can’t measure it, then you can’t improve it. You need to be able to effectively monitor a very dynamic environment and measure the KPIs that are important to your business.

DataDog: This is one of my favorite tools. It’s SaaS-based which is awesome because outside of agents (and some configuration) you don’t have to manage anything. DataDog also monitors for outlier activity and has a large ecosystem of third-party solutions.

NewRelic: Many of our customers aren’t satisfied by just migrating their applications as-is, but want to take the opportunity to modernize applications as they go. If this in your plan (and it should at least be on your roadmap), then I highly recommend you consider adding some type of application monitoring. New Relic is my choice here. It can be a little expensive, but the features and functions make it worth every penny.

If you’re interested in learning more about New Relic, check out this MLB case study.

Being ‘fast’ is great, but you can’t move faster at the expense of security. You need to be able to monitor system (and application) log files from resources that can change frequently because they are dynamic. I highly recommend you consider SumoLogic to help you consume logs in your cloud environment. Like DataDog, SumoLogic can monitor for outliers, it’s SaaS-based and can be connected with numerous tools quickly.

Cost Management

As cloud takes off, cost management becomes one of the bigger issues we grapple with. Beyond doing your due diligence with planning and deployment, the trick to effective cloud cost management is having is access to complete and timely usage data. With this you can see exactly whose consumption of what services are driving which costs. This may point to provision errors, additional optimization opportunities or simply signal the need to have a frank conversation with colleagues about unplanned usage.

Softchoice Cloud Dashboard: The problem has been finding tools that do this easily and well. One of the better tools available is Softchoice's Cloud Dashboard, Here Softchoice provides a broad suite of web tools to help track and analyze a range of cloud infrastructure and applications. The main advantage of this tool is that it provides a comprehensive visualization of organizational spend history, from which you can drill down more deeply into departmental and individual usage.

I hope you find these resources as useful as I have. If you’ve got other recommendations, I’d love to hear them. Please feel free to share by posting your comment!

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Presentation - Microsoft Data Platform Modernization Boot Camp
Presentation - Microsoft Data Platform Modernization Boot Camp

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