Organizations continue to invest heavily in data center expansion even while IT staffing has remained relatively flat. Every day, system administrators are being asked to do more with less. With that in mind, CenturyLink Cloud is introducing Group Management so that cloud users have a simple, efficient way to administer, secure and monitor collections of CenturyLink Cloud cloud servers as a single unit. This capability helps organizations with large clouds spend less time on routine maintenance and governance, and more time optimizing their environment and investment.

What happens once your cloud footprint expands beyond an initial block of servers? It’s no fun trying to manage individual servers in massive, scrolling lists. CenturyLink Cloud Group Management offers an organization scheme for customers who want to pool their servers based on business unit, system, or any arbitrary designation. We wanted to make sure that even the most complex landscape could be accommodated, so Groups support a very deep (32 level!) nesting structure.

This feature alone may not save users any significant time. Many cloud providers (and infrastructure management suites) offer metadata tags or other ways to create virtual collections of servers. However, CenturyLink Cloud Groups are a foundational part of the cloud platform and offer much more than a visual organization structure, including:

  • Time-saving administrations tasks
  • Personalized security settings
  • Consistent monitoring

The administration aspects of Groups offer significant time savings for cloud users. First of all, users can apply a full range of power options to any or all of the servers in a Group (or sub-Group). Imagine using a temporary 50-node cluster for a compute-heavy data processing job, and using a single command to power down every machine at once. If only a subset of servers in the Group need to be rebooted, for example, then it’s easy to select which servers should respond to the command. Similarly, consider the case of putting a large block of servers into maintenance mode so that they can be patched and brought back online. Using Group Management, it’s simple to make this happen.

Another valuable administrative capability provided by Groups is the ability to install software or run scripts against any or all of the servers. This feature, called bulk execution, is expected to save countless hours of a previously manual task. Consider the scenario where you want to add a new firewall policy rule to a set of production Windows servers. Instead of logging into every machine and running a particular PowerShell script, CenturyLink Cloud users can issue a single command to simultaneously update all servers.

Third, Group Management makes administration easier by letting users define default settings for new Group servers. While every cloud infrastructure provider starts the server provisioning process with a default resource allocation (e.g. “2 CPUs, 4 GB RAM”), CenturyLink Cloud lets you personalize this default profile for each Group through a feature we call server defaults. These settings are inherited from their parent but users can quickly override this inheritance and configure unique server settings for networking, DNS, operating system, memory, CPU and storage. Each organization, or group owner, can define an ideal server profile and encourage administrators to build servers that best fit those needs.

How can administrators make sure that users don’t accidentally over-provision and incur unexpected charges? Traditionally, these administrators would have to actively monitor utilization and server counts. Using CenturyLink Cloud Group Management, our users can set capacity limits for each Group which prevents over-provisioning and free administrators from playing “cloud cop.”

Group Management also makes your cloud more secure. Each Group can have its own permissions policy which dictates who can access the group and who cannot. These permissions support inheritance, so administrators can set up an overarching policy for a Group that affects every sub-Group within it. We see many companies use the cloud to service multiple business units and we want to make sure that our customers have the freedom to secure their assets without having to create entirely new accounts in our system. We think that Group Management makes it much easier to secure logically distinct clusters that all reside in the same customer cloud.

Finally, Group Management offers time-saving monitoring tools that let you record and observe server performance at the Group level. CenturyLink Cloud users configure foundational monitors at the Group level, although by default, these are inherited from the parent Group. Alert recipients get identified for each Group (or are inherited from the parent) and this person receives an email message when a particular monitor has been exceeded its threshold. Administrators have access to reports that show the performance of each server in the Group. Using this view, the administrator can see both historical trends (up to one year) and live utilization information and make decisions about whether to scale their environment up or down.

We’re very excited about Group Management as it forms the foundation for many other innovative features in our product pipeline. Our customers are already using Groups to quickly perform maintenance activities, create unique permissions for their business units, and install or update software en masse.

If you’re a CenturyLink Cloud user, you should have full access to all the great Group Management features today. Keep an eye out for even more to come!