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How to Effectively & Efficiently Monitor Your Cloud Computing Infrastructure

Vikas Aggarwal
Tuesday, February 2, 2010
Vikas Aggarwal
Software applications and the underlying computing infrastructure are essential enablers of business processes in today’s technology-dependent enterprise environment. Almost every single business activity - from taking an order from a customer to delivering purchased products - depends directly on the effective performance of the Information Technology (IT).

Organizations have used a variety of tools and approaches to monitor their networks and ensure optimum performance of their enterprise IT infrastructure. It is clear though that traditional network management tools have been stretched to the limit, given the widespread adoption of multi-tier applications, distributed computing, and Internet technologies in recent years. The arrival of cloud computing, the latest evolution in IT, creates a new set of challenges that require innovative monitoring tools to help businesses leverage its cost and efficiency benefits, while mitigating the risks of underperforming infrastructure. This article will discuss the limitations of traditional tools, and review the capabilities of the next generation tools that are able to address the increased management demands of modern IT infrastructure.

In simple terms, cloud computing uses virtualization, grid architectures, and software as a service application delivery, both inside and outside the boundaries of the enterprise network. This computing approach or ‘technology’ promises significant cost savings and business agility compared with traditional methods of computing. In a cloud environment, a business application, for example, may leverage a combination of in-house vanilla virtual machines, pre-built storefront virtual machines from an external cloud vendor (e.g. Yahoo), and an external application service (e.g. NetSuite). Furthermore, a variety of network elements and links make up the required infrastructure mix to ensure the effective functioning of the overall application. This type of complicated environment requires a new approach to network management and monitoring.

Traditional network management and monitoring systems have focused on measuring and monitoring technical metrics and trends of individual elements and components in the infrastructure. Although these systems enable the IT operations team to identify problem areas from a technical point of view for a given piece of infrastructure, significant gaps exist in determining the business impact of a specific problem. If a router and an external application service fail at the same time, legacy monitoring systems offer no way for the Network Operations Center (NOC) operator to determine which of these is more critical or which business services have been impacted by these failures. When an isolated issue occurs in the complex Web of new technologies - one that may impact one or more user-facing tasks in a business process - the current monitoring approaches are incapable of determining its impact on the business.

In order to ensure smooth running of business operations in a cloud environment, network management must move away from point monitoring of IT infrastructure to monitoring business service availability and performance. It must go beyond just looking at the performance of individual nodes or components to include a holistic service-oriented view.

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