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Managing the "Cloud" in Cloud Computing (by Alex Henthorn-Iwane)

Alex Henthorn-IwanePacket_designAuthor Profile - Alex Henthorn-Iwane is the Vice President of Product Marketing for Packet Design, joining the company in September 2004 and bringing 18 years of systems engineering, product management and marketing experience in network infrastructure, management and security technologies and products. Prior to Packet Design, Alex was Senior Director of Product Management and Product Marketing at CoSine Communications, a maker of virtualized edge routing and security infrastructure equipment for the Service Provider market. Previously, he was Director of Product Management and Marketing at Corona Networks, Lucent Technologies and Livingston Enterprises (acquired by Lucent); and held systems engineering management posts with Fibronics America. Alex holds a B.A. from the University of California at Berkeley.



Question-cloudEditor's Note - What is Cloud Computing?

The term Cloud Computing was derived from the cloud symbol used in network flow graphics to refer to the Internet or the outside unknown transport and serving domain. It has been given to any, on demand or elastic services delivered through the web and virtually served; most are hosted for costs based on serving time from minutes to months.

The goal of cloud computing is to provide easy, scalable and variable access to computing, hosting and IT services.

There are the main types of Clouds –

1) A Private Cloud is a proprietary but Internet accessible network with a serving and hosting facility that supplies hosted services to a limited number of people or for very focused applications.

2) A Public Cloud is just that, like a public swimming pool as it is available to anyone that has access to the Internet.

3) A Hybrid Cloud and as you can guess a Hybrid Cloud can consist of many Private External, Public and Private Internal hosting computing services.

There are three (3) basic categories used in discussing Cloud Computing: (IaaS) Infrastructure-as-a-Service, (PaaS) Platform-as-a-Service and (SaaS) Software-as-a-Service

Today’s economy, the technology growth in virtualization technology, the elastic nature, variety of services and the demands for more access to information are just some of the fuel cells for Cloud Computing.

The article below by Alex Henthorn-Iwane points out that some serious consideration should be given to application delivery and the interactions between the corporate and public domains. I should like to add that serious consideration should also be given to Compliance and Security issues of this new information interaction.

Alex does a Great job in explaining the need for Route Analytics so one can document the areas where issues may develop from the WAN to Routing issues.

I hope you enjoy this article.

My Best - Oldcommguy™ - I wish you Great Success with Less Stress!



Managing the "Cloud" in Cloud Computing

By: Alex Henthorn-Iwane


The latest evolution in enterprise IT outsourcing, cloud computing leverages the ubiquity of the Internet, the flexibility of server virtualization, and the massive scale of today’s data centers to provide low-cost IT infrastructure as a network-based service. Though cloud computing is still in the early stages of adoption, enterprises are rightly concerned with how to manage infrastructure that resides on the Internet or shared service provider networks. But while much industry attention has been paid to systems, applications, storage and security issues, relatively little has been directed to the network management challenges of cloud computing. Cloud Computing’s placement of critical infrastructure components outside traditional network boundaries greatly increases enterprise IT dependence on the complex interactions between enterprise and public IP networks.

To ensure reliable application delivery, network managers need visibility into the routing and traffic dynamics spanning enterprise and Internet domains. But traditional network management tools are incapable of providing this sort of insight. This is a problem, but there is an answer---route analytics technology—a network management technology adopted and deployed by hundreds of the world’s leading enterprises, service providers and government agencies, fills this visibility gap by providing routing and traffic monitoring, analysis and planning for both internal and external IP networks. Routing visibility is critical to ensuring the success of cloud computing deployments, Route analytics can provide this visibility and enhance network management best practices.

At the most fundamental level, IP routing is important to cloud computing because cloud computing resources are reached via a complex combination of enterprise and Internet IP routed networks. But IP routing is inherently difficult to understand due to the way it dynamically and unpredictably changes traffic paths. For example, within an enterprise network, redundant links between various nodes create the possibility of many alternate paths between any point A and point B on the network.

The role of IP routing protocols such OSPF, EIGRP and IS-IS is to control which paths traffic flows take between points on the network at any given moment, and dynamically alter them based on the changing states of routers and links due to failures, routine maintenance and planned network changes. Since routing protocols make these decisions with only occasional configuration input from engineers; since the number of possible routing states for a large, redundant network consisting of hundreds of links can be in the thousands or tens of thousands; and since routing can change in milliseconds, it’s very challenging to nearly impossible for engineers to tell what’s happening. Add the vast Internet routing tables, the intricacies and pitfalls of BGP routing policy configuration, and the unpredictable effects of Internet changes (such as peering resets between ISPs), and its’ clear that the routing aspect of cloud computing is far from trivial.

But so what? The problem with this complexity is that routing problems can exert an outsized impact on application delivery. Some common routing issues and their impact include:

  • A flapping route (a condition when a network address is advertised and withdrawn repeatedly in succession) can cause packet loss and application downtime or slowdowns due to the temporary and intermittent lack of availability of the route to a server farm, user group or cloud computing resource.
  • Loss of a path from a data center location to an Internet exit router can cause a service outage, or reduce redundancy so that, even though the primary exit router is still working, the network becomes more vulnerable to a serious outage.
  • A change in a path that greatly increases the number of hops can cause increased packet latency and slower application response times.
  • Overall instability and high rates of change in the routing plane can cause the network to react slowly or unpredictably to network failures.
  • Misconfigured routing can cause an expensive backup link to go unused when a primary link fails.

Traditional network management tools simply don’t give insight into the complex routing and traffic dynamics associated with cloud computing. Either they’re device or end-to-end application oriented, and not paying attention to routing and traffic at all. Or they’re based on polling, and thus too slow or periodic to capture data on highly dynamic routing changes.

Route analytics provides a complete understanding of routing and traffic dynamics to help establish network management best practices and support the success of cloud computing roll-outs. Route analytics technology works by utilizing the network’s live routing protocols as a unique source of network management intelligence that complements traditional SNMP data.

The route analytics device – a network appliance running specialized software – acts like a router, listening to routing protocol updates sent by all routers in the network, and computing the network-wide routing state in real-time, just as all the “real” routers do. The route analytics device itself is passive, never advertising itself as a place to send traffic, and provides real-time visibility, always up-to-date routing-state knowledge, and a completely accurate historical record of all past routing changes. It knows every route or "path" that any traffic takes at any point in time. The network-wide routing topology visualization and complete details of routing changes provide the basis for many useful analyses of network behavior.

When route analytics information is combined with Netflow traffic-flow data, its full power emerges. By collecting traffic flows from the ingress points of traffic at the network edge (data centers, Internet peerings and major WAN links) and mapping them to the precise routes they traverse through the network, route analytics produces an integrated, always accurate map of all routing and traffic from all major traffic sources for the entire network.

Not only can route analytics speed troubleshooting through its complete troubleshooting history, it can also leverage its always-updated model of the network to simulate the network-wide effect of planned changes in a highly accurate manner to help reduce errors during change operations. Route analytics can even be used to perform highly accurate traffic trending and capacity planning projections.

Sound management of cloud computing deployments should include a strategy to contain the risk that increased network complexity poses to application delivery. Route analytics provides the visibility to enhance network management best practices, keep service providers accountable, and reduce risk and operations costs while helping to ensure the success of application delivery across an increasingly distributed IT infrastructure.


For more information on route analytics, please visit our website or send questions to the author, alex (at) packetdesign (dot) com.


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