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Getting Your Head Around the Cloud (by Stephen Brown)


Steve_brownNetworkinstruments_logoAuthor Profile - Network Instruments provides in-depth network intelligence and continuous network availability through innovative analysis solutions. Enterprise network professionals depend on Network Instruments’ Observer product line for unparalleled network visibility to efficiently solve network problems and manage deployments. By combining a powerful management console with high-performance analysis appliances, Observer simplifies problem resolution and optimizes network and application performance. The company continues to lead the industry in ROI with its advanced Distributed Network Analysis (NI-DNA™) architecture, which successfully integrates comprehensive analysis functionality across heterogeneous networks through a single monitoring interface. Network Instruments is headquartered in Minneapolis with sales offices worldwide and distributors in over 50 countries.

Stephen Brown is the Product Marketing Manager for network analysis vendor Network Instruments with nearly a decade of experience in network management and security. Areas of interest include data loss prevention, network compliance, and VoIP management. Stephen is a member of InfraGard and graduated with a degree in Marketing from the University of Iowa.

Cloud_ComputingOpen any popular IT publication and you’re bound to see countless articles on how cloud computing is going to change everything from application management to climate change. With all these claims, it can be hard to understand what cloud computing really is and how it will impact network management.

In this article, we’ll cut through the hype and provide practical advice for monitoring the cloud.

What’s Old is New
The first thing to understand is that we’ve been here before. Terms like “private clouds” refer to existing practices of running applications over the Internet and across WAN connections. Going back even further, you might recall when time-sharing was the prominent model of computing. By allowing a large number of users to interact concurrently with a single computer, time-sharing dramatically lowered the cost of providing computing capability, and made it possible for individuals and organizations to use a computer without owning one.

The Internet has brought the concept of time-sharing back into popularity. Expensive corporate server farms and private data centers can host thousands of customers all sharing the same common resources. “New” business models, such as Software as a Service have become popular due to the cost/benefit ratio they provide customers.

Cloud Computing Platforms
In addition to the earlier mentioned term of private clouds, there are three types of public cloud computing:

Software as a Service (SaaS): Rather than buying and internally hosting software, organizations can lease the application as a service through a provider. The application is hosted, managed, and upgraded by the provider, and customers access it via an Internet connection. Examples of SaaS include Salesforce.com and Google Apps.

Platform as a Service (PaaS):
Using PaaS, customers lease a platform where they develop their code, and the provider uploads and presents it on the web. Essentially, the organization is leasing raw computer power and the environment to develop applications in a quick and cost-effective manner. Examples of PaaS include Microsoft Azure and Salesforce.com’s Force.com.

Infrastructure as a Platform (IaaS):
IaaS is a pay-as-you-go model for leasing the computing infrastructure for operating intense applications. IaaS provides extremely flexible scalability for handling sudden application demand shifts. For applications that require a lot of bandwidth and resources but are only used for a short time, this can be an excellent option. Examples of IaaS include Amazon EC2 and Rackspace.

Loss of Control
When implementing any type of cloud service, an organization is taking an application that was internally hosted and introducing new players–the ISP and cloud provider–who now control certain aspects of the service delivery and performance. When the application suffers any type of performance delay or users complain about slow application response, how does the network team deal with these new partners? Be aware of the types of performance reporting the cloud provider offers, and the ability of your company’s monitoring tools to integrate with these reports. Also, when dealing with an IaaS or PaaS provider, service level agreements (SLAs) become key to having any recourse if you’re plagued by performance issues. In the case of many SaaS vendors, effective SLAs may not be an option.

Loss of Visibility
In addition to giving up control over application performance, organizations need to evaluate whether visibility and analysis of performance will suffer by moving to the cloud. Are current tools able to provide similar monitoring to connections moving across the WAN and Internet? In monitoring cloud-based activities using the Observer platform, it provides key metrics for managing performance across the WAN/Internet, SLA monitoring and enforcement, ensuring application precedence, and pinpointing the cause of delay to the internal network, ISP, or cloud provider.

Although cloud computing might seem daunting, the technologies are largely based upon existing network concepts. Migrating to the cloud requires a shift in mindset, but uses many of the same solutions you have for managing your internal network and infrastructure. As the next step in readying your network and engineering team for the migration, read the following Network Instruments’ Tech Advisory on Preparing for the Cloud.




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