In the News  |  05/02/2012
- Srinivas Ramanathan

Performance management challenges for cloud-hosted services

Cloud computing in different forms – public, private or hybrid cloud models - continues its fast-paced adoption rate as enterprises look to leverage it for improving the agility, scalability, redundancy and costs savings of their business operations. In fact, according to a recent Gartner CIO survey, almost half of all CIOs expect to operate their applications and infrastructures via cloud technologies within the next five years.

While cloud computing offers enterprises several key benefits, it also throws up a number of new challenges when it comes to management of the performance of business services delivered from the cloud.

For cloud computing to be successful, it is paramount that users of cloud-based services get the same experience as they would if these services were hosted in their corporate network. Poor user experience can threaten the success and ROI of cloud initiatives. Hence, it is essential that enterprises adopting cloud computing plan how they can manage the performance of cloud-based business services.

Although easier to provision and operate, cloud computing does not reduce the complexity of the infrastructure that you, the IT manager, have to manage. If you are moving your key business services to the cloud, you still have to manage applications such as web servers, databases, middleware platforms, etc. in the same manner as if they were on physical servers. What’s more, your business service may even use applications that are hosted in the cloud and not directly managed by you or in your control. As the IT manager, you will still be responsible for the performance of the business services!

Business users do not understand or care about the complexity of the underlying infrastructure. What they care about is that the business services are reliable and responsive. Users can experience several kinds of performance issues - connection problems, slow or degraded performance, disconnects, reliability issues, etc.

In all these cases, the user complaints always relate to the service (and not the underlying infrastructure). “My service is slow”, “it is not working”, “I can’t connect to the service” are all complaints you will receive from users. As the IT manager, your job is then to quickly figure out what is causing the business service issue and to resolve this rapidly to ensure optimum cloud performance and business productivity.

The following are some of the main application performance challenges you will face in the cloud:

Performance issues can start anywhere in the infrastructure

Your challenge lies in the fact that a problem anywhere in the infrastructure can result in a service performance issue and when a user complains, you have to figure out where the root-cause of the problem lies: is it the network, the database, the application or the cloud platform? Finding the exact cause of a service performance issue can be like searching for a needle in a haystack!

Multiple domains complicate the problem

Adding to the complexity is the fact that most cloud services involve multiple domains of control. The cloud instances are controlled by one domain, the application by another. If you had a hybrid cloud infrastructure, you will be dealing with the public cloud and private cloud domains! You have to expect that you will get very limited or no visibility into other domains. As the IT manager, your challenge is to identify which domain is causing a service performance problem, even though you may not have complete visibility into each and every domain.

Limited visibility into cloud environments

Traditional monitoring systems designed for physical on-premise IT environments often have limited visibility into cloud environments. These tools are designed to operate in a network with a single domain of control.

On the other hand, there are many new monitoring tools that are very specific to the cloud. These tools do not have the breadth of infrastructure coverage, the granularity of the monitoring, or the correlation necessary to pinpoint root cause problems. It is more difficult and time-consuming than ever to pinpoint cloud computing performance problems with traditional monitoring and management tools. A new more holistic model is needed to ensure uninterrupted visibility across every tier and layer of the cloud ecosystem.

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