A recent survey found that that 42% of IT professionals spend too much of their time on troubleshooting tasks and that cloud environments were ranked overall as the second most-common place in which they encounter significant IT issues. A lack of visibility into cloud infrastructure and applications keeps network operations (NetOps) teams in the dark, while placing an incredibly heavy burden on them. With limited to no visibility into cloud environments, NetOps teams cannot proactively identify issues or troubleshoot them quickly, which can lead to productivity loss and unsatisfied customers and employees.
NetOps and IT teams need to incorporate the right network management capabilities and processes into cloud deployments from the beginning to gain the level of visibility necessary to prevent these issues from occurring and resolve them quickly when they do. If successful in this regard, NetOps can keep business-critical applications running smoothly as they transition to the cloud, identify the root cause of issues with cloud applications, and negotiate effectively with service providers. Here are a few best practices on how to successfully do this.
Best practices for maximum cloud visibility
The process differs depending on which type of cloud deployment your business is using. Nonetheless, visibility is crucial regardless of which deployment you’re dealing with. For example, organizations that use Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) will have to set up their own cloud applications and architecture. Luckily for these types of deployments, there are more options when it comes to gaining detailed network visibility. On the other hand, organizations that are moving from applications running on a local server to a Software as a Service (SaaS) provider have limited options for visibility. Because IT teams can’t actually install monitoring software in Salesforce or Microsoft for example, these applications can be blind spots if not set up correctly. Luckily, there are ways to maximize visibility for either of these deployments. Here’s how:
First – regardless of whether your business is using SaaS or IaaS – make sure to use a network analysis tool to categorize the performance of the application running in the data center before making the transition. Measure how much traffic is flowing back and forth, network response times, application response times, etc.
Next, set the performance specifications with your SaaS or IaaS provider. Let the provider know that your users expect to receive the same or improved application response times as they did before.
These next steps differ depending on which deployment you’re using. If you’re using SaaS, place a monitoring point at the firewall or connection to the internet, and monitor the round trip to that SaaS application. Then, measure the overall delay and compare that with how it was before the cloud migration.
For IaaS deployments, place a monitoring point in your cloud infrastructure to monitor your north-south traffic. That way you can track network and application response times from your users to your cloud architecture through the Internet Service Provider (ISP). This enables you to identify the root cause of the application issue – whether it is the application itself, an issue with the ISP, or a mistake in how you’ve set up the cloud architecture.
Be sure to keep an eye on these monitoring points over time. While you may not be able to troubleshoot the SaaS application directly, this method will serve as a benchmark to determine if performance is changing over time. That way you’ll be aware of any significant degradation and can flag it to the provider if needed.
Now, if you’re using IaaS, this may be all that you need to monitor. However, some companies with more complex cloud deployments (such as moving an entire data center to the cloud) may need to expand and add additional monitoring points. Doing this allows companies to monitor the east-west traffic between different applications and between applications and databases within the cloud deployments, allowing for more detailed and effective troubleshooting. If application slowdown is the result of an issue within the cloud, NetOps teams will need this level of visibility to pinpoint the error.
Lastly, you can negotiate with your SaaS provider using the data collected. For example, if your SLA states that you agreed to an application response time for Office 365 of 200 ms, but you have data from the past six months showing the average application response time going from 200 ms to 500 ms, then you can ask Microsoft for a refund and to address the performance issues so you’re actually getting what you pay for.
Cloud visibility issues can rain on your parade in many ways, causing major business operations challenges over time. The best cloud monitoring setup ultimately depends on each organization’s unique needs. Regardless of whether you’re using SaaS or IaaS, you should at least monitor traffic in and out of the cloud to corporate users. That said, keep in mind that unified Network Performance Monitoring and Diagnostics platforms today can offer end-to-end visibility into all fabrics of the network, including the cloud. By using the above techniques, IT can successfully keep the business running smoothly through ongoing network transformation initiatives and support business-critical applications as they move to the cloud as well.