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Monitoring in Hybrid Environments

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Contributed by Michael Thompson, Principal, Product Market Management, SolarWinds

Monitoring in Hybrid Environments

The cloud needs no introduction. It's perhaps one of if not the most pervasive topic in IT today, and the pace of adoption of cloud-based technologies is rapidly increasing. Some companies have even moved to a "cloud first" strategy. However, for most companies the bulk of IT activity still involves monitoring and managing on-premise systems. Even still, there is a marked shift across the board towards the cloud. For those companies with the bulk of IT still on-premise, that means a hybrid on-premise and cloud environment to at least some degree.

As this shift occurs, though, the monitoring and management of these hybrid environments is often left as an afterthought. This is a mistake that can have long-lasting repercussions. To avoid this, here are some considerations to take into account when thinking about monitoring hybrid environments.

Monitoring Objectives Shift

With both cloud and hybrid environments, the foundational objective of the monitoring and management systems quite often changes. The traditional focus of on-premise IT monitoring and management has been first and foremost to ensure that individual components and systems - servers, applications, networks, storage, etc. - are available and performing, and if they aren't, to quickly pinpoint the problem and fix it.

That can fundamentally change with the cloud portion of a hybrid system in that instead of pinpointing where and what the problem is, the primary objective is to be able to quickly and definitively determine who owns the problem. This can require a different way of thinking about monitoring that requires clearly delineated boundaries and data requirements.

Start With the Business Objectives

With distributed ownership of the resources delivering business services, it is more important than ever that the design of a management system starts from understanding and monitoring the end business service or objective that the hybrid system is delivering. Whether the hybrid system drives sales leads, e-commerce revenue or internal production data, starting with the ability to identify problems with the end service before users start complaining is key.

From there, the next step is to work backwards to understand the components required to deliver that business service. If a range of services and infrastructure from both on-premise IT and off-premise cloud providers are required, you must be able to quickly isolate which one is not performing appropriately. Essentially, the idea is to trace back a new troubleshooting plan before a problem arises to ensure that when a problem does present itself, you have the data you need to determine where the problem exists.

Different Ownership Requires Different Data

If the cloud service is essentially SaaS, where you have no management of the technology, it's pretty much a matter of understanding what failure would look like and ensuring there is a SLA and that you have appropriate metrics to show the SaaS provider for a fix if needed. However, in situations where the cloud provider is delivering infrastructure and you are installing and running software on top of it, it's a little trickier.

The first thing needed will be to determine if it's your software or configuration that is causing the problem or if the cloud provider is not meeting the SLA or otherwise delivering inadequate performance. To achieve this, a monitoring system must be in place to definitively determine where the problem lies. The typical, "I don't see any problems in my environment, must be on your end," will likely not be enough to force a cloud provider to take action.

Remediation May be Different

When it comes to on-premise infrastructure, responsibility to fix it when it breaks lies solely on IT. One of the major advantages of the cloud is that if a problem with a VM or other cloud component arises, it can simply be killed and re-provisioned instead of fixing it. However, this requires applications to be architected appropriately so the business service provided by the application isn't impacted.

Make Friends with Development

Many of the monitoring decisions need to be settled up front, when the hybrid or cloud environment is being created. In an on-premise only scenario, developers have little choice but to involve operations teams because they have to coordinate with them regarding the hardware that their applications would end up running on. With cloud resources, though, developers with a credit card or purchase order can get the infrastructure themselves. Without coordination, operations can end up with the responsibility over applications that aren't designed for cloud remediation, without monitoring that determines who a problem belongs to and with SLAs that aren't useful in maintaining business objectives. The easiest way to prevent this is to proactively reach out and engage with development teams so all are included in the early phases of development.

Plan for the Worst so It Won't Happen

Thinking through and planning for some of the worst case scenarios in hybrid environments early on can prevent problems before they come up. By setting up appropriate monitoring systems, designing applications for remediation and obtaining applicable SLAs with cloud providers, operations teams can ensure business outcomes for hybrid environments just as we've done for years for on-premise environments.


About the Author

Michael Thompson, Principal, Product Market Management, SolarWinds.  Michael has worked in the IT management industry for more than 13 years, including leading product management teams and portfolios in the storage and virtualization/cloud spaces for IBM. He holds a master of business administration and a bachelor's degree in chemical engineering.

Published Monday, September 22, 2014 7:00 AM by David Marshall
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