New Approaches to Application Management in the Cloud

Arthur Cole

Nobody ever said application management in the cloud was going to be easy. Well, perhaps a few people did in the beginning, but now that reality has set in, organizations can get to work overcoming the challenges that disparate infrastructure presents to the application layer. According to ExtraHop Network’s Senior Vice President, Marketing and Business Development, Erik Giesa, the cloud introduces a need for per-user and session transaction service correlation across the entire delivery chain, which provides a more in-depth view of environmental conditions than simple resource monitoring.

Cole: It seems that most enterprise managers are clear on the notion that application management takes precedence over infrastructure management in the cloud, but there is a lot of uncertainty as to how to go about it. What are some of the key elements in a cloud-facing application management regime?

Giesa: In order to create a successful management regime, IT teams need tools that provide comprehensive visibility at both the enterprise and cloud levels, looking at transactional performance across the entire spectrum of the application delivery chain and cloud services, and providing cross-tier correlation that offers deep insight into the security, availability and performance of both cloud and on-premise applications.

The most essential part of any cloud app management regime is defining the complete workload and how it will be used in the cloud and who or what will be consuming it. For those enterprises deploying entire workloads in the cloud that include the DNS, load-balancing, identity and access management, as well as application, database and storage services, it is essential that they be able to measure and correlate all of these services on a per user and session transaction basis. And you can’t base the regime on the term ‘monitoring’ alone because it fails to fully convey exactly what is needed to effectively manage and leverage a hybrid cloud/on-premise IT environment. Monitoring of resource utilization, costs or only the application, while important, do not address cloud application performance because they do not measure or correlate transactions across the entire service delivery chain. The enterprise requires visibility into all cross-tier services in order to have a viable app management regime.

There are also a significant number of cloud applications being used by the enterprise that are composite applications which serve to work or support enterprise applications delivering a specific business function, like archival. The primary means of communication between these cloud services and on-premise applications are APIs, and as a result, bi-directional API monitoring is a critical part of any cloud-facing app management regime.

Cole: Most cloud providers point to resource utilization and other metrics to gauge the health of their environments. Is this a reliable approach? Is it possible that app performance can be hampered even if the drag on resources is relatively light?

Giesa: This is a fantastic question, and you’re getting right at the root of the problem. Despite the prevalence of this approach, resource utilization does not equate to performance, and is not indicative of the quality of end-user experience.

For example, an EC2-based application can be performing with very light resource utilization, while still serving up ‘Page Unavailable’ errors to your end user due to a storage or database service issue. If all you’re looking at is resource utilization, you wouldn’t know you had a problem until someone complained, and that’s never a good scenario. 

If one service in the application delivery chain is poor, it can easily affect the overall performance of other components in the chain. Monitoring solutions that look at transactional performance of applications across the entire services spectrum and correlate across tiers, offer the kind of intelligence that alerts IT to these issues before they turn into end-user headaches.

Cole: What about real-time monitoring and management? This was always a noble goal in the traditional enterprise, but on the cloud it would seem to be a basic requirement.

Giesa: That is absolutely right. However, particularly in cloud environments, you need to go beyond basic real-time monitoring and management, and look to services that deliver real-time transactional monitoring with cross-tier correlation. Without that, you won’t have insight into whether workloads running in the cloud are continuously performing as well as, or better than, those in your on-premise environment.

While [the] cloud can deliver significant efficiencies across the enterprise, IT teams still need visibility into security, availability and performance issues that are impacting the overall performance of the IT environment regardless of where the application is running--on-premise or in the cloud. With real-time transactional monitoring and correlation across all tiers, it is possible to spot an issue before the cloud service provider is even aware of it, enabling IT teams to act quickly to move workloads within the cloud or even transition them out of the cloud as necessary. Even as the cloud plays a bigger role in IT strategy, it is important to avoid becoming so cloud-dependent that you have no other options, and to have insights that will prevent cloud application issues from impacting your end user.

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Mar 29, 2014 11:46 AM AG AG  says:
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