Trying to See the Data Through the Cloud

    As a metaphor for the new form of enterprise infrastructure, the term “cloud” is ideal in one important aspect: It is often quite difficult to see through them.

    Visibility into the inner workings of the data environment has played a key role in infrastructure management since the first two computers were linked by a copper wire. After all, you can’t fix what you can’t see, but it can still be quite a challenge to peer through the, well, fog in order to gauge exactly what is going on out there.

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    Unlike traditional infrastructure visibility tools, however, cloud management functions on the application and service level. So long as the data is flowing and app performance is within established thresholds, enterprise users don’t need to worry about the physical or even virtual infrastructure, unless the problem lies within the private cloud.

    Already, a number of small software developers have carved niches for themselves with enterprise-class service monitoring and management systems. CopperEgg Corp., for instance, recently added new mapping, dashboard and mobile access tools to its SaaS-based visibility platform in an effort to improve coordination across public, private and hybrid infrastructure. The idea is to provide a single view of distributed environments while maintaining the ability to conduct deep-dive forensic analysis of complex and constantly shifting data patterns. The company has also added native mobile access to allow DevOps managers to run the system from iPhones, iPads or Android devices.

    Meanwhile, a company called Aternity has issued a new end-user monitoring platform for Office 365, the service version of the popular Office suite. Aternity for Cloud offers granular visibility into transaction-based services based on the experiences of actual users. The package provides validation of performance and availability, as well as issue detection and client isolation if necessary, coupled with cause analysis and resolution to minimize business disruption.

    Even in the cloud, though, sometimes enhanced visibility requires a physical component. That’s the thinking behind Cisco’s new Integrated Services Router with Application Experience (ISR-AX) system. As cloud services and mobile applications hit enterprise infrastructure in greater numbers, IT can often get left behind when it comes to monitoring and managing the situation. By uniting key Cisco technologies like ISR G2 routing, WAN optimization and Application Visibility and Control (AVC), ISR-AX enables both application acceleration and advanced prioritization techniques that ensure the most critical apps can access top-tier infrastructure. At the moment, the system is available for the 1900, 2900 and 3900 series routers, although future deployment plans include the 800 ISR, the ASR1000 and the CSR1000V to extend visibility throughout the data center, the network edge and the cloud.

    Of course, the best time to implement visibility into the cloud is during the integration process with legacy architectures. SnapLogic not only allows the enterprise to quickly build robust data environments through its Snap framework, but has added new visibility tools designed to drill down into the pain points that accompany most integration projects. The system provides detailed historical records of individual integration efforts, as well as visual representations of network status and real-time health monitoring of key integration points. As well, the package provides insight into server-side logs, unstructured data records and file system patterns designed to speed up the overall integration process.

    Enterprises will find that as the cloud era progresses, they will rely on increasingly diverse infrastructure spread out over large geographic areas. Keeping tabs on this environment will require not just new technologies but new mindsets as to what aspects of the data environment need to be managed and what is best left to service providers and other third-party contractors.

    This reliance on other people’s infrastructure can be a little unnerving at first, but at least the latest visibility tools allow CIOs to embrace a key tenet that has helped guide mankind through difficult transitions in the past: “Trust, but verify.”

    Arthur Cole
    Arthur Cole
    With more than 20 years of experience in technology journalism, Arthur has written on the rise of everything from the first digital video editing platforms to virtualization, advanced cloud architectures and the Internet of Things. He is a regular contributor to IT Business Edge and Enterprise Networking Planet and provides blog posts and other web content to numerous company web sites in the high-tech and data communications industries.

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