How to Ensure Business Service Performance in Cloud Computing Environments

By Vikas Aggarwal  |  Posted 2010-09-14

How to Ensure Business Service Performance in Cloud Computing Environments

The widespread implementation of virtualization and the acceleration of the adoption of cloud computing are changing the economics and operations model for managing IT infrastructure. Higher utilization of shared infrastructure is dramatically reducing the "per unit" costs, and business agility is being enhanced because organizations now have the ability to deploy IT infrastructure resources on-demand when needed.

While the business benefits of the new approach are undeniable, IT teams are facing a daunting challenge in ensuring the effective performance of the entire IT infrastructure that supports an organization's critical business services and processes. Within the new IT environment, business services and processes are often enabled using a diverse mix of in-house and external infrastructure and services.

A business application in a cloud environment may be dependent on the effective functioning of external application services, function-specific virtual machines, shared storage and dedicated physical servers. Additionally, a variety of communications links and network nodes may also be part of the supporting infrastructure.

So, how can IT teams effectively monitor the performance of all these interrelated resources in such a complex environment and, more importantly, how can they ensure the smooth functioning of dependent business services and processes?

Traditional vs. Holistic Performance Monitoring

Traditional versus holistic performance monitoring

Traditional approaches to IT performance monitoring are focused on measuring and observing the technical metrics and trends of individual nodes and components in the infrastructure. Decisions on where to direct repair or remediation effort are driven by isolated performance indicators that are gathered and analyzed in a piecemeal manner-rather than holistically viewing and understanding the impact of the given IT infrastructure on the overall business.

These legacy methods are rapidly breaking down and becoming obsolete in the new era of distributed, virtual and cloud computing where many more "moving parts"-both inside and outside the enterprise network-are involved in supporting critical business services and processes.

To ensure the smooth running of business operations in virtualized and cloud environments, organizations have to first focus on monitoring business service availability and performance, instead of just relying on point monitoring of individual IT components. Now, network management has to go beyond just looking at the performance of individual resource elements and include a holistic, service-oriented view. Well, how can this be achieved?

Integrated Business Service Management Systems

Integrated business service management systems

Organizations should actively explore deploying integrated network performance and business service management (BSM) systems to connect the worlds of IT and business. Assuming a business process has been described as a set of distinct business services (tasks), a comprehensive and integrated BSM solution would enable an organization to maintain the connections, relationships and dependencies between business services, the applications that comprise them, and the underlying virtual and cloud computing infrastructure.

This BSM solution would link relevant business metrics (for example, order validation success) with application and infrastructure performance metrics (for example, traffic volume, CPU utilization, connections dropped, etc.), recognize service performance trends, and provide alerts to avert potential business service problems.

BSM solutions allow the grouping-within constructs such as "business containers"-of an organization's IT infrastructure to create logical, business-oriented views of the overall physical and virtualized computing network. The ability to link applications and the cloud computing infrastructure with business services using containers enables enterprise network administrators to directly monitor the health of the umbrella business service. Users can drill down to view the status of constituent technical components, as when a business service itself starts trending negatively on a management dashboard or console.

Custom Configuration of Business Containers

Custom configuration of business containers

BSM solutions offer users the ability to customize the configuration of business containers to support differing business needs and objectives. Users can specify rules to indicate when a container is identified as being in an undesirable state. For example, if there are two redundant network paths between two endpoints, this can be specified in a business container. What this means is that, even if one of the paths is down, the business service itself will still be displayed as functioning (although a warning could be generated, if needed).

Similarly, if there is a virtual server farm behind a load balancer and an outage of some of the virtual servers, the business container can be specified so that this event does not affect the supported business service. Alternatively, if there is a single software as a service (SAAS) application that supports the same business service, the business container can be defined to indicate the status of the business service as being "critical" if the synthetic test transaction with the SAAS application fails.

As organizations rapidly adopt new technologies such as virtualization, cloud computing, grid architectures and SAAS, a new set of IT management challenges are emerging. Although the IT environment is more complex than ever, there are solutions that can allow the IT team to better fulfill their mission of supporting the effective functioning and execution of critical business processes. To ensure smooth business operations, organizations should look to deploy advanced BSM solutions that overcome the limitations of legacy network management tools by providing real-time visibility into the availability and performance of business services.

Vikas Aggarwal is founder and CEO of Zyrion. Vikas has been an entrepreneur and senior executive at multiple technology startups over the past 20 years. He was the founder and CEO of Fidelia, a venture-backed IT infrastructure management software company. At Fidelia, he led the company's growth to over 100 customers before their acquisition by Network General. At Network General, Vikas was the vice president of product management and oversaw product strategy through their acquisition by NetScout in late 2007. He can be reached at

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