Optimize Application Performance With Cloud Infrastructure Management
Your application delivery chain may be in the cloud, but that doesn’t mean your IT teams need to fly blind. Set your business up to deliver the exceptional digital experiences your customers expect with cloud infrastructure management. A key component of optimal cloud infrastructure management is infrastructure monitoring.
For many enterprises, the days of traditional in-house data centers are long gone. Application delivery chains now extend far beyond four walls into the cloud, allowing businesses to significantly benefit from increased scalability, reliability, cost savings and security.
The pluses, however, don’t come without minuses. According to recent surveys, one of the main stumbling blocks IT teams supporting these ever-expanding environments face is a lack of end-to-end visibility into software and hardware stacks deployed across combinations of on-prem infrastructure and private or public clouds. By adding operational silos that are dependent on disparate management tools into the mix, any attempt to visualize the big picture can seem futile.
But you don’t have to climb this hill on your own.
Enter cloud infrastructure management. These solutions facilitate the configuration, monitoring and optimization of complex environments, allowing your IT teams to maximize the advantages and minimize the challenges of cloud computing.
In this article, we’ll step through best practices for efficient cloud infrastructure management and provide you with insight into what to look for in a cloud management platform.
But first, we’ll discuss what cloud infrastructure is and some of the management obstacles that come with it.
The nuts and bolts of cloud infrastructure
Cloud infrastructure is a blanket term used to describe the underlying parts required for cloud computing. It consists of several core components — including hardware, virtualization, storage and network resources — that work together to deploy and deliver applications and services.
- Hardware. Even in cloud environments, physical devices such as servers, switches and routers serve as the spine of the infrastructure.
- Virtualization. Software (known as a hypervisor) sits on top of the hardware and allows its elements — memory, processors, storage, etc. — to be divided into virtual machines (VMs).
- Storage. Cloud computing utilizes distributed file systems that provide scalable storage and keep data and backups secure.
- Network. Internet communication channels allow information to travel from back-end cloud systems to end user devices.
These basic components are the same regardless of the type of cloud environment (i.e., private, public, hybrid or community).
Cloud infrastructure management hurdles
Infrastructure management has always been a challenging endeavor, but it becomes even more so in the cloud for several reasons. A few of the major ones are included below.
Distributed applications generate large amounts of data — network data, infrastructure data, performance data, etc. — across multiple systems and paths, making it nearly impossible for IT teams to see across the entire application delivery chain and efficiently isolate and resolve issues.
Compounding the lack of visibility is the fact that the personnel responsible for maintaining and supporting the environment are often siloed and saddled with incompatible management tools. They are unable to collaborate effectively, and the result is often finger-pointing, large war room escalations and increased mean time to resolution (MTTR).
Without visibility across the entire application ecosystem, it’s difficult for InfraOps teams to allocate and scale network, server and storage resources efficiently and avoid over-provisioning — and extra costs.
Businesses frequently limit themselves to monitoring tools that only work with their respective vendor’s technology. As a result, they lose control over their application’s data and the infrastructure that powers it. They also run the risk that the tools may not meet their needs as their environment expands, which will mean additional expense and effort when they’re forced to transform their operations.
Put your best foot forward
Now that we’ve covered the basics, it’s time to explore some cloud infrastructure management best practices.
1. Build a resilient cloud from the ground up.
Before you begin setting up your cloud environment, do your due diligence and plan, plan, plan. It’s difficult — and costly — to go back and attempt to resolve architecture issues after the fact. Consult and follow your cloud provider’s recommended guidelines through all stages of design, deployment and maintenance, and ensure that you involve any affected stakeholders in the migration and management processes.
2. Integrate your existing tools.
As you expand your application delivery chain into the cloud, be mindful of any mission-critical legacy systems (such as existing operations, administration, maintenance and provisioning [OAM&P] systems) that your business will continue to host in your physical data center. Develop a plan to incorporate the tools used to administer them into the larger cloud management solution so that your IT teams don’t lose visibility or control.
3. Don’t neglect reporting capabilities.
Powerful reporting mechanisms are key to optimal cloud management. If you don’t have access to granular, real-time data, you won’t be able to track compliance and system performance and hold third parties accountable to service level agreements (SLAs). Additionally, business units within your organization may use services from different providers at some point, and you’ll need the ability to monitor their resource usage and bill them accordingly.
4. Empower your IT teams.
To effectively oversee and optimize your ecosystem, your IT teams need self-service user interfaces (UIs) they can use to manage network, storage and compute resources from a single location via a single pane of glass view. They also require tools that allow them to automate routine tasks such as error monitoring and log management and focus on more mission-critical matters.
5. Take an application-aware approach.
Application performance — and, in turn, customer satisfaction — hinges on the health of the infrastructure it runs on. Ensure your InfraOps team has the insights they need to analyze resource consumption, costs and compliance constraints in real time and efficiently prioritize and rapidly scale workloads, databases and storage.
6. Put your security hat on.
Security can’t be an afterthought. It’s your business’s responsibility to maintain a secure flow of sensitive information throughout your entire application delivery chain. You must safeguard your infrastructure and provide your SecOps team with the necessary tools to monitor and protect cloud-based assets from hackers, viruses and data breaches.
7. Plan for the worst.
Don’t wait until disaster strikes to think about recovery. Identify risks, threats and vulnerabilities up front; craft an effective mitigation plan; and communicate the plan to the parties who’ll be responsible for carrying it out.
As part of this process, take cloud data management into consideration. Ensure that you have robust backup and redundancy systems in place, and develop and implement a comprehensive testing strategy.
8. Choose the right partner for the job.
Given that you’re likely moving to the cloud to reduce costs and allow your IT teams to focus on long-term strategic initiatives and innovation, it doesn’t make sense to have them tackle the complex task of managing your environment without help. Cloud management platforms provide the end-to-end visibility needed to connect your application and your infrastructure and create a real-time feedback loop that will allow your AppOps and InfraOps teams to proactively and successfully troubleshoot issues and scale resources across your traditional or hybrid cloud environment.
There are several solutions available on the market. How do you know which one will best meet the needs of your business?
What to look for in a cloud management platform
While there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to managing cloud infrastructure (hybrid infrastructure management and multi-cloud infrastructure management bring their own challenges), — there are three key capabilities that you should look for when selecting a cloud management platform.
Comprehensive, deep visualization
A major roadblock for IT teams responsible for managing applications and their supporting infrastructure is a lack of end-to-end visibility across the application delivery chain. Your cloud management platform should break down operational silos and give your AppOps and InfraOps personnel a shared, in-depth view across your full stack so they can speak the same language and collaborate effectively.
Analytics and recommended actions
Along with complete visibility, IT teams need contextualized and correlated insights that allow them to bridge the gap between application and infrastructure, avoid the blame game and troubleshoot as a unit, and rapidly identify the root causes of issues. Your cloud management solution should also supply them with resolution recommendations and a means (automated and/or manual) to take immediate action.
InfraOps teams spend a tremendous amount of time manually stepping through what-if scenarios, attempting to forecast future requirements, and making deployment decisions. They require real-time metrics and modeling capabilities to accurately predict how much computing, storage and network resources your application components need and when they will need them. Your cloud management platform should also provide them with the ability to efficiently prioritize and rapidly scale workloads, databases and storage automatically; eliminate wasteful and costly over-provisioning; and ensure that your applications always perform optimally.
Now that you know what cloud infrastructure management is and have best practices and tips to help you select a platform, it’s time to move forward. Take back control of your increasingly complex application delivery chain and deliver the flawless, world-class experiences your customers deserve.
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