infoTECH Feature

May 11, 2012

How to Migrate to, Live in and Thrive in the Cloud

By TMCnet Special Guest
Ray Solnik, Appnomic Systems

It may be one of the most hyped trends: “Migrating to the Cloud.” But as companies attempt to take advantage of the many cloud computing benefits and transition their business operations to cloud computing and hybrid environments, IT professionals are hit with a host of challenges – some have simple fixes, others are much more difficult.

Managing the performance of business-critical applications across both internal enterprise IT platforms AND the new cloud apps that make up these hybrid environments is challenging to say the least. What is the best way to not only migrate to the Cloud, but thrive and make the most of cloud computing?

IT buyers do their best to conduct due diligence, evaluate cloud vendors and even conduct a pilot before jumping in with both feet. In the end, when issues do occur we have to scramble as quickly as possible to repair problems end users are suffering on our own platforms or those of cloud vendors. Preventing issues and the fire drills that result from them before they can occur has been but a dream. Until now.

Innovative performance management and automation approaches can help businesses not only live in, but flourish in complex cloud and hybrid worlds. These approaches can in fact provide a unique predictive means to maximize the benefits of cloud computing and facilitate the migration to the cloud that requires living with hybrid environments.

Today’s infrastructure often includes diverse applications, disparate data sources, multiple integrations and large numbers of potential performance break points. The data flowing throughout these systems is massive. These complications make it seem virtually impossible to stay on top of what’s required to ensure a solid end user experience. It seems almost impossible to SLA this tangled web of technology. 

The good news is there are a number of next generation vendors in the Application Performance Management (APM) space including Appnomic Systems, AppDynamics, New Relic, Splunk (News - Alert) and others that can help. While still early in the new movement in the APM sector, many of these solutions are replacing prior technologies. Companies such as BMC, CA, Compuware (News - Alert) and HP are well suited for client server environments, large capex type budgets for very expensive enterprise software, and were built on legacy architectures. 

They’re not necessarily suited for many of today’s architectures and IT operations methodologies. The high complexity required to implement these solutions also typically includes significant professional services engagements to make the technology work.

Two of the most exciting new APM (News - Alert) trends gaining traction are:  (1) Application Behavior Learning (ABL) and (2) “Big Data” as applied to APM. These new solutions can process massive volumes of data and distill that data into predictive alerts, helping IT operations professionals catch potential end user experience issues before they occur. These analytics engines also provide wonderful insights for trouble shooting should an end user affecting issue occur. 

In addition to these exciting trends, there  are a number of emerging APM technology approaches making strides when compared to traditional solutions. One of the most promising involves three-dimensional ABL performance management. It may sound complex, but can be quite logical. Three-dimensional performance analytics include:

  1. The assessment of end user transaction response time.
  2. Measurement of the key performance indicators (KPI) for infrastructure       components that deliver end user experience.
  3. Capture of the patterns of the application’s usage – both transaction mix and volume. This dimension seems to be where the greatest impact of ABL approaches lie.

ABL that leverages real-time application usage patterns and behavior learning can actually predict and prevent IT application performance issues rather than being limited to “mean time to repair or MTTR,” a more traditional, and now seemingly outdated industry metric. The goal is to stop a problem before it happens rather than waiting to try to fix it once it has occurred.   

The industry is shifting from a more traditional approach of accelerating MTTR to providing MTTP – more time to prevent issues in the first place. It may sound like magic, but in case after case, Early Warning Alerts give companies a “heads up” on an issue in the infrastructure layer before it affects users.

It makes sense and is a far cry from traditional application performance management solutions. No expensive consultants. No major professional services engagements. Little or no wasted time running around chasing fixes.

But really, do you need yet another tool? And can technology alone make the difference? The answer is a resounding NO. 

First, there are some basic processes to get in place. Instead of monitoring at the device layer or using monitoring for testing and catching issues after the fact, measure at the application layer as well, and begin using monitoring insights in your daily operations on a preventive basis. Some work flow changes will help IT operations spend time better understanding application environments and tightening up delivery versus short fuse exercises in resolving customer issues. Shift your emphasis more on MTTP vs. MTTR.

Second, there is more important work to do than simply managing the daily operation of your infrastructure and responding to end user complaints. The variety of service providers available to help you operate the daily tasks that result in SLA’d application operations is proliferating. Use them. These vendors can provide their technology as a service. Have them operate it for you and leverage their expertise in their field of specialization. More and more enterprise and Cloud application operations teams are moving the drudgery of daily operations out from under them to vendors so the internal IT or SaaS (News - Alert) operations teams can focus on business-changing work by applying technology – not operating technology.

“Migrating to the Cloud” may sound like a sexy realm within IT, but it is tougher than it sounds. Mission-critical applications cannot be taken for granted and IT professionals do not have time to waste. Be smart. Be efficient. Do your research. Thrive.

About the author: 
Prior to joining Appnomic Systems, Mr. Solnik was the president & COO at OpSource (News - Alert) (a Silicon Valley Infrastructure as a Service [IaaS] company recently acquired by Dimension Data, a $6-billion global systems integrator) where he was responsible for the operations of over 200 Web applications including some of the most successful SaaS and software apps in the market. His customers relied on him and the OpSource team to ensure their applications were performing 24/7, year-round. After spending plenty of Saturday nights supporting customers’ operations with the OpSource team, he decided to join the vendor community and bring better solutions to prevent operations issues and ensure we all have access to a “cloud” where we can thrive.

Edited by Braden Becker


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