Keys to integrated cloud application management

Seamless cloud application management isn’t a pipe dream. By following a few steps, cloud admins can monitor cloud app performance from one interface.

Cloud applications need to meet certain service-level requirements for availability and performance. And that means administrators must be able to measure and enforce service-level agreements. Despite being a useful application resource, the cloud can complicate this.

Applications running in the cloud are effectively a stack, with server and storage hardware at the bottom and application software and the graphical user interface (GUI) at the top. At some point in this stack, a cloud application transfers responsibility from the end user to the cloud; this is where it becomes critical to understand the status of resources and the way cloud applications and services perform.

In many cases, the best source for obtaining cloud application performance information isn’t native management tools but instead it comes from management data available from end user application and platform tools. By looking at how the bottom layer runs, admins can determine cloud performance.

Will differences between cloud application management and traditional IT threaten the value proposition of the cloud? In most cases, the answer is no.

The centerpiece of any cloud application management strategy is an integrated management console.

Application tools that enterprises use in-house function as part of the application image that moved to the cloud. Often, admins can manage software components in the cloud using native tools. But because the cloud replaces traditional data center hardware and software, those components must be managed solely in the cloud.

The centerpiece of any cloud application management strategy is an integrated management console, such as those included in products from CA Technologies, IBM and HP. These software tools allow administrators to link the management console’s GUI and tools with software and hardware application programming interfaces (APIs).

A cloud application management console allows admins to monitor underlying software and hardware elements from a single interface. The interface can integrate vertical components in the resource stack -- servers, storage, middleware, etc. -- with a horizontal set of applications that could contribute to worker productivity. The mission is to create an integrated cloud application management view that corresponds to the workers’ view of their information resources. This helps ensure cloud application quality of experience (QoE).

Steps for seamless cloud management

For integrated cloud application management, the first step is to incorporate management tools that will be available after moving to the cloud. It’s best to do this first so you can deal with any necessary changes while everything is still on-premises.

The next step is to link the cloud vendor’s management tools to the integrated management platform. Generally, every cloud provider will expose a management GUI and a set of management APIs. Admins should use the interface to validate management features that will reside in the cloud platform during a pilot test. When you’re satisfied with the capabilities you have (or at least you understand them), you can begin to use management APIs with the integrated platform.

Any company that consumes anything as a service knows the most important management task is fault isolation.

Begin the management pilot test -- the third step -- only after you run cloud management tools on the same GUI as your cloud-based app and platform tools.

The management pilot test requires that you perform all routine application and cloud management tasks from the integrated platform. Validate all of the management components, including adding users, changing configuration parameters, etc. It’s important to not only ensure you can perform these tasks but that you understand what changes in management practices might be needed.

The fourth and final step is to examine management data that’s available at the cloud infrastructure. Any company that consumes anything as a service knows the most important management task is fault isolation.

More user-contributed application and platform management tools are available for Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) and Platform as a Service (PaaS) models because, in these models, the user provides more of the software stack. For Software as a Service (SaaS), where all resources are generated and reside in the cloud, management integration isn’t as necessary. However, an integrated management platform is still valuable to control both cloud applications and in-house apps.

About the author:
Tom Nolle is president of CIMI Corporation, a strategic consulting firm specializing in telecommunications and data communications since 1982.

This was first published in February 2012

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