Testing the Cloud
From passive hosting to active provisioning of services
Jul. 27, 2011 10:45 AM
Cloud computing has now passed the stage of hype to reality. More and more enterprises are realizing the benefits of remote hosting of IT services rather than local IT management, especially as managing and operating IT networks and services is not getting any easier.
Managing IT networks requires a broad set of competencies in a growing number of technologies and products. It therefore makes sense that these competencies are centralized in larger data centers providing cloud services to a number of smaller enterprises for which IT is not a core competency.
Larger data centers also means larger installations with higher-speed interfaces as well as an obligation to maintain service availability. This requires extensive test and management capabilities to ensure service "up-time." However, will test and management of cloud services differ from how they are performed today? What are the special challenges that cloud service providers face in this regard?
Challenges of Testing and Managing Cloud Services
This leads to the second challenge of service assurance. How can the cloud service provider assure timely delivery and even service availability when it doesn't control the data communication connection between the cloud service and the enterprise customer? Does the data communication provider have the monitoring infrastructure in place to assure Service Level Agreements (SLA)? Does the cloud service provider have the monitoring infrastructure in place to assure the services provided?
The final challenge is service efficiency - efficiency in all its aspects from cost, space and power efficiency to efficient and scalable delivery of services using virtualization, efficient servers and high-speed interfaces. In this regard, the accompanying monitoring infrastructure must also follow the same principles.
Testing to Meet Cloud Service Challenges
This solution requires the installation at the enterprise of a network appliance for monitoring latency, which could also be used to test connectivity. Such an appliance could also be used for troubleshooting and SLA monitoring.
Typically the cloud service provider does not own the WAN data communication infrastructure. However, using network monitoring and analysis appliances at both the data center and the enterprise, it is possible to measure the performance of the WAN in providing the data communication service required. The choice of WAN data communication provider should also be driven by the ability of this provider to offer performance data in support of agreed SLAs. In other words, this provider should have the monitoring and analysis infrastructure in place to assure services.
From Reaction to Service Assurance
A service assurance strategy involves constant monitoring of the performance of the network and services so that issues can be identified before they arise. Network and application performance monitoring tools are available from a number of vendors for precisely this purpose.
The Power of Virtualization
One of the consequences of this consolidation is the need for higher speed interfaces as more data needs to be delivered to each server. This, in turn, requires that the data communication infrastructure is dimensioned to provide this data, which in turn demands that the network monitoring infrastructure can keep up with the data rates without losing data. This is far from a given, so cloud service providers need to pay particular attention to the throughput performance of network monitoring and analysis appliances to ensure that they can also keep up in the future.
Within the virtualized servers, there are also emerging solutions to assist in monitoring performance. Just as network and application performance monitoring appliances are available to monitor the physical infrastructure, there are now available virtualized versions of these applications for monitoring virtual applications and communication between virtual machines.
There are also virtual test applications that allow a number of virtual ports to be defined that can be used for load-testing in a cloud environment. This is extremely useful for testing whether a large number of users can access a service without having to deploy a large test network. It's an ideal tool for cloud service providers.
Bringing Virtualization to Network Monitoring and Analysis
Solutions are now available to allow multiple network monitoring and analysis applications to be hosted on the same physical server. If all the applications are based on the same operating system, intelligent network adapters have the ability to ensure that data is shared between these applications, which often need to analyze the same data at the same time, but for different purposes.
However, for situations where the applications are based on different operating systems, virtualization can be used to consolidate them onto a single physical server. Demonstrations have shown that up to 32 applications can thus be consolidated using virtualization.
By pursuing opportunities for consolidation of network monitoring and analysis appliances, cloud service providers can further improve service efficiency.
From Passive Hosting to Active Provision of Services
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