From the Blogosphere
The Operational Consistency Proxy
Cloud makes more urgent the need to consistently manage infrastructure
By: Lori MacVittie
Aug. 8, 2012 10:15 AM
Cloud makes more urgent the need to consistently manage infrastructure and its policies regardless of where that infrastructure might reside
While the potential for operational policy (performance, security, reliability, access, etc..) diaspora is often mentioned in conjunction with cloud, it remains a very real issue within the traditional data center as well. Introducing cloud-deployed resources and applications only serves to exacerbate the problem.
F5 has long offered a single-pane of glass management solution for F5 systems with Enterprise Manager (EM) and recently introduced significant updates that increase its scope into the cloud and broaden its capabilities to simplify the increasingly complex operational tasks associated with managing security, performance, and reliability in a virtual world.
The latest release of F5 EM includes enhancements to its ability to automate common tasks such as configuring and managing SSL certificates, managing policies, and enabling/disabling resources which assists in automating provisioning and de-provisioning processes as well as automating what many might consider mundane – and yet critical - maintenance window operations.
Updating policies, too, assists in maintaining operational consistency across all F5 solutions – whether in the data center or in the cloud. This is particularly important in the realm of security, where control over access to applications is often far less under the control of IT than even the business would like. Combining F5’s cloud-enabled solutions such as F5 Application Security Manager (ASM) and Access Policy Manager (APM) with the ability for F5 EM to manage such distributed instances in conjunction with data center deployed instances provides for consistent enforcement of security and access policies for applications regardless of their deployment location. For F5 ASM specifically, this extends to Live Signature updates, which can be downloaded by F5 EM and distributed to managed instances of F5 ASM to ensure the most up-to-date security across enterprise concerns.
The combination of centralized management with automation also ensures rapid response to activities such as the publication of CERT advisories. Operators can quickly determine from the centralized inventory the impact of such a vulnerability and take action to redress the situation.
F5 EM also includes an option to provision a Centralized Analytics Module. This module builds on F5’s visibility into application performance based on its strategic location in the architecture – residing in front of the applications for which performance is a concern. Individual instances of F5 solutions can be directed to gather a plethora of application performance related statistics, which is then aggregated and reported on by application in EM’s Centralized Analytics Module.
These metrics enable capacity planning, troubleshooting and can be used in conjunction with broader business intelligence efforts to understand the performance of applications and its related impact whether those applications are in the cloud or in the data center. This global monitoring extends to F5 device health and performance, to ensure infrastructure services scale along with demand.
In addition to monitoring, F5 EM can collect actionable data upon which thresholds can be determined and alerts can be configured.
When thresholds are reached, triggers send an alert via email, SNMP trap or syslog event. More sophisticated alerting and inclusion in broader automated, operational systems can be achieved by taking advantage of F5’s control-plane API, iControl. F5 EM is further able to proxy iControl-based applications, eliminating the need to communicate directly with each BIG-IP deployed.
OPERATIONAL CONSISTENCY PROXY
By acting as a centralized management and operational console for BIG-IP devices, F5 EM effectively proxies operational consistency across the data center and into the cloud. Its ability to collect and aggregate metrics provides a comprehensive view of application and infrastructure performance across the breadth and depth of the application delivery chain, enabling more rapid response to incidents whether performance or security related.
F5 EM ensures consistency in both infrastructure configuration and operational policies, and actively participates in automation and orchestration efforts that can significantly decrease the pressure on operations when managing the critical application delivery network component of a highly distributed, cross-environment architecture.
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