Application outages can inflict serious damage on businesses, from travelers stranded because of a booking application outage to a bank being unable to serve its customers online or problems with electronic trading systems.
IT outages are becoming more visible, and they’re becoming news because they truly do impact the bottom line. It’s enough to keep any IT Director (or team member, for that matter) up at night in a panic. The reason is that IT Operations is being asked to perform what seems like the impossible:
- Deploy more complex applications faster,
- Increase Service Levels for a growing user count, and
- Decrease overall operational and capital costs.
Achieving just one of these is challenging. Is there a way that any IT Operations team can make it through the entire gauntlet laid out here? Yes, there is, with the right technology foresight and strategy.
For mission critical business services, a properly designed and managed Hybrid Cloud that utilizes both public cloud infrastructure and on-premises servers delivers the “best of both worlds” for IT.
It is flexible, providing on-demand scalability for front-end Web systems and allowing massive scalability when called for, while paying for only the capacity that is needed. It also supports security mandates, enabling controlled back-end systems to be housed completely within the IT Data Center, providing the maximum security required for sensitive data such as account numbers, personal data, etc.
There are two architectural decisions that have to be made: Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) or Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS), and where to make the switchover between cloud and datacenter.
- IaaS or PaaS?
Now that services like Azure provide a choice for organizations, the choice has to be made. If you want to have more control over the platform itself, then go with Infrastructure-as-a-Service and configure those servers yourself. If a standard implementation of a platform is all that’s needed, then Platform-as-a-Service will be a more efficient offering.
- Where to make the switch-over?
The key architecture design issue is which servers are deployed in the cloud and which ones will be deployed within the data center. A good rule of thumb is that if the function of a server is to serve content and deliver the user experience, deploy it in the cloud. Conversely, if the server contains sensitive data (user IDs, passwords) or key transaction systems, keep it inside the data center.
Unfortunately, as is typically the case, there is a risk with the reward. A bad piece of code, inappropriate server placement, or even a simple outage can have bottom line business consequences in the blink of an eye. The rewards of Hybrid Cloud do outweigh the risks, but only with proper management principles in place.
Managing Hybrid Cloud
The concern IT Operations teams have with using Cloud-based applications is the lack of visibility in the Cloud, itself. Monitoring transaction performance is paramount to a complete IT management strategy. It seems counterintuitive to deploy a system that removes that visibility.
The reality is that deploying any critical application in an environment without transaction visibility is begging for trouble. There are alternatives now, though. The latest generation of transaction monitoring solutions have methods for getting into the heart of hybrid cloud applications. Here are the key features such a Transaction tool should have:
- Hop-by-hop Transaction visibility inside the Cloud system
- Support for both PaaS and IaaS implementation
- Visibility of connections between cloud and data center servers
With these key points, a transaction monitoring tool can provide the complete transaction visibility needed to maintain business application service levels. Making these features available requires appropriate functionality not only from the transaction monitoring tool, but also from the cloud service provider, which must include at least a method for injecting management technology into the servers or platforms hosted in the Cloud.
Integrated Overall IT Management
The last piece of the puzzle is making sure that the Transaction Monitoring tool works in concert with the overall IT management framework. What you’re looking for is a way for transactions to be managed side-by-side with servers, processes, assets, and applications:
- Transaction and Application Maps should be tied directly to the framework performance data.
- Alerts and messages should be integrated, allowing for prioritization of server warning messages.
- Application and Transaction Data, especially data flow relationships, should be integrated into Configuration Data bases (CMDB) when appropriate.
- Root cause analysis should be available at all levels (Server, Application, and Transaction) on a single screen usable by the IT Ops team.
Putting it Together for Cloud Deployment Success
Hybrid Cloud can deliver massive benefits – better scalability, more flexibility, and lower costs – but must be properly managed to prevent catastrophic outages. Transaction Monitoring solutions are the best method of ensuring business service availability, but only if they can track the transactions across both the Data Center and the Cloud. Finally, everything has to work so that the IT Operations team can monitor service levels, see where transactions go, and solve problems quickly on their own. With all those in place, your Hybrid Cloud application deployment will come off smoothly.
Vic Nyman is the co-founder and COO of BlueStripe Software. Vic has over 20 years of experience in systems management and APM and has held leadership positions at Wily Technology, IBM Tivoli, and Relicore/Symantec (News - Alert).
Edited by Maurice Nagle