One of the reasons the cloud is so intimidating is that it requires a great amount of trust. Trust that the cloud infrastructure is sufficient for your needs. Trust that the cloud provider does not take things like management, monitoring, compliance and reliability lightly. In short, trust that pushing data and platforms beyond your own network will not leave you at the mercy of forces beyond your control.
Infrastructure management was already tricky enough in the bricks-and-mortar days, but even the most advanced systems and platforms are of little help when you no longer own the network your applications depend on. In the cloud, then, the management stack must take its focus off of the infrastructure itself and concentrate on the performance level a given application receives from that infrastructure. It's a subtle difference but if performed correctly it should provide enough information to maintain reliability and system availability.
According to Plixar International, which specializes in NetFlow-based traffic management, key requirements for cloud management include service and service-level monitoring, data path management, degradation isolation and QoS restoration. At the same time, service management should work hand-in-hand with security to ensure outside threats cannot interfere with data operations. On top of that, this new management regime must also encompasses the growing legions of tablets, smartphones and other client devices populating the enterprise.
One of the most crucial requirements on the cloud will be visibility. If performance does degrade, users should have the ability to peer into the remotest network infrastructure to see where the problem is. Long-haul providers like Vox Telecom are turning to new generations of network monitoring platforms to gain end-to-end visibility into internal, external and hybrid environments. The company has deployed AppNeta's PathView Cloud to track configuration errors and bandwidth data down to the user and device level. As well, a crucial component of Ericsson's new Network-enabled Cloud is the Cloud and Network Management suite that provides API-based end-to-end SLA implementation and management.
Few companies can provide this kind of universal management through a single pane of glass, but a number of firms have joined forces in pursuit of a cohesive management stack. Equinix and RightScale, for example, have teamed up to provide an integrated cloud management platform which is itself a cloud-based service. The system provides workload management across public and private infrastructure with tools like real-time service access and direct, high-speed access to AWS, Rackspace, Logicworks and other providers.
The cloud is a boon to data center operations in that it saves the enterprise from having to worry about actual infrastructure. But that doesn't mean you still don't have a vested interest in what goes on beyond your firewall. In the cloud, then, network management no longer means ensuring you have the means to maintain application reliability and service levels, but making sure the service you are paying for is being delivered.
Arthur Cole covers networking and the data center for IT Business Edge. He has served as editor of numerous publications covering everything from audio/video production and distribution, multimedia and the Internet to video gaming.