Special Coverage Series

Network Computing

Special Coverage Series

Commentary

Frank J. Ohlhorst
Frank J. Ohlhorst

Cloud Growth Drives Need For Unified Datacenter Monitoring

Today's complex, cloud-enabled datacenter requires network monitoring tools that provide a comprehensive view of traffic.

The complexities of the cloud are becoming much more evident as enterprises seek to add this technology into their datacenters. Regardless of the ultimate goal, be it public cloud, private cloud, or a hybrid-cloud integration, datacenter engineers face numerous challenges -- ranging from security to performance to service provisioning.

However, there is one challenge that transcends all of the services offered: end-to-end data packet transport.

Simply put, a successful IT service, whether it’s local (LAN), cloud (WAN), or otherwise, ultimately relies on the efficient movement of data packets across the infrastructure elements. Without this part of equation, services are unreliable or, worse, unusable. For IT, neither is acceptable for line-of-business or customer service applications.

However, reliability and consistency are not new challenges for the enterprise. Improving both of these has been a challenge since day one of computing. That brings up another question -- basically, what exactly has changed to bring core networking reliabilities back to the forefront of IT services?

The answer to that question comes in two parts, the first of which amounts to the inherent complexity of today’s cloud-based applications and services. The second part of the answer is geared more towards how the complexities have affected those charged with keeping things working.

Today’s networks run a plethora of services, ranging from transactional data and VoIP to secure traffic (SSL) and streaming video, each of which can be affected in varying amounts by latency, bandwidth, saturation, packet loss, and much more. Understanding and mitigating those issues is not something for the faint-hearted, and further complicating the issue is the inexperience of many of today’s newly minted network engineers.

Of course, many may answer the challenge with various network management platforms -- yet there is still something missing. That something is the unification of those management tools to provide end-to-end visibility for identifying problems, and more importantly how to solve them.

[Read about how one vendor updated its product to provide more granular monitoring as enterprises adopt cloud technologies in "Gigamon Adds New Traffic Filtering Capabilities."]

The fragmentation in network monitoring tools has been caused by all of the different things we require of today’s networks. We expect to move data, run applications, remotely access systems, process transactions, make phone calls (VoIP), host conferences, and so much more. Add to that the perceived need to "cloudify" those capabilities, and network engineers are presented with a mishmash of protocols, codecs, packets, encryption schemes, as well as other things that may live on the wire.

What we have done is create a situation that can quickly overwhelm most any network management tool, as well as the engineer using it.

Splitting the services up into different management silos is not the answer. Why should VoIP traffic be managed differently than SSL traffic, especially when it all moves across the same boxes, wires, and infrastructure equipment?

Many are finding that without the big picture, it is almost impossible to solve a problem that may have it roots in the cloud, the datacenter, or the edge of the network. The key to resolving this issue, and others, comes in the form of network management and troubleshooting tools that can deliver the whole picture, not just independent pieces of the puzzle. That means management and troubleshooting must become a platform onto itself, and that platform needs to be able to track every packet, every conversation, every connection, and every piece of software and hardware involved in an electronic conversation.

What’s more, that tool (or platform) must be able to record everything that travels over the wire and offer ways to reconstruct the conversation for troubleshooting purposes.

Finding such a tool presents a major challenge, both in terms of budget and availability, which may not be easily solved. So the question becomes: What tools will you use to meet those extensive needs?



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