Network Monitoring Plays Important Role in Cloud Migrations

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New research from Enterprise Management Associates (EMA) has found that the network team is a key player in the migration of applications from data centers to the public cloud. In particular, network monitoring tools are important to assessing the network requirements of cloud-bound applications.

EMA recently published “Network Engineering and Operations in the Multi-Cloud Era,” a research report based on a survey of 250 enterprises and telephone interviews with a half-dozen IT leaders. The research found that 99 percent of network teams are responsible for discovering and assessing the networking requirements of applications before and after they migrate to the public cloud. Eighty-nine percent of network teams do such assessments for every application, and only 10 percent limit these assessments to critical applications.

What is a Cloud Network Assessment?

The definition of a cloud network assessment will vary from enterprise to enterprise, but generally speaking, it is the process of monitoring an application targeted for migration to the cloud to discover service dependencies, traffic patterns, bandwidth utilization, peak periods, and more.

This information can be critical for planning a migration. For instance, such an assessment can reveal how much bandwidth will be needed to access the application from various sites on the WAN. It can also help guide strategies for network and security policies. Post-migration assessments can help network team can verify that the application was deployed to the cloud correctly.

More Than a Snapshot

EMA’s research found that cloud networking assessments require more than a brief snapshot. Only 2 percent of enterprises collect assessment data for less than a day. Instead, 39 percent run a cloud assessment for two to six days. Another 30 percent collect assessment data for seven to 14 days. A small number (4 percent) run assessments for a month or more.

“We have a complicated environment because we integrate [applications] with major manufacturers,” an IT executive with a North American distributor of heavy manufactured equipment told EMA. “We need minimal invasive procedures and changes to make sure [cloud migration] is viable. We require a minimum of a month and a half of [data collection] to make sure they are fully vetted. We don’t want to mess up our integrations with customers and partners.”

Cloud Network Assessment Data

EMA’s research found that the most popular data source for a cloud assessment is device metrics collected via SNMP MIBs and traps, APIs, or other methods (52 percent of all enterprises). Many SNMP monitoring tools are effective at discovering and mapping application dependencies to infrastructure. Then these tools can monitor networked application behavior based on the metrics it extracts and the inferences it can draw.

Traffic data is also a vital option. Network flow records such as NetFlow (44 percent) and synthetic or active monitoring traffic (43 percent) are also popular assessment data sources. And 28 percent use network packets of packet metadata in these assessments.

Assess Every Application

Earlier I noted that 10 percent of network teams only perform these assessments for critical applications. EMA believes that is a mistake. Our survey asked enterprises to assess the overall success of their network team’s cloud enablement efforts. Ninety-nine percent of the most successful network teams assess the cloud requirements of every application that moves to the cloud. In contrast, only 77 percent of the least success network teams assess every application. Less successful network teams tend to let some applications migrate to the cloud without a full assessment.

It’s worth noting that EMA asked research participants to identify the one area where the network team most needs to improve its support of a cloud strategy. Several of the top responses are addressable in part by an effective cloud assessment. For instance, the number-one response was network security (24 percent). A good understanding of traffic pattern and application behavior will help a network team set security policies, write firewall rules, and make segmentation decisions.

Furthermore, 19 percent of network teams need to improve cost management. A good cloud assessment will help network teams project things such as data transfer fees, bandwidth costs, and more. Finally, 16 percent say they need to improve network planning and capacity management. It goes without saying that a comprehensive cloud assessment will give network managers the data they need for this last issue.