I recently read a blog about Networking in the Cloud by Jeff Loughridge discussing the configuring of a network composed of both physical and cloud components. While he provided some insightful configuration examples and stressed the importance of working with your cloud provider, there was no mention of the impact on network monitoring.
In a traditional network configuration, network monitoring primarily focuses on the availability and performance of the network infrastructure but as more of the network shifts to the cloud, then your monitoring needs to shift to service availability and performance. Why is this? Quite simply it is because you cannot afford to have your cloud based business critical applications negatively impacted due to poor network performance between your location and the cloud provider.
Since your WAN link is the lifeblood between you and your cloud provider, it is paramount that you monitor its performance. Excess latency or jitter can have significant negative impact on your service availability and performance. One simple way to monitor WAN performance is to use Cisco IP SLA technology (if you are using Cisco routers). IP SLA allows generates time based performance data so you can measure key statistics between your site and the cloud site. One additional benefit to using IP SLA is to create service level agreement metrics to determine if your CSP or your cloud provider are delivering what they promised. In addition, more advanced, but often times more expensive, solutions such as WAN optimization can also be used.
It is not enough to simply monitor WAN performance; you also need to understand your network traffic (who is using it, how much are they using, and what they are using it for). Again, a simple but quite effective solution to monitoring network traffic is to use flow analysis such as NetFlow (or its counterparts J-Flow, sFlow, IPFIX, and NetStream). Flow enabled routers collect traffic data so you can see just how your traffic is being used.
Now that you know your WAN performance and how your traffic is being used, you can begin to implement and monitor Quality of Service (QoS) policies to ensure that your cloud based business critical apps are getting the priority they need.
So, just because you are shifting some of your apps and infrastructure to the cloud, does not mean that you can ignore your network monitoring. It becomes more critical than ever to ensure that your users continue to experience the performance that they are accustomed to.