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Cloud Smart’s Success Relies on Smart Network Monitoring

Level 13

Omar Rafik, SolarWinds Senior Manager, Federal Sales Engineering

Here’s an interesting article by my colleague Mav Turner with tips on monitoring and troubleshooting distributed cloud networks in government agencies. I have come to expect a bit of skepticism from government customers about cloud adoption, but I’m seeing more evidence of it daily.

The Office of Management and Budget’s Cloud Smart proposal signals both the end of an era and the beginning of new opportunities. The focus has shifted from ramping up cloud technologies to maximizing cloud deployments to achieve the desired mission outcomes.

Certainly, agencies are investing heavily in these deployments. Bloomberg Government estimates federal cloud spending will reach $6.5 billion in fiscal year 2018, a 32% increase over last year. However, all the investment and potential could be for naught if agencies don’t take a few necessary steps toward monitoring and troubleshooting distributed cloud networks.

1. Match the monitoring to the cloud. Different agencies use a variety of cloud deployments: on-premises, off-premises, and hybrid. Monitoring strategies should match the type of infrastructure in place. A hybrid IT infrastructure, for example, will require monitoring that allows administrators to visualize applications and data housed both in the cloud and on-premises.

2. Gain visibility into the entire network. It can be difficult for administrators to accurately visualize what’s happening within complex cloud-based networks. It can be tough to see what’s happening when data is being managed outside of the organization.

Administrators must be able to visualize the entire network, so they can accurately pinpoint the root cause of problems. Are they occurring within the network or the system?

3. Reduce mean time to resolution. Data visualization and aggregation can be useful in minimizing downtime when a problem arises, especially if relevant data is correlated. This is much better spending the time to go to three different teams to solicit the same information, which may or may not be readily available.

4. Monitor usage and automate resource lifecycle to control costs. Agencies should carefully monitor their cloud consumption to avoid unnecessary charges their providers may impose. They should also be aware of costs and monitor usage of services like application programming interface access. Often, this is free—up to a point. Being aware of the cost model will help admins guide deployment decisions. For example, if the cost of API access is a concern, administrators may also consider using agent-based monitoring, which can deliver pertinent information without having to resort to costly API calls.

The other key to keeping costs down in a government cloud environment is ensuring a tight resource lifecycle for cloud assets. Often, this will require automation and processes to prevent resources from existing beyond where they’re needed. Just because admins think they're no longer using a service doesn’t mean it doesn’t still exist, running up charges and posing a security risk. Tight control of cloud assets and automated lifecycle policies will help keep costs down and minimize an agency's attack surface.

5. Ensure an optimal end-user experience. Proactively monitoring end-user experiences can provide real value and help ensure the network is performing as expected. Periodically testing and simulating the end-user experience allows administrators to look for trends signaling the cause of network problems (periods of excessive bandwidth usage, for example).

6. Scale monitoring appropriately. Although many government projects are limited in scope, agencies may still find they need to scale their cloud services up or down at given points based on user demand. Monitoring must be commensurate with the scalability of the cloud deployment to ensure administrators always have a clear picture of what’s going on within their networks.

Successfully realizing Cloud Smart’s vision of a more modern IT infrastructure based on distributed cloud networks will require more than just choosing the right cloud providers or type of cloud deployments. Agencies must complement their investments with solutions and strategies to make the most of those investments. Adopting a comprehensive monitoring approach encompassing the entire cloud infrastructure is the smart move.

Find the full article on Government Computer News.

The SolarWinds trademarks, service marks, and logos are the exclusive property of SolarWinds Worldwide, LLC or its affiliates. All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners.

11 Comments
MVP
MVP

Thanks for the article.

I'd take a step back and simplify it to say "Cloud Smart's Success Relies on Securing the Cloud."

Monitoring is necessary, but until you can trust the cloud for the physical or logical security of your data, what good is the cloud except for providing bad guys access to your data?

Level 14

Thanks for the article!

Level 12

Cloud computing has a lot of benefits beyond making it easier for hackers to get at your data. A similar complaint was probably made when companies wanted to use the internet to connect offices to one another, but the benefits of doing so are clear and the benefits or cloud computing are also clear.

I wouldn't say that cloud is everything it's hyped up to be. It has specific use cases, but if your security isn't good it's going to remain in a poor status with cloud - just that you'll have more servers exposed.

Level 16

Thanks for the write up!

I'll admit many organizations, including mine, have gone at least partly to the cloud.  Just for the benefits you referenced.

However, as a user and a network support person, I only see drawbacks--probably because I don't have the big picture from the corporate licensing point of view.  And I don't ever see the bill for our data centers' space, HVAC, security, server hardware, electricity, etc.

I see MUCH slower performance with all users' general daily apps like Outlook and Office now that those are in the cloud.  Previously, when we had our own servers hosting apps locally, accessing mail or starting up MS Word was done in a snap.  Now it's just wait, wait, wait.  Heaven forbid someone wants to search for an e-mail from last month or last year, or a Word file or Excel spreadsheet from yesterday.  More waiting.  Waiting for the app to respond, waiting for the file to be found, additional credential checks.

No, from a user point of view, the cloud is a definite step backwards.  I'm much less productive since we moved apps to the cloud.

Lately our InfoSec team has been conducting a POC for moving our Internet filtering to the cloud.  Talk about a disaster!  Where it might take five seconds to open a web site with our local proxy/filter, the cloud-based solution can take 80 seconds to open the same page.  We worked long and hard with the cloud proxy provider and were unable to improve that performance.  They told us "This is the way it's going to be from now on.  You and your employees will get used to it."

I think not.

I understand the advertised benefits of the cloud.  But we had better performance pre-cloud, and we controlled the physical and logical access of the data, with no possibility of man-in-the-middle or physical break-ins. 

I am forced to use the cloud, but it's not nearly as good a solution for my needs as having our own local servers hosting the apps.  Sure, we save $6M annually on license fees to MS by going to the cloud.  And in return we don't know where our data is, it isn't highly available (there's been three major nation-level outages impacting our data access to cloud resources for up to ten hours--NOT a good solution in a 7x24 emergency health system), and we lost physical and logical control of the data by taking it out of our data centers.

Say what you will, it's still a step backwards in security and performance for the end user, no matter the cost savings seen by Finance.

Level 11

Thanks for the article.

Level 13

Cloud has it's place.  Thanks for the article. 

Level 14

Monitoring is also important to ensure SLAs from the cloud vendor.  At least you can then blame someone else for poor systems performance (even though it is still your fault as you made the decision to go to the cloud). 

Level 12

thanks for the post