For many organizations, cloud computing has transitioned from a hyped buzzword into a reality in regards to their business operations. Many more enterprises are realizing the benefits of remote hosting IT services rather than local IT management, especially as managing and operating IT networks and services is not getting any easier.
Managing IT networks requires a broad set of competencies in a growing number of technologies and products. Release management and deployment can present a number of challenges that can impact IT service availability. It therefore makes sense that these competencies are centralized in larger data centers, providing cloud services to a number of smaller enterprises for which IT is not a core competency.
Larger data centers also means larger installations with higher-speed interfaces as well as an obligation to maintain service availability. This requires extensive test and management capabilities to ensure service “up-time.” However, will test and management of cloud services differ from how they are performed today? What are the special challengers that cloud service providers face in this regard?
Challenges of Testing and Managing Cloud Services
The first and fundamental challenge of providing cloud services is service availability . If enterprise customers are to adopt cloud services rather than maintaining local installations, they must be convinced that they can access the services and data that they need whenever they need them without experiencing undue delays. The cloud service must look and feel as if it is local despite the fact that it is hosted remotely.
This leads to the second challenge, service assurance . How can the cloud service provider assure timely delivery and even service availability when it does not control the data communication connection between the cloud service and the enterprise customer? Does the data communication provider have the monitoring infrastructure in place to assure service-level agreements (SLA)? Does the cloud service provider have the monitoring infrastructure in place to assure the services provided?
The final challenge is service efficiency in all its aspects—from cost, space, and power efficiency to efficient and scalable delivery of services using virtualization, efficient servers, and high-speed interfaces. In this regard, the accompanying monitoring infrastructure must also follow the same principles.
Testing to Meet Cloud Service Challenges
There are a number of layers one can address from a testing perspective:
- The wide-area network (WAN), providing data communication services between the enterprise customer and the cloud service—fundamental to service assurance and testing of end-to-end service availability .
- The data center infrastructure, comprising servers and data communication between servers (LAN), where service availability and uptime of this equipment is key, as well as efficient use of resources to ensure service efficiency.
- The monitoring infrastructure in the data center that is the basis for service assurance , which itself needs to efficient.
- The individual servers and monitoring appliances that are based on servers that must also follow efficiency and availability principles to assure overall service efficiency and service availability.
Testing end-to-end availability can be performed first. At a basic level, this involves testing connectivity, but it can also involve some specific testing relevant for cloud services, such as latency measurement. Several commercial systems exist for testing latency in a WAN environment. While these are most often used by financial institutions to determine the time it takes to execute financial transactions with remote stock exchanges these can also be used by cloud service providers to test the latency of the connection to enterprise customers.
This solution requires the installation at the enterprise of a network appliance for monitoring latency, which could also be used to test connectivity or for troubleshooting and SLA monitoring.
Typically, the cloud service provider does not own the WAN data communication infrastructure. However, it is possible to measure the performance of the WAN in providing the data communication service required using network monitoring and analysis appliances at both the data center and the enterprise. The choice of WAN data