communication provider should also be driven by the ability of this provider to offer performance data in support of agreed SLAs. In other words, this provider should have the monitoring and analysis infrastructure in place to assure services.
From Reaction to Service Assurance
Network monitoring and analysis of the data center infrastructure is also crucial as cloud service providers need to rely less on troubleshooting and more on service assurance strategies. In typical IT network deployments, a reactive strategy is preferred whereby issues are dealt with in a troubleshooting manner as they arise. For enterprise LAN environments, this can be acceptable in many cases, as some downtime can be tolerated. However, downtime is a disaster for cloud service providers. Customers will find alternatives or even revert to a local installation if they are not confident in the cloud service provider’s ability to assure service availability.
A service assurance strategy involves constant monitoring of the performance of the network and services so that issues can be identified before they arise. Network and application-performance-monitoring tools are available from a number of vendors for precisely this purpose.
The Power of Virtualization
Virtualization is an innovative technology of particular use to cloud service providers. The ability to consolidate multiple cloud services onto as few physical servers as possible provides tremendous efficiency benefits by lowering cost, space, and power consumption. In addition, the ability to move virtual machines supporting cloud services from one physical server to another allows efficient use of resources in matching time-of-day demand, as well as allowing fast reaction to detected performance issues.
One of the consequences of this consolidation is the need for higher-speed interfaces as more data needs to be delivered to each server. This requires that the data communication infrastructure is dimensioned to provide this data, which in turn demands that the network-monitoring infrastructure can keep up with the data rates without losing data. This is far from a given, so cloud service providers need to pay particular attention to the throughput performance of network monitoring and analysis appliances to ensure that they also can keep up in the future.
Within the virtualized servers, there are also emerging solutions to assist in monitoring performance. Just as network- and application-performance-monitoring appliances are available to monitor the physical infrastructure, there are now available virtualized versions of these applications for monitoring virtual applications and communication between virtual machines.
There are also virtual test applications that allow a number of virtual ports to be defined. These virtual ports can be used for load testing in a cloud environment. This is extremely useful for testing whether a large number of users can access a service without having to deploy a large test network—an ideal tool for cloud service providers.
Bringing Virtualization to Network Monitoring and Analysis
While virtualization has been used to improve service efficiency, single-server implementations still dominate the network monitoring and analysis infrastructure. In many cases, this is because the network monitoring and analysis appliance requires all the processing power it can get. However, there are opportunities to consolidate appliances, especially as servers and server CPUs increase performance on a yearly basis.
Solutions are now available to allow multiple network monitoring and analysis applications to be hosted on the same physical server. If all the applications are based on the same operating system, intelligent network adapters have the ability to ensure that data is shared between these applications, which often need to analyze the same data at the same time but for different purposes.
However, for situations where the applications are based on different operating systems, virtualization can be used to consolidate