Infrastructure Management 

Riding unpredictable waves in a software-defined world

Proactive and intelligent network performance monitoring enables organizations to maximize their software-defined data center deployments.

Avid surfers will tell you that every wave is different. You never ride the same wave twice. When I surf, I have to be able adapt to every new wave using my experience as well as being on the right surfboard. The ocean wave is generated from a complex mix of storm swell, wind, tide, and beach contour, all intertwined and affecting each other – making it very difficult to predict what is going to happen next. Today’s application economy is as complex and unpredictable as the ocean waves.

The ability to anticipate the next wave of application demand is essential in operating today’s dynamic datacenters. We need to know if there’s going to be a network capacity swell or availability wipe-out before it happens – today’s application economy users won’t stick around while you and your apps and systems get back on board.

Moreover, ensuring a consistent user experience is also becoming increasingly difficult, with demand for apps and digital services peaking and dipping at different times of the year and even different times of the day.

To cope with this ever changing demand, organizations are increasingly taking a software-defined approach in the datacenter or private cloud. In a survey by TechTarget, software-defined datacenters (SDDC) were identified as one of the top 10 IT initiatives for 2016, rated as even more important than application modernization and software-as-a-service (SaaS).

Sea of change   

So why is a SDDC so important? It all comes down to one word: agility. A SDDC enables organizations to expand and contract their infrastructure and networking stack to meet changing demand from the business, the applications and the users. However, this automation comes at a price. The dynamic nature of these new automated networks makes network performance monitoring fundamentally more challenging and demands advanced monitoring tools that can unravel these changes.

As EMA analyst, Shamus McGillicuddy says, “Enterprises are adopting hybrid cloud architectures and software-defined data centers (SDDCs) to deliver on this demand for agility. In such an environment, the network is critical to success, but it’s also much more sensitive.”

Although an SDDC and the underlying software-defined network (SDN) fabric both come with resource pooling and elastic scalability, none of this matters if the relationships and dependencies between all these components and their performance is not monitored effectively. And that’s when things can get choppy.

Every SDDC along with SDN has a wealth of interdependencies or relationships – without visibility into these complex relations, effective network performance monitoring is impossible. This visibility is important because it allows an administrator to understand how suboptimal conditions with an end point  impacts other elements in the application delivery chain. If not, service quality dips. Outages occur. And the user experience takes a nose dive.

Enabling digitalization

A software-defined model demands a new network performance monitoring approach that encompasses physical, virtual and logical components at every layer. Best practices should aim to reduce the complexity to manage the SDDC by leveraging existing monitoring processes and experienced UIs. To address SDDC assurance, having a proven, experienced tool is what matters!

To ensure maximum visibility and availability across the SDDC and SDN, organizations need intuitive visualization and real-time dashboards that can be used not just by operations and engineering but also business stakeholders to monitor service quality.  These user interface functions should adopt well-known operational workflow and proven techniques to minimize learning curve.

Optimizing datacenter and network performance is not just a priority for the CIO, but a priority for the CMO, the CFO and the CEO. Why? SDDCs and SDNs will be fundamental to driving cloud transformations and digital innovations – and unlocking the associated business benefits. Recent Enterprise Management Associates (EMA) research has found that the four top IT initiatives that are impacting network infrastructure team decision-making, two are directly related to these trends: internal cloud services transformation (with 37% of all enterprises engaged in this type of initiative) and SDDCs (35%).

To succeed in today’s application and drive digital transformation, organizations don’t just need to catch the SDDC wave; they need to ride it. And, as success in surfing demands experience and bringing the right board, the same is true in monitoring SDDC. And don’t neglect the importance of partnering with a vendor that brings both experience and the right tools to your SDDC.

Tim Diep is director of product management at CA Technologies, Agile Ops Business Unit. A…


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