Welcome!

Agile Computing Authors: Liz McMillan, Yeshim Deniz, Elizabeth White, Pat Romanski, Corey Roth

Related Topics: @CloudExpo, Containers Expo Blog

@CloudExpo: Article

Are Humans Really Necessary for Maintaining SLAs in the Cloud?

The role of remote monitoring in Cloud Computing

Eric Novikoff's Blog

Are humans really necessary for maintaining SLAs? In today's cloud computing deployments, especially with systems like Amazon's EC2, the users' application is responsible for both measuring and taking action on application performance issues. This complicates deployment and coding, as well as tying your application to a particular cloud provider. However, I believe that the next generation of cloud deployment frameworks will be able to do this automatically, by integrating general-purpose monitoring applications with policy-based cloud management engines. 

When I was watching the recent the election returns on CNN, I wasn't sure what was more amazing: Obama's historic victory, or CNN's technology. CNN was able to display up-to-the minute results of each state's elections simply at the touch of their news anchor onto the screen of an election-reporting system. The anchor could touch a state, then touch a metric, such as various demographics, and instantly cut the election results up by age, exit poll answers, or racial composition. It blew me away.

But it also reminded me of trying to manage a complex set of application deployments into the Cloud - a virtual private data center.

When you take into account that a reasonably complex multi-tier application with significant load can consume tens of virtual servers, all of which need to function successfully in a coordinated ballet, you realize you need the kind of information and analytic capabilities that CNN has available, just to tune it and keep it working. Because of this, we've invested in an amazing remote monitoring package, NimBus, which we provide as a service to our hosted customers as well as other customers. NimBus allows measurement of pretty much any parameter inside a virtual server or the applications running inside of it, from simple (but important) aspects such as CPU or memory utilization, to more complex metrics like database queries per second, slow query count, or pages served per unit time from a web server. In addition, NimBus can perform user-experience validation by running synthetic (fake) transactions against an application and reporting what the user experiences in terms of response time and page correctness.

All of this is summarized on a customizable dashboard, much like CNN's election status screen:

So, armed with this information - and hopefully not overwhelmed with too much information - we (or our customers) can tune and adjust their applications for appropriate cost/performance tradeoffs or diagnose performance or efficiency issues. It has produced great results for the customers who implemented remote monitoring, improving their application response time and uptime, as well as reducing costs.

However, the road hasn't been easy. The Cloud, by its very nature, is constantly in flux, mutable. This presents a contradiction in goals to an organization: to optimize something, it needs to be stable so you can measure it and make changes; yet to get the best economies out of the cloud, you need your infrastructure to be elastic, scaling on demand. Because servers can come and go, and IP addresses can change, setting up a monitoring system and keeping it running isn't easy. How can you monitor Apache server #2 if it is only instantiated when the web site's load is too high for one Apache? Luckily, most of our clients' deployments don't change radically over the short term, so the monitoring package can be set up and continue to run for quite a while before it needs reconfiguration.  However, for very elastic loads, you need to either observe the results of your cloud deployment instead of its internals (such as by snooping on its communications with customers) or have your automatic instance deployments also request on-demand monitoring.

Once you add monitoring to your cloud deployment, you can start to take advantage of the powerful capabilities of Total Quality Management, a management philosophy popularized by W. Edwards Deming. A core principle of TQM is CPI or continuous process improvement, summarized with the following chart:

TQM says you want to set goals for your process (in this case your software deployment), then you want to run the process (deploy the software), measure the results against the goals, and adjust the settings based on the goals to control the process to produce the desired results (typically a satisfy SLA in the software deployment world.) However, the real power comes when you report on the results of this process and then use it to take another look at your goals. The result is continuous improvements in "quality" - in other words, in your ability to deliver the results of your process successfully.

This is how we use monitoring to get the most out of Cloud deployments.

But then I had this insight: why do us - humans - have to be in the loop at all with respect to acting on the monitoring? Naturally, if the monitoring detects some sort of application or hardware failure, humans need to get involved. But are humans really necessary for maintaining SLAs? In today's cloud deployments, especially with systems like Amazon's EC2, the users' application is responsible for both measuring and taking action on application performance issues. This complicates deployment and coding, as well as tying your application to a particular cloud provider. However, I believe that the next generation of cloud deployment frameworks will be able to do this automatically, by integrating general-purpose monitoring applications with policy-based cloud management engines. At ENKI, using our monitoring services, we are already able to automate some of this policy-based management without the need for the application to be aware of the details of this process. However, a quick caution is in order: if the application isn't designed from the ground up to be elastic (for example, to have new web servers added dynamically) then all the automation in the world won't allow it to participate in automated SLA assurance.

More Stories By Eric Novikoff

Eric Novikoff is COO of ENKI, A Cloud Services Vendor. He has over 20 years of experience in the electronics and software industries, over a range of positions from integrated circuit designer to software/hardware project manager, to Director of Development at an Internet Software As A Service startup, Netsuite.com. His technical, project, and financial management skills have been honed in multiple positions at Hewlett-Packard and Agilent Technologies on a variety of product lines, including managing the development and roll-out of a worldwide CRM and sales automation application for Agilent's $350 million Automatic Test Equipment business. Novikoff also has a strong interest in SME (Small/Medium Size Enterprise) management, process development, and operations as a consequence of working at a web based ERP service startup serving SMEs, and through his small-business ERP consulting work.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


@ThingsExpo Stories
DXWorldEXPO LLC, the producer of the world's most influential technology conferences and trade shows has announced the 22nd International CloudEXPO | DXWorldEXPO "Early Bird Registration" is now open. Register for Full Conference "Gold Pass" ▸ Here (Expo Hall ▸ Here)
The Jevons Paradox suggests that when technological advances increase efficiency of a resource, it results in an overall increase in consumption. Writing on the increased use of coal as a result of technological improvements, 19th-century economist William Stanley Jevons found that these improvements led to the development of new ways to utilize coal. In his session at 19th Cloud Expo, Mark Thiele, Chief Strategy Officer for Apcera, compared the Jevons Paradox to modern-day enterprise IT, examin...
DXWorldEXPO LLC announced today that ICC-USA, a computer systems integrator and server manufacturing company focused on developing products and product appliances, will exhibit at the 22nd International CloudEXPO | DXWorldEXPO. DXWordEXPO New York 2018, colocated with CloudEXPO New York 2018 will be held November 11-13, 2018, in New York City. ICC is a computer systems integrator and server manufacturing company focused on developing products and product appliances to meet a wide range of ...
Major trends and emerging technologies – from virtual reality and IoT, to Big Data and algorithms – are helping organizations innovate in the digital era. However, to create real business value, IT must think beyond the ‘what’ of digital transformation to the ‘how’ to harness emerging trends, innovation and disruption. Architecture is the key that underpins and ties all these efforts together. In the digital age, it’s important to invest in architecture, extend the enterprise footprint to the cl...
DXWorldEXPO LLC announced today that All in Mobile, a mobile app development company from Poland, will exhibit at the 22nd International CloudEXPO | DXWorldEXPO. All In Mobile is a mobile app development company from Poland. Since 2014, they maintain passion for developing mobile applications for enterprises and startups worldwide.
In an era of historic innovation fueled by unprecedented access to data and technology, the low cost and risk of entering new markets has leveled the playing field for business. Today, any ambitious innovator can easily introduce a new application or product that can reinvent business models and transform the client experience. In their Day 2 Keynote at 19th Cloud Expo, Mercer Rowe, IBM Vice President of Strategic Alliances, and Raejeanne Skillern, Intel Vice President of Data Center Group and ...
"We are a well-established player in the application life cycle management market and we also have a very strong version control product," stated Flint Brenton, CEO of CollabNet,, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 18th Cloud Expo at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
In his session at @ThingsExpo, Arvind Radhakrishnen discussed how IoT offers new business models in banking and financial services organizations with the capability to revolutionize products, payments, channels, business processes and asset management built on strong architectural foundation. The following topics were covered: How IoT stands to impact various business parameters including customer experience, cost and risk management within BFS organizations.
Here are the Top 20 Twitter Influencers of the month as determined by the Kcore algorithm, in a range of current topics of interest from #IoT to #DeepLearning. To run a real-time search of a given term in our website and see the current top influencers, click on the topic name. Among the top 20 IoT influencers, ThingsEXPO ranked #14 and CloudEXPO ranked #17.
While the focus and objectives of IoT initiatives are many and diverse, they all share a few common attributes, and one of those is the network. Commonly, that network includes the Internet, over which there isn't any real control for performance and availability. Or is there? The current state of the art for Big Data analytics, as applied to network telemetry, offers new opportunities for improving and assuring operational integrity. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Jim Frey, Vice President of S...
With the introduction of IoT and Smart Living in every aspect of our lives, one question has become relevant: What are the security implications? To answer this, first we have to look and explore the security models of the technologies that IoT is founded upon. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Nevi Kaja, a Research Engineer at Ford Motor Company, discussed some of the security challenges of the IoT infrastructure and related how these aspects impact Smart Living. The material was delivered interac...
Andrew Keys is Co-Founder of ConsenSys Enterprise. He comes to ConsenSys Enterprise with capital markets, technology and entrepreneurial experience. Previously, he worked for UBS investment bank in equities analysis. Later, he was responsible for the creation and distribution of life settlement products to hedge funds and investment banks. After, he co-founded a revenue cycle management company where he learned about Bitcoin and eventually Ethereal. Andrew's role at ConsenSys Enterprise is a mul...
Amazon started as an online bookseller 20 years ago. Since then, it has evolved into a technology juggernaut that has disrupted multiple markets and industries and touches many aspects of our lives. It is a relentless technology and business model innovator driving disruption throughout numerous ecosystems. Amazon’s AWS revenues alone are approaching $16B a year making it one of the largest IT companies in the world. With dominant offerings in Cloud, IoT, eCommerce, Big Data, AI, Digital Assista...
In his session at Cloud Expo, Alan Winters, U.S. Head of Business Development at MobiDev, presented a success story of an entrepreneur who has both suffered through and benefited from offshore development across multiple businesses: The smart choice, or how to select the right offshore development partner Warning signs, or how to minimize chances of making the wrong choice Collaboration, or how to establish the most effective work processes Budget control, or how to maximize project result...
The Founder of NostaLab and a member of the Google Health Advisory Board, John is a unique combination of strategic thinker, marketer and entrepreneur. His career was built on the "science of advertising" combining strategy, creativity and marketing for industry-leading results. Combined with his ability to communicate complicated scientific concepts in a way that consumers and scientists alike can appreciate, John is a sought-after speaker for conferences on the forefront of healthcare science,...
In his keynote at 19th Cloud Expo, Sheng Liang, co-founder and CEO of Rancher Labs, discussed the technological advances and new business opportunities created by the rapid adoption of containers. With the success of Amazon Web Services (AWS) and various open source technologies used to build private clouds, cloud computing has become an essential component of IT strategy. However, users continue to face challenges in implementing clouds, as older technologies evolve and newer ones like Docker c...
Personalization has long been the holy grail of marketing. Simply stated, communicate the most relevant offer to the right person and you will increase sales. To achieve this, you must understand the individual. Consequently, digital marketers developed many ways to gather and leverage customer information to deliver targeted experiences. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Lou Casal, Founder and Principal Consultant at Practicala, discussed how the Internet of Things (IoT) has accelerated our abilit...
When shopping for a new data processing platform for IoT solutions, many development teams want to be able to test-drive options before making a choice. Yet when evaluating an IoT solution, it’s simply not feasible to do so at scale with physical devices. Building a sensor simulator is the next best choice; however, generating a realistic simulation at very high TPS with ease of configurability is a formidable challenge. When dealing with multiple application or transport protocols, you would be...
Data is the fuel that drives the machine learning algorithmic engines and ultimately provides the business value. In his session at Cloud Expo, Ed Featherston, a director and senior enterprise architect at Collaborative Consulting, discussed the key considerations around quality, volume, timeliness, and pedigree that must be dealt with in order to properly fuel that engine.
Detecting internal user threats in the Big Data eco-system is challenging and cumbersome. Many organizations monitor internal usage of the Big Data eco-system using a set of alerts. This is not a scalable process given the increase in the number of alerts with the accelerating growth in data volume and user base. Organizations are increasingly leveraging machine learning to monitor only those data elements that are sensitive and critical, autonomously establish monitoring policies, and to detect...