Welcome!

Agile Computing Authors: Liz McMillan, Elizabeth White, Srinivasan Sundara Rajan, Darren Anstee, Pat Romanski

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
If you’re responsible for an application that depends on the data or functionality of various IoT endpoints – either sensors or devices – your brand reputation depends on the security, reliability, and compliance of its many integrated parts. If your application fails to deliver the expected business results, your customers and partners won't care if that failure stems from the code you developed or from a component that you integrated. What can you do to ensure that the endpoints work as expect...
Data is an unusual currency; it is not restricted by the same transactional limitations as money or people. In fact, the more that you leverage your data across multiple business use cases, the more valuable it becomes to the organization. And the same can be said about the organization’s analytics. In his session at 19th Cloud Expo, Bill Schmarzo, CTO for the Big Data Practice at EMC, will introduce a methodology for capturing, enriching and sharing data (and analytics) across the organizati...
The vision of a connected smart home is becoming reality with the application of integrated wireless technologies in devices and appliances. The use of standardized and TCP/IP networked wireless technologies in line-powered and battery operated sensors and controls has led to the adoption of radios in the 2.4GHz band, including Wi-Fi, BT/BLE and 802.15.4 applied ZigBee and Thread. This is driving the need for robust wireless coexistence for multiple radios to ensure throughput performance and th...
Information technology is an industry that has always experienced change, and the dramatic change sweeping across the industry today could not be truthfully described as the first time we've seen such widespread change impacting customer investments. However, the rate of the change, and the potential outcomes from today's digital transformation has the distinct potential to separate the industry into two camps: Organizations that see the change coming, embrace it, and successful leverage it; and...
I'm a lonely sensor. I spend all day telling the world how I'm feeling, but none of the other sensors seem to care. I want to be connected. I want to build relationships with other sensors to be more useful for my human. I want my human to understand that when my friends next door are too hot for a while, I'll soon be flaming. And when all my friends go outside without me, I may be left behind. Don't just log my data; use the relationship graph. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Ryan Boyd, Engi...
The Internet of Things can drive efficiency for airlines and airports. In their session at @ThingsExpo, Shyam Varan Nath, Principal Architect with GE, and Sudip Majumder, senior director of development at Oracle, will discuss the technical details of the connected airline baggage and related social media solutions. These IoT applications will enhance travelers' journey experience and drive efficiency for the airlines and the airports. The session will include a working demo and a technical d...
SYS-CON Events announced today that China Unicom will exhibit at the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. China United Network Communications Group Co. Ltd ("China Unicom") was officially established in 2009 on the basis of the merger of former China Netcom and former China Unicom. China Unicom mainly operates a full range of telecommunications services including mobile broadband (GSM, WCDMA, LTE F...
Enterprise IT has been in the era of Hybrid Cloud for some time now. But it seems most conversations about Hybrid are focused on integrating AWS, Microsoft Azure, or Google ECM into existing on-premises systems. Where is all the Private Cloud? What do technology providers need to do to make their offerings more compelling? How should enterprise IT executives and buyers define their focus, needs, and roadmap, and communicate that clearly to the providers?
SYS-CON Events announced today that SoftLayer, an IBM Company, has been named “Gold Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 18th Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York, New York. SoftLayer, an IBM Company, provides cloud infrastructure as a service from a growing number of data centers and network points of presence around the world. SoftLayer’s customers range from Web startups to global enterprises.
The Transparent Cloud-computing Consortium (abbreviation: T-Cloud Consortium) will conduct research activities into changes in the computing model as a result of collaboration between "device" and "cloud" and the creation of new value and markets through organic data processing High speed and high quality networks, and dramatic improvements in computer processing capabilities, have greatly changed the nature of applications and made the storing and processing of data on the network commonplace.
Digital innovation is the next big wave of business transformation based on digital technologies of which IoT and Big Data are key components, For example: Business boundary innovation is a challenge to excavate third-party business value using IoT and BigData, like Nest Business structure innovation may propose re-building business structure from scratch, as Uber does in the taxicab industry The social model innovation is also a big challenge to the new social architecture with the design fr...
Fact is, enterprises have significant legacy voice infrastructure that’s costly to replace with pure IP solutions. How can we bring this analog infrastructure into our shiny new cloud applications? There are proven methods to bind both legacy voice applications and traditional PSTN audio into cloud-based applications and services at a carrier scale. Some of the most successful implementations leverage WebRTC, WebSockets, SIP and other open source technologies. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Da...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Pulzze Systems will exhibit at the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Pulzze Systems, Inc. provides infrastructure products for the Internet of Things to enable any connected device and system to carry out matched operations without programming. For more information, visit http://www.pulzzesystems.com.
IoT is fundamentally transforming the auto industry, turning the vehicle into a hub for connected services, including safety, infotainment and usage-based insurance. Auto manufacturers – and businesses across all verticals – have built an entire ecosystem around the Connected Car, creating new customer touch points and revenue streams. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Macario Namie, Head of IoT Strategy at Cisco Jasper, will share real-world examples of how IoT transforms the car from a static p...
Big Data has been changing the world. IoT fuels the further transformation recently. How are Big Data and IoT related? In his session at @BigDataExpo, Tony Shan, a renowned visionary and thought leader, will explore the interplay of Big Data and IoT. He will anatomize Big Data and IoT separately in terms of what, which, why, where, when, who, how and how much. He will then analyze the relationship between IoT and Big Data, specifically the drilldown of how the 4Vs of Big Data (Volume, Variety,...
The many IoT deployments around the world are busy integrating smart devices and sensors into their enterprise IT infrastructures. Yet all of this technology – and there are an amazing number of choices – is of no use without the software to gather, communicate, and analyze the new data flows. Without software, there is no IT. In this power panel at @ThingsExpo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, panelists will look at the protocols that communicate data and the emerging data analy...
Video experiences should be unique and exciting! But that doesn’t mean you need to patch all the pieces yourself. Users demand rich and engaging experiences and new ways to connect with you. But creating robust video applications at scale can be complicated, time-consuming and expensive. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Zohar Babin, Vice President of Platform, Ecosystem and Community at Kaltura, will discuss how VPaaS enables you to move fast, creating scalable video experiences that reach your...
SYS-CON Events announced today the Enterprise IoT Bootcamp, being held November 1-2, 2016, in conjunction with 19th Cloud Expo | @ThingsExpo at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Combined with real-world scenarios and use cases, the Enterprise IoT Bootcamp is not just based on presentations but with hands-on demos and detailed walkthroughs. We will introduce you to a variety of real world use cases prototyped using Arduino, Raspberry Pi, BeagleBone, Spark, and Intel Edison. Y...
WebRTC adoption has generated a wave of creative uses of communications and collaboration through websites, sales apps, customer care and business applications. As WebRTC has become more mainstream it has evolved to use cases beyond the original peer-to-peer case, which has led to a repeating requirement for interoperability with existing infrastructures. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Graham Holt, Executive Vice President of Daitan Group, will cover implementation examples that have enabled ea...
DevOps at Cloud Expo, taking place Nov 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with 19th Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. The widespread success of cloud computing is driving the DevOps revolution in enterprise IT. Now as never before, development teams must communicate and collaborate in a dynamic, 24/7/365 environment. There is no time to wait for long dev...