Clouds - Aug 31, 2021

Monitoring of hybrid infrastructures.

by Peter Baudler

Monitoring IT infrastructures is nothing new to system admins, of course. However, as the importance of IT monitoring has blown up, so has its scope. Reason enough for IT decision makers to really get to grips with the subject, because with your corporate monitoring solution standing on solid ground, you’re not only able to safeguard performance and the health of your IT landscape, you will also gain critical insights to evolve your IT strategy.

written by

Peter Baudler
IT Business Architect

E-Mail: peter.baudler@bechtle.com

Monitoring IT infrastructures is nothing new to system admins, of course. However, as the importance of IT monitoring has blown up, so has its scope. Reason enough for IT decision makers to really get to grips with the subject, because with your corporate monitoring solution standing on solid ground, you’re not only able to safeguard performance and the health of your IT landscape, you will also gain critical insights to evolve your IT strategy.

The requirements placed on IT monitoring have changed quite a bit over the years, and a key influence has been the cloud. According to an IDCstudy, 84% of German organisations are running a cloud solution, with 46% having achieved a high degree of maturity. Hybrid cloud solutions are especially popular, say the analysts, meaning companies tap into the services of one or multiple public-cloud providers while keeping certain systems on premise in their own data centres.

Going hybrid has come to be the default approach for most organisations. On the one hand, this is because existing on-premise systems are getting the job done just fine, and moving them into the cloud is therefore not a priority. On the other, certain systems aren’t quite so easy to migrate to begin with. For instance, this is the case when prerequisite security mechanisms or certifications are still outstanding.

Then there’s the issue of adjusting to a dynamic infrastructure. According to advisory firm Gartner, by 2025 90% of enterprise applications will be run in containers. Compared to virtual machines or hardware servers, containers eat up fewer system resources as they don’t require an operating system to execute apps. Plus, they are faster to start and stop. And automated deployment capabilities make it easier for developers to port software and version updates and  roll them out faster.

Spotty monitoring opens the door to problems.

Against the backdrop of advancing IT environments, companies can no longer afford to merely monitor their networks and servers. They also have to keep a close eye on their cloud assets and containers. Make no mistake, offloading resources to a cloud provider does not mean they also take on your responsibility for monitoring them. On the contrary, in a hybrid environment, strict monitoring is paramount. For example, there’s a much bigger load on networks as lateral traffic within your own data centre is making way for outbound data.

However, the adjustments made to IT monitoring are often inadequate for companies’ new hybrid environments. For instance, force of habit is making some IT managers stick with outdated concepts with their sole focus on monitoring their on-premise infrastructures, leaving them unable to see into modern cloud systems and containers. Often times, with responsibilities scattered across discrete teams, they fail to see their obsolete solutions as the problems they really are. Responsibility for cloud and containers increasingly lies with platform engineers and dedicated cloud specialists, who are using their own monitoring solutions.

Distributing responsibilities in this way, however, comes with the risk of siloed visibility and information attached, which makes it difficult to identify and understand the root cause of problems. A cloud-centric monitoring approach is often not suitable for monitoring networks and local servers, so dedicated teams for cloud and container solutions are also not seeing the big picture. Isolated monitoring approaches typically mean organisations are lacking transparency e.g. into how cloud system correlate with their local network infrastructure, or the exact hardware requirements of their containers. In other words, the IT environment may be hybrid, but the vantage is not. The fact of the matter is that applications and networks in a hybrid scenario are dependent on each other, and that must be reflected in a monitoring solution end to end.

If this is not the case, even a small defect or misconfiguration will become an enormous troubleshooting challenge in which diverse teams have to manually share information on potential issues while toggling between different monitoring tools—a huge drain on efficiency that ties up IT teams that are needed elsewhere. Not to forget the risk of false conclusions as they are investigating issues where they occur, potentially failing to see the root cause at another end.

A lack of analytics capabilities is also making it difficult to truly understand the cause of an issue. Was it purely coincidental, or are there critical stones still left unturned? Precise monitoring data, on the other hand, help detect potential bottlenecks early on and offer a sound foundation to inform future investments. For instance, clear insights can help understand the requirements that up-and-coming technologies such as Kubernetes are going to place on a company’s IT infrastructure and make necessary adjustments in due course.

Achieving consistent knowledge through monitoring.

Of course, it makes perfect sense for companies to have different teams in charge of monitoring. After all, a hybrid environment is a complex beast to tame and requires an assortment of highly specialised knowledge. By the same token, it is absolutely OK for developers, platform engineers and admins to rely on a variety of different tools, as they all have different monitoring needs. However, IT decision makers should make sure that all the tools in use are suitable for monitoring a hybrid environment and are able to communicate with each other.

This will dramatically improve troubleshooting efficiency and ensure decision makers have complete transparency into the most important challenges, enabling them to quickly localise deficiencies and optimally allocate budget. A monitoring solution with customisable dashboards, modern graphing engines and forecasting features help better evaluate system events. What’s more, metrics should also be readily accessible to employees with no experience in monitoring solutions. Accurate monitoring data puts organisations in a position to make the best projections prioritise investments accordingly.

Monitoring matters.

With the rise of hybrid IT environments, IT monitoring has moved higher up on the agenda than ever. More than just understanding current performance and availability of resources, it helps decision makers align IT strategies with actual needs and safeguard investments in the long run. With the right approach, companies can make sure their on-premise systems and cloud assets are optimally working together and stay clear of misguided decisions that often result from a lack of transparency.

 

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Published on Aug 31, 2021.