Much has been made of how businesses can enhance their IT performance by migrating to a private cloud. But more and more enterprise level organizations are realizing that the promise of the cloud isn’t always realized after implementation. This is partly because much of the marketing around the private cloud talks about potential savings and increases in performance that are based on best case scenarios. The actual “on-the-ground” numbers vary quite a bit. The good news is that there are a number of steps most organizations can take optimize the performance of the private cloud itself. Here are a few to get you started:
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Negotiate your SLAs with care
Private cloud providers offer SLAs that guarantee a specific level of network, server and application availability and response time. Additional metrics may include latency, successful delivery of packets, MTD availability, response time, etc. Some cloud vendors follow ITIL principles and align SLAs with business performance. This is ideal for enterprise clients who want to cherry pick the measures of success that are most critical to their core business model.
Are device based or transaction based metrics most important? Is the # of successful transactions in a given period or the average web site response time the key to unlocking your businesses’ profit potential? Discuss what really matters to you with your vendor – even if you’ve already signed the initial contract. You may enjoy some leverage since cloud providers have by and large been unable to lock in customers as effectively as legacy infrastructure providers did in the past. They know you can switch vendors if you aren’t getting what you need.
Smart cloud users always monitor performance
Your cloud vendor will certainly offer you some tools for monitoring the performance of your cloud environment. They may also provide you regular reports on key metrics like up-time and ticket resolution. However, it doesn’t hurt to have your own set of eyes monitoring performance as well. Vendors like CopperEgg provide “unified” monitoring for websites, servers, and applications for private clouds. They design their services to work with popular products like Rackspace for enterprise customers.
Third party monitoring solutions can be especially helpful if a cloud provider is giving you a bunch of information and graphs but no business intelligence. IT simply isn’t going to sift through the reams of data to figure out where the bottlenecks in performance are. They don’t have time. In some cases, the systems and processes the cloud provider is measuring aren’t where the real performance issues lie anyway. Any monitoring solution that claims to help boost performance must provide reporting that is meaningful for IT decision makers. Virtual Instruments has an excellent white paper that reveals some of the benefits of such monitoring. They point out that looking for problems in the wrong place is a huge waste of resources, “It’s the I/O. 90% of virtualization performance related problems are associated with the SAN, but 90% of the performance discussion is focused on the server.” Whether or not you agree with the conclusions of the authors, they do make you think about what, why, and how you are monitoring performance in your private cloud.
Time to upgrade your WAN?
Just as the SAN offers room for improvement, performance can also be boosted by addressing the Wide Area Network. For enterprises with a far-flung network, an application that works just fine locally may run into significant response time problems at distant geographical locations. Simply increasing bandwidth may not resolve these issues. So, some enterprises are turning to tools such as Riverbed’s Steelhead appliances and similar products to optimize their WAN. These solutions may substantially reduce the strain on existing WAN bandwidth and push more costly infrastructure upgrades out months or years. End users get faster access, IT reduces the complexity of network maintenance, and the CFO and CIO get along better!
Take advantage of automation
Occasionally, the tools for getting more out of the private cloud are already included with the cloud solution. It’s simply a matter of putting them to use. For example, some cloud management software permits IT admin to auto-reset allocations periodically (via month or quarter). Automated allocation and real time reporting of actual usage make it easier to forecast and budget effectively for upcoming periods. This helps IT staff keep up with the little housekeeping tasks that bog down their productivity and increase their focus on other aspects of performance optimization for the cloud. With the typical consumption based billing model, even small steps toward better time and resource management are reflected in savings.