GSX Blog

How do you Measure the Cloud in IT?

Posted by Carl Drechsel on Tue, May 22, 2012

The Cloud

For the quick answer click here.

Ok, now seriously. After my previous article on the cloud and messaging, we’ve received a fair amount of feedback and questions on how Exchange and ITIL relate to the cloud and in particular how can we measure and monitor cloud services.

This topic is dear to our heart. As a Microsoft partner we are a modest but focused provider of tools that are centered on monitoring your critical services and delivering a satisfactory user experience. In the cloud, the key to success is user experience.

First what makes it the cloud? A cloud in IT is essentially services provided through a mutualized hardware and software infrastructure looking to provide the following main benefits:

  • Reduced or shared costs
  • Web Access (Services)
  • Scalability
  • Agile or rapid deployment

Let’s look at it now from an Exchange perspective. In order for an Exchange deployment to be considered a “cloud” deployment it would need to meet some of items mentioned above.  Two in particular stand out: scalability and agility. To meet the main objectives for a cloud service it would need to be able to be expanded (scalability) on demand (agility) without having any impact on the current set or future set of users. 

Typically this is accomplished in one of two fashions, the public cloud, or the private cloud.  In the public cloud companies like Microsoft provide Exchange through Office 365 on large mutualized free flowing service platforms meeting the requirements for a service to be considered a “cloud” service.

In a private cloud, private companies provide on demand services or resources to customer on the internal level.  In order for Exchange to be considered on the private cloud in this environment it must meet the same requirements.  How is this achieved? Private clouds could simply provide mailboxes and OWA (Web Access), however the difference is that there is a limit to what you can do by simply handing out the service, eventually the system will reach capacity and you will lose the ability to be both agile and scalable requiring new infrastructure which will likely impact your users. The introduction of the DAG has made agility and scalability for Exchange much easier, capacity concerns remain, but introducing new servers and storage can be done “on the fly” essentially and have very little service impact.

Now briefly on to ITIL, How does it fit in this whole Cloud environment?  With the introduction of agile and highly scalable systems, greater focus is going to be placed on service delivery not just infrastructure. Ultimately cloud services by design are intended to be delivered to more and more users, this though in turn, means that there are that many more users to deliver quality service to.  ITIL is designed to be a framework that allows for services to be deployed cost effectively and more importantly without disrupting the actual services provided.  In this way cloud technologies and ITIL are a perfect fit.  Cloud deployments bring speed of delivery; ITIL means it’s done right with minimal impact.

Once ITIL and a cloud service are deployed the focus moves to service delivery. In a private cloud environment with the right monitoring and analytics you have access to metrics that give the data needed to continuously ensure a positive user experience and allow you to manage infrastructure growth. In a public cloud offering of the same service, you don’t have access to the same information, all you have is feedback from your users.  In this case, how can you say that your service provider is actually meeting their SLA? For example Exchange in the cloud might be available, but how consistent is it performing at a level that keeps your users satisfied.

Let me go further and somewhat exaggerate: is Exchange functioning if a message takes 30 minutes to get to an external address? Technically the answer is yes, but does that matter to a sales person sending an urgent proposal? If you needed to download a 2Mb document and it took 2 hours, would you say that’s functional?

The point here is, Cloud services need a standard set of reporting metrics, a standard set of criteria to be measured against, and, this information needs to come from a user’s and a customer’s  perspective not just from the company or the organization providing the service.

SLAs are paramount not KPIs. Once again, this is pure undiluted ITIL wisdom.

ITIL for Dummies

Back to you, let me ask you the following questions:

  • What are you doing in these areas for your cloud services?
  • Has monitoring the cloud been discussed in your organization?
  • How can you evaluate different providers? Do you take their word on uptime? If uptime is Ok, how about performance?
  • How often do you need to report on performance?
  • What services are you considering the cloud for, email? Mobile? Collaboration?

Let’s continue the discussion…

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Tags: Cloud, private cloud, messaging and collaboration, application performance management, Lotus Domino Monitoring, server reporting software, public cloud, email monitoring, lotus domino