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How Well Do You Really Know Your Cloud?

August 19, 2019

Topics: Cloud Insights 5 minute read

The flexibility and frictionless ease with which public cloud resources and platforms can be provisioned and accessed are great enablers. The teams that drive your business forward—product development, sales, marketing, finance—no longer have to wait for IT to deploy the applications that keep them productive. But this level of freedom carries with it risks, as well, because full cloud visibility across a growing infrastructure is difficult to achieve.

Shadow IT is the usage of applications and transmission of data outside the bounds of the corporate IT department, and it has been around for a while. But the public cloud has taken it to a new level. Common shadow IT applications and services such as Gmail, Dropbox, and WhatsApp, are perceived to be free of charge, even though they may incur operating costs or risks. There’s also a plethora of cloud solutions that involve direct costs that are borne, usually unauthorized, outside the IT budget.

According to Logicalis’ recent worldwide survey of CIOs, a huge portion of this spend routinely bypasses line-of-business IT purchasing departments. Furthermore, there are industry players who predict that within the next ten years, 90% of IT spending will be outside the jurisdiction of the IT department. 

Yet shadow IT does not exempt IT departments from their overarching responsibility for the security of their organization’s data and infrastructure, or from containing cloud costs. In order to fulfill these critical mandates, central IT requires visibility into cloud usage and spend. However shadow IT is only one of the factors that makes cloud visibility so challenging. In general, today’s applications are delivered through complex multi-cloud and hybrid architectures that are difficult to monitor and manage effectively, shadow or otherwise.

In this blog post, we explore why cloud visibility is so important, why it is so difficult to achieve, and how NetApp Cloud Insights can help.

Why Cloud Visibility Is Critical to Your Business

In a recent Dimensional Research global survey of IT professionals from organizations of all sizes, the vast majority of respondents stated that insufficient visibility into their cloud infrastructure has caused an application or network performance issue. In fact, almost one out of three respondents indicated that poor visibility was a key factor in actual outages. Universally, the survey participants identified a direct link between comprehensive infrastructure visibility and business value.

With more and more business-critical workloads running on the cloud, high availability and performance SLAs have a direct impact on business outcomes. The last thing you want is for your end users—whether they’re existing or potential customers, employees, or partners—to discover your cloud infrastructure problems. Rather, you want your IT teams to be able to identify and fix a problem before it impacts end users. Yet the Dimensional Research report cited above indicates that in almost half of organizations, a lack of visibility causes delays in troubleshooting, application slowdowns, and outages.

Security is yet another reason why comprehensive cloud visibility is critical. More than 85% of the Dimension Research respondents admitted that their inability to achieve end-to-end visibility into their cloud infrastructure obscures security threats. Blind spots created by insufficient monitoring coverage can be quickly exploited, endangering the organization’s sensitive data, as well as exposing the environment to malware infections that can slow down, halt, and even destroy applications and systems.

Why Cloud Visibility Is Hard to Achieve

Cloud infrastructures, as well as the microservice-based architectures favored by many an application developer, are highly dynamic and distributed. Serverless functions and containers are spun up and spun down on demand, and as such are ephemeral and hard to track.

In addition, the managed nature of the public cloud can create barriers to deep visibility. For example, the Dimension Research report highlights that, while 82% of IT professionals felt they had the right visibility for on-premises workloads, only 20% felt that they had that same level of visibility into the cloud.

Given the distributed and complex nature of cloud infrastructure, it is not unusual for an organization’s monitoring stack to be comprised of disparate and diverse tools that do not easily share metrics with each other. Finding the root cause of a performance issue means navigating and interpreting monitoring data from many network endpoints, often across on-premises, private cloud, and public cloud environments. It can take hours, days, or even weeks to understand why a problem is occurring and how to resolve it.

How NetApp Cloud Insights Can Help

NetApp Cloud Insights is a provider-agnostic monitoring tool that gives end-to-end visibility and actionable insights across an organization’s complete infrastructure.

Cloud Insights collects a wide range of configuration, capacity, and performance metrics and key application signals through more than 100 collectors that are easily configured, including:

  • Direct metrics from host operating systems.
  • An ever-growing number of services, such as Apache ActiveMQ, CouchDB, Docker, Elasticsearch, Hadoop, Kubernetes, MongoDB, Puppet, and Redis.
  • Compute resources on-premises and in the cloud, such as Amazon EC2, Azure VMs, GCE, VMware and Openstack.
  • Storage infrastructure on-premises and in the cloud, such as Dell EMC, Hitachi, HPE, IBM, S3, EBS and of course, NetApp hardware and services.

Cloud Insights introduces a consistent data model for infrastructure metrics, allowing them to be compared on an apples-to-apples basis. Workload performance is visualized in dashboards that can be customized to meet the unique monitoring needs of your organization, as well as all the individual teams and business units therein. If a dashboard reveals a performance bottleneck or underutilized resource, it only takes one click to drill down to view the metrics in more detail and to identify the root cause of the issue.

The consistent data model also allows users to easily create filters and finders encompassing all aspects of configuration and performance in the environment, in order to quickly understand how performance is problematic, or where wastage exists. The intuitive interface is usable by experts and non-experts alike, democratizing workload and infrastructure information within your organization.

Cloud Insights’ heterogeneous view across an organization’s fragmented infrastructure and applications stack contrasts with the use of multiple cloud-native and third-party monitoring tools to provide a high-level single source of truth regarding cloud workload health.

Want to Get to Know Your Cloud Better?

Start a free trial to see for yourself how NetApp Cloud Insights can provide comprehensive visibility into your environment across multiple cloud providers and hybrid architectures–all of your IT, shadow or otherwise.

Principal Technologist