Feature - 22 Jun 2021 (ComputerWeekly)


Delivering incremental process improvement in the cloud requires sufficient visibility of networks and applications for monitoring and management, particularly when workloads are less than static or predictable – and private cloud is no different.


Suppliers often recommend not only a continuous (even agile) process to achieve this, but accurate performance testing to expose issues earlier. However, Rob Rutherford, chief executive officer at managed services provider and consultancy QuoStar, points out that if workloads are sufficiently predictable, less performance testing should be needed.


“We used to do a lot more testing. You would get bottlenecks, particularly around disk and the like,” he says. “For automated load testing, you would definitely need to do it and keep doing it when running your own on-prem or if hosting in a private cloud.”


Some organisations rely on private cloud – perhaps due to applications that cannot be refactored for migration or data security requirements – and cannot migrate to public cloud or hybrid cloud in the near future.


For Rutherford, this means that avoiding blind spots, bottlenecks and other issues starts with good preparation, including developing a clear understanding of the cost of implementation and required system change down the track, as well as contractual obligations and service-level agreements (SLAs).


“We are often tasked with addressing performance issues without increasing pricing. This can prove arduous when the return on investment forecasted falls away from the realities of a complex workload boom,” he says.


After signing an order, unexpected adaptations to networks, applications or infrastructure can quickly wipe out returns, damaging cyber security and user experience into the bargain – at times requiring “drastic” decisions to get projects back on track, he says.


Over-resourcing might be required

Private cloud infrastructures need to build in the flexibility that allows users to scale up and out of it with ease – especially with an expected rise in infrastructure rationalisation and simplification after the pandemic, meant to facilitate digital transformation. This might even mean over-resourcing at the start in areas such as disk speed and input/output operations per second (IOPS), says Rutherford.

Unexpected adaptations to networks, applications or infrastructure can quickly wipe out returns, damaging cyber security and user experience into the bargain

“Many environments take up more resources in the early stages of a heavy migration,” he adds. “Many throw RAM and processor power at an underperforming environment when disk speed is the bottleneck.”


Process improvement should be aligned tightly with key performance indicators (KPIs) such as availability and uptime, keeping an eye out for exceptions to performance utilisation and outlining threshold situations where adding resources should be authorised. Holding regular meetings to consider incidents, current status and future demands or issues can be an excellent idea, says Rutherford.


“It’s all done on a case-by-case basis. Obviously, a lot of it’s going to revolve around the management of resource utilisation, continually alerting around memory, processor, network, and then any sort of spikes or anomalies and whether they’re one-off or likely to recur and cause non-conformance,” he says.


He adds that if cost is really critical, it can make sense to minimise private cloud investment – only keeping what you really need in private cloud and moving the rest to public cloud or migrating to a hybrid infrastructure.


Hiren Parekh, Northern Europe vice-president at cloud services provider OVHcloud, suggests also keeping up with innovations, new features, integrations and updates from key private cloud suppliers such as VMware. For cloud providers, this becomes a key way of delivering continuous process improvement to customers.


Examples include taking advantage of Tanzu to enable containerisation across hosted private cloud platforms to deliver greater scalability and utilisation, bringing the customer closer to serverless options and the benefits of public cloud.


“How things could differentiate, as well as looking at this continuous feedback to ensure the user experience is understood and captured, which can also aid the evolution of improvement,” says Parekh.


Optimising workload management

When monitoring and managing performance, however, differing approaches are available. OVHcloud provides VMware’s vRealize suite to deliver automation, including dashboards, custom rules and custom metrics for management. This facilitates feedback on application response speed to determine maximum user load for a software application, and the creation of tags that can feed back on the health of virtual machines in situ.


Parekh says the user simply needs to decide how to partition resources to suit the workloads they want to support. And, of course, once an understanding of what is happening is secured ...

Read the full article