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Best practices and tools for public cloud monitoring

Public cloud adoption has ramped up in recent years. In these busy environments, certain cloud network monitoring tools can provide IT groups with crucial visibility.

Enterprises are continuing their advance into the cloud.

According to a survey this year by cloud management vendor CloudCheckr, 57% of 304 cloud decision-makers said more than half their IT infrastructure is in the cloud. That percentage is up from 47% in 2020.

Although 64% expect their IT assets to be running fully in the public cloud within five years, IT professionals grapple with how to monitor public cloud networking. Today, for example, only 31% said they are monitoring and optimizing public cloud costs successfully.

Having clear visibility into any environment is critical to ensure performance optimization and security. But hybrid and multi-cloud monitoring is inherently more challenging, which can lead to significant issues that jeopardize infrastructure performance, impede productivity and diminish the end-user experience.

When those performance problems affect a customer-facing application, a crisis could ensue. Consumers have no patience for digital disappointments. In a report this year by application performance vendor AppDynamics, 76% of the 13,000 consumers surveyed said their expectations for digital services are higher now than at the start of the pandemic.

All these factors highlight the need for organizations to have a strong grasp on what is happening across their cloud environments. This means finding the best cloud monitoring tools for their environment.

What is cloud monitoring?

The expansion of public cloud environments is driving demand for public cloud monitoring services that help cut through the network management haze. Public cloud monitoring enables organizations to gain visibility into the performance and stability of their cloud-based infrastructure, services, applications and connectivity.

Cloud monitoring tools collect data from across the hybrid and multi-cloud deployments and report that data back to network teams via alerts and reports. Some of these reports are automatically generated and display the performance statistics in a graphical form that is easier for IT pros to digest and analyze.

Cloud network monitoring tools can assess every layer and aspect of the environment -- from databases and systems running in the environment to the application performance and the connection from the cloud to the enterprise.

For organizations running workloads in hybrid or multi-cloud deployments, gaining a clear perspective across the infrastructures can be complicated. In many cases, resources were deployed in an ad hoc fashion to multiple cloud environments.

More services are coming to market that promise to integrate data collected across these complex environments to give IT staff a more accurate picture of individual assets and how things are running operationally from end to end. This can be helpful for real-time analysis, ongoing planning and cost management. This in-depth cloud network monitoring can also address the following questions: 

  • Has the organization provisioned resources properly?
  • Where are the bottlenecks?
  • Can the implementation be simplified?

How cloud monitoring works

Cloud network monitoring tools track and relay data on asset status and activity. These tools are designed to spot various issues, including potential security incidents, errors and performance degradation, and systems and services that have gone offline.

IT organizations use these tools to support a few different functions. For one, they can track cloud data across different regions and different cloud environments. More cloud monitoring services are integrating feeds from different tools and different providers.

Additionally, cloud monitoring has an important security capability: looking for potentially dangerous anomalies and alerting IT staff of possible breaches. These services are also key to support regulatory compliance by supplying data that's essential for auditing purposes.

The different types of cloud monitoring tools

The public cloud monitoring challenge is real. The expansion of on-demand deployments has introduced tools that track activity in public cloud environments and help cut through the confusion. As a result, IT teams have a growing number of public cloud monitoring options.

Suppliers offer services that fall into three general categories:

  1. proprietary offers delivered by the public cloud providers themselves;
  2. third-party network and application monitoring vendor tools; and
  3. services provided by managed cloud providers.

These services provide the metrics that IT organizations can use to establish baseline perspective on environment health, which IT professionals can use for fine-tuning. IT organizations can also use tools to get a better handle on usage for more effective provisioning and cost management. 

Which public cloud monitoring tools fit your organization?

While proprietary services supplied by IaaS vendors -- such as Amazon CloudWatch and Microsoft's Azure Monitor -- can offer precise insights into their environments, they typically are focused only on monitoring workloads in their own cloud. Google Cloud Monitoring is an exception in that it also monitors AWS cloud environments.

Third-party tools -- such as Cisco's AppDynamics, BMC TrueSight Pulse, DX Infrastructure Manager and Dynatrace's monitoring services -- can monitor activity across different cloud provider environments. Third-party IT services and cloud providers can be an important partner in effective cloud monitoring.

Enterprises can also opt to enlist the help of a managed cloud service provider, such as Rackspace Technology. These providers monitor activity in multiple environments and provide design and migration assistance, as well as operations and security support.

Best practices for cloud monitoring

Ultimately, to be successful in establishing solid cloud monitoring practices in complex multi-cloud environments, enterprises need to address the major challenge of gaining end-to-end visibility. They can do this by integrating data from multiple monitoring sources which may take in data from different feeds within separate cloud environments.

To do this, IT professionals need to apply a cohesive approach by using a service that can ingest data from multiple feeds. Whether developed internally or relying on a third-party system, the tool should then report information in a consumable format and not just spit out numbers that are difficult to parse.

Useful cloud monitoring requires consistent collaboration across all stakeholders, including application developers who need feedback on potential performance or security issues. Security also needs to be incorporated into the process, including elements like role-based access control, in which only the appropriate individual or group has administrative rights. 

Ongoing cloud monitoring of any environment is important from both security and performance standpoints. But, in the case of hybrid and multi-cloud environments which typically involve multi-tenancy, consistent and constant cloud monitoring is essential. 

This was last published in September 2021

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