Managing your cloud's performance: Best practices

Here's how some shops are making sure they're getting their money's worth.

Once you move your core IT systems into private or public cloud networks, your work isn't over. Now you have a different set of technology issues to deal with: managing the cloud to ensure that your investments pay off for your enterprise and deliver the efficiencies and ROI that you're expecting.

Cloud management and monitoring have become even more important in the wake of April's Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) outage, when the IT world got to see just what happens when a cloud environment runs into problems, taking the operations of many companies down with it. There have been other recent serious cloud outages as well.

Getting the performance that your enterprise is paying for is "one of the big 'gotchas' for public clouds," says Mary Johnston Turner, an analyst at IDC. In a recent study of 250 user companies, service-level agreement (SLA) performance guarantees ranked second in importance after the specific needs of the applications themselves, she says.

"Enterprises are very concerned about performance," she says. "One of the reasons you're seeing so much interest in private clouds is because IT leaders are responsible for getting good performance to their users" and they aren't always ready to hand those huge responsibilities over to third-party cloud vendors.

And that, she added, is not just a cloud problem but is one created by the complexity of composite applications that then are introduced into cloud environments.

"It's a huge challenge," Turner says. "Users need to be investing in application performance management [products] that are built for composite applications and virtualized environments. There's a whole category now."

The idea, she says, is to be able to independently monitor the performance of the applications as they go across the network or the cloud, and then be able to measure that performance where it reaches the end user, whether that is inside or outside the firewall, Turner says.

For David Ting, vice president of engineering at IGN.com, one of the largest video game review websites in the world, monitoring his company's cloud performance is critical because the business lives or dies based on the ability of its 25.4 million users to connect with the site's ad-supported online properties.

"For us, performance is money because page views are key," he says. "We're ad-supported, so every page view counts" and helps the company bring in revenue. "These are things that we watch very carefully."

To make it all work, IGN Entertainment -- a division of media giant News Corp. -- uses performance monitoring tools from San Francisco-based New Relic that allow IGN to continuously watch over the performance of its sites in the cloud. "We depend very heavily on that tool," Ting says. "For us it's about response time and transactions per second for our IGN websites."

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