IBM Optimizes Network Management in the Cloud

Is your cloud as network-savvy as it needs to be?

Service Management in Action

Cloud computing has transformed enterprise IT—rendering services in a more automated yet optimized manner than ever before. Really leveraging clouds to best effect, however, will often demand careful consideration of the way network elements are monitored and managed—not just server and storage elements.

Why? Clouds are comprised of an ever-growing number of hosts linked by networks; they depend on networks to interact with users, and in the case of hybrid models, other clouds altogether. Furthermore, as business-critical workloads increasingly migrate into the cloud, the total reliance on network resources and capabilities will only grow in proportion. Shortcomings in network provisioning or management can thus multiply, and over time, diminish the performance of every cloud-based service.

Therefore, to obtain the best result from cloud architectures, organizations will have to expand their earlier focus on servers and storage to optimize network management, monitoring, and troubleshooting elements as well.

That means much more than just increasing the total bandwidth available to cloud services. It also implies:

Fortunately for cloud-engaged organizations, IBM's long experience as the number one provider of service assurance solutions worldwide has left IBM in an exceptional position to help.

In particular, the IBM Tivoli Netcool portfolio is very well suited to addressing (and even predicting and precluding) network performance issues of many kinds—both inside and outside cloud architectures—to render better service management to customers and end users.

IBM Netcool Network Management helps you fulfill the promise of the cloud

"By 2015, it's expected that 70 percent of enterprises will allow currently different server workloads to share the same physical hardware—a situation that could be interpreted as putting many service eggs into one basket. Clearly, that "basket" will have to be as resilient and properly configured as possible."

To understand how, just consider some of the typical questions being asked by cloud hosts, carriers, and organizations with private clouds today:

Answering such questions means these organizations will need enhanced visibility, control, and automation over every aspect pertaining to network performance, both in and out of the cloud. And that's exactly what IBM Netcool Network Management—a package of integrated offerings—delivers.

Visibility: Insight into all the network elements that contribute to cloud services

One key element of the Netcool value proposition: improved visibility to understand what comprises the network, where problems are coming from, and how best to resolve them.

This solution provides end-to-end visualization of even the largest and most complex network infrastructures. It provides discovery WAN and LAN of network elements and topology, and also supports root-cause analysis when technical issues emerge. This means IT/operations managers can drill down logically into that network to find out where performance bottlenecks are coming from, in any necessary level of detail, and thus determine what kind of action needs to be taken.

For cloud services, which may involve many different classes of network elements inside and outside company walls (and in the case of hybrid cloud models, even completely different clouds), that kind of granular, comprehensive insight helps keep service quality high—and downtime low.

Visibility also applies to network elements within the cloud proper, of course. That's why IBM Netcool Network Management empowers cloud managers to visualize how virtual and physical network elements contribute to cloud services. The solution automatically discovers these elements, then shows how they're integrated, revealing interdependencies that could affect service performance. Even virtualized resources, such as the bandwidth allocation to different virtual servers, are intuitively depicted.

It's important, in tracking and troubleshooting a cloud's network performance, to ensure that there are no blind spots. This is why IBM Netcool Network Management also includes consolidated event management capabilities drawn from IBM Tivoli Netcool/OMNIbus. Using them, it's possible not only to aggregate data feeds from every resource in the infrastructure, but also import network topologies from relevant third party systems, thus delivering a truly comprehensive perspective.

And over time, thanks to IBM's ongoing participation in cross-vendor integration initiatives like the Open Services for Lifecycle Collaboration (OSLC), that perspective will become broader and broader.

Control: Taking the actions required to get a better outcome

Of course, just understanding how cloud network dynamics are changing, and isolating problems, is not enough. It's also important to be able to take appropriate action—control—as needed to resolve problems, improve network efficiency and the availability of network resources, and thus get an improved business outcome.

For instance, there's the crucial question of asset configuration in the cloud. According to recent studies, some 60 percent of network outages are caused by manual configuration errors. And given the way cloud solutions are increasingly leveraged by multiple workloads, that's a daunting statistic, because each configuration error stands to create more trouble.

By 2015, it's expected that 70 percent of enterprises will allow currently different server workloads to share the same physical hardware—a situation that could be interpreted as putting many service eggs into one basket. Clearly, that "basket" will have to be as resilient and properly configured as possible.

Toward that end, cloud managers will need to ask and answer questions such as: "What is the configuration of network assets—and what kinds of changes are needed if a given problem has been detected and isolated?" And they'll find that by using IBM Netcool Network Management, as integrated with other members of the Tivoli portfolio, they can implement configuration changes as required.

For instance: Keeping diverse workloads logically segregated, despite the shared nature of the cloud, is important in the context of security. Cloud users and customers may be attracted to the performance and pay-as-you-go pricing that clouds deliver, but only so long as cloud providers can ensure that security requirements are met—that no data will leak from one service or customer to another. Thanks to the improved control that IBM Tivoli solutions deliver over cloud service segregation, that's a requirement that will be met.

And going beyond service assurance issues per se, enhanced control can also help organizations more easily address challenges pertaining to regulation compliance. Because it's easier to track and control changes in cloud configuration in a broad sense, it's also easier to enforce network policies related to compliance. This is a strength that will get more and more compelling as the number of government regulations continues to climb.

Automation: Carrying out everyday cloud activities swiftly and consistently

Smart use of automation, to improve performance, is one of the strongest arguments in favor of cloud computing in general—and in a networking context, it's an argument that's particularly easy to make.

Since the cloud is being used to do more, with less oversight, through predefined business policies, it's important that automation be as optimized as possible. And for networking purposes, that means handling tasks such as:

Via IBM Netcool Network Management, these tasks can typically be carried out swiftly and cost-effectively by the cloud itself—not the IT or operations team—so that you'll get more business value with less effort and fewer resources. To do so, this offering integrates with other Tivoli solutions to orchestrate and optimize cloud services from end to end, including activity related to network elements and assets.

Imagine, for instance, that a new project is going to be facilitated by cloud services running on an organization's private cloud. This will involve many steps pertinent to networking. Among others, the cloud will need to provision a dedicated virtual firewall to help secure that service against the possibility of unauthorized access by internal or external users. It will also allocate customer IP prefixes and make virtual LAN reservations as necessary. And for remote access, it will probably need to generate a virtual private network for cloud users, utilizing end-to-end encryption to lock down all service transactions.

That's really only the beginning of the story, too. A broad range of network elements and resources—from load balancers to virtual switches to storage fabric—will all have to be orchestrated and integrated optimally to make the new cloud service a success. Toward that end, IBM Netcool Network Management can play a key part in making these and many other tasks happen via cross-solution integration and smart, policy-driven automation.

That's enormously beneficial to any organization with a private cloud because it allows the organization to focus more on what the cloud needs to do, and less on how the cloud does it. Because line-of-business managers are empowered to create and manage their own cloud-based services using a self-service portal to the cloud, those services can be up, running, and creating new value in a far shorter period of time than ever before—not months, but in many cases, mere days.

A similar logic applies in the context of communications service providers (CSPs) who seek the fastest possible rollout of new services, to create a competitive distinction in a difficult market. Because the cloud itself handles the technical details of how new services will be network-provisioned and receive resources over time, the CSP can instead focus more on what really matters: the nature of that service and how well it will meet customer needs.

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