Cloud Monitoring Tools and Best Practices

Cloud computing has seen significant growth in the last few years. There is a clear boom in companies moving away from the dedicated data centers to public or cloud services. This trend is likely to grow even stronger in the coming months as more organizations find value in moving a part (or all) of their infrastructure into the cloud.

The benefits of cloud computing are many. It enables new ways to deliver applications and provides capabilities to process large workloads and transactions without requiring large upfront investments. However, the compute clouds don’t come without the problems of their own. While managing data center that you own was hard enough, trusting and managing a cloud based data center that you only have partial control is even harder. But, wait there is help available.

You Need to Know What You Want

IT vendors have been quick to realize the need for smart management tools in this area. The vendors that were previously providing various kinds of data center management technology and tools have all jumped to the cloud bandwagon. My experience of playing with a variety of tools has given me a mixed feeling. Some tools excel in one area while others in another area. Hence, I thought I will share my experience.

But, the good part is that there are a lot of excellent solutions out there that can monitor every aspect of your cloud platform. Also, if you rely on the tools provided by your vendor to monitor the network and only interested in application performance and health monitoring, there are plenty of choices there too. These tools will help you in controlling and monitoring very specific elements in your cloud like application performance, database health, and network data flow.

Key Considerations in the Cloud Monitoring Software Selection

Just like any software tools, it is important to prioritize your needs and looks for useful features. GUI Gimmicks and graphics may look nice for a while, but they cannot hide the need of missing feature. Regardless of the type of solution that you want, I would suggest the following cloud monitoring, management and health maintenance considerations in cloud monitoring tools:

  • Install and use some tools and try them – many come with free trials and demos so it will give you feel as to what to look for.
  • Utilize automation and proactive remediation services wherever possible.
  • Never forget to set good access control policies and always monitor security access.
  • Monitoring of the monitoring software itself. Always ensure that your monitoring system is running optimally and that configurations are kept updated.
  • Create various monitoring profiles giving different priorities, privileges to different profiles. You need ability to differentiate between different workloads, apps, or data sets
  • Take the time to understand your own cloud and all its intricacies and dependencies before selecting a monitoring solution. Everyone has different needs so make sure you know your needs first.

Now here is a basic list of popular software tools. This list is not exhaustive and should only be used as a starting point to understand various options. The cost and features vary significantly so be careful in evaluating a tool only against a similarly priced tool.

Amazon CloudWatch

If you use AWS – you can just use what comes with it. Many vendors will give impression that CloudWatch doesn’t even exist so that they can sell their own tools.

Amazon CloudWatch is a very competent tool from AWS. It l enables customers to monitor EC2 instances and Elastic Load Balancers in real-time. Its Auto Scaling feature, which is free to CloudWatch customers, allows customers to dynamically add or remove EC2 instances based on CloudWatch metrics. CloudWatch is pay as you go, and priced according to the EC2 instances monitored.

You can use Amazon CloudWatch to collect and track metrics, collect and monitor log files, and set alarms. Amazon CloudWatch can monitor AWS resources such as Amazon EC2 instances, Amazon DynamoDB tables, and Amazon RDS DB instances, as well as custom metrics generated by your applications and services, and any log files your applications generate. You can use Amazon CloudWatch to gain system-wide visibility into resource utilization, application performance, and operational health. You can use these insights to react and keep your application running smoothly.

BMC Cloud Operations Management

BMC Cloud Lifecycle Management is a hybrid (public/private) cloud management platform that allows you to get up and running quickly with simple, out-of-the-box use cases, and also supports more complex, production-class cloud environments.

It supports different cloud infrastructure options such as AWS, Azure, OpenStack, VMware vCloud Director etc. So, if you are running a hybrid infrastructure and don’t want to learn different tools, it may be a good option to look at. It has tools to manage scaling of cloud resources automatically based on user-defined service performance requirements. It also can automate compliance to regulatory and security policies, and ensure ongoing configuration and patching.

CA NimSOft

This is one tool that I hate, but have to mention as it comes from a very big software vendor. It is basically a repositioning of their existing IT management tools to manage cloud infrastructure.

CA Cloud Service Management is a rather lame SaaS Service Management solution that company claims to speed and streamline your service desk operations while reducing complex and repetitive tasks.

SolarWind Cloud Monitoring Tool

I have used Solarwind for Network and IT infrastructure management for years, and always liked there no fuss approach to systems management in their popular with network tools.

Now they have expanded in the cloud infrastructure space by buying Librato, a San Francisco-based Cloud monitoring company in January 2015. I haven’t got opportunity to use their newly announced tool, but based on their expertise in the space, I think it must be good.

According to the company, its software has multiple capabilities to monitor private cloud environments, which include monitoring integrated SaaS applications, compute infrastructure performance, storage infrastructure performance, and planning for capacity.

I would suggest go and check it since they often allow free trial.

Zenoss Cloud Monitoring

Again, if you are running a hybrid cloud and want a tool that can do it all, Zenoss is a good candidate for the same.

This tool made by Zenoss monitors public, private, or hybrid cloud environments with a unified visibility and provides real-time awareness of the entire infrastructure. Zenoss ensures relevance through a model-driven cloud operations management system which maintains a comprehensive model of every device’s hardware, software and network relations which then makes use of that model to ensure that the right monitoring service and policies are implemented on that device.

RevealCloud By CopperEgg

It is a server health and performance monitoring tool provided by CopperEgg, a small IT vendor with expertise in this area.

RevealCloud is a SaaS-based server monitoring service that provides a detailed, unified view of all of your servers, running across OS, public, private clouds, virtual and physical environments. It is capable of capturing and displaying real-time data for all system processes, CPUs, network interfaces, memory, disk I/O and more.

Like most third party tools, it too supports all cloud environments, including Amazon EC2, Rackspace, Windows Azure, SoftLayer and more, with server monitoring for Windows, Hyper-V, Linux, Mac OS X and FreeBSD operating systems.

This is just a small sampling of tools and lot interesting application monitoring tools exist for the cloud. Let me know what is your favorite tool and why.

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