Cloud Computing – Health and Activity Monitoring

Had a trip to Iowa this weekend, so with a total of 8hrs on the road, I sorted some things out in my head about the Cloud. Over the last few weeks there has been a significant amount of talk about pricing comparisons and TCO between the various platforms. The same arguments regarding privacy and ownership are also being made. Meanwhile, there doesn’t seem to be much discussion of health and activity monitoring and/or runtime governance.

AmberPoint – SOA Runtime Monitoring

Sometime back, I was fortunate enough to be pointed at a product called AmberPoint. I was keenly interested in SOA at the time but had also spent way to much time in career supporting distributed systems. So while I believed in the value of SOA, I was also well aware of the risks and issues that tend to impact such systems. It was with this viewpoint that Tom, a friend and colleague pointed out a tool he’d heard about at a recent Microsoft Partner event, AmberPoint.

The tool, in a nutshell, allows you to monitor the performance of SOA systems. It can inspect packages and identify the messages, and then track them from start to finish. It will report when SLA’s are missed, or when an outage occurs. It can also help discover new services, and map the relationships between services, even putting them into a business context. Need your uptimes put in nice bar graphs for your pointy-haired management type… AmberPoint to the rescue!

My exposure to this tool helped teach me that its not just enough to build these systems. We also have to be able to actively monitor to them and react to issues before even our customers notice them. It also showed me that there’s no need to build these types of monitors by hand.

Monitoring the Cloud

Leveraging the cloud presents new challenges to monitoring our systems. AmberPoint worked by using nearly invisible agents that could be placed at times in and at other times near our various service endpoints. But with the cloud, with the leverage of various new providers, we lose much of our ability to place those agents near our endpoints. Additionally, each vendor has their own solution for service monitoring. This is one thing the cloud, at least as of yet, does not do well at all.

So we’re stuck leveraging old solutions, creating logging and aggregation services. Spending our own time creating ways to help monitor and manage our services.

I’m not stating all this just to be “Mr. Gloom and Doom”. Like the challenges of past solutions, this two will be overcome. But until that happens we need to plan for it. When we’re adding up TCO, comparing prices, and reading lists of features, we need to keep this aspect in mind. Look at the solutions and their SLA’s. Learn what tools are given to us to manage and monitor our solutions. And figure those answers into our evaluations.

The real cost?

I hope this short post has given you something to think about. Too often we relegate logging and tracking systems within our solutions to the realm of the “nice to have”. In the cloud, these concepts need to be at the forefront of our thoughts when evaluating, planning, or building solutions.

As evangelists (and I have to admit, this is the first time I’ve actually referred to myself as such), regardless of technology, its not just enough to understand how technologies works or how they measure up to competitors. We also need to know each technology’s shortcomings and how to best overcome them to deliver solutions that provide added value to those using them.

Things will always break. Something will eventually go wrong. The keys to dealing with it is how quickly you know about and how proactively you planned for the inevitable.

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