Performance: The Cloud's Achilles Heel?

Think about all the steps in a hypothetical ‘digital value chain’. An order comes in through a branch office or shop. HQ is queried for customer account data. Then a third party or stock management department is queried on...

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Think about all the steps in a hypothetical ‘digital value chain’.

An order comes in through a branch office or shop. HQ is queried for customer account data. Then a third party or stock management department is queried on availability or delivery date. A request might then be sent to a logistics company to take delivery from the manufacturer and deliver to the customer. All the data goes back to HQ to create an invoice and update the customer records. Then the paperwork is sent back to the originating branch office or shop.

In the past, any of the transactions happening outside a branch office or corporate data centre would involve phone calls and emails. Today, though, they often rely on the Internet - namely cloud services - via both direct connections and Web APIs. The data centres that the transaction information passes through - from the order placing company, manufacturer and logistics company, may or may not even be on their premises - they could be virtual installations practically anywhere.

How do you measure and monitor performance under such a scenario? If there's a problem - or more likely when, given how many different layers to the value chain there are in modern transaction processes - how do you pinpoint it? Furthermore, when there’s a problem, your customers and employees aren’t going to hold your cloud service provider accountable. Instead, they’ll look to corporate for an immediate solution.

Although it’s now possible to outsource parts - or the entirety of applications and infrastructure - you can’t outsource the responsibility for it all to work efficiently and reliably for your end users.

If it was simply a website, field agents could be used to measure performance to the end user anytime, anywhere. If it all happened inside the HQ corporate data centre and within the company's private WAN, measurement agents could be installed at appropriate locations. But today's digital value chain is both of these and more.

In the old enterprise world, you would install either hardware or software agents, 'listening posts,' throughout your architecture/ infrastructure. But you don't own the entire environment now. And your partner isn't allowing you to put little listening agents in their infrastructure, so you don't have visibility anymore.

The only time you know something is going wrong is when applications are failing for users. And how do you possibly find out what's gone wrong and where if you don't have visibility into the whole transaction sequence?

Whether it's a private, public, or hybrid cloud, IT still is held responsible for performance. And so IT has to find a way to see how each of those links in their digital value chain is performing, even when it involves the black boxes of cloud providers and/or inaccessible partner/supplier data centres.
That means having agents monitoring every link in the chain - at point of termination, inside and outside the corporate firewall, and at the first and last mile. It's more complicated, but achievable - and imperative.

Robert Castley, lead solutions consultant for EMEA, Keynote Systems

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