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Why infrastructure performance matters more than ever before

(Image credit: Image source: Shutterstock/everything possible)

Because your company’s application workloads span multiple vendor technologies, in numerous different environments, the end-user experience is reliant on all of these technologies working harmoniously together. The challenge is significantly heightened when you don’t have visibility into the flow of data within your organisation. How can you find problems and troubleshoot when you can’t see where or why an issue has emerged? It’s akin to driving with a blindfold on. Yet this is the way in which so many enterprise IT teams operate. In today’s constantly changing environment this is a perilous way to approach IT.

Successful monitoring of your applications and IT infrastructure is what underpins the difference between where you are today, and where you would like to be when it comes to your team’s performance. Digital transformation initiatives and never-ending infrastructure and application changes are driving complexity beyond human comprehension. And the challenge is only going to get greater. The need for real-time, end-to-end performance monitoring and analytics-driven insights is more significant than ever.

Application and infrastructure monitoring ensures that IT supports the company’s most critical business applications. It eliminates the guesswork and finger-pointing, not to mention the time and financial resources that are typically poured into troubleshooting within the enterprise. At the heart of infrastructure and application monitoring lies the aim to optimise deployment decisions based on your application workload profiles. That’s easier said than done. So how can you ensure your infrastructure is monitored correctly?

The primary challenge around maintaining a successful IT infrastructure is understanding and managing application workloads from an end-to-end perspective. Perhaps you have done this manually or have followed best-practice guidelines. But, by setting the same parameters for each and every widget within the infrastructure, you’re setting yourself up for failure because you are not taking into account that each application carries with it its own set of unique attributes and may be more, or less, critical to your business. Moreover, without the context of what each and every application is going to be used for, you cannot set up a successful monitoring policy.

There is some confusion around the phrase “end-to-end” in the performance monitoring realm and the term is often misunderstood and hence misused. Compute monitoring helps organisations to gain visibility of workloads from the perspective of the server or virtual server. By understanding how the many tasks are run, it helps ensure that they each have access to adequate resources to perform correctly. Monitoring assures that the inherent competition for resources in infrastructure does not cause a deadlock where key jobs are unable to complete. But compute monitoring doesn’t give you any insight into the path your data is taking. It simply reports on the performance of VMs and is therefore not end-to-end monitoring.

Confusion and finger-pointing

When an application is ‘looking’ for its data, it has to traverse the entire infrastructure to find it. Real infrastructure performance management solutions arm you and your team with the ability to monitor traffic in real time from an application-centric point of view from the virtual server to the storage arrays and all network components in between.

Now that we have clarification on what constitutes end-to-end visibility, let’s take a look at how this can be harnessed to help manage workloads. A major challenge faced by any organisation in the digital age is that today’s requirements will change significantly over time, even over the course of just a few weeks or months. While your workload may have been as harmonious as a well-practiced symphony across your infrastructure at the outset of your IT deployment, your role as the conductor becomes increasingly challenging as priorities shift, demand increases, and new applications are added.

The modern enterprise needs to be able to adapt. As a result, so does the IT infrastructure: your team needs to be able to balance a constantly changing environment. It’s no good when you have a switch where two ports are completely clogged with traffic, while another is hardly used, or you have all your VMs on one host while others stand practically idle. Trouble can emerge from such an imbalanced environment and when it does, the answer that most IT leaders come to is to spend more on hardware. Rather than address the underlying issue, huge sums are spent on deploying additional infrastructure, adding cost and increasing complexity.

In order to remain agile, you need a complete view of your IT infrastructure. You need the ability to systematically assess your infrastructure and manage workloads automatically. Mission-critical workloads need constant oversight to ensure optimal performance and availability. With the appropriate tools you’ll be able to intelligently correlate and analyse a wide breadth and depth of information, transforming that data into answers and actionable insights.

Enterprise data storage managers are familiar with the stress, confusion and finger-pointing that comes when problems arise. By gaining visibility into the entire data centre infrastructure you’ll be able to quickly identify any issues and set about resolving them. Even if an issue extends beyond your responsibility, to the networking team for example, an intelligent infrastructure performance monitoring platform will provide you will a suggested workflow to give you the best chance of resolving a specific issue as rapidly as possible. Being able to see the entire infrastructure, rather than siloed elements, allows you to see exactly where problems are and advise colleagues and management accordingly.

Even a simple interaction such as an online banking transaction typically traverses a complex infrastructure that requires true cross-domain execution. This simple banking transaction brings to mind the famed paddling duck metaphor: with a quick glance, you see the duck elegantly gliding across the water. However, when you look below the waterline, you see just how much work it takes for the duck to get to where it’s going. Furiously paddling, moving upstream or downstream, the duck is working as best it can under any condition. So is your IT infrastructure. So is your IT team.

If you want your company to innovate and prosper, you need visibility into application workload behaviour. In order to deliver application infrastructure performance and availability management, correlated real-time insight across any server, network interconnect or data store across the entire data centre is essential.  The only way to achieve that goal is with an application-centric infrastructure performance management platform.

Sean O’Donnell, EMEA managing director, Virtual Instruments (opens in new tab)
Image source: Shutterstock/everything possible

Sean O’Donnell is Virtual Instruments’ EMEA managing director. Virtual Instruments is the industry’s first application-centric infrastructure performance management provider for the hybrid data centre. Its vendor-independent solutions deliver a unified real-time view of infrastructure performance in service of enterprise applications, whether they are deployed on-premises or in the cloud.