June 21, 2011

Managing Multi-Vendor UC and Collaboration in a Virtual World

Hardware implies permanence and inflexibility. Metal a little more malleability. Software has the ability to transform both. You can put an entirely new program in the hardware and create an entirely new experience for the user. This is the way it is with virtualization.

But with this transformation, the physical elements increase in criticality because they're carrying a greater load and more will be asked of them. The right decisions need to be made quickly because more people or processes are affected. If mean times to identify, convince and repair are not rapid, the overall quality of the user experience will suffer and service levels can be breached.

When hardware is virtualized, with multiple guests acting as individual servers it's critical to know that it's up to the job. When a guest running a continuity-critical application makes a request in real time it is without regard for other host activity. Hence both guests and hosts can come under performance pressure. With this type of environment problems can exist in any one of the layers. It can be within the physical hardware or the virtual machines as well as the applications themselves. Because of this, problem detection needs to be multi-layer, multi-vendor and multi-technology. A rich collection of UC and virtualization management metrics for the host, guests and UC applications will give you a high-level view as well as the granular detail you need to monitor and troubleshoot individual components.

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Over the past few years we've often addressed the challenge of managing VoIP and UC from multiple vendors. And even though the challenge was daunting, it was somewhat simplified by the fact that there were a known number of elements with known locations and characteristics.

It has become abundantly clear over the past year that moving VoIP and UC into the cloud is a most viable option. But, as always is the case with increased options, this also means that there are increased challenges.

For several years, Integrated Research has specialized in the unified management of multiple disparate systems, so moving this management to the cloud is a natural progression. Thus, I highly recommend this paper as an educational tool and benchmark.

So, I have a few questions for the paper's author.

To begin with, Sue, what are the main management challenges you cover in this paper?

In the virtual world we know that problems can exist in any of the layers. In this paper I’ve broken down them down to the host, guests, and applications. I explain the most common challenges at each of these levels and how being able to correlate performance metrics helps understand the impact of one on another.

How can you assess the impact of an application running in one virtual machine on the host’s performance, or indeed on applications in other VMs?

This requires an overall view of all guests’ activities on the host, as well as detailed and granular process-level views of individual guest’s activity. As problems can exist within the physical hardware, the virtualization management, as well as the UC application themselves root cause analysis needs to be multi-layer, multi-vendor and multi-technology.

A combination of high level and deep drilldown views will give you the insight you need to identify where the problems lie.

How does ‘whole of stack’ monitoring relate to the cloud?

Availability, performance and quality assurance are as much key performance indicators in the cloud as well as down on the ground, so to speak. And as service level agreements for cloud computing are service rather than customer-based, cloud service providers need to manage the ability of their infrastructure to provide the service their customers are paying for.

If businesses choose to deploy and manage virtualized UC in house as a private cloud or cloud-like services they’ll benefit from much the same management approach as service providers. This is because measuring, monitoring and reporting on cloud performance are based upon the end users’ experience and their ability to consume resources.

A truly integrated management solution that provides high-level and deep drill down metrics into the performance, availability, capacity and quality of the host, guests and applications will enable service delivery insight for private and public clouds alike.

As a UC manager you’ll be looking for proactive performance management, with less risk and more predictability. How does Prognosis address these requirements?

Firstly it avoids the situation where you have to use one tool to monitor UC applications, one tool for virtual machines and yet another for hardware. It enables you to monitor all layers in a coherent way using one tool and a single management interface. In fact without being able to compare these metrics side by side it would be impossible to correlate the impact of an application running in one guest on the host and other guests.

Secondly, it’s very useful to be able to install performance management directly into a VM to accurately monitor the host’s performance at the hypervisor or virtual machine manager level.

Which Cloud providers do you support, or do you work equally well with all providers?

Prognosis works well with all providers as well as enterprises to help ensure delivery of quality cloud services. In the white paper I’ve looked at some of the potential benefits of monitoring from both perspectives. Common elements include monitoring virtualized servers, measuring, managing and reporting on service level KPIs and usage and performance trend analysis.

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