As a Microsoft partner, we are a focused provider of solutions that are centered on monitoring critical services and delivering a satisfactory user experience. In the cloud, the key to success is user experience which depends on the performance of underlying infrastructure. Lately, we’ve received a number of questions about how Exchange and ITIL relate to the cloud, and in particular, how can we measure and monitor cloud services.
First what makes it the cloud? A cloud is essentially IT services provided through a VM and software infrastructure. The cloud should provide the following main benefits:
Now, let’s look at it now from an Exchange perspective. In order for an Exchange deployment to be considered a “cloud” deployment, it would need to meet some (if not all) of requirements mentioned above. However, two of those stand out: scalability and agility. To meet the main objectives for a cloud service it would need to be able to be expanded (scalability) on demand (agility) without having any impact on the current set or future set of users.
Typically, this is accomplished in different ways: through the public cloud, Hybrid or the private cloud. In the public cloud, companies like Microsoft provide Exchange through Office 365 on large mutualized, free-flowing service platforms that meet the requirements for a service to be considered a “cloud” service.
In a private cloud, companies provide on demand services or resources to end users from on-premise infrastructure, and the same requirements apply. IT administrators can create a private cloud to provide mailboxes and Outlook Web Access (OWA), but quickly run into resource problems with scalability and agility. In this environment, the cloud will eventually reach capacity without the proper management tools in place, new server and storage infrastructure will be needed and the end user experience suffers.
Next, let’s look at how ITIL works in the cloud. With the introduction of agile and highly scalable systems, greater focus is going to be placed on service delivery, not just infrastructure. Ultimately, cloud services are intended to be delivered to more and more users creating increased demands on the infrastructure that supports applications and data. ITIL is designed to be a framework that allows for services to be deployed cost effectively, and more importantly, without disrupting service delivery. In this way, cloud technologies and ITIL are a perfect fit. Cloud deployments bring speed of delivery, and ITIL is a framework that insures that it’s done right with minimal impact on end users.
Once ITIL and a cloud service are deployed, the focus moves to service delivery itself. In a private cloud environment, monitoring and analytics tools provide IT administrators with metrics needed to provide an excellent user experience in highly dynamic and agile environment. In a public cloud offering, however, IT administrators don’t have access to the same information, mostly just feedback from users. This makes it much more difficult to meet demanding service-level agreements (SLAs) – Exchange might be available in the public cloud, but visibility into performance is lacking. For example, if it takes a message 30 minutes to reach an external address, technically, Exchange is working, however that doesn’t matter to a salesperson sending an urgent proposal. Similarly, if it took two hours to download a 2MB document due to lack of infrastructure resources the service would most definitely not be meeting even the least strict of SLAs.
Overall, cloud services need a standard set of reporting metrics, a standard set of criteria to be measured against (ITIL), and this information needs to come from a user and a customer perspective, not just from the company or the organization providing the service.