January 29, 2013

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Cloud Based Network Management – Challenges and Opportunities

The needs of network management are changing with the emergence of “the cloud.”  Cloud users are not aware of either the infrastructure or pay model. However, they will pay for what they have consumed, which is mostly services from the network. This changing nature of the payment model and the consumption of services pushes network management systems to not only manage the infrastructure (which they traditionally did) but also manage the services provided by the networks. Thus, the traditional network management systems used by service providers are no longer able to cope with the new set of requirements. Read more. The “invisible” nature of network infrastructure on the cloud and the shift in focus from managing just network infrastructure to service availability and its performance brings up several opportunities and few challenges for network management.

Challenges

Cloud-based  subscribers who have signed up for services from different  vendors are finding it difficult to use different network management applications to monitor each vendor’s service. This calls for the subscriber’s NMS to be outside the cloud and generic enough to monitor multi-vendor services. However, all vendors do not expose a common standard interface to facilitate such easy manageability. Likewise, despite assurances by vendors that they are using adequate security measures like encryption, subscribers still show a reluctance to trust storage they don’t personally own, which applies to network management data as well. Usage of virtualization techniques to automatically increase/decrease a service based on load dynamics opens another new challenge of managing multiple dynamic virtual servers under several virtual switches.

Opportunities

Network management has to cater to the needs of both the  subscriber (who has subscribed to a cloud-based service) and  the vendor (who offers the cloud-based service). Subscribers know several aspects viz. trending over a period and current usage of processing power used, storage, traffic utilization, downtime, alerts and cost-breakout of the service(s) they have signed up for.  On the other hand, vendors typically host such services for multiple tenants simultaneously. Hence, through the network management system, vendors monitor and manage distribution of loads across the servers, planning and scheduling for image upgrades, monitor usage per subscriber, generate bills on-demand based on usage to-date and selected bill plan, etc.  Network management systems also have to become “service aware,” to monitor and manage the service, rather than just typical network elements. Using a cloud-based service reduces a significant amount of carbon emission. Hence, a “carbon credit” report generated from a network management system is a useful metric for both vendors and subscribers alike, to press their case for more such deployments.

Any new technology brings with it more opportunities and challenges. For a technology to become successful, challenges have to be mitigated and opportunities must be utilized to the fullest. Based on recent trends in cloud adoption, it is obvious that "cloud" is here to stay and so do NMS, as it is inevitable to monitor and manage such complex network infrastructure for the guaranteed quality of service. How do you think network management applications will evolve in this arena by overcoming these challenges and utilizing these opportunities? Do share your thoughts and comments on this..