Will Cloud Computing Lead to the Demise of Network Analysis?
Cloud computing, most generally defined as using third party services to deliver applications, significantly alters the location of critical computing resources, the data paths for accessing these resources and many operational IT procedures in a significant way. In fact, many compare the shift towards cloud computing to the introduction of the centralized electric grid more than a century ago that displaced local power generation for factories and farms.
It is clear that this fundamental shift in computing will have repercussions on how IT systems and networks are managed and maintained. One general perception is that cloud computing will lead to the demise of network analysis. Is this true? What truly changes when an enterprise begins to leverage cloud computing?
Before we’re able to refute or confirm the premise, we must agree on what network analysis is and the goals it helps IT professionals achieve. Network analysis can be thought of as network monitoring plus intelligence. While network monitoring and network analysis are often lumped together (and at times fulfilled by the same solution), each has distinct goals and methods to achieve those goals. Network monitoring, a field which has grown tremendously with the widespread availability of flow-based data from network devices, NetFlow and sFlow, for example, focuses on reporting and trend analysis, providing alerts when flow-based data indicates trouble, but leaving out the details of the root cause. This is where network analysis comes in. Network analysis typically involves the collection of more detailed data, usually at the packet level, providing the data necessary for detailed, root-cause analysis.
Real-time network monitoring and network analysis have become mission-critical in almost every industry. Network disruptions in the business world have financial and sometimes legal consequences. Simply put, outages cost money and companies would rather have a reliable network and be able to spend the money on something else. Additionally, IT departments are working full time to manage data centers, provision new applications and respond to help desk requests. Network engineers need solutions to troubleshoot problems on the network, quickly and efficiently, so that business operations remain productive and other essential IT operations are not disrupted.
It’s obvious that network monitoring and network analysis are important to the IT world and overall state of an organization. So, what changes with cloud computing? In order to take a look at what will change, we need to understand cloud computing a bit more clearly.