Welcome!

Microservices Expo Authors: Stackify Blog, Liz McMillan, Simon Hill, Dalibor Siroky, John Worthington

Related Topics: @CloudExpo, Microservices Expo

@CloudExpo: Article

Steps for Improving Capacity Management in the Age of Cloud Computing

Realize the full promise of cloud computing

When you wake up in the morning and flip on a light switch, you don't think about whether the local power company has enough electricity available to power the light. Likewise, when you switch on the coffee pot or turn on your stove to make breakfast, you don't wonder about the available capacity of your local power grid.

Similarly, cloud computing is rapidly making the delivery of business services second nature to business users. They are able to access the services they need, when they need them, because the dynamic nature of the cloud offers unprecedented, highly elastic computing capacity.

Is your business able to fully exploit this flexibility? Cloud computing certainly brings with it new challenges for IT infrastructure management, particularly for capacity management. To get the most value from the cloud, you must continually balance capacity utilization, cost, and service quality. How can you make this happen? By transforming capacity management from a siloed, technology-oriented approach to one that is holistic and business aware.

This article examines six essential steps that will guide you through this transformation. These steps will help your organization to achieve the full benefits of cloud computing, including greater IT agility, higher service quality, and lower costs.

Traditional Approaches Are No Longer Sufficient
Traditionally, IT organizations have viewed capacity management as a dedicated, full-time job performed by specialized capacity planners and analysts. These highly skilled staffers are event-driven, responding to such occurrences as new application deployments and hardware changes.

Because of the sheer size and complexity of today's data centers and the small number of capacity planners in the typical IT organization, capacity planners often limit their focus to mission-critical systems. These planners typically manage capacity using a siloed, technology-based approach in which some planners focus on servers, others on storage, and still others on network devices. The problem is that not much communication takes place among groups, resulting in a capacity planning process that is a patchwork of disjointed activities, many of which are manual.

Traditional capacity management may have served well in the past, but if you are considering or already have begun the move to virtualization and cloud computing, traditional approaches are no longer adequate. Virtualization and cloud computing radically alter the character of the IT infrastructure. With cloud computing, the infrastructure is viewed as a pool of resources that are dynamically combined to deliver business services on demand and then returned to the pool when the services are no longer needed. In essence, the cloud provides a source of highly elastic computing capacity that can be applied when and where it's needed.

Consequently, capacity management is crucial to a successful cloud implementation. The aggregate capacity of the cloud must be sufficient to accommodate the dynamic assignment of workloads while still maintaining agreed-upon performance levels. Moreover, you must provide this capacity without over-buying equipment.

What's Needed: A Holistic, Business-Aware Approach
Traditional capacity management does not enable you to fully exploit the unprecedented capacity elasticity offered by cloud computing. Instead, you need a holistic approach that encompasses all data center resources - server, storage, and network - and links capacity utilization to business key performance indicators (KPIs). To meet this requirement, you need to accomplish the following six transformational steps.

1. Take a Broad, Continuous View
Transforming your approach to capacity planning requires making a shift in both scope and timing. With respect to scope, it's important to broaden your capacity planning focus from mission-critical systems to include the entire IT infrastructure. Cloud computing puts the aggregate capacity of the entire infrastructure at your disposal, enabling you to apply it when and where it is needed. To take full advantage of this flexibility, you need to know how much total capacity is out there and how it's being used.

With respect to timing, consider the highly dynamic nature of the infrastructure. Residual capacity is continually changing as workloads shift and changes occur in the physical infrastructure. Consequently, you need to manage capacity on a continual basis rather than only in reaction to certain events.

2. Shift to a Business Service Orientation
Most business users view the IT infrastructure simply as a source of business services. They want to request business services and have them delivered quickly with performance as defined in the associated service level agreements (SLAs). These users are not concerned with the underlying devices that make up a service.

Traditionally, IT has managed capacity from a technology perspective and has communicated in the language of IT managers. In transitioning to cloud computing, you need to manage capacity from a business service perspective and communicate in the language of business managers and users. For example, a capacity planner should be able to answer such questions as, "How many additional customer orders can my infrastructure support before running into capacity and response-time problems?"

To answer that question, the capacity planner must understand the relationship of capacity to business requirements. This is especially challenging in a cloud environment in which the delivery of business services involves the orchestrated combination of multiple resources that may include applications, servers, storage devices, and network equipment. To meet the challenge, you need to take a holistic approach that encompasses all the devices and the application layer that make up each service.

Transitioning from technology-oriented to business-service-oriented capacity management requires a corresponding shift in the metrics you gather and communicate. That shift necessitates an expansion of the scope and reach of analytics and reporting from technology metrics to business metrics, so that business demand becomes the driving factor for capacity management.

Reporting in the cloud environment, therefore, should link IT resources (physical and virtual servers, databases, applications, storage, networks, and facilities) to measurable business data, such as the costs and KPIs of the business. This linkage enables IT to communicate capacity issues to business leaders in a meaningful way. As a result, leaders can make informed, cost-effective choices in requesting capacity. For example, communicating the relationship of service workload capacity to cost discourages business users from requesting more capacity than they actually need.

The transition to a business service orientation requires a parallel transition in the makeup and skill set of capacity planners. Instead of a highly specialized, device-oriented capacity planning guru, you need generalist IT users, such as cloud service architects. These generalists should work closely with business users on one side and with the infrastructure experts on the other to establish capacity requirements based on business workloads.

3. Automate, Automate, Automate
The unfortunate reality in many organizations is that capacity planning involves numerous manual processes that are both inefficient and time intensive. Capacity planners may collect technology-oriented usage and performance data from a monitoring infrastructure and manually import the data into spreadsheets - a laborious and time-consuming process. The data collection task consumes much of the planners' time, leaving little time for analysis and capacity planning.

The transition to business-service-oriented capacity management makes the traditional manual approach impractical. That's because capacity planners must not only elevate their analysis, reports, and recommendations to a business-service level, but they must also extend their reporting from mission-critical servers to include the entire infrastructure. This requires an automated approach that encompasses data gathering, translation, and reporting in a form that is meaningful to business managers. This increase in automation helps boost quality and operational efficiency. Ultimately, automation boosts staff productivity and increases the relevance and importance of capacity management to the business.

4. Adopt Integrated, Shared Processes Across the Enterprise
A major shortcoming of traditional capacity management is that capacity planning and analysis are performed by a small cadre of planners who are siloed based on technology, such as server specialists, storage experts, and network specialists. This fragmentation makes it difficult to manage capacity based on overall business service impact. For example, how can you ensure that sufficient capacity will be available to support an anticipated spike in workload in an order-entry service due to an upcoming promotional event?

The move to the cloud environment requires a transition from siloed processes that are performed solely by capacity planners to integrated processes that are extended to and shared by other IT groups, such as application developers and database administrators. This transition permits you to leverage the expertise of capacity planners while making capacity planning a universal, shared responsibility that transcends functional IT groups.

5. Employ Predictive Analytics
Most IT organizations are moving toward the cloud environment incrementally. This typically comprises two major phases. The first phase involves migrating physical systems to virtual machines. Here, IT simply virtualizes selected physical systems with the primary goal of cutting data center costs by reducing the number of physical devices. For example, you may already have a virtual server farm in place and want to virtualize a current physical workload to that farm. You approach this by determining which physical host servers can best accommodate the additional workload(s).

The second phase involves optimizing the virtual workloads by determining the most effective placement of virtual workloads in the cloud. You could test various combinations in a laboratory environment, but it would be difficult and expensive to duplicate the real-world environment in your data center. You need the ability to gauge the impact of deploying various virtual/physical combinations in your production environment without actually implementing them.

Analysis and "what-if" modeling tools can help you in both phases. These tools enable you to preview various virtual/physical configurations and combinations before deploying them in production. In addition, modeling workloads also permits you to assess the impact of infrastructure changes without actually making the changes. For example, you can assess the impact of upgrading a server's CPU with another, more powerful one. What's more, predictive analysis of workload trends helps you ensure that needed capacity will be available in the future when and where it's needed to meet anticipated growth.

6. Integrate Capacity Management with Other Solutions, Tools, and Processes
Effective management of the cloud environment implies a broad perspective that encompasses the entire IT infrastructure as well as multiple IT disciplines. That requires the integration of capacity management tools and processes with other Business Service Management (BSM) tools and processes. BSM is a comprehensive approach and unified platform that helps IT organizations cut cost, reduce risk, and drive business profit.

The integration of capacity management solutions with discovery and dependency mapping tools gives you broad visibility into all the physical and virtual resources currently deployed in your data center. Not only will you see what's out there, but you will also understand how it is being used.

By integrating capacity management solutions with a configuration management database (CMDB), you can leverage the business service relationships stored in the CMDB for precise capacity analysis, reporting, and planning. Shared use of the configuration items (CIs) and service relationships defined in the CMDB ensures consistency across multiple IT disciplines and eliminates the need to maintain duplicate information in multiple tools.

Integration of capacity management with performance management solutions gives capacity planners real-time and historical data on business-service performance. The planners can leverage this data to maintain an ongoing balance between performance and resource utilization.

By integrating capacity management processes with change and configuration management processes, IT can ensure that all capacity-related changes made either automatically or manually to the cloud infrastructure are in compliance with internal policies and external regulations.

With an overall Business Service Management (BSM) approach, you can integrate capacity management with other IT disciplines and processes. In this way, you can effectively and efficiently manage business services throughout their entire lifecycle - across physical, virtual, and cloud-based resources.

Optimal Use of the Cloud Is Within Reach
Cloud computing is transforming the IT infrastructure into a highly elastic resource that quickly and continually adapts to changing business needs. This transformation fundamentally changes the way organizations deliver IT services and enables IT to be far more responsive to the demands of the business.

Working your way through the six transitional steps described here will help you ensure optimal use of the capacity of your cloud infrastructure - a key success factor for your cloud initiatives. By making the transition from a siloed, technology-oriented approach to a holistic, business-aware approach to capacity management, you can position your organization to realize the full promise of cloud computing.

More Stories By Fabio Violante

Fabio Violante, senior director of product development and member of the CTO Office at BMC Software, began his career with a PhD in Computer Engineering, specializing in IT performance valuation. He then went on to gaining extensive consulting experience in IT architectures while working with Accenture, Sun, and Hewlett-Packard.

In 2000, Violante co-founded Neptuny, a leading solutions provider of IT Performance Optimization and Capacity Management solutions and the first company to be incubated by Politecnico di Milano. Neptuny’s flagship product, Caplan, which is now part of BMC capacity Management, revolutionized the capacity management landscape by introducing a business oriented approach to capacity management. In October 2010, Neptuny’s software business was acquired by BMC Software, extending BMC’s leadership in capacity management and enhancing the company’s dynamic Business Service Management portfolio and cloud management offerings.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


@MicroservicesExpo Stories
Let's do a visualization exercise. Imagine it's December 31, 2018, and you're ringing in the New Year with your friends and family. You think back on everything that you accomplished in the last year: your company's revenue is through the roof thanks to the success of your product, and you were promoted to Lead Developer. 2019 is poised to be an even bigger year for your company because you have the tools and insight to scale as quickly as demand requires. You're a happy human, and it's not just...
"Opsani helps the enterprise adopt containers, help them move their infrastructure into this modern world of DevOps, accelerate the delivery of new features into production, and really get them going on the container path," explained Ross Schibler, CEO of Opsani, and Peter Nickolov, CTO of Opsani, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at DevOps Summit at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Cavirin Systems has just announced C2, a SaaS offering designed to bring continuous security assessment and remediation to hybrid environments, containers, and data centers. Cavirin C2 is deployed within Amazon Web Services (AWS) and features a flexible licensing model for easy scalability and clear pay-as-you-go pricing. Although native to AWS, it also supports assessment and remediation of virtual or container instances within Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform (GCP), or on-premise. By dr...
The nature of test environments is inherently temporary—you set up an environment, run through an automated test suite, and then tear down the environment. If you can reduce the cycle time for this process down to hours or minutes, then you may be able to cut your test environment budgets considerably. The impact of cloud adoption on test environments is a valuable advancement in both cost savings and agility. The on-demand model takes advantage of public cloud APIs requiring only payment for t...
Agile has finally jumped the technology shark, expanding outside the software world. Enterprises are now increasingly adopting Agile practices across their organizations in order to successfully navigate the disruptive waters that threaten to drown them. In our quest for establishing change as a core competency in our organizations, this business-centric notion of Agile is an essential component of Agile Digital Transformation. In the years since the publication of the Agile Manifesto, the conn...
identify the sources of event storms and performance anomalies will require automated, real-time root-cause analysis. I think Enterprise Management Associates said it well: “The data and metrics collected at instrumentation points across the application ecosystem are essential to performance monitoring and root cause analysis. However, analytics capable of transforming data and metrics into an application-focused report or dashboards are what separates actual application monitoring from relat...
The benefits of automation are well documented; it increases productivity, cuts cost and minimizes errors. It eliminates repetitive manual tasks, freeing us up to be more innovative. By that logic, surely, we should automate everything possible, right? So, is attempting to automate everything a sensible - even feasible - goal? In a word: no. Consider this your short guide as to what to automate and what not to automate.
We just came off of a review of a product that handles both containers and virtual machines in the same interface. Under the covers, implementation of containers defaults to LXC, though recently Docker support was added. When reading online, or searching for information, increasingly we see “Container Management” products listed as competitors to Docker, when in reality things like Rocket, LXC/LXD, and Virtualization are Dockers competitors. After doing some looking around, we have decided tha...
It’s “time to move on from DevOps and continuous delivery.” This was the provocative title of a recent article in ZDNet, in which Kelsey Hightower, staff developer advocate at Google Cloud Platform, suggested that “software shops should have put these concepts into action years ago.” Reading articles like this or listening to talks at most DevOps conferences might make you think that we’re entering a post-DevOps world. But vast numbers of organizations still struggle to start and drive transfo...
Enterprises are adopting Kubernetes to accelerate the development and the delivery of cloud-native applications. However, sharing a Kubernetes cluster between members of the same team can be challenging. And, sharing clusters across multiple teams is even harder. Kubernetes offers several constructs to help implement segmentation and isolation. However, these primitives can be complex to understand and apply. As a result, it’s becoming common for enterprises to end up with several clusters. Thi...
Many enterprise and government IT organizations are realizing the benefits of cloud computing by extending IT delivery and management processes across private and public cloud services. But they are often challenged with balancing the need for centralized cloud governance without stifling user-driven innovation. This strategy requires an approach that fundamentally reshapes how IT is delivered today, shifting the focus from infrastructure to services aggregation, and mixing and matching the bes...
"Codigm is based on the cloud and we are here to explore marketing opportunities in America. Our mission is to make an ecosystem of the SW environment that anyone can understand, learn, teach, and develop the SW on the cloud," explained Sung Tae Ryu, CEO of Codigm, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
High-velocity engineering teams are applying not only continuous delivery processes, but also lessons in experimentation from established leaders like Amazon, Netflix, and Facebook. These companies have made experimentation a foundation for their release processes, allowing them to try out major feature releases and redesigns within smaller groups before making them broadly available. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Brian Lucas, Senior Staff Engineer at Optimizely, discussed how by using ne...
"CA has been doing a lot of things in the area of DevOps. Now we have a complete set of tool sets in order to enable customers to go all the way from planning to development to testing down to release into the operations," explained Aruna Ravichandran, Vice President of Global Marketing and Strategy at CA Technologies, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at DevOps Summit at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
While some developers care passionately about how data centers and clouds are architected, for most, it is only the end result that matters. To the majority of companies, technology exists to solve a business problem, and only delivers value when it is solving that problem. 2017 brings the mainstream adoption of containers for production workloads. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Ben McCormack, VP of Operations at Evernote, discussed how data centers of the future will be managed, how the p...
DevOps teams have more on their plate than ever. As infrastructure needs grow, so does the time required to ensure that everything's running smoothly. This makes automation crucial - especially in the server and network monitoring world. Server monitoring tools can save teams time by automating server management and providing real-time performance updates. As budgets reset for the New Year, there is no better time to implement a new server monitoring tool (or re-evaluate your current solution)....
While we understand Agile as a means to accelerate innovation, manage uncertainty and cope with ambiguity, many are inclined to think that it conflicts with the objectives of traditional engineering projects, such as building a highway, skyscraper or power plant. These are plan-driven and predictive projects that seek to avoid any uncertainty. This type of thinking, however, is short-sighted. Agile approaches are valuable in controlling uncertainty because they constrain the complexity that ste...
"This all sounds great. But it's just not realistic." This is what a group of five senior IT executives told me during a workshop I held not long ago. We were working through an exercise on the organizational characteristics necessary to successfully execute a digital transformation, and the group was doing their ‘readout.' The executives loved everything we discussed and agreed that if such an environment existed, it would make transformation much easier. They just didn't believe it was reali...
"We're developing a software that is based on the cloud environment and we are providing those services to corporations and the general public," explained Seungmin Kim, CEO/CTO of SM Systems Inc., in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
The cloud revolution in enterprises has very clearly crossed the phase of proof-of-concepts into a truly mainstream adoption. One of most popular enterprise-wide initiatives currently going on are “cloud migration” programs of some kind or another. Finding business value for these programs is not hard to fathom – they include hyperelasticity in infrastructure consumption, subscription based models, and agility derived from rapid speed of deployment of applications. These factors will continue to...