Clouded by Doubt: Eliminating Fear through Monitoring

With the digital transformation accelerated by the pandemic, many companies are comfortably housed in a new cloud environment.

And they are not alone. According to Gartner research, spending on public cloud services will reach $591.8 billion by 2023. The cloud offers many benefits, including inherent elasticity, flexibility, and scalability, meaning lead time for new infrastructure is no longer a barrier to quickly launching new instances, services, and applications, enabling businesses to accelerate their digital transformation .

But with the added flexibility that the cloud brings, it brings some new complications in the form of visibility and integrity validation that threaten security and can cause the monthly cloud budget to rise unexpectedly. At first it can be a struggle to simply understand what is hidden in the cloud asset and what purpose it serves. Despite rigorous housekeeping, changes due to troubleshooting, ad hoc requests, bug fixes, one-off projects, and multiple teams working within the same environment inevitably accumulate over time, leading to confusion.

As misconfigurations and configuration anomalies pile up, it’s time for security and network administrators to take steps to address issues before the network becomes not only a security risk, but costs spiral out of control. The key to developing monitoring of a cloud environment, and therefore taking the first steps to taming it, is installing the right monitoring software to shine a light on the entire environment and keep track of how each element performs.

Get an overview

The most important step is gaining visibility over the estate. This is critical for many reasons, including the ability to provide independently verifiable billing points, identify what is obsolete and non-compliant, and automatically achieve compliance by aligning with best practices.

The second core element is cloud integrity validation, the process of verifying that the data and structures uploaded and stored in the cloud remain unaltered. This typically includes using security controls such as access controls, firewalls, and encryption to protect data and applications from unauthorized access, tampering, or deletion.

Manage configurations

Once there is end-to-end visibility across the estate, nodes can be scanned to provide an indication of environmental health. It also acts as a launching pad to identify further issues. Nodes should be scanned daily to maintain visibility into the systems running.

Misconfigurations usually occur during troubleshooting and can lead to cloud storage being exposed, spreading data to anyone who looks for it, or leaving default passwords unchanged. Monitoring tools warn about these problems and recommend the best course of action.

End configuration drift

Configuration drift is another major issue that occurs when a system deviates from its original configuration, based on how the system is managed and used, after being imaged by a golden master. Drift can adversely affect the behavior of services and the security of a system. This problem is slow and almost invisible. Network states should be recorded by monitoring tools, which also help make comparisons to the original state and highlight where the anomalies occurred.

Addressing configuration drift creates a reliable infrastructure that enables the smooth movement of code through the DevSecOps pipeline with the assurance that all environments will function predictably. High-availability pairs running on different software versions or clusters that no longer form a consensus will sound the alarm at a central location and generate reports that are easy to act on. Monitoring tools are useful for getting the most out of expensive architecture and devices by ensuring they are performing as designed.

Configuration variance management creates a reliable infrastructure by ensuring that expensive architecture and devices are used to their full potential and perform as designed. In a DevSecOps pipeline, this ensures that all environments function predictably and consistently. In high-availability scenarios, consensus across the clusters can be tracked and alarm bells ring when a device is misaligned. In any scenario, these tools provide a solution that validates that environments are working as expected and where issues arise, they are handled efficiently and effectively.

Management of processes in multiple environments

Before the cloud, faulty processes would lead to congested networks, backlogs, and likely downtime of some sort. But in the cloud, where applications and instances can scale with demand, rogue applications can lead to unexpected usage and resulting higher billing.

But tracking need not be limited to the production environment. Staging environments are essential to understanding how applications will perform, but the reality is that there will always be some differences between the staging environment and the production environment. Monitoring tools provide a superficial view of what’s the same and what’s different in the two environments, allowing developers to verify that everything is configured as desired, ensuring that the applications perform in the wild as they do in the test environment, and provide a relevant test setting for the next development sprint.

Effective cloud management starts with monitoring

Sometimes monitoring tools are pushed aside or neglected, but the cost is high, especially in the cloud where a misconfigured node can add multiples to the monthly bill or invite unwanted guests into the perimeter.

Additional benefits are also guaranteed through accurate instance and usage tracking, which provides an independently verifiable source of truth if doubts arise about the correctness of the cloud account. Providing instant insight along with automated configuration management and monitoring tools are a fundamental aspect of taming even the most complex cloud environments.

About the author

Mat Clothier is CEO and founder of Cloudhouse. Cloudhouse has experience with problematic application migration and configuration monitoring systems to fix the unrecoverable and modernize any IT domain – whether running on-premises or in the cloud. With two proven solutions; Alchemy: Cloudhouse Application Packaging Solution modernizes IT environments by repairing unrepairable apps and moving them to a supported operating system. Guardian is a vendor agnostic monitoring tool that provides insight and integrity validation alerts. Cloudhouse helps companies get more out of what they have.

Featured image: ©estherpoon

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