Kentik - Network Observability
Cloud Visibility Tools

Cloud Visibility Tools

What are cloud visibility tools?

Cloud visibility tools allow IT teams, network engineers, security analysts and other stakeholders to understand what is happening within cloud environments.

Cloud visibility tools come in many forms. The best ones for you depend on which types of cloud visibility you need, how your cloud environment is configured, and the public cloud being used (AWS, Google Cloud, Azure, etc.).

General-purpose cloud visibility tools

The most generic category of cloud visibility tool consists of tools offered by cloud providers to help monitor and track their cloud environments. Examples include AWS CloudWatch and Google Cloud’s operation suite (formerly known as Stackdriver).

These tools aren’t designed for a specific type of visibility, like security monitoring or infrastructure monitoring. Instead, they can collect data from all kinds of cloud resources — infrastructure, SaaS resources, cloud load balancers and so on — to provide a high-level overview of what is happening inside a cloud environment.

That said, general-purpose cloud visibility tools typically don’t provide fine-grained context into particular types of issues. For example, they aren’t useful for drilling down and gaining nuanced context on security issues or infrastructure problems.

These tools also usually work only within a given cloud; AWS’s visibility tools only support AWS, for example. That’s a limitation if you use multiple clouds because you won’t be able to monitor all of them with a single cloud provider’s tool.

For both of these reasons, generic visibility tools like CloudWatch are helpful as a starting point for building a complex cloud visibility solution, but they rarely suffice on their own.

Use case-specific visibility tools

Several other types of cloud visibility tools are available that focus on specific use cases.

Multi-cloud visibility

Visibility and observability tools developed by independent vendors offer the ability to monitor multiple cloud environments at once. These tools can usually monitor on-premises infrastructure or private clouds as well. For this reason, IT operations teams often use these types of tools as the basis for tracking a business’s IT estate as a whole.

Network monitoring and observability

To gain deep visibility into the state of cloud networks, you’ll want a network observability tool designed to collect and correlate data from the networks that exist within a single cloud environment and networks that connect different clouds as part of a hybrid or multi-cloud architecture. Below is an example of a network observability platform collecting and displaying data in a multi-cloud environment.

cloud visibility solutions from Kentik provide insight into cloud services as well as on-prem network components
Modern cloud visibility tool: Solutions like Kentik provide insight into cloud services as well as on-prem network components.

It’s only by contextualizing networking data that you can gain meaningful insight into complex cloud networks, where traffic constantly moves between clouds and where abstractions like VPCs and software-defined networks can make network visibility particularly challenging.

Security monitoring

Security information and event management (SIEM) and security orchestration, automation and response (SOAR) tools can detect and help manage security risks in the cloud. Security operations teams and analysts typically use them to track the security status of cloud environments.

Choosing a cloud visibility tool

When evaluating visibility tools for use in the cloud, consider factors like the following:

  • Does the tool work with all public, private, and hybrid clouds you need to support?
  • Does the tool help you to analyze data, or is its functionality mainly limited to data collection?
  • Can the tool map discrete data sets (such as data from a network switch and data from a public cloud flow log) to provide focused context into complex performance or availability issues? Or does the tool leave it to you to determine relationships between different types of data?
  • How is the tool deployed? Does it require agents to be installed across your cloud environments, or can you deploy it automatically, in an agentless way?
  • How many resources does the tool consume to run? This is important because tools with high resource consumption may burden your environment and because you’ll pay for the compute and memory resources that the tools consume if you run the tool in the public cloud.

There’s a belief that cloud computing will provide automation and reduce the need for visibility. However, experienced cloud and infrastructure engineers report just the opposite. With the widespread migration of applications and workloads to public clouds, understanding cloud visibility tools is more important than ever. Kentik can help.

Updated: December 02, 2021
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