Filter: Cloud Computing

multi-cloud

Automation In A Multi-Cloud World

Many companies are embracing multi-vendor cloud environments, while looking for ways to remain competitive and improve service levels. IT departments are dealing with the current challenge of an accelerated pace of doing business by adopting multi-cloud strategies for added flexibility. Different cloud features lend themselves to different projects. Multi-cloud strategy gives an organization the power to select the right cloud offering for differing workloads, which can turn out to be a combination of public and private clouds such as Microsoft Azure, OpenStack, or Amazon AWS.  Depending on the needs of the company, different clouds from different providers may be used for separate tasks.

Driving Factors Behind Multi-Cloud Adoption

There are many reasons why enterprises would want to consider multi-cloud adoption.  Let’s explore these three:

  1. Address Unique Needs

Enterprises have different needs for different applications. With more workloads being moved into the cloud, a single cloud option may not be the right fit for every application. Your organization may be running a workload that requires powerful processing power and networking resources for big data projects on a private cloud, while at the same time you may have another team within the same company gravitating towards a public cloud, such as Microsoft Azure, because their task requires quick scalability. Multi-cloud strategy makes it possible to use one infrastructure for a system where the stress is on compliance and security and a completely different one for applications that require more scalability and power.  You can run each workload where it performs best. Moreover there is no hassle of migrating legacy apps to a new platform.

  1. Need to Diversify

Cloud technology has gone mainstream and most companies want to employ multiple cloud solutions to reap the maximum benefit from the technology and functionality it supports. There is no vendor lock-in, which minimizes dependence on any one provider. It also eliminates any risk of compromises that a single cloud solution may have. Critical infrastructure should not be dependent on a single vendor as outages can happen. For example, recently AWS developed a glitch with server issues in Virginia disrupting the infrastructure for services including Netflix, Medium, SocialFlow, Buffer, Pocket and more. In 2013, again, AWS suffered a similar outage that affected services such as Instagram, Airbnb and Vine. Adopting a multi-cloud environment ensures that your end users have access to what they need when they need it, even while preserving the best security practices.

  1. Save Dollars and Cents

A single provider bias does not allow you to take advantage of price fluctuations and new developments. You are stuck, if service runs into any problem or experiences failure. In comparison organizations with a multi-cloud solution can leverage the most cost-effective service, exactly when they need it. Companies working with multiple cloud vendors are almost assured of the best price and access to the latest and greatest tech services, which improves the bottom line.

Why Cloud Automation?

The real challenge for IT leaders is not in choosing the right cloud services but having to ensure that the diverse pools of IT infrastructure work collectively, while maintaining flexibility for application workloads. The demands of the “multi-cloud” landscape require a balance between developing best practices for workload configuration and ensuring consistency across different environments. This mix of public, private, and hybrid cloud necessitates having the ability to deploy and manage several clouds easily with a single point of integration, administration and automation. Research and Markets estimates the growth of multi cloud management market from USD 939.3 Million in 2016 to USD 3,431.2 Million by 2021, in their ‘Multi-Cloud Management Market” report. And cloud automation is expected to dominate this market so that organizations can work smarter to efficiently manage multiple cloud environments, while maintaining compliance and corporate standards.

Multi-cloud automation can help to properly configure resources, schedule backups, autoscale, maintain servers in less time than before and also to automatically recover a system after a failure. Cloud automation allows rapid deployment and optimum resource utilization in an organization. It ensures easy oversight and control, while improving agility and staff efficiency, and reduces cost of maintenance, to accelerate company growth.

Multi-cloud Automation Tools

There are scores of software and SaaS products specifically designed to automate infrastructure and deploy & manage applications across multiple clouds. There are also different multi-cloud management tools for management of workload migration at an operational level.  Some of these products are focused on specific needs or functionalities. For example, CSC  provides an integrated control platform for creation of custom policies for cloud governance, compliance, security and lifecycle management. It focuses on an end to end security model that encompasses the network, data and different access levels. New Relic offers a SaaS platform for monitoring and managing the performance of business applications in real time, from all leading cloud platforms. The platform also offers a powerful Business Intelligence system for analysis of all components such as databases, NoSQL, web servers, and more. While Cloudyn is an asset and cost management tool and via a dashboard it helps users identify the most efficient cost-performance deployment option for a definite workload. It specializes in the Amazon cloud.

The most popular multi-cloud products used by organizations embrace a DevOps approach to cloud management, which brings application programming into the world of infrastructure configuration and management. For example, Cliqr and Cloudify  take an application-centric approach to cloud automation. Cloudify works like a platform as a service (PaaS) for deploying and managing full application lifecycles on public or bybrid infrastructure using diverse toolsets, without requiring code changes. Some of the most commonly used infrastructure application tools are Chef, Puppet, RightScale, Ansible and Salt.

Chef: Chef helps to automate configuration management, infrastructure build and continuous deployment by turning infrastructure into code that can be interpreted by any system running the Chef client. Chef servers also store reusable definitions to automate infrastructure tasks and uses configuration data to determine whether nodes are out of date before proceeding to update them based on the recipes, if required. Hosted Chef and Private Chef reduce manual task replication by allowing cloud administrators to programmatically configure virtual systems. Chef server, workstations, analytics engine can also be fully run within the cloud itself as IaaS instances. Chef supports all the major cloud services including AWS, Azure, Google, VMWare, Smartcloud Orchestrator and OpenStack. Chef is a Ruby configuration management product.

Puppet: This product allows IT professionals to define the state of their IT infrastructure, which the Puppet server and runtime automatically enforces on target nodes. It proactively manages any change in infrastructure, on premise or in the cloud. It automates the software delivery process at any stage of the life cycle of the IT infrastructure. Puppet gives system administrators the power to automate time-consuming and repetitive manual tasks and enables quick deployment of critical applications. Puppet has a unique class-based DSL similar to the Nagios configuration file format. New features include support for third-party authentication services and also support for Windows and Google App Directory.

RightScale: It was founded in 2006 and this platform provides tools for configuration management and automating deployment of cloud resources through public and private environments, including AWS, Azure, Google, Datepipe, CloudStack, Eucalyptus and OpenStack. It addresses the potential time and resource drain from administrative workloads by enabling fast and easy automation of infrastructure in any cloud or data center. With Scalr you also get template based provisioning of multiple clouds from a single portal at only 10% of the price of RightScale. It is a web-based, open source, cloud computing platform to simplify infrastructure management for the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud. This tool also offers support to Google, CloudStack and OpenStack.

Ansible: It is an all-in-one system for app deployment and configuration management. It operates completely through SSH connections for increased security and efficiency. Ansible uses YAML for its configuration “playbooks”, which are used for system configuration, deployment to remote machines and orchestration. It is also possible to sequence multi-tier rollouts involving rolling updates, interaction with monitoring servers and load balancers along the way. One can even delegate automation jobs to non-Ansible users with the portal mode.

SaltStack:  This relatively new platform focuses on real time automation and can communicate with servers in milliseconds. This systems and configuration management software also enables automation of CloudOps and DevOps with speed and scalability. It uses YAML to describe system states but there is a complex set of components to navigate on this platform, which makes it hard for those not already familiar with another automation platform.

Multi-cloud Strategies Are The Gold Standard

The IT infrastructure landscape keeps changing fast, making it necessary for data center managers to constantly revise plans and review products. There is a plethora of feature-rich automation tools designed for cloud workloads, with multiple delivery models. The integration details with various major cloud services may vary widely depending on the automation platform. But the choice of product should depend on the scale of one’s infrastructure and skill of the IT team. SaaS technologies have more easy to use Web UI’s with templates and are simpler to deploy and operate. In order to build a solid foundation for innovation in your organization, whether it is a startup or a multinational enterprise, you have to make important investments in multi-cloud systems, integration and automation. For maximum business advantage and agility, think intelligent multi-cloud strategies and build in automation wherever possible. At Lunarpages, we specialize in multi-cloud technology and hosting services. Get in touch with our team today.

Cloud computing

Skills Needed To Propel Your Career To The Cloud

Cloud computing has been the driving force of business in recent years and this new technology has had a huge impact on nearly every aspect of the IT landscape including data and analytics, information security and project management. Cloud computing is now the default mode of operation in most companies, which has led to an IT job shakeup and a change in the work environment. In fact LinkedIn reported that ‘cloud and distributed computing’ was the hottest skillset to get hired in 2016.

More enterprises are moving applications into the cloud and there is a demand in the job market for a blend of traditional knowledge in networking and data systems with technical skills in planning, implementing and managing cloud solutions & mobility. The aim is to get the best overall business results from strategic technology investments in public, private, and hybrid cloud approaches. Today, employers are looking for cloud architects and developers, data scientists, database administrators, security specialists and more; all of which require a specific focus on the use of the cloud in the narrow (database administration, DevOps) and the wide (cloud strategy and planning).

Major Cloud Skills For A Successful Career

With rapid changes in cloud technology, the education never stops for a cloud-first career. To make yourself invaluable to companies, you need to develop major technical skill sets through vendor-specific and vendor-neutral training and certifications from cloud service providers (Amazon, Microsoft, and Google) and industry trade associations (CompTIA offers the Cloud+ certification). So what are some of the major key skill categories that need to be developed by the modern cloud professional to face new business challenges for the foreseeable future?

Strategic Understanding of Cloud Technologies and Platforms

IT architects should have a strategic understanding of all the major cloud technology available, considering the multi-cloud approach being preferred by enterprises lately. You may also need to build expertise in at least one of the public cloud giants, Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud Platform, and Microsoft Azure. Amazon may be the popular first choice among businesses, closely followed by Microsoft and Google but don’t lose sight of other cloud platforms such as IBM, HP, Verizon, OpenStack, and CenturyLink that are also spurring job openings. Developers need knowledge of one or more vendor’s cloud products to be of value to companies. Containerization is a new technology for cloud environments. Learning how to use containers for running applications in the cloud will prove to be a big advantage in the job market. Docker adoption has grown and so will demand for cloud professionals experienced with it.

Data Center Management

Enterprises increasingly will have to manage an assortment of cloud services, applications, vendors, and cloud types (public, private, and hybrid). A cloud pro will have to help efficiently manage multi-cloud environments and integrate data across multiple applications from a cross-section of vendors, platforms or even different data centers. Cloud integration becomes even more complex when you want your cloud systems to talk to your legacy systems, too. So it is fundamental for cloud-first professionals to include integration and workflow analysis as a first step, making it a must have skill.

Security Specialization

Security has always been the number one concern for businesses when it comes to adopting new technology, and cloud computing is no exception. With high profile breaches continuing to make headlines, cloud security is likely to remain an area of concern. You can read the latest Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR) published by Verizon to know about the latest security threats for businesses. Many businesses struggle to find the right staff to address cloud security issues and threat from cyber attacks on the whole organization. Security specialists’ work with cloud architects to take crucial decisions about where and how to store critical business data to best protect it. It involves adopting necessary identity management, authentication and security monitoring systems for the cloud environment. For those looking to develop cloud security skills access management, software development security and build credentials for data and infrastructure security & compliance, (ISC)2’s Certified Cloud Security Professional provides the right training solution.

Database

There are about 2.5 quintillion bytes of data being created every day and with databases being hosted on cloud platforms, companies are desperate for professionals with skills in storing, managing and accessing this data. It is essential to understand and work with database platforms and a database querying language. SQL and MySQL are the de-facto standard database languages to learn but you can also develop skills with open-source platforms like Hadoop or Mongo DB. There are established certification tracks for Microsoft SQL Server and Oracle Database or try the MongoDB university. Oracle covers MySQL training and Hadoop courses are available from Cloudera.

Systems Automation

With an overload of information, working with it manually for most companies is an unsustainable practice nowadays. Automation software has therefore become more important in cloud-first environments. Developers who can automate tasks and processes to improve data efficiency within a company are highly sought after. You can gain skills in automation solutions by learning about Puppet, Chef, Ansible, and others. Puppet Labs offers live courses to certifications and even self-paced online learning. Chef also has a number of interactive learning modules.

DevOps

DevOps experience is absolutely necessary for the cloud-first organizations and it is crucial even for traditional IT roles like Systems Administrator. With servers migrating to the cloud there is a quantifiable demand for DevOps who are strategic contributors to the planning and maintenance of software development. You can learn more about it from DevOps.com and there are short DevOps courses available at the Linux academy and also the Microsoft Virtual Academy.

Programming Language

With the growing prominence of new programming languages like Python, Perl, Ruby and Ruby on Rails in the development of cloud application ecosystem, developers have to spend time learning these common languages. Traditional languages like .NET, JavaScript, Java and PHP remain popular too. To improve your cloud computing skills, you must familiarize yourself with some of these languages.  There are many free courses available from Codecademy and online resources like interactive coding lessons. Pick any to get learning!

Linux

The cloud computing environment is dominated by the Linux operating system, so being familiar with it will give you a big advantage. Over 25% of servers using Azure are Linux based, which further drives the demand among businesses for cloud professionals with Linux skills. Learn to design, build, manage and maintain Linux servers in a cloud environment to stay ahead of your potential competitors. The Linux Foundation Certified Systems Administrator course helps develop the administration skills for a Linux Server and Microsoft’s MCSA: Linux on Azure teaches skills to create cloud-enabled Linux solutions for the Azure platform.

Management And Business Skills 

Recent reports by Gartner and TechTarget show that IT roles in the future will require an intermediate level of expertise in business acumen to clearly identify and adapt to changes in the business for value creation and growth. IT professionals should be able to align company’s goals with the technology and strategies adopted to be a real differentiator in the space. Cloud computing requires related business skills like people management and communication within the organization and even with outside vendors. It is important to support IT, cloud, virtualization, security, applications, and the data center but it is as vital to communicate the value of the technology on the overall business. Success in cloud career also depends on having a clear understanding of the financial implications of different cloud strategies. The total cost of ownership and return on investment will be vastly different when opting for cloud service rather than purchasing on-premise hardware and software. Being able to tailor and enhance value projections to employers according to your specific business has become a necessary skill for cloud pros. A good insight of costs and other financial matters in the cloud along with negotiation skills can help in cloud vendor management. Coursera, in association with the University of Michigan, offers a free online course to develop Successful Negotiation: Essential Strategies & Skills. IT pros who can deliver custom analytics from business data tailored to the needs of different stakeholders within the organizations will reap rich rewards in the future.

Be The Modern Cloud Professional

Cloud computing and data storage in the cloud offers a huge array of opportunities for developers and other technical employees to leverage their existing expertise, while working on developing business and technology skillset mentioned in this article. The future is in the cloud and the sooner tech professionals adapt their roles to it, the more exciting opportunities there will be for them to get hired now and beyond.

Hybrid Cloud

Embrace Network Complexity: Best IT Practices For Hybrid Cloud Solutions

IT teams in different organizations today have to deal with an agile business landscape that demands complex IT systems, networks, and infrastructures and the availability of Hybrid Cloud. The ever increasing complexity of IT environments and the need to keep up with new waves of technologies make it even more difficult for IT teams to do their jobs successfully. IT teams in enterprises are often lagging behind the curve of change with aging legacy technology and limited capital available for deployment of new technologies and devices, which forces them to do more with less. Let’s find out about the common problems faced by IT teams today in this challenging technology environment and the best practices they can implement to successfully navigate and manage this network complexity.

Challenges Of IT Complexity

IT teams are now more at risk of losing control of their company’s IT environment, applications, and infrastructure due to burgeoning technological advancements. IT professionals have to constantly juggle the demands of changing modern business landscapes that may include bring your own device (BYOD) practices, use of multiple mobile devices, virtualization, the Internet of things (IoT), and wireless. While adoption of these new technologies have increased productivity and resulted in cost savings, they are giving IT teams the most cause for worry.

IT teams are reliant on the availability, reliability, security, and performance of their networks, servers, and business applications. With rapid advances in new technology, the real challenge for IT teams is to keep up with deployment and maintenance of these applications.  With the growth of wireless data traffic, utilization of high-bandwidth applications like video collaboration and streaming, adoption of cloud applications, virtualization, and hosted applications in the enterprise environment, demand for improved network management remains unabated. Nothing affects your business reputation more than user experience and perception about the availability and performance of your IT infrastructure, applications, and network. Bandwidth should therefore be optimized and scalable to meet the growing demands on your infrastructure and also for maintaining uptime.

Organizations more often use a collection of non-integrated monitoring tools to get an insight into their critical application and infrastructure performance, which are not even capable of providing a unified view of their operations. IT teams lack end-to-end integrated monitoring solutions that can address problems with wired and wireless networks, physical and virtual servers, applications, and databases.

IT management software with inflexible licensing models also compels organizations to overbuy or pay significant up-charges during renewal. IT teams thus have to better identify management software with monitoring flexibility across all network devices, applications & servers and fewer restrictions, at no additional cost.

Best Practices For Organizations To Overcome Network Complexity Challenges

With such high stakes on the enterprise IT infrastructure, having a cloud strategy may prove to be the ideal solution for meeting increased demands on IT. But many enterprises are still hesitant to entirely replace their legacy systems. For example, some of the most data-sensitive industries need to ensure greater compliance, availability and security according to HIPAA, PCI and SOX regulations. But even though cloud services have limited compliance and regulatory guidelines, they can be an effective extension of an enterprise’s existing infrastructure to help the IT teams do their jobs well and stay relevant for customers and partners for years to come.

Having a hybrid cloud approach with a mix of public and private clouds gives enterprises with sensitive data the best of both worlds. IT teams can enjoy the flexibility of an elastic cloud environment and on-demand resources along with the ability to maintain control over critical applications. Confidential information can be stored on-premise securely, while less sensitive data can be stored in the cloud with no worries about scalability, deployment, and maintenance. Hybrid clouds are specifically designed to be used by a single organization, with secure encrypted communication and technology for data and application portability. Here are some best practices for IT teams to manage the network complexity of hybrid cloud solutions in order to ensure optimal performance, positive engagement, and user experience.

  • Keep an eye on the goals your organization wants to achieve from the cloud to guide all cloud management decisions. Enterprises can implement cloud solutions for a number of reasons such as access to robust infrastructure, scalability, quicker time-to-market, better business continuity, and higher performance. Understanding the business problem your enterprise is looking to solve will help identify weak links in the management and network process. For example, an organization fixed on speed and performance will require different tools than a company hoping to make substantial cost savings.
  • Once you understand the gaps in your environment, you should look to invest in the right partner that can help you manage and secure network processes, while fulfilling all regulation requirements needed to show compliance to your users. Security is one of the most important criteria for organizations deploying applications in the cloud so there should be visibility into your cloud providers’ operations and security measures.
  • Organization looking to make the hybrid cloud move should deploy non-critical workloads to the cloud first to give IT teams the opportunity to build up their skills and confidence for tackling challenges with mission-critical applications. Enterprises need to give their IT staff on-cloud experience to avoid any downtime on critical applications in the future, which can prove to be costly. Organizations should migrate critical applications to the cloud infrastructure only after ensuring they have worked out any bugs in the security and management processes.
  • There are a wide variety of automation processes and tools to simplify administration and management tasks for cloud deployment and provisioning of infrastructure resources. There are software vendors and cloud service providers who offer products like monitoring, auto-scaling, budget optimization and much more for an organization’s entire cloud ecosystem.
  • Organizations need the ability to efficiently monitor and manage infrastructure, applications, and networks for all cloud resources at once. There should be a unified approach to both public and private cloud environments in order to simplify administration tasks and to troubleshoot common hybrid cloud uses such as cloud bursting and disaster recovery easily.
  • IT teams should proactively identify and resolve network server issues before they learn about it from the help desk, through a range of monitors, log data analysis to co-relate events for automatic alerts.  For that IT teams need a holistic view across applications, networks, and servers for both their public cloud and data center operations.
  • Organizations should colocate data and apps so that they are running in the same place to improve performance and simplify management tasks. So, if your application will be running in a public cloud then its data too should be stored in the public cloud, whereas if an application will be running in your private cloud, then it may be best to use your data center to store its data. Review your inventory to see if you can use any existing hardware for your hybrid cloud solution and decommission all hardware nearing the end-of-life.
  • Incorporating multiple sites and platforms is also central to the disaster recovery plan of an organization. IT teams need to ensure that each of the servers hosting sensitive data and workloads have a secondary site. IT teams should document the migration processes thoroughly to ensure that no data is lost and optimize workloads appropriately across their data center, managed hosting, and the cloud.

Cloud Solutions For Your IT Environment

These best practices are meant to be a starting point for effective cloud environment management. You can keep your IT infrastructure running smoothly by utilizing the best-in-class services offered by cloud providers with due diligence. After all, building the solution that is just right for your enterprise takes a lot of planning and expertise across different areas of IT—from cloud to networking, virtualization, storage and security.

Hybrid Cloud

Is Hybrid Cloud The Right Fit For Your Enterprise

In the last few years, clouds have been gathering over the enterprise IT horizon. But no reason to be wary of these clouds as they have ushered in a new era of storage environments and infrastructure for companies across different industries and sizes. The rising demand for ‘anytime, anywhere’ access to mission critical data for employees across the world has led to the development of cloud networks. Companies have been quick to adopt cloud computing for an agile business environment and also because it provides robust security, better agility, cost savings, and increased productivity.

There are three types of cloud storage models: public, private, and hybrid.  Each of them has its own unique advantages and drawbacks. A public cloud storage has a multi-tenancy storage infrastructure whereas a private cloud storage is an internal cloud storage run on a dedicated server within a data center for better security and performance. Tech giants and many service providers now offer niche public cloud offerings as a cheaper alternative to building a private cloud network for hosting critical applications and data. Whereas a hybrid cloud environment brings a buffet of the best features of both the public and private cloud solutions to the table.  Hybrid clouds are designed for use by a single organization so they offer the control and security of a private cloud, in combination with the elasticity and low cost options of public cloud offerings. Deciding on the right cloud storage model for your company depends entirely on your infrastructure needs and network capacity.

Should Your Enterprise Go The Hybrid Cloud Way?

Cloud infrastructure allows enterprises to discard costly on-premise resources in favor of the flexibility of an elastic environment. But many are still hesitant to entirely replace their legacy systems because on-premise IT infrastructure guarantees greater compliance, data control, availability, and strict security measures necessary for some the most data-sensitive industries. The ones that have to follow unusually strict government regulations (e.g., HIPAA, PCI and SOX) for data security compliance do prefer to stick with private clouds instead of hybrid options, as in the healthcare or the credit card industry. Nevertheless, a hybrid cloud storage system is reliable, secure, scalable, and cost effective for enterprises.
A hybrid cloud approach ensures substantial cost savings. Instead of having to spend the money on building infrastructure for increased bursts of system usage that happen occasionally, companies can leverage public cloud to offload some of the heavy usage when it exceeds the capacity of their private space, and pay for it only as it is needed. This frees up funds for other critical projects to grow the business.

A hybrid cloud network provides companies the flexibility, on-demand resources and pay-as-you-go flexibility of the public cloud, along with the capability for control over critical applications, as you would enjoy with a private cloud model. Hybrid cloud solutions allow smooth communication between the public and private cloud infrastructure over an encrypted connection and advanced technology for data and application portability.

With the hybrid cloud storage environment, enterprises can manage their resources on- or off-premise.  It allows companies to keep high-risk information behind the firewall of the private cloud and run local cache & memory for sensitive data. Moreover, this confidential data has a physical presence and is also easily retrievable, which may be essential for some types of businesses, whereas less sensitive data can be stored in the public cloud with data encryption & duplication features and no concerns about scalability.

In the 21st century enterprise, business happens 24/7 and hybrid cloud solutions merge both cloud and on-premise resources to provide easy and greater accessibility to business-critical applications.

Challenges Of Shifting To A Hybrid Cloud

Despite the many benefits of the hybrid cloud, there are some challenges for enterprises to navigate when planning for a hybrid cloud rollout in order to ensure positive engagement and user experience. An enterprise hybrid cloud solution combines managed hosting and data center collocation to deliver scalability and performance, when configured correctly. Building an enterprise hybrid cloud requires proper planning to minimize difficulties and maximize the benefits for the company.

When designing your hybrid cloud, you will need to tailor your IT infrastructure and hardware for the specific demands of your workloads in order to avoid wasted resources, performance problems, or improper capacity allocation. You also have to consider personnel requirements for proper management and maintenance of the system. A truly hybrid IT infrastructure provides enterprise-class hardware that you can be self-managed or fully-managed from a cloud hosting provider. Your current hardware, performance requirements, network configuration characteristics, and access to domain experts in storage, networking, and virtualization will dictate the proper mix when building the right hybrid cloud solution for your enterprise. You will also need to factor in different costs of cloud resource usage when planning to execute a hybrid cloud strategy.

There will be different security or varying levels of compliance requirements for different workloads that may have an influence on your IT infrastructure hosting environment. Take into consideration necessary security measures when building a hybrid cloud so that your data is properly protected and you have proper data control.

With dual infrastructure for hybrid cloud solutions, you need to ensure compatibility across both private and public infrastructure. There also has to be a symbiotic relationship between data and application integration, as each one is useless without the other. When building your hybrid cloud structure, do consider the infrastructure to store each of your applications on. If your application cannot access the data remotely, you may need to use technologies such as copy data virtualization to decouple data from infrastructure.

The Right Cloud Hosting Provider For You

Here are some of the best practices to follow when trying to find the right hybrid cloud hosting provider for your organization.

  • Identify the business problems you’re trying to solve.
  • Find the right partner to help you secure and manage processes from storage, networking, virtualization, disaster recovery & security and also help you meet regulation requirements. They should have capacity to scale quickly according to your deployment needs.
  • Security is complex and building the solution that’s right for your business requires proper planning and expertise. The right partners will be able to secure various components of your security processes and not your entire business process. A good vendor should not only have good solutions architect to build your environment, but also the skills and tools to manage the technology after you go into production.

Lunarpages offers the most flexible, customizable, and secure cloud infrastructure solution available today. We have years of proven experience in hybrid cloud implementation and are committed to providing improved performance and scalability that your business requires.

hosted exchange

Benefits of Hosted Exchange 2016

Hosted exchange is quickly becoming increasingly popular as the most vital communication tool in business today is email. Everyone knows of Microsoft Exchange as the world’s leading platform for business communication and collaboration, with more than 470 million mailboxes worldwide leveraging Exchange to utilize the combined power of email, calendar and contacts. The cost of implementing and maintaining a stable and reliable email & group collaboration services can prove to be prohibitively expensive–especially with the overhead costs of buying a server, paying for licenses, and installation.

A Hosted exchange Solution allows businesses, both large or small, to utilize enterprise level messaging in order to access emails and notes on the server from anywhere in the world, with a few clicks from any web browser. You will be able to see your Outlook with calendar dates, meeting schedules and any relevant notes even when you are out of the office. Microsoft Exchange Server provides you with a smarter working environment thanks to mobility, collaboration, and group scheduling features—all without having to purchase expensive infrastructure and licenses.

When deciding on the type of exchange server to best suit your company, the most important factor to take into consideration is the size of your business. If you are running an enterprise with more than 50 employees, then it may be better to choose a local, in-house server as it will be more cost-effective. If a medium or small business does  not have the budget for a local exchange server but still desires the same support and functionality, then Hosted Exchange Server may be the right fit. With Hosted Exchange you are basically renting an off-site server in a secure location for office processes to work smoothly on-site. It is designed for organizations to tap into cloud services with no fees upfront, while keeping their mailboxes on premises.

Top Benefits of Using Exchange 2016 Hosting

There are many benefits for businesses to use Microsoft Exchange 2016.  We especially like the server for its pricing, productivity, personalization, all-time/any-time access, and security benefits.

Pricing. The cost of setting up a hosted version of Exchange 2016 is minimal. It allows businesses to lower Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) by using the provider’s hardware, infrastructure, and personnel. All services that your business will require, from hardware redundancy, data redundancy, to managed support, is factored into a low, monthly rate. Additionally, there are no charges for upgrade, replacement or maintenance on physical hardware that supports your exchange server.

Productivity. With Hosted Exchange, teams can collaborate easily and efficiently on projects using Microsoft applications and services, such as Outlook. Users can easily manage distribution lists, track messages, and edit personal information-tasks; which represent a large portion of help desk calls in many organizations. Using Global Address and Distribution Lists your employees will be able to share company contacts and distribution with everyone on the roster. Shared calendars allow you to see when team members may be free for meetings.

Personalization. Hosted Exchange enables a personalized experience for businesses and their employees and other users  right from the beginning. You can still make changes quickly and easily when necessary. Businesses also receive specialized technical support 24/7 directly from your provider. If there are any problems with the services functionality, the provider is able to address and resolve your issues immediately.

All-time, Anytime, Anywhere Access. With Exchange 2016, business can be conducted not just from the office, but from anywhere your day takes you. You have access to all of your information at all times, from anywhere in the world. Exchange 2016 allows everyone on your team access to mission critical data and communications from anywhere with any internet connection through Outlook, Outlook Web Access (OWA), and mobile devices (ActiveSync).
Security.  With hosted Exchange 2016, the secure connection between your Outlook client and the Exchange server surpasses all the major security requirements. There is standard spam and virus filtering with every mailbox. There may also be other safety measures incorporated like remote device wipe to keep your data and information secure, both on your desktop and even on mobile devices. Also, most hosting providers ensure that all emails and information to the Exchange is encrypted to keep sensitive company communications safe from prying eyes.

Standout Features of Exchange Server 2016

The new multi-role mail server product from Microsoft, Exchange 2016, has been forged in the cloud and it combines innovations in architecture with a focus on hybrid solutions for enterprise customers, web-based Outlook, improved document collaboration, eDiscovery functionality, data loss prevention upgrades, collaboration and search.

1. Architecture Changes

The Client Access server role has been removed from Exchange Server 2016 to reduce the number of servers needed to run Exchange. Hub Transport, Unified Messaging and Client Access Role have been merged to Mailbox Role, which has a client access services component.

Database failover times have been substantially reduced in comparison to Exchange Server 2013 by adding mailbox servers to a Database Availability Group, for high-availability protection to Exchange Server deployments.

MAPI over HTTP is the default email protocol in Exchange 2016, for Outlook to connect and communicate with Exchange server more securely. If outlook client does not support this protocol, it can also connect using Outlook Anywhere with either MAPI over HTTP or RPC over HTTP.

2. Server Improvements

Exchange Server 2016 has simpler deployments, with reliability improvements and reduced wide area network (WAN) costs. There is also BitLocker protection of data at rest and extensive support for larger disks in Exchange Server 2016.  It has a database divergence detection feature to identify corruptions, and also the ability to initiate some automated repair features, for quicker recovery from failures.

The new Exchange Server 2016 has an improved data loss prevention scheme, with added templates for other countries to identify, monitor, and protect 80 different types of sensitive information.

Exchange Server 2016’s eDiscovery has a superior new search architecture that distributes search work across multiple servers, for more accurate and complete results. Microsoft has introduced e-discovery search tools called Compliance Search for running a single search across large numbers of mailboxes in an organization, using analytics based on its Equivio acquisition.

Another great improvement is that Exchange Server 2016 also has new audit log capabilities for better integration with third-party software products. The Hybrid Configuration Wizard in Exchange 2016 has become a cloud-based application that can be downloaded and installed. It quickly supports changes in the Office 365 service and has improved diagnostics and troubleshooting capabilities. It is easier to synchronize multi-forest hybrid deployments with on-premises Active Directory Connect.

3. Client Improvements

Microsoft has improved both the Outlook desktop client and the Outlook Web App client for document collaboration and mobile productivity. Outlook on the web supports Microsoft Edge, Internet Explorer 11 and latest versions of Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome and Safari Browsers.

New functions such as Sweep, Undo, Pins and Flags have been added together with features that include creating calendar events, inline reply, single-line inbox view, composing, search, pop out emojis, and thirteen new themes with graphic designs, switching folders, as well as improved HTML rendering. Users can add contacts from their LinkedIn accounts in outlook on the Web.

Instead of having to attach a file to the message on Outlook 2016 or on Outlook on the web, users can attach it to OneDrive for Business, to utilize co-authoring features built into these products. If any user receives an email with Word, Excel, or PowerPoint that file is stored on OneDrive for Business, the user can view and edit that file in Outlook on the web alongside the message. The user should have an Office client license to edit the attachment though.

The “smart in-box” in Outlook makes finding e-mails and attached documents easier, with Search now providing suggestions based on mailbox data and key words from email content.

You get limitless number of email addresses, with large disc space for each mailbox, which means you never have to delete important emails from your inbox.

Make the Smart Choice with Hosted Exchange 2016 for Your Business

If your business wants to keep up with the technological advances of the modern workspace, then Hosted Exchange 2016 makes for a smart and affordable choice. Communicating has never been more effective and secure!

Bursting Some Popular Cloud Myths

The word “Cloud” still causes a lot of confusion among people, many of whom are left wondering what it actually is. When opting for cloud hosting, businesses are renting virtual server space rather than renting or purchasing physical servers. When virtual server space is rented, it is often paid for by the hour, depending on the capacity required at any particular time. These virtualized dedicated cloud servers have gained in popularity globally, because of their enormous shared computing power.  Even core products from Microsoft to Adobe such as Office 365 and Creative Cloud use data that’s stored on remote servers. There are, however, many myths about cloud hosting that seem to worry customers’ minds when considering a cloud-hosting provider. Let’s burst some myths to get to the truth about cloud server hosting.

Myths and Truths About Cloud Server Hosting

Myth #1: Cloud Hosting is Not Secure
Fact: Cloud hosting providers are continuously improving on their best practices and compliance levels for securing critical data and applications. Nonetheless, it comes down to choosing a leading cloud hosting company with good credentials and service level agreements. The company you choose should also offer the highest levels of security with fully managed firewall protection. Cloud hosting environments ensure 100% uptime with an SOC2/SSAE16 data center, high availability server architecture with multiple servers, 256-bit encryption, automatic off site backups, firewalls, routers, uninterrupted power supply, load balancers, switches mirror disks, RAID implementation, and 24/7 onsite monitoring. Additionally, software updates, including security patches, are applied to all customers simultaneously in the multitenant system. Most hosts treat cloud security very seriously and implement the latest technology and resources to protect the cloud environment, because if the cloud were to be proven unsafe then cloud companies would lose millions in sales.  Security in the cloud, even in large cloud environments, has so far been stellar. There have been very few security breaches in the public cloud, as compared to on-premises data center environments.

Myth #2: Cloud Services Are Complicated
Fact: Cloud hosting may seem confusing with its many variations of public cloud, private cloud, hybrid cloud and even community cloud, but cloud servers are no more complex than dedicated servers or VPS. Cloud hosting actually simplifies the job of an IT manager or CTO because of its easy setup, instant provisioning through an online control panel, utilization on-demand and customization. The online control panel in cloud storage handles all the tough work; making cloud storage as easy as dragging a file to an icon.

Myth #3:  Cloud Hosting Is Expensive
Fact: Cloud hosting helps businesses save considerable financial resources and offers flexibility and adaptability for both the short and long term. It is a much cheaper alternative to shared or dedicated servers, though cost comparison may prove to be tricky. With cloud hosting you only have to pay for data storage resources you use, so it works out much cheaper than other hosting services. The cost for what you use on the cloud depends on a few factors.  These include the number of users, data size, customized backups, applications used and exchange services.  Cloud computing replaces the need for installing local servers, network equipment, power conditioning, software and antivirus software, backup solutions, dedicated server rooms, along with reducing the cost of IT staff, user support and maintenance.

Myth #4 – Cloud Performance Is Not Reliable 
Fact: In the early days of cloud computing, there may have been some performance issues. However, these problems have been attended to by the leading cloud service providers who offer unique and work-specific solutions for high powered & high speed storage with guaranteed IOPS, along with other improvements. Cloud providers have made their systems resilient to avoid outages. No system is perfect and the cloud can fail too, but the fact is that those failures are fewer and far between as compared to other alternatives. The cloud environment can be engineered to adapt to strenuous workloads and high availability requirements that avoid any performance or failure issues.

Myth #5 – There Is Only One Cloud
Fact: There are hosting providers offering cloud services from the small business to the enterprise level and there is actually more than one type of cloud—a Public Cloud, a Private Cloud and a Hybrid Cloud. A Public Cloud shares network infrastructure which is accessible from an off-site Internet source. While it is easier to share files on a Public Cloud, a Private Cloud has advanced security features and guaranteed high quality maintenance on software and infrastructure. The third type of cloud is a Hybrid Cloud, which combines aspects of a Private and a Public Cloud. For example, businesses can keep their data and applications for QuickBooks or financial software hosting on a Private Cloud and less sensitive documents can be stored on a Public Cloud.

The Bottom Line
When considering cloud hosting, it all comes down to finding a hosting provider with a proven track record.  Try looking up comparison charts to find hosts with the most resources, an appropriate array of hosting products and excellent customer support to win your business. Cloud services have moved from being a second thought to being top of mind for businesses of all sizes. Amazon and Salesforce are just a couple of companies that are shining examples of the utility of Saas platforms in the cloud revolution. But cloud computing is not just for large enterprises, it offers greater IT efficiency and capabilities for all businesses from small to medium-sized.  Smart businesses should be ready to switch to the cloud in the future to leverage cloud technology or risk being left behind by their competitors who are already taking advantage of the value and benefits of cloud computing.

MOC-up: Cloud Testing or Cloud Transformation?

How much does an “open” cloud cost? The Massachusetts state government is willing to invest $3 million in Boston University’s (BU) concept of a truly open cloud, one the institution hopes will spur positive change marketwide.

Can this initiative really compete with offerings from big providers like Amazon, Google and IBM, or is it just another rebranding of cloud hype?

Open Sesame?

The Massachusetts Open Cloud (MOC) is a joint venture of BU, Harvard, UMass Amherst, MIT and Northeastern University, with test space provided by the Massachusetts Green High-Performance Computing Center (MGHPCC) and Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL). If that sounds like a lot of academic firepower, it is — and it’s expensive. In addition to the $3 million promised by Governor Deval Patrick to develop the MOC, the project is also set to receive $16 million in funds from federal, industry and private sources, according to HPCWire. But what sets the MOC apart from other public clouds?

It starts with the concept of “public” resources. Imagine popular commercial clouds as an inverted funnel; at the top is a single provider that owns and manages all infrastructure and resources. At the bottom are consumers, who have on-demand access to these resources but don’t control their implementation. But, as noted by a BU white paper, the MOC concept relies on what’s known as the Open Cloud eXchange (OCX), where “many stakeholders, rather than just a single provider, participate in implementing and operating the cloud.”

In other words, the funnel expands into a cylinder of equal width at both ends; just as multiple customers can use the same cloud resources, multiple providers can leverage the same infrastructure. A recent BU Today article describes this as a kind of cloud computing mall, where providers are essentially storefronts, all chipping in to maintain a larger public space.

The ultimate goal of the MOC is to provide cloud resources as a utility that is analogous to power or water. Pioneers like John McCarthy and Douglas Parkhill predicted this kind of utility evolution more than 50 years ago, but the current market of public clouds actually serves the opposite purpose by forcing companies to rely on a single type of cloud power.

Slow and Steady

While the MOC project enjoys backing from vendors like Cisco, Red Hat and EMC, other large technology players are going in a different direction. IBM, for example, recently launched their Cloud Marketplace, which includes access to IBM resources along with selected offerings from partners and third-party vendors. Think of it as MOC-light — a wider funnel but still controlled by a single entity.

Many vendors are also trying to capture a larger section of the cloud market by deepening their “as a service” offerings; according to a recent Search Data Management article, the database-as-a-service (DBaas) market is set to hit $1.07 billion this year, and $14.05 billion by 2019.

Even education vendors, such as CompTIA, are starting to see the value in open offerings, giving prospective members a no-cost channel to access training materials, research and news.

What’s the Holdup?

It’s tempting to see industry reticence as nothing more than dollar-grabbing, but are there legitimate concerns about moving to a MOC-like model?

One possible problem is security. A recent ZDNet article reports that brute-force attacks on public clouds jumped from 30 to 44 percent in the last year as traditionally on-premises attacks “followed” the wave of public cloud adoption.

In the MOC’s cloud “mall,” attackers could target not just consumers but also multiple vendors, and potentially force total closure. If, however, BU and its partners can effectively leverage the accountability enjoyed by other open-source projects, consumers will likely force the hand of major vendors.

Bottom line? The MOC has the potential to transform public cloud computing by mimicking familiar retail experiences, delivering utility-grade resources and remaining accountable to stakeholders.

[image: Melpomenem/iStock/ThinkStockPhotos]

Stanford Innovation Uses Netflix-based Software for Cloud Efficiency

New software developed at Stanford University promises to improve the efficiency of cloud systems by using an algorithm modeled on Netflix’s recommendation engine. According to experts, this innovation needs a lot of work before it can become a viable solution.

After realizing that servers use about 20 percent of their capacity on most workloads, associate professor Christos Kozyrakis and doctoral student Christina Delimitrou came up with a cluster management system that would optimize server capacity, according to a report from the Stanford News. In theory, this would accelerate processing cycles and lower server time, which would also lead to money and energy savings.

This is a potentially great innovation, because host processing can be wasteful. Developers reserve server space in advance by guessing how much they will need, often buying extra to avoid slowdowns. As a result, large parts of servers go unused. But it’s like reserving a room for an open-invitation party: You plan on the highest possible attendance, not on the  number of people that would perfectly fit in the space.

The Quasar Method of Cloud Efficiency

Stanford’s Quasar program promises a better way. It identifies app types and assigns them to a minimum number of servers capable of multitasking. It does this by figuring out apps that run best together within the server. This is important because apps often don’t work well together at all. For example, data mining and web-search calculations likely use different parts of a server.

Quasar assigns servers differently. It performs “performance-based allocation” of data resources, where developers determine the performance level their apps require, according to the Stanford News story.

For instance, if an app involves queries from users, how quickly must the app respond and to how many users? Under this approach the cluster manager would have to make sure there was enough server capacity in the data center to meet these requirements.”

Quasar uses collaborative filtering to filter how apps perform with certain types of servers. This filtering is similar to what Netflix uses to recommend movies, based on a member’s viewing history.

Independent analysis has already revealed that the process optimizes server performance, which advocates say could reduce the energy used to run servers.

Quasar’s Not Perfect

There are potential problems with the Quasar model. Wolf Halton, co-author of Computer and Internet Security, says that even if optimized servers reduce power by two-thirds, increased performance usage will “increase the heat produced by the servers and so will increase the cost of cooling the servers.”

Since most data centers inefficiently cool server rooms (usually by cooling large-volume swaths that contain smaller servers), power to run a server and cool it over its life span will cost more than owning and feeding a server. More testing regarding this cooling issue is clearly critical.

There are also security and privacy issues to think about. Halton warns that “data may not be effectively segregated and ownership and access issues exist” in this model, just like in other virtualization schemes. This is an important issue for both private and public hosts.

“If two or three times as many users’ data and processes are on any given server in the farm, then [there is] two or three times the probability of malicious code appearing on any given server,” Halton says.

Developers should be thinking about improving security features that catch up to this potentially higher pace.

How Innovative Is Quasar, Really?

There’s a potential problem with assuming that collaborative filtering uses average app performance as the only expected performance level.

“I do not see how [filtering] gives you all that much better a usage level. Test loads may be less-than-accurate representations of reality,” he says

In addition, this new model may not be much of an improvement on models already available. Burst capability features allow sites to maximize uptime and coolly handle traffic peaks. The Linux kernel task scheduler is one such system, as are OpenVZ for virtualization and ProxMox VE and KVM virtual machines.

Besides the Quasar model, other possible resource schemes could improve server efficiency. Monitoring server usage patterns more closely and automating resource release at the moment projects end are two such schemes.

“I see a lot of servers in data centers that are just running because there is no policy to release computing resources when they are no longer in use and servers that are running past their operating system end of life,” Halton says.

Instead of waiting for a perfect new scheme that will solve the server efficiency problem, it seems developers have a lot of work to do — on themselves and on their efficiency guidelines.

[image: kjekol/iStock/ThinkStockPhotos]

Banking in the Cloud Is the Future, So Get Ready for It

Recent finance reports have revealed that governments around the world, including the U.S., may be pushing banks to move the management of their services toward cloud-based servers in order to save money.

Understanding the benefits of cloud computing, like the convenience of always-on access to information, is easy. While some banks have been hesitant to use cloud hosts because of security concerns, the long-term benefit in cost efficiency should be a net positive. Research firm IDC reported only a year ago that CIOs distrusted public clouds for “mission-critical” work.

But this attitude is changing. Dr. Tyrone Grandison, the CEO of Proficiency Labs International and an expert in cloud computing for financial institutions, says banks are traditionally averse to rapid change. Financial institutions will move toward cloud systems — it’ll just take years to go through systematic checks and balances, he says.

“I expect the banks, when hiring firms or using in-house IT teams, will be doing due diligence. They will perform a small incubated project involving a task that is not mission-critical to assess the implementation impact and iron out any hiccups. If all that is positive, then [perform] a staged, full deployment across their enterprise,” Grandison says.

The Value of the Cloud

One of the economic benefits of using the cloud is the reduced need for dedicated IT staff. Flexibility of personnel without long-term investments improves efficiency, and banks could see savings because they’re purchasing hardware and software, receiving automatic upgrades and scaling services only as they need them.

As both sides figure out the right arrangement, cloud hosts should expect to provide different levels of transparency and access, depending on bank requirements. Some banks, Grandison says, will “require Quality of Service (QoS) assurances and access,” which, in practical terms, means banks will look to cheap cloud providers that can fully concentrate on specific needs. And that means web hosts need to reassure banks of the security, privacy and accountability controls that will make the cloud the “bedrock of their infrastructure” work.

Quality of Service in the Cloud

QoS indicators should include performance, availability, data quality and query-execution factors, Grandison says.

For performance, the bank might require the cloud provider assures the response time be within a range, such that all requests must respond within five milliseconds. For availability, the bank might require data always be available (‘100% uptime’). For data quality, the bank might require that all data is free from corruption or malware.

The availability and QoS requirements should lead to cloud providers “replicating data in multiple places and building retrieval systems that are fault-tolerant.” And finally, the bank may require financial controls, where the economics surrounding the ability of the cloud provider to scale up or down are stable and won’t result in billing spikes.

The Leap of Faith to the Cloud

Although there’s optimism, banks do face risks in moving to the cloud. The biggest danger is what Grandison calls “analysis paralysis.” It’s an overreliance on the banks’ due diligence. IT decision making and deployment is famously fast, and acting on a severe need at the slow pace of the average bank may make them vulnerable to competition, so setting short-term deadlines for analysis and decision making is important. Other risks include skewing priorities toward short-term investments instead of through client hierarchy and losing control of data.

Concerns about data security are legitimate. For example, an investigation by the European Union‘s data-protection group revealed Dutch banking giants ING and Rabobank drafted a plan to sell customer data to companies looking to use it for ads.

What do the customers of financial institutions gain from a shift to the cloud? Users may receive improved services in the form of web-based applications that use instantaneous data. A bank, for example, may alert a customer by phone of potential cash-back returns from a vendor (like a grocery store) the moment they step inside the business. These kinds of cutting-edge, interactive applications will make the difficult process of moving to the cloud worth it.

[image: BsWei/iStock/ThinkStockPhotos]

Why Scalability, Not Elasticity, Matters In a Cloud Solution

An optimal cloud-based business system is secure and flexible, and the management of such a system should also, in theory, provide similar features. Unfortunately, not every cloud provider offers comprehensive cloud management, which may include “scalable” features like flexible storage and bandwidth options. Cloud providers that offer varied and high-quality scalable features should be chosen over any other providers as the backbone for small and medium-sized businesses.

Determining whether a company needs to invest in a scalable system first requires an analysis of the company’s needs. A scalable system has a planned level of performance capacity and is managed through conversations between a business and a cloud provider. A business plans for expected performance needs because it grows gradually and organically.

This is different from elastic systems, which are vulnerable to instantaneous growth and often require subscriptions. Basically, it is a difference in infrastructure needs between a Facebook-sized website and one for, say, a conference that has no more than 1,000 clients logged on to web-based lectures at any given time. A scaled system can add (or reduce) system needs ahead of time. In this example, the conference can adjust bandwidth to accommodate the usage demand, depending on the turnout.

Unfortunately for many customers, the difference between scalability and elasticity is muddied when some providers market the more expensive (and sometimes unnecessary) elastic option to all types businesses. The truth is, most small and medium-sized businesses don’t need elastic infrastructure. They need a site that can help them scale appropriately.

The Art and Science of Cloud Scaling  

Scaling systems offer flexible features that businesses actually use. The scalable product offered by Lunarpages is an example of this. The company offers a package with data billed on a standard contract, with upgrades added based on usage. The starting cloud hosting service begins at nearly $44.95 a month, with 50 GB of SSD storage, 1000GB of bandwidth, an IP address and 2GB of RAM.

If a company needs more CPU cores, it can add them, along with extra bandwidth, disk space or RAM. The focus, according to Lunarpages, is to offer flexibility to customers, even if it results in lower monthly revenue for Lunarpages. If a small company downgrades from a premium contract, it can do so in the middle of any billing term; it’s not stuck paying at the higher rate for the duration of the payment cycle.

Using scalable services is a smart business move that is also trendy. Scalable usage trends are up because more companies are finding success with the model. The photo-sharing website SmugMug is one such winner.

SmugMug’s photo business requires storage of more than a half a petabyte of data on a scalable system, and the company found a cloud provider that saved the company money and provided a seamless storage experience. Once SmugMug was set up with a provider based on a flexible scale, it saved an estimated $1 million using cloud storage.

Another big cloud user is the ever-popular NYTimes.com news website, which uses a scalable data system “to process terabytes of archival data using hundreds of instances within 36 hours.” Suffice it to say that the last-minute nature of the news business requires the provider to be available at all hours and speaks to the reliability of the system. And a site that can attract relatively large waves of unexpected traffic can also handle big jumps in traffic without being forced into unlimited elastic deals.

The web-based video-making site Animoto had to scale up on its audience expectation over three days, moving from 25K people to 250K people a day when one of its videos went viral.

Scale Is on the Horizon

Business analysts at Gartner identified IT scaling businesses on the web as one of the major technology trends of 2014, along with 3D printing and contextually aware smart machines. By 2016, the Gartner analysts say, “the majority of new IT spending will be on cloud platforms and applications.”

According to a cloud computing publication by Oxford University, another benefit of scaling infrastructure is its use of smart servers known as “resource pools,” which make virtual machines more secure and improve the use of firewalls, VPNS and storage. Resource pools group together cloud resources in order to make the virtualization of scaled servers and storage possible. Because resource pools maximize storage space, they also facilitate cheaper hardware investments for a provider, resulting in cheaper monthly fees for their clients. Resource pools also facilitate remote scaling of operations through private, secure data centers. Other IT operations facilitated by the pools include automatic load balancing, clustering, and application delivery.

Finally, scaling also benefits the development of mobile applications. Cloud expert Lee Schlesinger says a critical feature to building competitive mobile applications is constant updating through efficient management. He says a smart business needs a scalable DevOps plan “to aid in the process of moving code from developers to testing to production.”

Any snags in the process may not only cost money but also cast a potentially useful and popular application in a negative light with its users. Mobile developers must respond immediately to user issues without worrying about the backbone of their business.

[image: welcomia/iStock/ThinkStockPhotos]

Why Scale Matters in a Cloud Strategy

One of the most important characteristics of cloud computing is that it’s scalable. The ability to expand and contract infrastructure resources on demand is what makes the cloud so powerful.

Being tied to the physical constraints of hard-drive space, CPU, memory and bandwidth is one of the limitations of physical hosting. But with cloud computing, you can focus on building your infrastructure for success rather than worrying about whether your in-house infrastructure can handle the constraints of success in the first place.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) defines cloud computing as “…a model for enabling ubiquitous, convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (e.g., networks, servers, storage, applications, and services) that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction.”

NIST goes on to describe the five essential characteristics of the cloud:

  • On-demand self-service
  • Broad network access
  • Resource pooling
  • Rapid elasticity
  • Measured service

While not explicitly defined as “scalability,” there are two key phrases here that connote this term, specifically computing resources that can be “rapidly provisioned and released” and “rapid elasticity.”

When something is elastic, it can expand and then snap back to its original size. With infrastructure, that means various components can be added or removed from the infrastructure to make it larger or smaller, as needed. From an infrastructure standpoint, the cloud allows you to programmatically add or remove servers using a control panel or an Application Program Interface (API). This is where the “rapid provisioning” comes into play.

Controlling the Components of Scale in the Cloud

Depending on the cloud environment, you may be able to get much more granular with your control. While the most typical example of scaling involves simply adding cloud servers to or removing cloud servers from your infrastructure, you may also be able to scale at a “component” level; in other words, you may be able to add or remove RAM, hard drive space, CPUs and even networking.

There are specific use cases for needing to scale these individual components. Operating systems and applications are often very RAM-hungry, meaning they will consume all available memory and consequently run more efficiently when more RAM is available.

Database servers tend to perform better with more RAM and CPU cores. And since many web, social and financial services generate terabytes of data, hard drive space — potentially in the form of cloud or attached storage — is a core element of scalability. A Big Data implementation, for example, may actually require numerous hard drives configured in various RAID arrays in order to store data and make it highly available. If your data storage is physically constrained, your business cannot scale.

Where Cloud’s Ability to Scale Counts Most

Why would you want to scale your infrastructure in the first place? Here are a few specific industry-use cases:

  • E-Commerce Seasonality: If you run an e-commerce site, business will ebb and flow. During the holiday shopping season, you may need to have extra processing power to handle an increase of shoppers. Then, during the off-season, you may need to scale back on the infrastructure in order to avoid overspending and having that infrastructure sit idle.
  • Data Analysis: If number crunching or statistical analysis is your business model, you may need to run minimal infrastructure when you’re not processing data sets, and then add more processing and/or storage capability when it comes time to analyze the data.
  • Social Media: If you are managing or developing social media applications, you will need infrastructure and storage that scales. Many social media applications are driven by Big Data, which means that a multitude of data is created with each social interaction. From a scalability standpoint, you will most likely be scaling up (adding more processing capabilities) and out (adding more servers) to handle growth.

Don’t Wait to Plan for Scale

All businesses, regardless of size, should consider their scaling strategy. If they don’t, they are setting themselves up for failure. Although it’s fairly obvious why large enterprises need to be elastic in their infrastructure provisioning as they add new products or services, smaller businesses need to be agile as well, especially if their business models are tied to seasonality or important product announcements that can drive traffic to their sites.

There is nothing worse for a business than to have its website or web hosting service perform lethargically or time out. This represents a loss of revenue and may alienate customers. If customers are turned away at the “digital door,” they may not come back. If your infrastructure is programmatically configured to monitor traffic spikes, or if you have analyzed your traffic or infrastructure utilization over time, you can get ahead of the curve so that you have infrastructure ready and available when it’s demanded, scaling back when the need (and traffic) subsides.

Moving to a cloud hosting environment means that you can grow your business and online presence easily and stay agile in the process, allowing you to save not only on infrastructure cost and management. Ensuring your infrastructure scales as your business does isn’t a nice-to-have — it’s a must-have of modern IT.

[image: BsWei/iStock/ThinkStockPhotos]