Is Metal As A Service The Next Big Thing For The Cloud?

Guest Author: This week’s blog was brought to us by Graeme Caldwell — Graeme works as an inbound marketer for InterWorx, a revolutionary web hosting control panel for hosts who need scalability and reliability. Follow InterWorx on Twitter at @interworx, Like them on Facebook and check out their blog, http://www.interworx.com/community.

We’re accustomed to thinking of cloud platforms as being irrevocably tied to virtualization. Virtualization — the software representation of hardware — is what has allowed us to build infrastructure and software platforms of exquisite controllability and almost limitless flexibility. In fact, if we’re to believe the cloud’s foundational myth — which is probably just that, a myth — the cloud came about as a way to put virtualization to use in soaking up underutilized server resources.

But really the cloud is not so much tied to a particular technology as it is a set of capabilities: on-demand scaling, fast deployment, API control, metered pricing, and so on. You can have the cloud and its service modalities, including Infrastructure-as-a-Service, without the virtualization layer so long as you have an alternative technology that provides many of the same capabilities — or at least enough of them that they  fulfill the needs of the market while offering a benefit that existing technologies don’t.

Over the last few years we’ve seen the rise of containers, particularly Docker, as a replacement of hypervisor virtualization. Containers are great as a replacement for or improvement to Platform-as-a-service products, but they can’t really replace Infrastructure-as-a-service. A technology that can replace IaaS in many of its most important roles for a large segment of the user base, and especially for those building private clouds, is the bare metal cloud, which can be used to provide Metal-as-a-service functionality.

Bare metal clouds are probably best thought of as an enhancement of traditional server clusters. A cluster controller takes care of scalability — new servers can be added to the cluster at will. API control exists in much the same way as with virtualized Infrastructure-as-a-service. As for on-demand pricing, that’s really a function of the way platforms are designed and sold rather than any specific technology, but it’s not essential for most purposes where long-term hardware stability is more important that fast elastic scaling.

The most important point of superiority where bare metal clouds are concerned is performance. As the name suggests, operating systems or applications run directly on the bare metal without a virtualization layer, or in light-weight containers that offer easy deployment and migration without the overhead of virtualization.

In short, for most applications short of massive scaling on very short timeframes, bare metal clouds and metal-as-a-service offerings are likely to be a superior solution for companies who need to extract optimal performance from their hardware without sacrificing flexibility.

Metal-as-a-service has until now largely been associated with Canonical’s offering of the same name, but the concept has a much wider application and vendors are entering the bare metal arena both from the direction of virtualized cloud providers like IBM and more traditional server management and clustering solution providers like InterWorx. Companies like France’s Online Labs are leveraging low-powered ARM server clusters to provide Metal-as-a-service platforms.

Virtualization has always been a stop-gap technology: one that provides capabilities we need, but at a cost in performance and in complexity. The move back to bare metal without sacrificing performance is one that will pick up speed in the years to come.

4 Vital Things to Consider When Pursuing a Cloud Computing Career

Guest Author: This week’s blog was brought to us by a guest contributor.

There is a ton of growing demand for IT professionals who possess the skills to thrive in the field of cloud computing. Today’s professional is required to be fluent with emerging technologies.

It will be necessary for this new army of tech professionals to understand new technology and how everything interacts. The focus, while remaining relatively the same, is centered on the end user accessing information through a dynamic system of interconnectivity. There are four vital things to consider if you are interested in pursuing a cloud computing career.

#1. Cloud Certifications Since continuing education is the key to success in this emerging field, Cloud providers now offer cloud education to help get professionals up to speed. Examples include, but are not limited to, MCSE: Private Cloud, VMware Certified Professional Cloud, and Amazon Web Services Certified Solutions Architect. However, a practitioner should not limit his or herself to these certifications. An EMC or NetApp certification can be just as useful in getting professionals through the front door of companies looking to hire. No matter what you hear about the industry, certifications matter. Real-world experiences and knowledge can be just as important.

#2. Cloud Computing Jobs in High Demand:

  • Cloud Architect – These professionals help lead the race in developing and implementing systems that are reliable, secure, and that fall within budgetary constraints.
  • Cloud Software Engineer – They design and develop software that can integrate with systems provided by cloud service providers.
  • Cloud Sales Representative – Someone has to help develop and grow the industry. These individuals often interact with C-level clients while prospecting and developing new business.
  • Cloud Services Developer – Developers are required to design and building customer-facing-tools and portals that facilitate how end users interact with cloud services.

#3. Cloud Computing Skills As an industry professional, there are a number of skills you’ll need to possess or develop, which include project management, impact assessment, risk and consequence, and experience across numerous devices.

#4. Being Able to Determine the Bottom Line Like everything in life, at the end of the day it is about being able to define the bottom line. Is the solution cost-effective? Will it get the job done?

Having all the right personal career assets in place is one thing. Partnering with the right staffing professionals is quite another. Staffing solutions offered at Randstad Business Support are the types that can help individuals take their possibilities of success to the next level.

5 Mistakes Most Businesses Make with the Cloud

Guest Author: This week’s blog was brought to us by William Hayles – Will is a technical writer and blogger for Outscale, a leading cloud hosting provider in the USA and France.

Cloud Mistakes

The cloud’s awesome, but only if it’s properly implemented. Ask yourself: have you used it effectively, or have you committed one of these common mistakes? Is your organization using the cloud effectively?

As the services and platforms that comprise cloud computing become more widespread, more and more businesses are looking at it as a viable option. And really, why shouldn’t they be? In the right hands, it’s an incredibly powerful technology, allowing for better collaboration, faster development/deployment, and reduced costs all across the board.

Of course, like any technology, the cloud’s only effective if you use it properly. Improperly implemented, a cloud computing solution could actually end up increasing your overall spending, to say nothing of the potential for a data breach associated with an unsecured cloud network.

Today, we’re going to go over a few of the most common mistakes made by first-time cloud adopters – and more importantly, how your organization can avoid making them.

Failure To Understand The Cloud (And Your Needs)

By and large, the most frequent – and most significant – error on the part of cloud adopters is a simple lack of understanding. Perhaps thanks to the culture of buzzwords that’s grown up around the tech industry, many businesses see the cloud in only the vaguest sense. This leads them to adopt a cloud model that’s ill-suited for their needs, since they see the cloud as a single service.

The truth is, “cloud computing” is a lot more complex than one might expect. It’s a catch-all term, one that covers a wide spectrum of different services. It’s thus important that you know the different types of cloud models available to you, as well as which one best suits your organization’s needs – including capacity.

Thinking Exclusively In The Short-Term

Far too many professionals think only in the short-term – what action can make them the greatest profit in the shortest possible time? Approaching the cloud with such a stance is asking for failure. You can’t simply focus on what the cloud can do for you in the immediate future; to properly implement a cloud service model into an organization requires careful planning and a long-term roadmap

Not Implementing Proper Security

One of the most common arguments against the cloud is that it’s inherently less secure than more traditional computing models. In unskilled hands, this argument’s actually true. Before settling on a cloud service provider, make sure you understand what areas of security they’re responsible for – and which fall under your purview.

“Security is an afterthought in a lot of scenarios for companies because traditional applications have been hosted behind a firewall,” explained Riverbed Technology’s Technical Director Steve Riley at a recent ITEXPO West Panel.  “But it no longer can be an afterthought; it has to be part of the deployment and design.”

Taking On Way Too Much At Once

Cloud computing is incredible, as is its potential to improve your organization. Seeing how much money it can save – and how efficient it can make your business – means it can be tempting to try to replace your business’s infrastructure overnight. Don’t do it.

Especially if your business maintains a large network of legacy infrastructure, the cloud is something that needs to be adopted gradually. Start slow. Test out small-scale changes first before you implement anything too huge.

Making Foolish Assumptions

There are two assumptions you should never make about the cloud:

  1. That it will instantly solve all your problems
  2. That your entire organization will be on-board with the idea the second you pitch it.

Before you try to add a cloud to your business, you need to make sure you’ve actually got a clear idea in mind of what problems you want to address with it. It’s also vital that you discuss the matter with your IT department – not everyone is going to like the idea of a large-scale switch.

“Many existing enterprise organizations, both within their current IT team and across other departments, may not perceive the value of a move to the cloud,” writes Ken Christensen of Datalink.  “Be prepared for the culture to push back against the notion of the cloud. In some cases, you may even face active opposition.”

In order to effectively pitch the idea, Christensen advises that you be both specific and measurable. You need to give some clear, concrete demonstration of the value cloud computing holds to your business. Otherwise, you may as well scrap the idea altogether.

Get Your Head In The Cloud

Like any tool, the cloud’s only functional if you know how to use it. It’s not something you can implement halfway, nor can you utilize it without fully understanding what it does. If you try to use the cloud knowing your organization’s requirements and culture – as well as the underlying technology – then you’re simply asking for trouble.

So, I ask again – is your organization using the cloud effectively? Hopefully now you know the answer.

Infographic: Elevate Your Business with the Cloud

Companies are increasingly challenged with the rapid increase of data in their business and the subsequent need to manage and store it in a secure, reliable way. Storing your data and IT infrastructure onsite leaves it vulnerable to a variety of threats, including floods, earthquakes, fires, and tornados. In fact, 43% of businesses that experience a disaster never reopen. Cloud computing is no longer just an IT priority – it’s a business priority.

Go Cloud TeraGo Infographic

 

Interested in discovering how Cloud Solutions can elevate your business? Click here to learn more, or submit the form below:

Canadian Cloud Adoption Slow, But Picking Up Speed

cloudbusiness

Cloud computing has dominated the industry in recent years, with almost every provider under the sun offering some variation of the service. Cloud’s ability to cut operational costs and improve flexibility is a great benefit to businesses, yet a recent study found that several Canadian executives are uninformed about cloud technology – despite it’s popularity.

In fact, only 10% of the C-level employees polled during the study said they were familiar with the cloud, and of that small group, only 45% could correctly define what the cloud is. This lack of education and understanding is having an impact on the implementation of cloud, putting Canada’s adoption rate 10% behind that of US companies – so what can be done to close this gap? Identifying the concerns of Canadian business leaders is the first step.

The three perceived barriers to cloud adoption by Canadian companies are:

  1. Security: With so many stories on large businesses falling victim to data security breaches, it’s no wonder why companies are proceeding with caution. Approximately 45% of study respondents believe storing information in the cloud is unsafe, with heavy hitters like Target and Home Depot cited as cautionary examples.
  2. Education: A study conducted by IDC found that several Canadian businesses believed there were regulations in place that inhibit their ability to use the cloud.
  3. Technology: Canadian business are still purchasing traditional hosting and outsourcing services, which can impede their adoption of cloud.

The next step is to address those perceived barriers:

  1. Security: Canadian companies need to look for cloud partners who are taking security seriously and investing in a variety of tools that have been designed to protect data. For example, do you feel safer putting your money in the bank or stuffing it under your mattress? Cloud providers have made investments to ensure their customer’s data is secure, much like banks invest in keeping your money safe.
  2. Education: IDC found that 66% of Canadian cloud users believe they surpass their peers in revenue growth, and 64% find themselves at a competitive advantage.
  3. Technology: Businesses could spend 8-12 weeks to get a server installed and configured, while cloud solutions may only take 8-12 minutes. Small and medium businesses in Canada have been the primary adopters of cloud so far, since they typically don’t have a reliance on legacy hardware – making the transition to cloud easier.

For Canadian businesses to level the global playing field, it’s important that they get serious about cloud adoption. The number of cloud providers in Canada is increasing, signifying that businesses are slowly but surely turning to cloud technologies. However, it’s important that companies do their research and partner with a provider who truly understand the cloud and can put any CIO’s mind at ease.

Want to learn more about cloud? Click here.

Bare-Metal Cloud Beats Virtualization for Web and eCommerce Hosting

Guest Author: This week’s blog post was provided by Graeme Caldwell — Graeme works as an inbound marketer for InterWorx, a revolutionary web hosting control panel for hosts who need scalability and reliability. Follow InterWorx on Twitter at @interworx, Like them on Facebook and check out their blog, http://www.interworx.com/community.

Here’s a question that many who enthusiastically embrace the cloud don’t seem to consider: who does cloud virtualization benefit? The cloud industry would have you believe that the checks are all in the client’s column, but for the vast majority of use-cases, and particularly those that involve web and eCommerce hosting, virtualization’s main benefits accrue to the vendor. If you recall, the first cloud Infrastructure-as-a-Service platforms were developed by Internet giants like Amazon who had excess capacity that frequently sat idle. Virtualization allowed them to sell that excess capacity to clients as virtual servers and networking infrastructure, maximizing the ROI on their hardware procurement and maintenance budgets.

It was a smart strategy and one that prompted an explosion of interest from data center and hosting providers who wanted a way to increase the efficiency of their hardware utilization in an industry that was being forced by price wars in a highly competitive environment to ever narrower profit margins.

Infrastructure-as-a-Service provided definite benefits to certain areas of the market. But those benefits are not universal, in fact they pertain to a fairly narrow sector. It’s useful to those who want access to High-Performance Computing without renting time on a supercomputer. It’s great for a service like Netflix that depends on high levels of elasticity. And it’s handy for development and testing, where the ability to spin up an ephemeral test platform is useful.

But web and eCommerce hosting are a radically different proposition, ones for which performance, stability, reliability, and availability are of significantly greater importance than by-the-hour elasticity. For site owners, the purported benefits of virtualized platforms don’t really apply. Instead, the vendors get the advantage of virtualization and clients get the all of the negatives: degraded performance for very little in return.

In comparison to virtualized cloud platforms, bare-metal clouds, in which the virtualization layer is eschewed and client operating systems run directly on the physical hardware, provide significantly better price/performance ratios.

Cloud cheerleaders might consider bare-metal clouds a retrograde step, but that’s an attitude that reflects a belief that one strategy is best for all situations. If you only have a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Stepping back from the hype and focusing on what hosting clients really need, it’s clear that bare-metal clouds or server clusters are the best option. They’re not as elastic as virtualized platforms, but almost no-one actually needs that level of elasticity, and certainly not the average web site or eCommerce store. Any decent hosting provider is capable of managing horizontal scaling of a bare-metal cloud on a timescale of hours and days, which is more than sufficient for all but a tiny percentage of users.

With a bare-metal cloud, you get all of the performance, scalability at speeds adequate to meet the needs of almost every business, and none of the negative consequences of running a virtualization layer.

The Future of Cloud Computing Infographic

Guest Author: This week’s blog post was provided by Ivan Serrano, an online entrepreneur who enjoys writing about tech, globalization, and business communications. He often contributes to 1800-number.com’s blog, and he prides himself on his love of sharing information with others. Ivan is passionate about what he does, and aims to stimulate conversation with his work.

The digital revolution is long underway, moving from block-sized computers of the 90’s to sleek, one-pound MacBook Air laptops to a now invisible landscape up in the clouds. Cloud computing, where computers can sync up and store data on large databases “in the cloud” is growing increasingly popular for companies to store and share data in a safe and reliable way.

The digital clouds are now blowing north. Cloud computing is primarily used by American companies, who have been using the cloud not only to store and share data, but also for messaging and conferencing purposes. But two years ago, the cloud had yet to catch wind in Canada. In fact, until recently, Canada had the lowest internet caps in all of the developed world. This is something the Canadian Cloud Council is trying to change; to create an open and democratized proliferation of information online. While the Canadian government remains skeptical of cloud computing for security purposes, Canadian companies are beginning to privately take the reigns using dot-ca domain names hosted outside Canada, and the cloud is becoming the route to take. This infographic explains how cloud computing works, and the dangers that come along with it.

 

CloudUpIntheAir

Measuring the Value of Unified Communication for Business

Guest Author: This week’s blog post was provided to us by Tanya Williams, a freelance writer and blogger. She has been working with telecom companies for over 20 years, writing about new technologies and how businesses and business owners can take advantage of them. Her topics included IP based communications technologies, cloud computing, website development, and many more.

Up until now, Unified Communications (UC) has been an ambitious promise — albeit one that seemed quite likely to come true. The real bottom line, though, and the deal-breaker with any technology – no matter how promising it seems, is its return on investment (ROI). In the case of UC, it’s been difficult to truly define because it’s so diffuse in nature. Thus, it is a difficult matter to get a real handle on its ROI. However, as of late this metric is finally shaping up for the following seven reasons.

The Story from Vendors

There is considerable progress being made in the video conferencing and telepresence sectors, and these types of platforms are being included in unified communications packages more and more. CDW’s business development manager, Bill Coe, said that if he can inform a CFO that adding video will reduce the time-to-market of a product by up to six weeks, then the gains are often enough to convince that senior exec to give it the green light. If that’s not enough, then he just has to remind the exec of the added advantages that the same video platform will provide elsewhere in the company when moving forward.

Cost Reduction

By deploying a cloud-based communications solution, the need for installing, supporting, managing and maintaining an in-house infrastructure is eliminated. This allows your enterprise to downsize its IT management and maintenance costs. Deploying UC also allows other resources to be redirected to other tasks.

Productivity

Return on investment is not always measured in dollars — sometimes it comes in the form of increased productivity. This is certainly the case with UC. Since communications are made so much easier with UC, the productivity of your employees is enhanced almost immediately. For example, Salesforce has developed an interface that integrates click-to-dial technologies, saving the user 15 to 20 seconds per phone call. That may not sound like a lot — but if you multiply that figure by the hundreds of calls your sales team makes every day, and the thousands of calls they make every week — it adds up, giving them a few extra hours every week to connect with customers or prospects. And on top of that, UC enabled systems allow for improved collaboration and communication, as there is less time wasted trading unproductive messages back and forth or tracking people down.

Mitigation of Risk

Given its redundant, cloud-based infrastructure, communications are far more stable than non-unified solutions. Therefore, a UC service is much more likely to stay up and running at all times.

Better Customer Service

One major factor setting any business apart from its competitors is how quickly it’s able to respond to its customers and partners, and how effectively it’s able to resolve their problems. Businesses that take steps to improve their communication systems are much more likely to enjoy customer loyalty, retention, and repeat business.

Heightened Business Agility

By using UC, information can be distributed quickly across your entire enterprise. This enables your team to act as a cohesive unit, and to gain a better understanding of critical information than ever before. This, in turn, positions your organization for faster decision making.

Mobile Employees are Supported Better

Since UC connects all devices across your enterprise, no matter where they are, it allows any employees that are in the field to work with real time information. They don’t have to wait to “check in” to get the latest data.

Conclusion

UC always did seem like a good idea, as did what it’s built upon — things such as video conferencing and VoIP. There is one major difference now, though: The industry is finally at a point where it can actually be proven.

Hybrid Clouds offer Traditional IT Departments Reassurance

Guest Author: This week’s blog was provided to us by Victor Brown – a technical writer and inbound marketer for Cirrus Hosting – a leading Canadian hosting company. Follow Victor and Cirrus on Twitter @CirrusTechLtd, like them on Facebook, and check out their blog on hosting http://www.cirrushosting.com/web-hosting-blog/

hybrid-cloud

While much of the focus is on the public cloud, hybrid clouds combine the best parts of the public cloud and in-house or collocated infrastructure deployments.

When we think about the cloud, it’s mostly the public cloud that grabs our attention. That’s understandable: the public cloud has instigated a revolution in the way companies of all sizes think about IT infrastructure deployment. But there are plenty of cloud naysayers, who tend to fall into three broad categories: traditional IT folks accustomed to complete control over the infrastructure layer; pro-cloud analysts with a genuine interest in exposing the potential weaknesses of the public cloud in order to encourage iteration and improvement; and those within companies who have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo.

Not much will change the minds of the latter group other than a gradual turnover of entrenched influencers, but many in the other two group, who have legitimate — although frequently misguided — concerns about the public cloud can find comfort in the private cloud, especially when coupled with public cloud platforms in a hybrid or multi-cloud environment.

It would be irresponsible for IT decision-makers to ignore the potential business and technical benefits of public cloud platforms. Never before have companies had access to such flexible, scalable, and inexpensive compute and storage power. As I said, it changes the way that businesses think about IT deployments, and, in an age where IT is so central to business success, it changes the way that they are able to do business. That said, no tool offers a universal solution — including the public cloud.

The solution is not to think “Public cloud or traditional in-house infrastructure,” but rather, “public cloud plus private cloud”. Private cloud environments are those that have the same flexible virtual hardware layer as public cloud platforms but in which the underlying physical hardware is dedicated to the use of one organization, rather than being shared between many different organizations in ways that are not transparent to clients.

Private clouds offer answers to many of the security and privacy concerns of IT people, as well as allowing them the measure of ownership over deployment, availability, and technical management they feel they need to be properly accountable for the infrastructure’s performance.

At the same time, private clouds have some of the negative qualities of traditional in-house deployments: CAPEX is high compared to public cloud platforms, and while the virtualized layer is just as flexible as the public cloud, dedicated hardware doesn’t offer the same flexibility of pricing or ease of scaling, both up and down.

Hybrid clouds offer a “best of both worlds” scenario, in which the benefits of the private cloud I’ve mentioned can be augmented by the benefits of public clouds. Workloads can be apportioned between the two modalities as suits the specific needs of a business. Cloud technology should not be dismissed out of hand because of perceived risks of public cloud use, rather hybrid clouds that offer the combined advantage of both public and private should be at the forefront of IT strategy.

SMBs Benefit From Hybrid Cloud Data Storage And Federated Clouds

Guest Author: This week’s blog was provided to us by Ted Navarro, a technical writer and inbound marketer for ComputeNext – an innovative marketplace company. Check out the ComputeNext blog for the latest postings and engage in the discussions on cloud computing and IaaS technolgy by clicking here. Or you can follow them on Twitter and like them on Facebook.

hybrid

Federated hybrid clouds allow businesses to distribute their data in accordance with their priorities while leveraging the full advantage of the cloud.

In spite of the obvious benefits of cloud data storage, many small and medium businesses are hesitant to entrust all of their data to the cloud. Cloud storage offers lower management and support burdens, lower capital expenditure, greater scalability, and increased opportunities for collaboration.

Nevertheless, the cloud is not perfect. Managers worry about availability issues: connectivity problems could bring a business to a standstill if mission critical data was unreachable. Some data is considered too important to entrust to the cloud; in spite of cloud providers’ considerable efforts to ensure the security of data, influencers within businesses have IP, security, and privacy concerns.

Hybrid cloud storage offers a solution that helps businesses resolve their cloud concerns without throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

Not all data is equally important. The majority of data that businesses generate does not need to be accessible constantly. Although most cloud vendors do in fact manage to maintain levels of availability that equal or exceed those of in-house solutions, it’s always possible that a natural disaster will knock out connectivity to the data center and render data unreachable.

To handle “expect the unexpected” scenarios, businesses are implementing hybrid solutions that allow them to leverage the benefits of the cloud while also maintaining data availability. A core set of data that must be consistently available can be kept on-site, with the rest moved up to the cloud. The burden on in-house IT staff and infrastructure is slashed while allowing businesses to be confident that their most important data is kept close by.

In other cases, instead of splitting their data between public and private clouds, businesses are using public cloud storage for backup and redundancy. Maintaining adequate numbers of servers on-site to provide a fully redundant system is wasteful when less expensive replication can be achieved by moving data to the cloud. Additionally, backups should be off-site to be truly effective, and the cloud allows for low-complexity automated off-site backup processes.

The cloud is not an all-or-nothing solution. There are significant business benefits to be reaped from implementations that spread data storage across multiple locations. In many cases, it’s advisable to also use different vendors for maximal redundancy.

An ideal scenario might see essential data held on a private cloud within a business’ firewall and replicated onto a cloud vendor’s platform for backup. Less crucial archival data may be placed with another vendor. Data that needs to be available on a short time scale and integrated with logistics or customer relationship management applications may be stored with yet another vendor. Vendor diversification is a powerful strategy for business continuity.

In that scenario, the company’s IT infrastructure moves beyond the simple private-public split of the hybrid cloud and becomes a true federated cloud. In previous years, maintaining a federated multi-cloud environment would have been more work than it was worth for a small business, but since the advent of cloud marketplaces that allow for the comparison and selection of vendors and the management of federated environments from one interface, redundant federated clouds are well within the reach of small and medium businesses.

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