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.

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.

What is the New IP?

Guest Author: This week’s blog was brought to us by Michelle Patterson – Michelle Patterson is excited with the new technologies that are threatening to change the way we stay in touch and communicate, particular in business. She works with companies that are introducing these technologies to make understanding them easy for regular people.

Have you heard a new term taking ahold of the telecom industry — “the new IP?”  If you’re anything like me, you’ve wondered what that was.  Intellectual property?  Information processing?  Industrial property?

Turns out it’s none of these.  It’s the same old familiar Internet Protocol.  But it’s simply viewed in a different way.  It’s viewed in a new, more user-centric way, as opposed to the older more IT-focused model.

When the web was first coming out, and people were first starting to use mobile devices, then it made sense for the old IT-focused model to be continued to be used.  After all, it had worked since the days when computer filled entire rooms; why should things change now?

Yet now with most of the world on mobile devices — some estimates say nearly 7 billion cellular contracts signed by the beginning of 2015, and that’s not even counting devices tethered to landlines — now the time has come to focus on the user’s part of the equation rather than the corporate part.  Providers and networks alike are being forced to tackle this progress straight-on, welcoming the change with the flowering of virtualized networks with a strong focus on both service and software.

Neglecting to include these new expansions in their overall model for business can mean a grievous death for providers and networks.  Their more progressive competitors will surely leave them in the dust.  Therefore, making sure both yourself and your staff are educated so as to make informed and intelligent decisions is crucial.  The future of your operations hangs in the balance, along with your software, services and networks.

How to understand “The New IP”

The way to understand the new IP is to take a deep and detailed look at the changes that are underway already.  In the old IT-centric IP structure, the majority of the focus was on the network and infrastructure.  The architecture was rigid and decisions were centralized around IT.

In the new IP, focus has changed to the user.  This has pushed other things such as BYOD, COPE, cloud applications, applications functions, content, mobility, data centers and virtualized networks into center stage.  The new IP seeks to scale to resources and clients on-demand by aiming its power at the user, using a cloud-like design.  Contrast this with the older way of doing things, with a rigid, IT-based architecture.

We see that it is now software that forms the backbone of what we call the new IP, changing the old mentality that “hardware is the center of the computing universe.”

So what does this mean for the wholesale telecom industry?

Early adopters will rush in to take advantage of the new IP.  In the face of this, there is an overall secret to staying ahead.  Overall, you should virtualize many of your network processes, especially those that focus on open-source, open-interface services, network function virtualization, modernized operations and simplified software defined networks.

There is potential in the new IP to save a great deal for a communication providers’ profit, especially regarding operating expenses and capital expenses.  This is while at the same time creating additional proceeds through content-driven services.  You might as how this is possible; I was skeptical as well.  But when I studied some more, I realized the answer lay with the virtualization of the network landscape.  Since with virtualization, you can limit unnecessary hardware purchases, this helps to create an environment where savings are promoted through effectively using infrastructure and personnel resources.  The same can be said for using automated on-demand services.

What about the end-users?

The new IP is very good news for end users.  The changes are bringing greater flexibility and control when picking applications and services.  As people advance their fluency with the Internet, the new IP is altering the landscape to fit their needs.  This “better fit” allows a more customized experience that’s shaped by the users themselves — altering, adding and removing services in moments rather than months.  All Internet-related operations are more simplified, resulting in both happier users and happier IT staff; usability and services are both propelled to the forefront as a result.

Infographic: APIs that Secretly Rule Your Life

Data and user information is the lifeblood of businesses in today’s market, and having the ability to collect and utilize that information is essential. Application program interfaces, or APIs, are used by companies and establishments to collect, organize, and analyze data on a daily basis. But what type of information is being collecting? In one word – everything. This includes political preference, social insurance number, Facebook likes, emails, reviews on Yelp, ecommerce, and much, much more. The data collected is then used by companies to learn about their customers (or target market) and create messaging that is custom tailored for each individual. Check out this infographic, provided by Who Is Hosting This?, to learn just how pervasive APIs are:

The-APIs-That-Secretly-Rule-Your-Life-ver.02-01

 

How do you feel about companies using your online information to promote their product or service? Is this a natural progression as we continue to move to a more virtual lifestyle? Let us know what you think by posting a comment below

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

Infographic: Fun Facts About the Internet of Things

The number of connected devices is steadily increasing, fuelling the continued growth of the Internet of Things (IoT). To help demonstrate the impact IoT will have, we’ve created an infographic containing six fun facts about the technology.

6 Fun Facts IoT

For businesses that haven’t adopted IoT yet, it’s time to start thinking about what your competitors could do if they embraced IoT solutions faster than your company? Or consider what new business ventures can be created through the use of IoT. This technology has the potential to change the way companies communicate with their customers, and the way customers interact with their devices. If you haven’t started exploring IoT – now is the time (like, right now).

Don’t know where to start? Click here to learn more about Internet of Things.

Blog Author: Vanessa Hartung

Infographic: Cyber Crime 2013 – The Year of the Mega Breach

The year 2013 yielded record breaking data breaches and cyber crime numbers in the business community. Upon reviewing multiple reports generated by industry heavy hitters, like IBM and Symantec, we’ve created an infographic of some of their key findings.

Cyber Crime 2013

 

Business will need to take an active role in securing their company and customer data in 2014. Poor protective measures are putting an increasing number of companies at risk and the potential implications of losing data is huge. Educating staff, improving malware solutions, and routinely backing up your data are some of the steps your company can take towards increasing security and preventing loss.

Blog/Infographic Author: Vanessa Hartung

 

The Pros and Cons of Hosting Your Website

Guest Author: This week’s blog was provided by Nina Hiatt, a freelance writer who researches and creates articles on a variety of topics – including news and technology. You can learn more by visiting her Google+ profile by clicking here.

how-to-change-web-hosting

Sorting through all the available web hosting services takes time and presents an overwhelming number of options. Wouldn’t it just be easier (and cheaper) to host the site yourself? Here are some pros and cons to help your company decide:

Pros:

Hardware Control. The biggest benefit of hosting your website in house is that you have complete controlover the entire process. You control the hardware specifications, which means you can utilize hardware combinations that datacenters may not offer.

Web hosting providers usually have different sizes and speeds of processors, memory, storage, and bandwidth. Usually when you want more storage, you have to pay for a faster processor and more bandwidth as well.

However, certain websites may benefit from having large memory and a slower processor, or a fast processor and little storage. If you are hosting your own site, you can make decisions as to how fast, slow, big, or small your equipment is. Your company can also save money by not paying for services you don’t need for your site.

Money Savings. Any time you decide to provide a service on your own, you will be saving money. There’s no need to stress over paying bills or worrying about what products you have access to with your subscription package.

Software Control. Self-hosting a site also gives you control over the software you use and what features you put on your company website. If you use a free hosting service, like WordPress or BlogSpot, you may not have access to all the features you’d like your website to have. Even a paid hosting service may not offer what you are looking for, like chat capabilities or ecommerce.

Making Changes. Any changes, updates, or modifications can be made quickly and easily. You don’t have to go through a technical staff. If you make any changes you don’t like, you can immediately reset everything to its original state.

Instant Satisfaction. If you want to make changes to your server or your site, you can make the changes instantly. There is no waiting period between communicating your desires to the web hosting company, and seeing the changes on your site.

Cons:

Complete Responsibility. Along with complete control comes complete responsibility. You’re company can decide what hardware to use, but you have to actually know how to use it. If anything breaks down, it is up to you to figure out the problem and find a solution.

24/7 Duty. You are also responsible for monitoring your site at all times. If your server goes down, nobody is going to alert you that there is an issue. You not only have to fix all issues, but you have to be able to detect them as well.

Web Providers. Another potential roadblock you may run in to with web hosting is that many web providers don’t allow their users to host their own. Some of them explicitly forbid it in their contracts or they block the ports needed for hosting. Still others may dramatically increase their prices for any subscribers who want to run a server.

Even if your broadband connection does allow you to connect your own server, it probably won’t be as quick or as reliable as you will need for your site. Any downtime your web provider experiences will affect your server and your site.

Heat and Noise. Housing all the necessary hardware for a website server means you will have some loud equipment in your office. Servers generate a lot of heat, and the sound of the fans mixed with the sound of the processor will create a constant hum. The more traffic your site gets, the harder your server will have to work, and the hotter it will be. You may have to use additional cooling devices in the room where you house all of the equipment.

Takes more Time. . Letting someone host your site for you—called “managed cloud hosting” or “managed web hosting,” depending on which you choose—means that you don’t have to spend time worrying about or fixing any issues that come up. You can just sit back and work on the content of your site. When you host your own site, you will have less time to spend on the site itself.

Some Final Words of Advice

If you decide to host your site on your own, make sure you have all the technical knowledge you will need to manage the hardware and software. If you opt for managed web hosting, shop around and find the service provider that will best meet your needs. Hosting companies will usually show a comparison of their different packages. You can see examples of different packages on sites like VI.net, or you can read articles on sites like lifehacker.com that talk about the top web hosting companies and what they offer.

 

Saving Money with Colocation in Canadian Data Centres

If you are a business owner or executive, finding ways to save money on IT is probably high on your “To-Do List.” As necessary and vital as technology is to running virtually any kind of organization, it can also represent a bit of a budgetary black hole – and an area of the company where you might struggle to make the right choices and investments.

What you may not know already, however, is that reducing your IT expenditures doesn’t necessarily have to mean making hard choices between budgets, performance, and reliability. In fact, thousands of companies throughout Canada and the world are actually getting more from IT while saving money through the process of colocation.

How Colocation Works

In a traditional IT department, servers, networking equipment, and other pieces of technology are stored together in some remote portion of an office or facility. These typically receive attention only when something stops working the way it’s supposed to, and then the repair process can be lengthy and expensive – especially if new hardware or equipment is needed.

With colocation, things are simplified. Instead of keeping technology equipment on site, companies outsource those needs and simply lease what they need at a given point in time. In other words, they stop holding on to their own servers and networking equipment and simply use space on a business data centre located elsewhere.

Aside from the obvious benefits that come with not having to buy and install their own hardware, businesses gain tremendous advantages through the use of colocation in Canadian data centres.

5 Key Benefits of Colocation in a Canadian Data Centre

1. Lowered hardware costs. Actually, most businesses can eliminate their networking hardware costs altogether with colocation. That’s because, instead of investing tens of thousands of dollars in new equipment on a regular schedule, you pay a low monthly fee to use what you need. For most companies, that means a very significant cost savings. It also means they can stop worrying about the kinds of unplanned hardware investments decision-makers at every level worry about most.

2. Better technology and performance. Even though cost savings are a major attraction when it comes to colocation, you shouldn’t overlook the actual performance upgrades that are possible, as well. Because technology investments and upgrades can be pooled and shared over several different businesses in a data centre, you ultimately end up getting access to better equipment than most companies would purchase on their own. And, because performance is important to marketing colocation services, savvy IT providers upgrade to newer models all the time, meaning you get the very best for less.

3. Lower overall IT expenses. Aside from the obvious hardware savings, most companies that make the switch to colocation enjoy lower IT expenses in other areas, too. This often stems from the fact that software packages can be leased on similar monthly agreements, and that they suffer fewer problems associated with software and hardware failure. In other words, colocation in a Canadian data centre means fewer errors and less downtime. Those might be difficult costs to calculate, but every business leader knows the impact they can have on the bottom line.

4. The flexibility to scale technology up or down. Managing technology can be incredibly difficult if your company is growing too quickly, if only because the sudden need for more hardware and bandwidth can make expansion costs prohibitive. Even worse, if you need to scale your technology or operations back to save money, you might be faced with the uncomfortable prospect of selling equipment you’ve purchased at a loss. With a colocation plan in place, both of these problems are alleviated because you can scale your services up or down as needed – in an instant, and without any long-term financial repercussions.

5. Increased IT security. You don’t have to pay much attention to the news to know that the security of your technology is more important than it’s ever been in the past. What better way to keep data safe and sound than by having it stored and backed up regularly in a secure, climate-controlled, and continuously monitored environment? The average Canadian data centre is many times more safe and reliable than the office building or facility they replace.

Colocation Gives Businesses a Bit of Everything

For most organizations, and especially those that don’t have the resources to obtain or purchase high-performance technology equipment, colocation offers a number of important financial and performance benefits without any trade-offs. It’s no wonder so many companies are looking to Canadian data centres for colocation in 2014… shouldn’t yours be one of them?

To learn more, click here.

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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