Category Archives: Cloud

4 Challenges in Adopting Cloud and Managed Services

Now that Cloud is hitting main stream with both Lines of Businesses (LOB) and IT organizations. Companies are trying to figure out a very simple question: What is their Cloud Strategy? What is challenging in this environment is that only a few people understand how Cloud Computing is going to transform their way of working.

Cloud Computing’s utility based computing model requires a new way of thinking. But the usual suspects that inhibit the adoption of Cloud based solutions and managed services are as follows:

What part of Cloud am I investing in ?
Security
Job Security
Budget

What part of Cloud am I investing in ?

Here is a great diagram from Thomas Maurer’s website that explains what each type of Cloud means.

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The cost element that is also factored across all these services, is that it is amortized across multiple instances which is usually referred to as multi-tenancy.

The other facets of Cloud Computing include something called a Virtual Private Cloud (VPC) which is also referred to as an Island configuration. Virtual Private Cloud (VPC) enables you to launch resources into a virtual network that you’ve defined. This virtualnetwork closely resembles a traditional network that you’d operate in your own data center, with the benefits of using the scalable infrastructure of a traditional infrastructure as a service provider. For those that are very security conscious that want to leverage the Cloud, I would recommend the VPC option.

Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) currently gets all the lime light because of players like Amazon, Google, IBM , Microsoft, and others (along with their aggressive price cuts). This is quickly becoming a commodity business. A challenge with a traditional IaaS is that initially it may look appealing at a price level but the costs can get quickly out of control because of the ease starting up new instances for application workloads. If the environment is left unsupervised there could be a nice little bill of unforeseen expenses waiting for you at the end of month or term.

There are a lots of organizations out there that have built consulting services on teaching people how to use spreadsheet after spreadsheet to manage their infrastructure costs

Platform as a service (PaaS) does everything below the application and data layer. This variant allows companies to build scalable applications on multi-tenant architecture that is elastic. There are also managed service providers that provide single tenant secure PaaS environment for those that are security conscious. The charge metric for PaaS is based on the number of transactions undertaken by the application or how many computing units are being consumed to scale your application. The most popular PaaS environments are Heroku, Google App Engine, IBM’s BlueMix, Engine Yard, and many more.

You may hear other kinds of acronyms like Database as a services (DBaaS), Desktop as a Service (DaaS), these are all part of the PaaS section in the Cloud. You need to keep track what you are using here as well to make sure you controlling costs and staying within your budgets

Software as a Service (SaaS) in this case the entire solution is managed for you and all you do is pay a subscription. Salesforce is a dominant player in this space and there are several others that provide such Software as a Service capability. As a matter there several SaaS environments we use in our daily lives email applications, blogging platforms, Analytics platforms etc. Understand that although you get a feeling of isolation in a SaaS environment, you are still sharing some of the core services with other folks.

I talk about issues with multi-tenancy for Enterprises in my prior post http://goo.gl/s9d8Xn

Managed Service providers abstract Enterprise Clients from the underlying complexity in moving to Cloud or leveraging Cloud services

Security

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This is usually the biggest concern for all organizations moving to the Cloud or planning to move to the Cloud. The great thing is that there are several organizations including Governments that are providing security guidelines for various Cloud Service providers. Organizations like the Cloud Security Alliance or NIST have been laying down the rules on what are some of the “table stakes” rules when it comes to Cloud Security.

The US Government has rules like FeDRAMP and FISMA for Cloud Service providers to comply before they even bid for any government contracts. US government in this case is also seems to be further ahead in terms Cloud Adoption for Citizen services and in also establishing guidelines for consumption of such services via the private sector.

Terms you should be aware are terms like

Secure Operations Center (SOC) or a Network Operations Center (NOC)

Federal information processing Standard (FIPS) encryption

Data under rest Encryption

In certain industries where health information is being captured; Rules like HIPPAA will also apply.

In a nutshell though security with Cloud Providers has improved significantly but it depends whether you are hosting your workloads on Public cloud or in a Virtual Private Cloud

If you bundle managed services with this environment the additional benefit is that you get a disaster recovery plan baked into your solution.In which case you may have to acquire another “as a Service”.

 

Job Security

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okes apart this is a genuine worry with folks that manage their organization’s data center. I would like to assure these folks that their Jobs are safe and that they are now going to look doing things that higher up the value chain and making sure they are keeping their organization safe from intrusion threat, application vulnerability etc.

If you are an IT person you don’t need to learn how optimize certain types of Application servers for different LOB applications, but you will have to make sure that the environment meets your organizations security guidelines and that the organization’s client facing applications are running 24×7/ 365 .

Remember, just because power distribution became utilitarian over a hundred years ago (thanks to Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse), it did not imply that all the power plant workers in the factories went away, those resources were realigned to work in the factory to produce more goods services that mattered to that particular business.

Budget

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Even though Cloud Computing makes computing a utility. It can still get expensive imagine using your air conditioning for 24×7 in an environment where the outside temperature is 100 degrees fahrenheit and with 90% humidity. It will make for an interesting electricity bill at the end of month.

Which is one of the reason you will seek transparency in the billing procedures of your provider. Cloud Computing with Managed service is actually more cost effective than trying to run your own private cloud and running with similar capacity issues just at a larger scale. One could argue that virtualization takes care of that problem and you are right but it only solves one part of the problem, even in a virtualized environment you still need continue buying hardware as part of the capacity planning and that is a capital expenditure which takes long to acquire in most organizations as it is a balance sheet item.

If you are considering Price as a deciding factor then you need to figure out what level of Service Level Agreements (SLAs) you are willing to live with. Multi-tenant environments usually have the most minimalistic SLAs and dedicated Cloud providers with Managed services have a higher fidelity of SLAs for your environment especially in the Application services area.

I agree this is not a very exhaustive list but in most cases, which I see across the industry these are the 4 that bubble up most of the time.

Looking forward for your feedback

 

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There is Public Cloud, Private Cloud and now Virtual Private Cloud ? How many Clouds can there be ?

HowCloud

As Cloud become more popular there all kind of flavors of Cloud coming about. Although variety is great but a lot of variety tends to add confusions. There still a lot of industry leaders still trying to figure out how Cloud would fit their needs. A lot of the popularity around Cloud has been in the small medium business space  but there are some enterprises that not yet made the jump due to security or the lack of clarity in that context.

Enterprises want the flexibility of Public Cloud but also want the security and control provided by the Public Cloud. How do companies get such flexibility? Yes I agree private cloud address those issues but elasticity is lacking and it does not change the age old behavior for IT to overbuy hardware for those “Just in case” situations. Only to find out that the additional hardware purchased could not accommodate the “just in case” scenario”.

cloud-questions

There is a third kind of Cloud and it is called “Virtual Private Cloud” . Virtual Private Clouds have the elasticity of the public cloud but all the administrative and security control of a private cloud.  Even though some public cloud providers claim that their environment offers complete administrative control of the Application (load) in their environment in most case that is not the case. Virtual private Clouds allow for that flexibility and offer complete administrative control and has been customized to the need of the organization that wants to adopt the cloud.

The new “Hybrid” Environments .. In most cases hybrid environments allow organization to mix up both Public and in-house “Private” instance to establish cost effectiveness (for more information on Hybrid Cloud Environments ). Virtual Private Cloud add a new dimension and flexibility that an organization might have not explored. I have captured some of the basic differences between the 3 variants that I highlight in the blog.  Looking forward to hearing your thoughts.

Public Cloud

Private Cloud

Virtual Private Cloud

Pros
  • Accessible Anywhere
  • Elastic Scaling
  • Does not require prior management approval
  • Use what you need
  • Multi-tenancy
  • In-house infrastructure
  • Complies to corporate security guidelines
  • Integrates with on premise solutions
  • Infrastructure available via corporate VPN solutions
  • In-house infrastructure
  • Complies to corporate security guidelines
  • Integrates with on premise solutions
  • Infrastructure available via corporate VPN solutions
  • Under the control of the Organization
  • Customized to meet corporate environment
  • Use what you need
  • Access the infrastructure using corporate VPN solutions
  • Unrestricted access to administer your own solution
  • Does not invalidate your prior investment
  • Does not require prior approval
  • Application upgraded as requested by the line of business
  • Elastic Scaling
Cons
  • Bound by the services offered by the vendor
  • Limited Customization
  • Security certifications may not transferrable to the application hosted for a client etc.
  • Additional services required to manage cloud workloads
  • Multi-tenancy
  • Requires Capital Expenditures
  • Upgrade cycles take a long time
  • Requires additional integration service
  • Impacts the ability to respond quickly to changing business needs
  • Requires Capital Expenditures
  • Upgrade cycles take a long time
  • Requires additional integration service
  • Impacts the ability to respond quickly to changing business needs
  • Still require additional skills to administer the application in question
  • Elastic Scaling is little challenging
  • Initial one time setup costs
  • Requires additional integration services

4 Issues with moving to Multi-tenant cloud infrastructure for Enterprises

 

Yes … In case you were living under a rock…. cloud computing is where it is at.  I am sure you have you have heard all great analogies about how cloud computing is making computing utilitarian and it is the harbinger of new sets of innovations analogous to the innovations that came out of the industrial revolution when electricity and transportation became utilitarian, which meant people could put their respective factories up wherever they wanted instead of being close to waterways. Here is a picture of Ludwigshafen Germany in 1881. Imagine living here at that time period and thanks to the innovations that were brought about by utilitarian services 

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This is how we see Ludwigshafen today …. 

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So there are clearly some benefits that can achieved by cloud computing in the same vein …  in the early 90’s you needed several thousands of dollars to start up a company today people can start companies in less than $2000 think about that for minute. 

 

Multi-tenancy Applications and Small Companies

Small companies are the first to gravitate towards multi-tenant environments since they have very little to product… their focus is primarily to get the product out  and use whatever capability to get a robust product set . Multi-tenancy  Applications are like a youth hostels where you may have a place to bunk but you have community showers or shared showers.  For most small companies this is ok as long as their stuff is not exposed to some one else or someone else’s stuff is not exposed to them… but there is not guarantee that it might not happen. Please understand I am not  saying that Multi-tenancy is bad … it is just that there are certain types of clients that will gravitate towards that. Now Sales Force is definitely an exception where they are making improvements to secure information of companies to appeal to Enterprise clients.  But there are some barriers for Enterprises to adopt Multi-tenant environments, I have tried to explain a few (this is not a exhaustive list)

 

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Issues with Multi-tenant Applications and Enterprises

1) Flexibility

Enterprises need to know where their data stored, especially non-US based enterprises that may want flexibility in where their data located. Thanks to the recent news around Edward Snowden and folks this has become a major issue with a lot of Enterprises.  Suppose your competitor is also using the same service as you.. would you want your sales lead information be stored in the same server as your competitors ??? Think about that for a minute 

2)  Security

Yes all cloud providers will say their applications are secure and that information is well protect. Imagine in a multi-tenant environment shares the same database, the data base administrator decides to implement a policy to which your company will not subscribe to. Remember how you feel when you get something that you really did not ask for and you really did not want but you got it …. Now you have to figure out you are going to sell this change back your management chain. 

I am not saying that people are staying still and that their is no development happening here but not a lot has been about it so far..

3) Limited Power 

Look around there are limits to how much data you can put or store in some of these environments.. Yes you can pay for more database space and more storage etc but what if it is was just a unique phenomenon. The other thing to add here some capabilities will be stunted because the provide the simplest common denominator. For example a Cloud provider can support multiple languages but not the one for the market you are going after…  now what do you do ?

 

4) Could end being more costly  

Yes.. you have low utilization rates.. but what about the cost of rewriting your application to support multi-tenant environments.. this stuff is not cheap, it is expensive. If you are in the business of continuous delivery  you need to have significant ROI and client base to get even break even.  What if you decide you want to change your provider what happens then ?

 

What could be better?

I am a big fan of virtual private clouds… Virtual private clouds address all the issues that I have identified. Think about virtual private clouds like a condo building where each unit has their own personality and has their own usage model and the kind of database, application you need etc. etc. 

Now if you are enterprise or a small company that is trying to attract larger clients … virtual private clouds could be for you. What are the benefits though?

1) You are the master of your own instance

2) You can have the kind of applications or service that you want

3) You can upgrade when you like and you are not bound by the providers discretion

4) You can move your entire application to a different provider with minimal costs

5) In the long run it turns out to be a heck of a lot cheaper than being on multi-tenant instance (Another blog post on this later)

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I am intrigued about your opinions and thoughts on this matter… 

 

In the spirit of full disclosure, I believe multi-tenant applications will be get better but the future will be a hybrid of sorts, since I believe in the vision of Cloud so much… I have decided to join a company that provides such utilities to enterprise clients … please go check out the company and also let me know what you think ? http://wp.me/P3eSgZ-ly