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Mission Critical: Cloud – Carl Meadows

Author Archive

Is the Cloud for Everything?

Recently, Indu Kodukula, SunGard EVP and CTO, was interviewed by Smart Business Philadelphia.  Here are a few of his remarks.  – CM

The #1 reason companies want to use the cloud for their ap­plications is to align their spending with busi­ness value.  Companies don’t know up-front what business return they would receive from a capital investment in enterprise IT.  Without the cloud, they have to make the invest­ment anyway and hope it is profitable.

Using the cloud makes a fundamental difference, because you only pay for the compute resources you use or the data you store.  You don’t have hardware to buy or install and, in a man­aged environment, you don’t need internal re­sources to manage your IT.  The service provider takes responsibility for maintaining the software, servers and applications.

As a result, companies utilizing the cloud for enterprise IT can make investments that are automatically in line with the business value.  Then, they can invest more capital into infrastructure and re­sources as the business becomes more successful.

Companies typically walk through several points when making the deci­sion to use the cloud.  First, the moment something moves outside your fire­wall, you don’t own it anymore.  So you have to decide what to keep in-house and what to move to the cloud.  Second, you must consider performance and availability of data in the cloud.  In the cloud, multisite availability is used for applications that (1) can tolerate only about four hours of downtime a year, (2) need geographic redundancy, or (3) are respon­sible for keeping the business up and running

How can businesses get started?

The first step toward moving applications to the cloud is to do a virtualization assess­ment.  Then, determine which applications to virtualize.  Next, take the virtualized applications and decide what to keep in house and what to move outside your firewall.

Look for a cloud service provider that will guide you through the process, helping you understand and decide which applications should stay in house—either because they are not ready to be virtualized or they are too tied into business—and which applications can be moved safely.  The goal is to create a roadmap for moving applications to the cloud data center.

Which applications are good fits for the cloud?

If you have an application that supports your business and has such strong growth that it will need 10 times more resources next year than it does today, the elasticity the cloud offers is a great option.  If the applica­tion also uses modern technology, which is easier to virtualize, that combination makes it compelling to move that application to cloud.  Obviously, the business argument for moving older technology, like ERP, to the cloud is much less strong.

Is your company taking steps to determine how it can benefit from the cost savings of an enterprise cloud?

Download SunGard’s white paper, The Real Value of Cloud Computing.

Seven Ways Enterprise Cloud is Transforming the IT Market – Part II

In Part I, we recapped four of seven roles cloud computing plays today or will play in the near future, as discussed by Indu Kodukula, CTO of SunGard Availability Services, in an interview with Sramana Mitra  for Mitra’s  blog series,  “Thought Leaders in Cloud Computing.”  Here we complete the discussion with the final three roles Kodukula foresees.    – CM

Cloud as CPU and Storage Provider

We are also going to see independent computing components available on demand.  That is, compute on demand, storage on demand and, hopefully soon, network on demand.   Most likely, a relatively small number of providers will exist, and mid-size companies will use such services.  This means their investment in infrastructure is definitely going to go down.

Enterprise Cloud as Services Provider for SaaS

SaaS  vendors who run their cloud application on a commodity cloud will need more sophisticated capabilities for load balancing, monitoring, availability capabilities, etc., as the size and complexity of their businesses grow.  We have a great deal of intellectual property in our services that other providers do not have.  We see a time when SaaS vendors might manage their cloud applications on top of SunGard’s services in a commodity cloud.

That scenario would let SaaS vendors take advantage of both enterprise-grade cloud and the economies of a commodity cloud, if we do not happen to offer the lowest priced infrastructure.   As a result, we could end up with many customers who use our services as part of an SaaS application without our being the cloud provider and, possibly, without the commodity cloud vender knowing—or caring.

Enterprise Cloud as Services Provider to Commodity Clouds

We see down the road that some commodity clouds will buy services from us to use with their clients.   Just like SaaS vendors, as their size and complexity grows, they, too, may need the enterprise-class production services as their businesses grow.

In fact, one company using a commodity cloud has already arranged for recovery services to be delivered from our data center.   Their application is set-up to replicate over to us, because of the sophisticated intellectual property we have in our availability services.

Similarly, one can easily see the entire recovery process—the setup of the replication on an ongoing basis, the migration of the application and the failover of the application—going from, say, Amazon over to our data center.  Or, perhaps, all those availability services will be provided on Amazon’s infrastructure from someone like us—which would open up a price point that could be lower than what we offer today.

To summarize, the cloud is going to transform the industry.  Some people think that is hype, but it is not for  one simple reason: the utility model of cloud computing is amazingly compelling.  It is not just about cost.  The fundamental value of the utility model is you can tie the investment success to the business success.   Beyond that, the cloud lets you combine the applications, the resource management services and the infrastructure in ways that not only minimize costs but also raise the level of expertise available to you.

What applications would you move to a production-ready cloud to lower costs and decrease distractions?

Download SunGard’s white paper, The Real Value of Cloud Computing.

Seven Ways Enterprise Cloud is Transforming the IT Market – Part I

As part of his blog series, “Thought Leaders in Cloud Computing,”  Sramana Mitra recently interviewed Indu Kodukula, CTO of SunGard Availability Services, about the many roles he sees cloud computing fulfilling today and in the future.   Today, we recap four of the cloud computing roles they discussed.  In our next blog, we’ll recap three more roles cloud competing could play in the future.    – CM

For nearly 30 years, SunGard Availability Services focused on two specific businesses: disaster recovery (DR)—helping clients recover their applications after a service disruption,  and managed services—running production applications on behalf of our clients.   Today, we have over 10,000 clients, mostly mid-sized companies between $100 million to $1billion in annual revenues.  We have 50 data centers, over 3500 employees and $1.5B in annual revenues, and we have expanded our services to include the cloud computing environment our clients need—enterprise-level and  production-ready.

Our businesses give us a unique perspective on the IT requirements of mid-sized companies.  When cloud computing emerged in 2009, we recognized the opportunity immediately.  But, because of our background and market, we saw the best uses for cloud computing  quite differently.

Cloud as Development Environment.

The first use cases of cloud computing revolved around SaaS software companies making use of the pay-as-you-go pricing model for cloud computing.  This model enabled software companies  to buy  resources as needed, which is a tremendous advantage over laying out a huge CapEx (capital expenditures) upfront—before  you even know if the product is going to make money.   Today, using a commodity cloud, like Amazon, for the development and testing of new products is widely accepted.

However, among our clients, we didn’t (and still do not) see much development of entirely new software applications, so we knew a commodity cloud was not the best choice for our clients.   While we, too, see constraints around CapEx among our clients, what we see more often is overstretched IT staffs.  With this insight in mind, we took a different approach to cloud computing.   We made the decision and, subsequently, the investment to build a production-ready enterprise cloud.

Enterprise Cloud Computing.

Many mid-sized enterprises run heterogeneous environments, have special performance requirements or are in a highly regulated industry.   They want to take advantage of the cost-saving cloud computing offers, but their applications are not cloud-ready.

Further, they do not see rewriting applications in which critical business logic –logic that has developed over the last 25 or 30 years—to meet a cloud stack as a compelling business need.   Consequently, they will need a place to house that application for the foreseeable future.   We think the ability to deliver these types of applications over the Web and from the utility of the cloud model is definitely going to be the default model for delivering enterprise IT services five years from now.

The trends has already begun.  We are seeing more and more mainstream departmental applications and new applications moving to the enterprise cloud not for development but, rather, for production.   Even we at SunGard are “eating our own dog food,” so to speak, and converting our internal applications to our enterprise cloud over the next 18 months to take advantage of cloud economies.  That is a pretty compelling message to our clients.

Recovery in the Cloud

From the beginning, our DR business model encompassed a shared inventory that matched the customer’s infrastructure.  Now, by adding production-ready cloud services to our DR services, recovery becomes more about providing a “continuum of availability,” rather than recovering everything at one point when a catastrophe happens.  We call this new approach “recovery in the cloud.”  With cloud computing and DR services together, a client can decide the level of availability it wants for a particular application.   For a tier one applications, it may be no more than 15 minutes of down time; for tier two, no more than four hours; for tier three, 24 hour, and maybe for the rest, a couple days.

Our cloud services let us run tier one applications for our clients or, alternatively, provide a recovery platform where they can run the applications themselves.    These capabilities were deliberate design goals for our cloud strategy, coming directly from an understanding of client needs.

Enterprise Cloud as a Consultant

Many of our clients face challenges involving an IT staff under press to be more efficient, as well as issues around consolidation, new service roll-outs and new revenue opportunities.   We, too, have faced many of these issues and found solutions.

For example, we have significant experience with decision support and analysis using data warehousing and large-scale data volumes.  Similarly, we have production experience with many common departmental applications, and we have a great deal of knowledge about how clouds manage applications and resources.  In addition, we have specialized availability knowledge that even a Fortune 50 company would value.

We  find many of the next generation application service providers need help building applications for the cloud.   So, we are building up a team of solution architects who can sit down with entrepreneurs and help them design their applications.

Cloud application consulting is but one of the new services we expect to offer.  As the cloud environment matures, we expect to see the need for. . . (to be continued)

Are you writing your application to make the best use of cloud resources?

Download SunGard’s white paper, The Real Value of Cloud Computing.

SunGard Availability Services Brings Enterprise-class Availability for SAP to the Cloud

Today we are announcing the availability of cloud-based SAP ERP Services.   You will probably see the formal announcement in the blogs, trade pubs and various news services, but we thought we would be remiss if we did not give you a heads-up here.  Don’t hesitate to contact me for more info.  Thanks,           -CM

For the last 10 years, SunGard has provided SAP production support services (SAP-hosting certified since 2009), so it is only logical that we extend those services to our Enterprise Cloud.  With our Enterprise Cloud as its foundation, our SAP ERP production-ready cloud services leverage the best-in-class Vblock™ platform with the multiple layers of availability, scalable and elastic resources, and cost advantages that make cloud computing attractive.

We have been certified as a cloud service provider by SAP, and we have optimized our infrastructure for SAP ERP production.  Our services include advanced SAP monitoring and range from configuration support to application administration, patches and updates.  Because the SAP ERP services interconnect with our hosted physical environment, we can provide flexible, hybrid solutions as well.

We meet the needs of SAP ERP environments ranging from  new development environments to full multi-landscape deployments, including:

Available
Availability features range from automated fail-over of virtualized systems to managed multi-site availability with secure data replication and managed SAP recovery options.  Our Service Level Agreement (SLA) covers 99.95% VM uptime in combination with a 99.9% SAP production uptime SLA.

Compliance
As a SAP-certified cloud services provider, we provides ITILv3 framework production application services in hardened data centers audited under SSAE 16 Type II criteria and certified to the ISO 20000-1 standard.

Security
We provides a range of secure network access, performance and security options, from Internet-based virtual private networks and private carrier circuits to geographic load balancing and intrusion detection systems (IDS).

Now, new SAP ERP installations can deploy with no upfront costs, low minimums for cloud resources and predictable, predetermined costs—making this an attractive, cost-effective alternative to in-house deployment.  Likewise, existing installations can leverage the on-demand resources and predictable costs of the cloud to reduce in-house data center costs when equipment upgrades approach.

Moving to the SAP ERP production-ready cloud services lets your in-house IT experts manage their production work, rather than being consumed with the day-to-day execution details.  In short, it frees them to focus more on the company’s IT priorities and initiatives.  We can help you get there.

How much time could your IT department save with an enterprise-class SAP ERP cloud?

See a demo of the SunGard Enterprise Cloud Services here.

Will Cloud Computing Replace the In-house Data Center?

David Ayers, Senior Product Manager for SunGard Availability Services, provides insights today on the evolving role of the data center and cloud computing.   –CM

Corporate data centers are definitely changing how they are used, but co-location and managed hosting have done that for some time.  Now, cloud computing will be one more tool a company has at its disposal to manage their technology.  So, will cloud computing replace in-house data centers?  Not for the foreseeable future.

Currently, corporations are shifting to the cloud the applications that make sense, while retaining the applications that manage sensitive data, that operate smoothly with little oversight or that make financial sense for one reason or another.  Applications that require a more scalable, more elastic environment will move to the cloud, along with those that run infrequently but require capital expenditures to support.

Over time, corporations may move more applications to the cloud as their comfort level increases and as usage patterns change.  In addition, they are more likely to build new applications for the cloud to reduce capital expenditures from the beginning.

The role of the in-house data center will not diminish in importance.  Instead, it will focus more on evaluating the optimal environment for the company.  With someone else worrying about capacity planning, bandwidth, firewalls, licenses and managing a cadre of vendors, the in-house data center can focus more on the next generation of business applications.

In the end, a cloud operates at a fraction of the cost of an in-house data center and it draws in applications that can benefit from those savings.  In-house data centers will use them as tools, where they can  oversee the work rather than actually do the work.

What advantages could your company reap with enterprise cloud computing services?

Download SunGard’s white paper, The Real Value of Cloud Computing.

Recovery In the Cloud, Part 2 – What CIOs Should Ask

Recovery In the Cloud, Part 2 – What CIOs Should Ask

Ram Shanmugan, our  Senior Director of Product Management for Recovery Services, offered the important points below in an interview recently with Smart Business Philly.  –Carl M.

Evaluating cloud providers is time-consuming and can be a nerve-racing task.  You don’t do it often enough to become expert at it and sometimes its hard to separate reality from hype.  Here are a few questions that go to the crux of most CIO concerns.

  1. Does the  provider offer meaningful service level guarantees for recovery of mission-critical applications?  Can it reliably recover mission-critical applications in the wake of failure?
  2. Does it support heterogeneous computing platforms (e.g., Windows, Linux) and hybrid architectures that meet the recovery needs of the entire IT portfolio?
  3. Does the staff have hands-on disaster recovery experience?  Has it recovered from a disaster?  Does it understand the entire disaster recovery lifecycle?  Can it provide audit-ready test reports?
  4. Does it provide options for high availability, as well as less crucial applications in a heterogeneous environment?  More specifically, can this partner support a broad portfolio of Recovery Point Objectives (i.e., for each application, the amount of downtime and data loss your business can sustain after a disaster) and Recovery Time Objectives (i.e., the recovery timelines and priorities your business requires for mission-critical applications and processes).
  5. What is the range of options supported for moving data to the cloud?  Does it use monitoring and automation tools to ensure rapid and effective response to failures?
  6. Can the cloud partner handle your current and future needs?  Can it expand and contract on demand, handle sudden growth or support large amounts of application data?
  7. Can clients pay as they go?
  8. Does the provider offer multiple levels of security and service options?  If some data is too sensitive for the cloud, will the provider use a private cloud for that data but use a shared cloud for everything else?

One size does not fit all, so cloud partners should offer a range of private, hybrid and physical environments to make sure your data is secure and can be recovered after a disasters.

What combination of shared, hybrid and private cloud makes the best economic sense for your company?

Visit our Cloud Solutions Center for videos, white papers and case studies about SunGard’s Enterprise Cloud Services.

Recovery in the Cloud – Part I, CEO Decision Drivers

Ram Shanmugan, our  Senior Director of Product Management for Recovery Services, was recently interviewed by Smart Business Philly magazine.  Below are some of the important points he discussed.  We’ll have more next week.  – Carl M.

“Weathering a storm” is more than just an off-hand comment these day. The U.S. experienced eight disasters costing over $1B in the first 6-months of 2011.  Few areas of the U.S were shared the business complications caused by tornado, blizzard, wildfires and floods.

Planning for erratic weather can be tricky.  Of course, you want secure data, redundant infrastructure and business continuity processes, but balancing those needs against the needs for revenue-generating IT projects is difficult.

Fortunately, “recovery in the  cloud” offers a cost-effective, reliable option.  It lets you formulate the right availability service for your applications, from mission-critical to important but infrequently used applications.

Four elements drive the decision to move to a cloud-based recovery service:

  1. Cost savings.  The ability to fulfill recovery needs and lower costs is the most significant driver,
  2. RPO/RTO.  The Recovery point objectives (how long you can tolerate an application being down) and the recovery time objectives (how long it takes to recover the application) determine the level of resources your need to avoid serious impact to your business.
  3. Reliability. The true value of a recovery environment comes during a time of disaster, and managed cloud-based solutions offer higher reliability in recovery of mission-critical applications than do in-house solutions.
  4. Skilled Resources.  In-house recovery solutions require an investment in specialized skills to support the recovery infrastructure.  Cloud-based recovery eliminates that need.

Can your IT department recover from an outage without incurring emergency resources and costs?

Visit our Cloud Solutions Center for videos, white papers and case studies about SunGard’s Enterprise Cloud Services.

What does an Enterprise-Class Cloud Really Mean?

One of the most critical decisions a CTO can make is selecting the cloud environment for his or her company.  It is intimidating, complicated and crucially important.  When making that decision, it helps to know the attributes of the enterprise-class cloud, the “gold standard” for cloud computing.  Here are just a few.

Fully managed and Highly Consultative

By partnering with a leading vendor, you can leverage their IT expertise to architect the high-quality operations, recovery and business continuity processes your organization needs.  Their consultative approach helps to protect you from the many vulnerabilities experienced by companies acting without expert guidance.

An enterprise-class cloud is service-rich and supports fully managed operations for both cloud-ready and non-cloud-ready applications (which require dedicated solutions).  It comes with a holistic Service Level Agreements (SLA) that covers the complete environment—from performance levels for each component to 24/7/365 support, security, production processes, problem resolution steps and required staff certifications, along with ITIL, ISO9001 and governance procedures.

Resiliency

While the vBlock that underpins most enterprise-class clouds is highly resilient and redundant, it cannot prevent a server from crashing or a power outage from occurring.  Consequently, individual vendors are responsible for overall resiliency, whether that means automating failover capabilities or establishing integrated, multi-site, disaster recovery locations.  Similarly, vendors must specifically build into their offerings the security to monitor the access, use, disclosure, disruption, modification and destruction of data by users and programs.  It will serve you well to question potential vendors diligently about their resiliency capabilities.

Different Expectations for Different Use Cases
Different use cases require different levels of quality (reliability, up time, security, etc).  Once you define the requirements for your application, you can determine the price-performance trade offs your company can afford to make.  For example, a commodity cloud (like Amazon) offers:

  • Unlimited capacity,
  • Quick provisioning (turns on fast; shuts off fast.  Swipe your credit care and run your job),
  • Low cost and lots of control (e.g., root access and API-level access) and self-service.

However, the trade-offs include:

  • A weaker security infrastructure,
  • Little, if any, technical support (i.e.,  no consultation on set-up or phone support), and
  • No backup or disaster recovery plan except the one you devise and request.

Use cases for Amazon might include a test site or support for a start-up company that needs a cheap development environment with a high degree of control.

By contrast, an enterprise-class cloud (like SunGard’s) offers:

  • Consulting to assess and deploy applications wisely,
  • High-quality security, uptime and compliance,
  • High levels of customer support,
  • A service-rich environment,
  • Fully managed operating system and VMware for  provisioning, and
  • Architecture with built-in resiliency.

The trade-off for the enterprise cloud is that more time is required to move to the cloud.  Use cases include production environments that need security and compliance capabilities.

Not all clouds are created equal.  It pays to ask questions about every aspect of the cloud environment, carefully identify your company’s needs and match them to the capabilities of the vendor and make sure your SLA spells out the service levels you expect.

Does your company have service level requirements for your data center?

Download SunGard’s white paper,All clouds are not created equal.”


Understanding the Impact of Multi-Tenancy Design Concepts

Understanding the Impact of Multi-Tenancy Design Concepts

Today we hear from Chip Childers, product architect for SunGard’s Enterprise Cloud Services and partners with our product management and product engineering teams to drive the overall solution design of the service…CM

As you evaluate different cloud providers, it is important to understand the different concepts providers can use to deploy multi-tenancy.  Different concepts facilitate—or limit—the way in which a provider can respond to changes in the service needs of clients.

General Purpose Clouds

For example, some vendors design their clouds as commodities.  They focus on providing low cost access to computing power in  homogenous environments.  This type of general purpose cloud can scale quickly and easily to support large numbers of similar users.  As they become saturated, however, you may begin to see variations in performance, as some users expand their usage and experience spikes that place constraints on all other uses.

Performance variations can affect computing power, storage and I/O or network traffic.  Most providers already have solved performance problems associated with sharing VM RAM and CPU power, and most have deployed one or more of the many solutions for storage and I/O performance issues.  Consequently, network performance is usually the first noticeable bottleneck.  While it is important to know how your provider will handle performance variations wherever they appear, it is especially important to know how network issues will be handled. 

The Concern: Network Latency

Networks experience varying levels of latency based on where the users and their data reside and how much bandwidth has been allocated each user.  The easiest solution to network issues within a cloud is to physically separate heavy users from lighter users.  This means moving the heavy user to a private cloud where resources can be adjusted to meet the requirements of peak periods, more users and new applications.   

The Answer: Scalability and SLA

To reduce your risk of incurring more costs from your cloud provider, look for an enterprise provider that has scalability at every level of the cloud—SaaS, PaaS and IaaS.  And look, too, for a provider offering a Service Level Agreement that addresses the performance requirements for the services most important to your business.  These are the attributes of an enterprise level provider with the elasticity to meet your future needs. 

 

 

 

Interop Advice: Match A Cloud’s Capabilities With Your Needs

Last week when I spoke at Interop in Las Vegas, I pressed home the ideas that matching a Cloud’s capabilities to your company’s requirements is the single most important exercise for a successful move to the Cloud.  Why?  Because all clouds are NOT created equal.

All clouds are not created equal  

I know for a fact that different clouds have different stacks, staff  levels, customer support expertise, recovery capabilities, security, and service level agreements, along with different operational processes and procedures to support those customer-facing functions.  But, as I said last week, a number of pragmatic metrics can help you evaluate a cloud provider.  I focused on the following three:

 High Availability.  It’s a misconception that all cloud platforms are highly available; don’t assume high availability.  Ask what is the cloud’s record for available, and ask how that number was derived. Consider what additional services will you need from the vendor to achieve the level of availability your applications need.

Recovery.  Who is responsibility for recovery?  Is recovery completely your responsibility or the vendor’s?  Or is it one of the many options something in-between when you and the vendor shared responsibilities. 

Service Level Agreement.  The SLA does not protect you against a service failure; however, it spells out what the vendor will do for you if service fails, whether that is a monetary penalty or
a re-performance of a service, etc.  You must assess the impact of a failure on your business and determine whether the remedy is adequate.  

Beware of SLA touting 100% uptime.  The fine print usually says “with the follow exceptions.”  No one can promise 100% uptime.  SLAs with teeth, however, indicate that the vendor takes the requirements seriously and expects to take measures to guard against the loss of a customer’s workload,

Enterprise Cloud

Without exception, it is an enterprise cloud provider that offers serious SLA commitments.  Make sure your vendor has a good track record and shares your concern for all aspects of cloud performance.  Then you have the potential for a long and trusted relationship.  

Do you currently have service levels assigned to the applications in your data center?

 Learn more at SunGard’s Cloud Computing Center.