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cloud computing vendors | Mission Critical: Cloud

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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.

Considerations for Choosing a Cloud Provider

For many organizations, cloud computing is cost-effective for at least some applications.  Determining which applications are appropriate for the cloud takes careful evaluation.  The following checklist covers some of the factors you need to consider before selecting a cloud computing provider:

  1. Does the cloud you are considering meet your business availability needs?  What information can the provider give about historical and recent cloud availability?  What investment has the provider made in resilience and high availability?
  2. What service level agreements does the provider offer?  What compensation is available if the service is lost?
  3. Do you need the cloud provider to comply with certain regulatory requirements?  Where will your data reside, and is that location acceptable?  Does data archiving meet your regulatory requirements?
  4. o the cloud services meet and exceed your IT and data security policies, or do they fall short?  Will it be in a private or public cloud?  Will it be in a secure data center?
  5. Where is the data actually stored and who has access to the data?  What happens to the data when production tasks are completed?  How are archives accessed?  How is the data finally destroyed?
  6. What will costs be tomorrow?  What are your baseline costs?  Agility, flexibility, and strategy are part of the future costs, but you need a baseline for comparison.  How is the agreement structured?  Can the provider change the cost of the service to you?  If so, how much notice is required?
  7. How viable is the cloud provider?  It is important to select a provider with sufficient resources and services to provide the high levels of availability, resiliency, and security your business requires.  Is cloud computing part of the provider’s core business, or is it a new venture that could fail if it does not attract and retain sufficient customers?  Does the cloud offer multiple, highly resilient data centers with very strong network links between them?

In a business environment where information availability is critical, it makes sense to proceed cautiously, using a deliberate and systematic approach to mitigate risk.  A sensible first step is to testing a cloud provider with a non-critical process.  This lets you gain hands-on experience without risking major problems with day-to-day operations.

Does your organization have a business impact analysis (BIA) that audit all your business processes and defines the availability, resiliency and security each needs?

For more information, visit our Cloud microsite

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.

Are More Applications Mission-Critical Than Your Realize?

Some applications are obviously mission-critical—the website of an e-tailer or the ATM machine at a bank.  However, the criticality of some application can go unrecognized unless you do a systematic qualify of each application.

To qualify applications, check these metrics for each:

  • Recovery point objective – how much data loss is tolerable?  All of today’s data entries?  The entire database, because restoring the database is easy?
  • Recovery time objective – how long can the business go without access to the application before customer service, sales, accounting, etc., suffer?  How much data can be rebuilt and verified inside that time window—a few day’s worth, a few hour’s worth?
  • Recovery resources – what space, equipment and staffing are needed to replicate the data?  Would those resources be available if other mission-critical systems were down, too?  If not, how much

Once each application is evaluated, determine whether all the mission-critical applications can be recovered simultaneously, as would be needed with a data center incident caused by a flood, hurricane or tornado.  If the recovery requirements exceed current equipment, network and staff resources, consideration of a cloud-based recovery solution is in order.

Cloud-based recovery solutions offer access to low-cost or pay-as-you-use recovery infrastructure.  They can be provisioned on demand in the wake of failure events, with sufficient security and guaranteed performance.

Could unrecognized mission-critical application be lurking in your data center?

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

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:

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.

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.

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 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.

The Cloud and the Availability Continuum – PART 2

Like dedicated hosting, cloud computing has to address availability.  Continued cloud outages, and the corresponding publicity, remind us of the importance of resiliency and availability.  One of the major benefits of cloud computing is scalability and efficiency of multi-tenant infrastructure.  However, even cloud infrastructures have to run in a physical data center somewhere, bringing us back to the critical nature of infrastructure availability.

Fortunately, the same availability you are accustomed to as part of a dedicated environment can be found in cloud computing.  Availability can be viewed in a continuum that ranges from high availability to failover and recovery, with many nuances in-between.  This continuum of  availability enables clouds to fulfill enterprise application and business needs at many different price points.

Platform Resiliency for Continuous Uptime

The first area to address availability is the resiliency of the platform itself.  Businesses requiring enterprise-class infrastructure need to look under the hood to determine how the infrastructure is architected and how resiliency is addressed.  A highly resilient environment should automatically
detect and address the failure of a system component—whether it is a server, network, a full blade or the VM —to quickly shift to a redundant component in order to keep the application running in the current site.


Failover is the capability to switch to a redundant or standby computer server, system, or network upon the failure or interruption of the primary environment.  Cloud computing has allowed failover practices to become less reliant on physical hardware and therefore more
available and less costly.  Service providers vary in the type of fail-over they provide as well as the time to respond, depending on the customers’ RPO and RTO needs.

A failover, or warm failover can be used for applications that require slightly less than real-time (e.g. hours VS. seconds).  In warm failover, a second site stands ready to be activated and made current as quickly as required.  Depending on the need, the time to failover depends on the Customer’s recovery time objective.  Sometimes the options can include the secondary site begin brought on line using a previous copy of the primary site.  Usually the copy is from the previous day, but it can be older depending on the business need.

High Availability for Mission-critical Apps

High availability addresses mission-critical production systems that require immediate, continuous, 24/7 access to data.  More technically, it means data must be duplicated at another location, usually in a different geographic area.   Essentially you are renting resources at one location and identical resources at another location, so costs are higher.

The communication method used between the systems also affects availability and costs.  Synchronous near real-time communication  pdates data from the primary system immediately  to the secondary system.  The secondary system mirrors the first and is ready to go into operation if the first system fails for any reason.

Asynchronous communications is where data waits in queue until the second system is free to accept it, so by its nature is less real-time.  Again, the business need determines which communications method is better.
Recovery for Availability

Recovery represents the other end of the availability continuum.  Cloud computing is changing the disaster recovery landscape.  The scalability and
flexibility of cloud computing platforms enable higher application availability.  Recovery can be used as a back-up to a production system already in the cloud or as a recovery solution to  another data center.  Further, the back-up can be on-line, ready to operate at the cloud site (like a warm failover) or off-line at a cloud site, as done in traditional recovery scenarios, since the cloud is a cost-effective recovery site for legacy systems.

As is obvious, different applications require different levels of availability, and applications should not be shoehorned into a “one size fits all” cloud
environment.  The best cloud providers will work closely with you to understand the business requirements of your business  applications  and devise the appropriate level of availability for each application you want to move to the cloud, along with any need for cloud resources to facilitate recovery of applications you do not move to the cloud.

Click here to view the SunGard Recover2Cloud Overview

Should you Negotiate your SLA?

Solutions Marketing Manager Janel Ryan discusses service level agreements today. –  Carl M

Much has been written in the few months about negotiating a better Service Level Agreement (SLA) with your cloud vendor.  Before you follow that advise, you may want to consider a few key points.

Be Realistic

First, If you are going to negotiate with your cloud provider, you have to be realistic about the performance you need and you have to be prepared to pay for those services. No vendor is going to take on more responsibility without charging more, no matter how hard you press.

Review the Architecture

Second, you’ll need to determine whether the vendor is capable of providing the service or performance level you are requesting.  Recognize that the services offered by the provider are usually governed by the cloud’s architecture and how it is implemented.  A cloud architected for inexpensive IaaS and quick provisioning may not use the most agile, efficient and self-managing software for storage, network and hypervisor.

Ask questions like, what uptime are you engineered for?  What exclusions would prevent you from obtaining an SLA remedies. Do they adhere to industry standards, like ITI for service management; ISO-9001:2008 for business processes, and  ISO 20000-1 for continuous improvement?  Do their internal procedures adhere to COBIT standards for governance?

Consider Walking Away

Finally and most importantly, if a cloud provider does not offer the SLA commitments you want and need, you are probably talking to the wrong provider.  Providers know what they do best and they know what is not in place.  If you need additional services, redundancy, a geographical distributed architecture and the vendor does not offer it, it is time to walk away.  Pushing a vendor out of his comfort zones adds more risk to an SLA, rather than adding more trust and confidence.

The clearer you are about your company’s needs for latency, redundancy, recovery, security and compliance, customer support, and technical support requirement, the easier it will be for you to select a cloud provider that can become a trusted partner.   Ask for a copy of the SLA early in your conversation with a vendor.  It could save you considerable time.

What improvements in service and support would benefit your company when it moves to a cloud?