Posts Tagged ‘enterprise cloud computing’

Redundancy in the Cloud

Somehow, a perception exists that a cloud provides a certain level of redundancy by default. However, make no mistake. Redundancy is not inherent.

Admittedly, individual hardware and software components have some redundancy built in. However, those capabilities do not eliminate the need for a redundant cloud any more than safe cars eliminate the need for speed limits, traffic lights, divided highways and the rules-of-the-road.

For many cloud providers, especially consumer cloud providers, the only redundancy offered is to make physical copies of the data—and many customers do not use even that minimal level of recovery.  These clouds were not built with redundancy in mind.  They lack the automation, monitoring and procedures to provide clients with an environment that can anticipate, react and recover from component failures.  Such clouds are cost effective only if your business, employees and/or customers can tolerate the occasional complete loss of service.

Redundant Redundancy

The hallmark of an enterprise clouds is the redundancy it offers.  Redundancy exists throughout between the infrastructure layers to ensure high-availability.  For example, a failover process detects application hangs and interruptions so corrective action takes place quicker.  Monitoring tools ensure no single points of failure develops, and specially-built automation handles error conditions when a problem does occurs, obviating the need for human intervention.  This type of automation is particularly important because human interaction comes only after some level of damage is evident.

Built-in Redundancy
It is cloud vendor’s responsibility to design and build redundancy into the cloud, and the expertise, staff, time and investment it requires is substantial. Patches and piecemeal solutions added over time do not render the same strong results as redundancy baked-in from the beginning.

Is recovery of stored data enough redundancy for your applications?

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

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.

Business Continuity in the Cloud

Business continuity focuses on the resiliency, restoration, disaster recovery and security needed to keep your system operating, performing, secure and, if an incident should occur, recoverable. Many cloud vendors have little experience with business continuity, preferring instead to offer consumer cloud services to clients that provide their own back-up procedures, intrusion protection, vulnerability alerts, firewalls, software upgrades and disaster recovery planning/testing.

Resiliency is the key

Without strong resiliency, redundancy and failover capabilities at each layer of the cloud stack, the failure of one component can cause the  failure, in short order, of many subsequent processes.   Some vendors have experienced such “cascading failures.” To be truly resilient, each component in the cloud must have failover logic and automation.

Enterprise Clouds are build for overall resiliency.  That means they have not only failover capabilities and integrated, multi-site, storage locations but also multiple points “baked-in” where the system can failover in and between layers automatically.  If a component fails, it needs to failover without human interaction, so the workload moves automatically to alternative hardware to maintain availability.

Ask the Tough Questions

If low-latency, high-performance, robust security and vigilant management are key requirements for your applications, it pays to drill your potential cloud provider about their procedures and automation related to resilience, redundancy, security, governance  and data recovery.  Ask for their Service Level Agreement early in your conversations, since it spells out the level of responsibility the provider expects to provide.

Does your current data center have automatic failover?

Read “Five Considerations When Evaluating Cloud Computing Architectures” for more information.

 

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.

How Managed Multi-Site Availability Changes the Cloud

As traditional on-premise computing and data storage moves to the cloud, many companies have questions about data outages.  What happens when the cloud experiences an outage?

It is unlikely that an entire cloud data center will go down, but it is not impossible, as Amazon’s recent outage in Dublin showed.  Fortunately, companies can look to managed multisite availability to provide a higher level of service to keep the customer environment up and running, even in the event of an entire site disaster.

The phrase “managed multi-site availability” essentially defined itself.  “Managed” refers to the ability of your vendor to help re-create your information technology in the event of a natural disaster or man-made incident.  A Do-It-Yourself (DIY) service provider offers infrastructure only, while a cloud provider offering managed services has all the capabilities and processes you expect with IT, like change management, security, operations control, and the ability to resolve problems and issues.

Multi-site means your vendor has multiple sites where the cloud is available.  That means you have options and different price points for satisfying back-up and recovery requirements in line with your business requirements, from high availability to highly resilient, failover and recovery, with many nuances in-between.

In effect, multi-site capabilities means the vendor has a “continuum of availability” at your disposal.  “Availability” refers to the how accessible an application must be.  The more important an application is to your business, the higher the availability it requires.

The availability requirements for production applications are much higher than the availability requirements for a development or testing environment.  To accommodate production applications, the cloud environment is built from the ground up for production-level availability.  It is not enough to add change management, security, operations control, etc. on top of a DIY environment.

How many applications in your data center require high availability?

Learn more about SunGard’s Enterprise Cloud Services.

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?

Multi-site Options Allay High Availability, Recovery and Interconnectivity Concerns

Organizations moving essential business applications to the cloud are often concerned that they will gain cost-efficiency and on-demand capacity but loss application availability.  Given the importance of production applications to the continuity of your businesses, those concerns are legitimate.

Fortunately, new capabilities being added to our Enterprise Cloud Services address those concerns.  Today, we are making high availability (at the 99.95 level) part of our Enterprise Cloud Services and including that commitment in our standard Service Level Agreement (SLA).  In doing so, we are going beyond the norms for the cloud computing industry.

Our high availability commitment is possible because of enhancements to our fully redundant architecture.  It now utilizes two geographically diverse production sites integrated with recovery capabilities.  These enhancements afford seamless cloud services continuity and greater availability assurances for your applications.

In addition, we have added a new option for cloud applications that do not require high availability: Managed Multi-Site Recovery.  With this option, a secondary cloud site becomes available for recovery within four hours of an outage at your primary cloud site.  That four hour recovery time objective is backed by your SLA, too.

Because more and more organizations operate in the hybrid world of cloud, co-location and managed services, we are now offering the ability to interconnect applications running on our Enterprise Cloud Services with other environments hosted in our data center(s).  This connectivity can be done within the same site or between multiple sites.  That means data from your legacy environments can be shared easily with your cloud-based applications to maximize business value.

Finally, we now provide active management for Microsoft Exchange Server, Microsoft Active Directory and Hosted Blackberry Services to reduce your IT administration burdens and help ensure production workloads are available

Scalability Requires People and Services, Not Just Technology

Scalability is one of the most attractive features of the cloud.  It lets you meet demand-based business requirements, whether those demands are the results of ads, business growth, seasonal activity or economic cycles.

However, scalability is more than just provisioning more technology and/or increasing a data center footprint.  Scaling horizontally to add hardware is the easy part.  Data centers have been doing it for years, first as managed service offerings and now as enterprise caliber cloud offerings. 

However, the ability to scale vertically is one of the most attractive features of an Enterprise Cloud.  As your business grows, it also becomes more complex, and an Enterprise Cloud offers not just the infrastructure but also the service offerings you need, such as advanced data management services, enhanced security services and multi-site integration to support the complexity of your business.

Storage Tiering Services

As your data grows to multiple terabytes, you need storage tiering to deliver the right scaling costs at the right performance levels.  Tiered storage, where different classes of storage are defined and  available depending on the storage tier/data requirement, allows for the matching of performance and costs to the specific data-set and application(s). 

Enhanced Security Services

Similarly, as your technology footprint grows, you need additional security services beyond the standard firewall, VPN and related security access.  Examples include host-based intrusion prevention, log management/analytics and, in many cases, security information event management (SIEM).  Additional monitoring/reporting tools that report on capacity, performance and health are needed to make informed decisions across the application(s) architecture. 

Multi-site Integration

In addition, since everything is not likely to be in the cloud, you need the ability to inter-connect your Cloud environment to collocated or other managed environments as well as SaaS or self-hosted application infrastructure. This version of the hybrid cloud will continue to build in demand and necessity as more enterprises embrace the various delivery mechanisms, including SaaS, Managed Services, Cloud, Colocation, etc.  Finally, the Enterprise Cloud gives you access to the technical specialists and experts that can help you manage the new challenges.

When you think about scaling your business, recognize that three components—technology, services and people—are needed to scale it.  The Enterprise Cloud makes all those components available as you need them.

Will your data grow beyond your current data center practices  in 2012?

Learn more about SunGard’s Enterprise Cloud Services.

DocuSign Bolsters Global Network Infrastructure with SunGard Hosting and Managed Network Services

When you support large financial companies, your data center gets audited. Period. It used to be that clients demanded the audit themselves. Now, with the passage of Sarbanes Oxley in 2002, the U.S. government requires audits on a regular basis. Every 3-party IT vendor for a financial company undergoes the same audit that the client undergoes for its in-house environment. It’s the law.

Another layer of regulations come into play if a 3-party IT-vendor handles records that contain electronic signatures, whether emails, contracts or faxes. Something called “SSAE 16 Type II” went into effect on June 15th of this year. It requires certain tested solutions have to be in place for the network, and practices, policies and procedures across the whole data center have to meet certain standards.

So, what if you’re DocuSign, the global leader in electronic signature technology for the financial industry, and you expect business to grow rapidly? A cloud infrastructure would be perfect to support that growth—technology ready when you need it without upfront costs. What’s not to love?

The catch is the cloud vendor has to meet the same 3-party IT-vendor regulations that DocuSign and DocuSign’s financial customers have to meet. None of this “it’s the customer’s responsibility to…” nonsense. DocuSign is not about to risk their 100% record for passing audits with their Fortune 500 clients or their 99.99% availability record.

Only an Enterprise Cloud with Internet and private fiber networks with managed network services and multi-location facilities that meet SSAE 16 Type II requirements can provide the security and stability they need.

And now you know why we at SunGard are so proud that DocuSign has signed with us.

Which of your applications could fit into an Enterprise Cloud?

Learn more about SunGard’s Enterprise Cloud Services