All posts by Sam Richardson

Establishing Successful Cloud Computing Services

One method of ensuring that parties to a contract are on the same page as regards expectations and their fulfilment is the drawing up of service level agreements (SLAs). These agreements clearly specify what the vendor is willing to deliver and what the customer can expect to receive with reference to a cloud services contract. SLAs form an important management tool and are often formally negotiated and have specific metrics to quantify delivery of agreed services.

Before discussing the “how to” of establishing a successful business relationship in the cloud, let us quickly review the “bare minimum offering” in the cloud:

1. Readily available computing resources are exposed as a service;
2. The economic model is generally a pay-as-you-go service;
3. May or may not process data into meaningful contexts;
4. Limited guarantees on scalability, reliability and high availability;
5. Security systems are designed to be reasonably hacker proof;
6. Supports environmental goals by reducing carbon footprints;
7. Provides monitoring tools and metrics for evaluating services.

A quick think through, on the offerings of short listed cloud vendors, will establish the decision points for the relationship and the drafting of the SLA. The enterprise must have clarity on:

1. Whether the kind of service being offered by the vendor is the kind of service the enterprise needs?
2. Whether the definition of the “unit” measure of service is determined and can be monetised.
3. Whether the enterprise wants the service provider to process the data into meaningful contexts using compression or de-duplication technologies or it wants the data to be stored “as is where is”.
4. Whether the scalability, high availability and reliability can be truly obtained via the service. The enterprise must examine in some detail the technical claims being made by the service provider and feasibility thereof. A quick market research on the reputation of the vendor will also help in decision making.
5. Whether security guarantees are backed by industry best practises and third party certifications of cryptographic algorithms and user acceptance.
6. Whether green computing options are strictly enforced by the vendor and
7. Whether the service monitoring tools provided will truly reflect the level of service being provided by the vendor.

We, at Backup Technology, believe in working with our customers in a trustful relationship. The Service Level Agreements (SLAs) we design is guaranteed to satisfy the most stringent monitoring requirements and reflects the kind of relationship we seek to establish with our customers.

Real Time Transaction Monitoring in the Cloud

Critical ‘business-events’ are actions performed by the business. The transactions between two independent entities entering into an agreement to exchange items of value — such as purchase or sale of goods — are recorded as business transactions. Accuracy, integrity and accessibility of this information in real time are of immense importance to the business. How does the cloud make this possible?

A typical enterprise application provisions for the storage and access of transaction information in a database. However, in most enterprises, the database integrity is compromised in several ways. Multiple application programs may connect to a single database for commitment of information. Database locks generated by one application may prevent the updates initiated by other application resulting in data loss. Power shutdowns may result in a failure to commit information to the database. Consequently, the accuracy, currency and reliability of information may be questionable.

Cloud-based database applications are ‘uniform’ constructs. The client application and the web browser based applications are alternate versions of the same software constructed with the same business logic. In most instances, all functions that are available in the client-based version of the software are available in the web version of the software. They do not perform any operations or actions that will compromise the integrity of the database at any point in time. The transaction database will remain consistent, accurate, reliable and current at all times.

Real time transaction processing in the cloud will emulate the business transaction. The application will register the start of the transaction, and will identify the appropriate tables that need to be updated. It will also perform the update, record the update in the log, and then commit the transaction to the database. If even one of these steps fails, an alert will be generated and the failure will be registered in the log. If a rollback settings option has been selected, the database will be rolled back to the pre-transaction stage and an alert will be sent to the user.

IT personnel needs a coherent and reliable means of recording real time transactions in the cloud. Our software constructs for the client and the web make sure that your data remains consistent and integrated at all times. The software allows correct recovery from failures with rollback of database to original pre-transaction state. Users can choose to record all database activities on the log and to be alerted immediately if a transaction fails to complete.

Run your business without boundaries confident that Backup Technology, Powered by Asigra, can meet the ACID (Atomic, Consistent, Isolated and Durable) test of real time transaction processing head on!

Opening Doors for Innovation

Cloud is hailed as a disruptive technology, the next norm in computing. Those who have not switched to the cloud are being warned that they will be left behind in the race to tap the global market. Cloud experts sadly shake their head and say that small and medium enterprises that have not taken to the cloud are either ignorant of its benefits or are extremely risk averse. They insist that the future is in the cloud and cloudnomics will drive business innovation.

Cloudnomics banishes the 80/20 concept. Experts agree that 80/20 will no longer be the standard for innovation. Organisations can release captive IT infrastructure for redeployment in more meaningful and relevant ways. Cloud enabled services come packaged with all the hardware, software or platforms that enterprises need to optimise on their business operations.

Open standards rule the economics of the cloud. Cloudnomics is all about competition, driving down costs and improving efficiencies. The Unique selling proposition of each cloud vendor gains significance when customers are not starved for choice. The market demands “quality” of service and cloud vendors are forced to rise up to the expectations.

Cloud computing enables all kinds of businesses. It empowers small and medium enterprises compete against large, established enterprises by providing all the tools and services that were earlier available only to the latter. Branches of the enterprise, mobile workers situated in remote locations, partners, collaborators and others who interact with the enterprise can now remain connected at all times over the Internet. External and internal team collaboration, project or task management, communication and service availability can be orchestrated with amazing ease. Operational efficiency and competitiveness improve in unprecedented ways.

Scalability of the cloud is the added attraction. The pay per use model of pricing makes the latest and the most advanced technologies affordable and available to SMBs with no additional investment. The cloud vendor undertakes upgrades of hardware/software, while the user can just pay for the utility that is being enjoyed by the enterprise.

Asigra, our enabling company, is an award winning cloud service provider, who is committed to the success of its partners and customers. The unique selling proposition of the services, apart from other standard cloud features is the agentless backup technology that detects, encrypts and saves changes in the network. Bandwidth throttling ensures that the continuous backup system does not interfere with the day to day activities of the business and runs quietly and efficiently in the background.

Asigra does not hesitate to state that the success of its customers is the testimony of its own success as a service provider and is unswerving in its promise to deliver the best of the breed services. The company strongly believes in putting state-of-the-art infrastructure, software and computing tools in the hands of its customers. With more than 1,000,000 customer site deployments, Asigra leads the industry in cloud backup and recovery of mission-critical digital assets. Thousands of Asigra partners extend the market reach of the company and open the doors for innovation.

The New Business Paradigm—Cloud Networking

The concept of cloud networking is not new. It is even now several decades old. However, cloud networking assumes new avatars as users innovate and exploit the power of cloud networking in new ways. Today businesses are using cloud networking to drive down costs and improve productivity in ways that was never imagined before. Cloud service providers are eager to woo customers by adding new and differentiated features to their cloud offerings. Cloud networking is fast becoming the new business paradigm.

From the perspective of the organisation, cloud computing is the roadmap of the future. As organisations become more and more mobile and BYOD policies are being adopted, platform independence and multiple device connectivity are gaining prominence in organisational decision making. IT decisions today are being made factoring in the power of the cloud and taking into consideration the possibility that employees and branches of the organisation may want to login to a centralised enterprise database. Applications that were custom made for on-premise use are being retired in large numbers to give way to applications that can be deployed over the cloud and accessed by individuals working from the other side of the globe.

“As an interesting side note, IDC forecast that worldwide spending on public IT cloud services will be around $40 million by 2012. This figure has been exceeded and is fast approaching the predicted figure of $100 billion for 2016. The growth rate for cloud applications today stands at 24.6%. Gartner’s IT spending survey report for SaaS usage matches IDCs.”

Cloud service providers eager to market their services are anxious to still any security and privacy fears that may be voiced. Service providers want to reach out to customers and assure them that cloud networking is entirely safe and secure and is the right way to go. They are assuring their customers through websites, blogs; discussion forums; social media sites and even offering trial runs of their software to bolster this assurance and attract customers to their unique products. They guarantee high availability, scalability, flexibility and security. Elaborate SLAs testify to their commitments and attention is drawn to their reputation as cloud service providers par excellence.

In short, cloud networking is changing our world. It is transforming business and globalising even small and medium businesses.

Black Swan Events and Cloud Computing

Planners, strategists and consultants are talking about black swan events. What is a black swan event? These are events that occur rarely, but create serious consequences to the organisation. Very little is known about these events as they occur rarely, and as a result, preparing to meet the contingencies resulting from this type of event is very difficult. Yet, these events (For instance, the 9/11 event or the rise of the Internet) occur, and organisations must be prepared for them.

The Black Swan theory was popularised by Nassim Nichoas Taleb in his book of the title “Fooled by Randomness”. The book contends that since all swans are white, a black swan is considered to be a theoretical impossibility. Similarly, events which have never been encountered are considered to be non-existent or impossible to predict. The occurrence of the event, therefore, comes as a surprise. It creates a major impact and leaves the people claiming that they expected the event in hindsight.

Taleb’s book does not predict black swan events. It urges organisations and individuals to build a robustness against any possible events of this kind, and to exploit positive events constructively. He is critical of the normal distribution model that is used as the basis for calculating risks and of decision theories that used a fixed universe model for predicting events and outcomes. He accepts that other distributions are equally imprecise, but can be used descriptively to generate awareness and temper expectations.

Taleb pointed out that the rise of the Internet was a black swan event. While there were many skeptics who did not subscribe to the view that cloud computing would be adopted in a big way, hindsight indicates that the cloud was on the cards, and was all set to rock the world of commerce. It was a black swan event of magnitude that became a reality unbeknown to large parts of the world—quietly, aggressively making inroads into organisations, demanding attention and getting it. But, this was a positive event that destroyed the status quo and shifted the entire paradigm of business. It made business global, scalable, flexible and agile overnight. It was a revelation.

Today, cloud computing is more than just an insurance against disaster. It is the very medium of conducting business. It is a way of reaching out to distant markets, gaining the loyalty of customers, generating business leads, and working towards creating a secure business environment with guarantees of high availability, scalability, agility, and flexibility.

Intelligent Processes for Cloud Computing

If you are migrating to the cloud, make sure your processes have been tuned up and made intelligent. Intelligent processes can make your computing experience pleasant and meaningful. It can bring significant benefits to your business. It will be possible to measure your performance and even attribute numerical values to less tangible effects of cloud computing on your business.

The greatest contribution of the cloud is agility. The cloud uses agile tools to automate processes such as Document Management Systems (DMS) and Business Process Management Systems (BPMS). These tools allow organisations input rules and procedures into the system, and align the cloud to business policies on the fly. Process logs that record data as processes execute, allow organisations work with predictive and process analytical tools to understand the glitches and problems that retard the smooth execution of their processes. The results can then be used to improve the processes and reduce the latencies that may occur due to process slowdowns or network problems. Analytical outcomes can also be used to predict future “what if” scenarios and assist in enterprise decision making.

The knowledge worker regards the cloud as a boon. The anywhere, anytime, any device access that is made possible by the cloud, allows specialists apply their special skill and knowledge in decision making from wherever they are. The intelligent process will allow them to see all past and current information in a single window, and make informed decisions about current or future business actions at once. Since all information input is policy driven, the knowledge worker receives information in context, and is empowered to make the best decision possible.

All this results in greater customer satisfaction. Greater customer satisfaction then translates in to greater profitability for the business.

This brings us to the most important question: How can you make your processes more intelligent for cloud computing? Here are a few tips for starters:

1. Begin by modelling your individual processes;
2. Link all processes together into the value chain;
3. Add instrumentation to processes to collect business events information wherever possible;
4. Create analytical visualisations at runtime so that actual process activity can be observed and recorded accurately for future analysis;
5. Implement business rules based on business policies and observe how the rules impact the process flow. Do they retard the flow? Are process latencies increased by business rules?
6. Ensure process security and observe how security impacts process flow;
7. Improve process flows with process analytics and predictive analysis.

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