Tag Archives: Private Cloud

“Right” Cloud Services—The Identification Problem

Every business considers itself unique, with a unique set of problems and concerns. The cloud considers every business generic, and builds its services around the “generic” needs of the business. Therefore, it is no wonder that businesses find it extremely hard to find a cloud solution that fits in with their every need!

Given the fact, how does a business identify the “right” cloud solution?

The nature of a particular business has a very important bearing on the kind of cloud services that the business should select. Businesses that deal with large volumes of confidential information (government bodies, health care units or advocates) cannot afford to lodge their information in a public cloud. They would do well to consider a private cloud or at best a hybrid cloud that enables them, create data repositories online and offline simultaneously for instantaneous recovery.

Businesses that cannot afford downtime (e-shops, travel agents or service centres) without huge loss of revenue should go in for hybrid clouds that permit them to switch from onsite data repositories to online repositories, and vice versa, quickly and seamlessly. Small and medium businesses that generate large volumes of data (that are neither private nor confidential) and would like to store them for data mining and data analysis purposes may consider public cloud stores.

But, whatever the nature of the business and type of data generated, no business likes to have its information hijacked by malicious elements. Data security protocols implemented by the cloud vendor can influence” right” choices. All types of businessmen want to be sure that their data is protected during transmission and in storage. They want to be assured that the data cannot be accessed by anyone other than those authorised to access the data. They want to know that the remote server is physically secured against intruders. They make the effort to scrutinise data encryption algorithms, user management systems, Log maintenance systems or activity monitoring and reporting systems. Certifications received, market reputation, past history of breaches or even word of mouth can have an impact on the selection process.

Aspiring cloud users like to know that they can retain control over their data even though it resides in a third party repository. They may like to implement the enterprise specific policies in the cloud. The customisation options and administrative flexibility provided in the cloud will have a positive impact on the vendor selection process. Points that may be taken in to consideration include: disaster recovery, failover architecture and availability of fully functional trial versions for testing.

Of course, costs make all the difference. Cost comparisons will be made and will be used to clinch the selection of the successful cloud service vendor.

We, at Backup Technology, are on standby to help our potential customers understand their requirements and match it with the features we offer. A fully functional trial version can be set up for you to test drive our services before you sign up. We can help you get a feel of our services before you firmly commit yourselves to a service. Our support team is ever ready to handhold you and guide you through the process of trying out our services via telephone or email.

Hybridisation for Business Advantage

Hybrid clouds straddle the chasm between public and private clouds. The conceptualisation is highly recommended for small and medium organisations as–will be admitted—not all business data is mission-critical warranting the use of highly expensive private storage facilities that small organisations can ill afford. Most of these businesses may draw upon and use repeatedly, bits of information that may exist in the public domain or can comfortably exist in the public domain without compromising the security, integrity, and privacy of the enterprise customers. Storing such data in the public cloud is a reasonable and cost effective option.

When questioned, almost all small and medium enterprises agree that a hybrid cloud strategy is what they would like to look at. The hybrid cloud can be built up from either end—the public end or the private end. If the enterprise has been using a wholly private solution, change can be efficiently managed by gradually migrating non-mission critical information to the public cloud while continuing to operate the purely private bits as before. If end users have been working with the public cloud, more private, mission-critical information can be gradually privatised without creating unnecessary ripples in the production environment.

From the above discussion, it is clear that there is a need for a closer look at how the small and medium organisation works across cloud boundaries. The relationship across the public-private cloud boundaries will determine how they will proceed with the hybridisation of your cloud.

If most of the enterprise applications burst across private to public cloud boundaries, hybrid cloud solutions will have to begin at the SMB data centre and pan out to the remote cloud server. They will have to look at public cloud resources that will run these applications on similar configurations even when the operating system used is different.

If the enterprise applications are designed to permanently reside in a public cloud, but are expected to burst through the private cloud, it is imperative that the SMB start the cloud saga by focusing on the public cloud end and then integrating it across the boundary with the help of the cloud service provider.

Moving on to a discussion of the economics of hybridisation, it must be pointed out that the SMB budget has a deterministic role to play in decision making in context. Organisations with a large budget, can afford to splurge on a private cloud and move out to the public cloud in stages. Organisations that are budget constrained may prefer to reverse the option with an emphasis on consolidation and cost effective redeployment of existing resources. A validation exercise with budgetary focus is a must in strategy formulation. Detailed planning will reduce risks involved in migrating data across cloud boundaries, and making appropriate hosting choices for their applications.

Management Oversight—Cloud Tools

There was a felt need for standardised practices in cloud management as public, private and hybrid clouds gained popularity.  Over the decades, a few standards have emerged and there are many more in the pipeline.  Reputed cloud service developers and enablers like Asigra constantly update their software to include new tools that help IT managers and CIOs retain control over their data, maintain security of the systems, and manage their users efficiently.  Here are a few cloud tools that help IT managers in their quest for data control.

The cloud democratises computing. While this is good for business, it creates a few headaches for the management. For instance, mobile and remote users can upload or download data from wherever they are, with whatever device they have on hand without obtaining permissions from the IT Administrator.  The security of the information, the type of applications in use on the connecting device, and so forth, can create security problems that the Administrator must anticipate and provide for. It follows that there is an urgent need for policies and procedures that enforce access boundaries and user permissions, and for tools that enable the Administrator implement these policies and procedures.

A number of cloud service providers use software agents with administrative dashboards that equip the manager with the necessary tools for creating and managing users, who have the necessary company-defined rights and permissions to access the network, and perform some or all operations on the data that they access.

The cloud entrusts data to third party servers.  As a consequence, IT managers worry about security.  The cloud addresses a few of these issues by provisioning for layered data security.  Most cloud service providers use third party (FIPS-140-2) certified cryptographic algorithms to encrypt data. These algorithms are often described as bank grade or military grade and generally use AES 128,192 or 256 or Blowfish that have proven to be impregnable to date.  The symmetric keys that are used are often user defined and private keys that can remain secure with the data owner.

The third party service provider does not have access to the content of the data store that is hosted on their cloud server as a result of the encryption.  Security and availability of data is further strengthened with the institution of “as is” replication and disaster recovery systems and guarantees that the information will not be accessed by the service provider or their associates at any time.  Managers can recover or purge the information contained in the cloud service stores at any time they wish to rescind from the contract using tools provided for the purpose.

Flexible Computing—Cloud Advantages

The cloud adopts a consumption service approach to computing. The cloud separates the application layer from the underlying resource layer and introduces an extraordinary level of flexibility to computing.  Resources can be requisitioned on the fly and resource utilisation can be maximised. Resource capacity levels can be set to meet aggregate needs and utilisation levels can be maximised to reduce the cost of infrastructure deployment. Business users can ask for and use the right amount of technology at the right time for the right activity.

This is true irrespective of the fact that, cloud computing is delivered through a variety of configurations on demand.  The cloud can be a private cloud that resides inside a firewall.  The cloud can be a public cloud that is hosted on infrastructures owned and managed by the service provider and used by multiple enterprises collectively. Hybrid clouds are clouds that bridge public and private resources and use resources that exist inside and outside the enterprise firewall.  Each of these models allow users acquire or discard additional resources on demand.

However, this promised flexibility has not been achieved overnight. It has evolved gradually, with a lot of interaction between the provider and the end user and an extraordinary understanding of the needs of the other.  Three decades of intense efforts that have paid off.  Organisations and cloud vendors that were initially focused on cost efficiency moved on to focus their attention on quality and then on to business agility and further reduction of operating and capital costs.  Vitalisation has enabled the aggregation and consolidation of data centres and promoted the creation of large elastic pools of computing resources.

Standardisation and automation of applications and services have given the users freedom to deploy or use applications when wanted.  Simplification and centralisation have freed administrators from repetitive troubleshooting, patching, and change management.  Policy based workflows empower the workforce access and use information from wherever they are , and on whatever device they may choose to use. All this translates into cost savings on an extraordinary scale and opportunities for businesses by reducing time to service.

In short, the flexible computing paradigm will create a revolution in the way people work.  The cloud may enforce standardisation, pre-packaging of services and evolution of “no-touch” concepts. Management will no longer avoid change, but embrace it and work with it, so that business flexibility and agility is exploited effectively and efficiently.

How will Cloud Computing Affect IT Distribution

As Cloud Computing becomes more prevalent onsite hardware sales will feel the impact. However the Cloud has manifested itself in many forms and distributors will not necessarily suffer on all fronts.

Distributors must stay relevant to solution providers as the technology landscape shifts. The danger for distributors is that solutions providers start dealing directly with Cloud providers, and miss out the distribution middle man.

Cloud Computing is not just another fad which distributors need to slightly adjust their business model to. In the past businesses tweaked their models through charging for services they had produced for free, such as tech support.

The Cloud phenomenon is different and appears to be here to stay, leading to distributors having a bit of an identity crisis. They want to get in on the action, especially as the industry is set to become a $241 billion industry by 2020. However they are unsure where they fit into the equation.

UBM estimate that up to 38% of all IT expenditure is going to move to purchasing off-premise solutions by 2013. To meet this a third of all solution providers are aiming to change their business model within this time period.

Where distributors may not loose out so badly is within the Private Cloud space. In this market companies are buying hardware in order to produce a Cloud infrastructure behind their own corporate firewalls. IDC estimates that Private Cloud implementations will grow at an annual rate of 28.8% through to 2015.

It is the SMEs which are more likely to jump two footed into a Public Cloud solution hosted by a 3rd party provider, producing no need for a distributor. This is the market where distributors they will loose out, and could be labelled as unnecessary purchasing mechanisms.

So what about the distributors who are supplying the Cloud providers themselves? There is a harsh irony in the way that IT distributors have supplied Cloud providers in the past few years inadvertently supplying the force that hopes to steal their sales. However distributors have no choice other than to supply the future.

For distributors the future is unsure but may not be a gloomy as some would have you believe. In the past they have proven to adapt well to changes in computing. The task now is to establish a firm identity in the Cloud space. Perhaps the safe option would be to specialise in working with companies implementing Private Cloud solutions.

The Steps to a Private Cloud Implementation

[pullquote author=”Tom Bittman – VP, Gartner”]In a poll of IT managers, 75% said they would be pursuing a private cloud strategy by 2012.[/pullquote]

The majority of individuals are familiar with cloud services and what it entails. But what many people are unfamiliar with is the different types of clouds that are available. What is the difference between a Public Cloud and a Private Cloud?

The traditional cloud that most people associate virtual services with is the public cloud. It is a standardized IT service/software/infrastructure that enables the delivery of data via the internet in a pay-per-use, self service way and stored with a third party. A private cloud on the other hand, is a type of cloud computing infrastructure created by an organization, that houses a set of personal devices and federated online services that is configured and controlled by that individual company and sits behind their firewall, rather than using someone elses infrastructure. It is essentially a means of centralizing datacenter resources. There are a few things that private clouds do; they organize and preserve personal or work information, documents, media, and communications, they deliver that information to any device or service and they orchestrate integration of personal information across digital devices and online services. So organizations that choose private are utilizing the cloud and the benefits to being virtual but also have the comfort and security of storing and handling their own data.

What really sets the private cloud apart from the public cloud?

There are two things that set a private cloud apart from the commercially used public cloud; where the hardware is kept and how it is maintained. In a public cloud your data is stored with a third party, in their data center with other organizations data as well.

The ultimate objective of the private cloud is to allow a company to manage their own technology infrastructure.

The benefits of a private cloud are undeniable; you have direct control over all aspects of the clouds implementation including the hardware, the networking, the operating system, the way security is implemented and even the APIs used. The cost, ease of operation and management automation, and easy scalability are all considered advantages to private cloud as well. Locality and security also set private clouds apart from the traditional public cloud. You are hosting your own cloud infrastructure on a private LAN with no connections externally, so other people cannot access your data. You still physically have possession over your own data which is comforting to a lot of organizations with highly sensitive information.

What are the steps to implementing a private cloud?

There are many steps to implementing an effective private cloud. Below is a short list of 11 key steps to deployment.

Step 1: Begin by assessing the existing infrastructure and current requirements

The key to a successful private cloud implementation is to utilize as much of the existing infrastructure as possible. If the existing internet connections, datacenters, firewalls etc can be utilized then the project costs and lead times can be significantly reduced.

Step 2: Find the best IT partner for you

In order to be successful, practice some due diligence and find an IT partner with the expertise to design and implement a private cloud. That includes the infrastructure and IT management software for shared infrastructure, shared platforms and shared software.

Step 3: Test different virtual platforms

Once you have selected your IT partner the next stage is to test the platform that best fits your business requirements and budget. For example many larger organizations choose VMWare for its scalability and resilience, whilst smaller businesses choose HyperV due to its lesser cost and ease of use.

Step 4: Choose a hardware platform

A key element, and there are many variables, Nas or SAN, Fibre Channel, SAS or SATA drives, again each one has its own strengths and weaknesses in different environments.

Step 5: Standardized and documented procedures

It is important to have standardized and documented procedures clearly outlined for operating, deploying and maintaining the cloud. Everyone will need to follow the same guidelines to ensure proper execution and smooth operation.

Step 6: Determine scale

Take note of all the systems you plan on moving over to your private cloud. You do not want to overestimate and pay for something that will go unused or underestimate and not have enough room in your datacenter for all your data.

Step 7: Plan the project and migration

Agree on timeframes, procedures and contingency. Check with existing software vendors that their applications are compatible with your chosen virtual platform.

Step 8: Supportability and compatibility check

Verify every operating system and application that your organization will be running in the cloud is supported by the environment. This means doing a system compatibility check. You want to ensure that the systems you currently use will work in the cloud environment. It is important that you verify all of your systems are compatible, not only on paper and theoretically, but also on a Proof of Concept (POC) system and a lab. This way you are able to identify any problems and find the solutions to those problems.

Step 9: Run in parallel

A great advantage of moving to a private cloud is that you can run in parallel during the migration and after the migration. If an issue is experienced you can instantly access the old physical environment.

Step 10: Ensure that your platform is resilient

There are many advantages to a centralized private cloud however as all of your eggs are in one basket it is even more important to make sure that you have hardware and software resilience in place and that you have a solid backup and recovery strategy in place.

Step 11: Update your Disaster Recovery plan

To reflect that change in your environment it is essential to update your disaster recovery plan and perform a disaster recovery test to ensure that your Recovery Time Objectives and Recovery Point Objectives are met.

What is one piece of advice for those considering moving to a private cloud?

For anyone who is concerned about the security of the cloud a Private Cloud is the answer. The key thing to understand is that a Private Cloud is not a new thing, it is utilizing existing technology that has been around for many years and is utilized by hundreds of thousands of organizations worldwide.

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