Oxygen Cloud Has New Take on Cloud Storage

There are myriad Web-based storage tools, and the free ones really ain't that bad. The paid ones are even better.

For pure backup I use Carbonite, and the $55 a year is little to pay for peace of mind. I guess I'd like to see the service double as a cloud check in and checkout service for files for when I'm on a different machine. My guess is they are working on that somewhere, just waiting for the technology and business needs to crash into each other.

For cloud file check in and checkout I use DropBox and it is simple and straightforward.

For those that need more than simple and straightforward, there's a new tool, Oxygen Cloud, which combines on-premises and cloud storage in some intriguing ways.

First is the fact that Oxygen Cloud is all based on a virtual file system, and that file system as I understand it is the foundation for how the storage is organized on-premises. The idea is the file system has the intelligence to control how files are distributed to end points, and access them from over the Internet, end points that include all the major clients, Windows, Mac, Android and vanilla HTTPS.

IT can manage the access, allowing a full dump to authorized users which cuts down on file access over the network, or more controlled access for less trusted users.

And all this is secured with no less than three instances of encryption.

Users shouldn't see all this plumbing. All they should see is another local drive.

Do you use a cloud storage or file service, and if so, which one? Tell me more at [email protected]

Posted by Doug Barney on 09/26/2012 at 12:47 PM2 comments

A VMware vCloud Director Mini-Primer

VMware used to be a hypervisor company. Then it became a company with a hypervisor surrounded by a bunch of management tools. Then there were more and more management tools, along with storage.

Then the third parties really kicked, building apps that tie into richer versions of the hypervisor. Before long VMware was a full-blown platform company.

In fact, many customers buy a range of related VMware tools that transform large swaths of internal datacenters.

One key product for building private clouds the VMware way is vCloud Director (vCD). Virtualization Review contributor David Davis knows a thing or two about vCD and was kind enough to share that wisdom in a recent piece.

First, vCD is software that can turn an existing vSphere system into a private cloud by adding multitenacy and self-service.

From the IT view, it supports the creation of groups of virtual machines to support specific workloads, all with security and network configuration applied.

Remember when I said VMware was a platform company? If you don't get it now, you'll understand when you try to set up vCD, as you need to have a VMware platform in place.

Here's what you must have: At least two ESXi hosts running under  a vSphere setup, as well as vCenter and vShield.

If you just want to play around, you can download a vCD virtual appliance, which is free for two months.

Have you built a VMware-based private cloud or are you thinking of one? Share your thoughts at [email protected]

Posted by Doug Barney on 09/26/2012 at 12:47 PM2 comments

SharePointing the Cloud

Thinking about putting Exchange in the cloud? Nah. You might lose all your mail. SQL Server? Too mission critical and too much transactional data going back and forth -- your performance would stink worse than week old striper.

SharePoint -- now there's the sweet spot. Not exactly mission critical, no real transactions to bring the T-1 to its knees. And so many of these apps are tactical. These puppies have to go up fast and simple. Last thing it needs is to get bogged down building a bunch of SharePoint servers just for a small team on a short term project. With the cloud, IT can ignore the whole thing and let the small team with the short-term project do it all themselves.

To me that makes SharePoint one of the first Microsoft apps I'd move to the cloud.

Posted by Doug Barney on 09/18/2012 at 12:47 PM5 comments

Big Data, Big Cloud, Big Deal

When I think of big data I don't really think of the cloud. First I think of big servers and big processors. Then I think of in-memory where this data is in RAM for lightning fast analysis. This sure ain't the cloud.

The other problem is big data doesn't fit well over the clogged pipes that lead to and from the cloud. However if your big data is somehow already all up in the cloud and if you are just sending instructions to manipulate it, then you don't have to buy the big servers with the big processors. There, the cloud might just make sense.

Rand Wacker from CloudPassage knows more about this than do I and took a whack at these issues in a recent interview with Enterprise Systems Journal.

Besides putting your entire big data app in the cloud, and there are already big data SaaS apps that can do the job, Wacker has an interesting hybrid alternative. "Instead of provisioning your computing infrastructure for peak load -- and then some -- you can cover the base load with your own private cloud and either lease the spikes or burst out into the public cloud when additional temporary resources are needed, as it is often the case with big data projects," he explains.

When it comes to having your all big data all in the cloud, Wacker is also a fan. "The on-demand nature of the cloud enables companies to very easily secure the amount of processing power they need, no matter how large or how small. Instead of building a data center dedicated to data analysis, companies can lease servers by the hour. For highly variable workloads, metered (or utility) billing matches costs to usage and can lower overall investment, especially for firms that are just beginning to leverage big data technology."

Does big data belong in the cloud or will we just overload the thing and slow down ESPN.com?

You tell me at [email protected].

Posted by Doug Barney on 09/18/2012 at 12:47 PM0 comments

CIO Cloud and PaaS Cheat Sheet

Just when I was starting to figure out SaaS vs, IaaS and PaaS, now comes private vs. public PaaS. Fortunately there is Bart Copeland, CEO of ActiveState to make sense of it all.

First, platform as a service. You probably know what it means, but it's a fairly new term so there's nothing wrong with making sure we all know what we're talking about.

I think of cloud as a stack. At the lowest level is Infrastructure as a service, IaaS, really pure infrastructure upon which I can build my apps. Kind of like a bare-metal server.

Platform is infrastructure equipped with components needed to run things, taking that bare metal server and adding an OS, storage, networking interfaces, that sort of thing.

At a higher level is SaaS. That's pretty self explanatory.

Getting back to PaaS, a public offering would support my apps and data and let me offer services. But it might also be hackable. A private PaaS should be safer, but it should also be faster and have more uptime because presumably it wouldn't be shared by every Tom, Dick and Harry. That's because a pure private PaaS would be in your own shop. Another approach, though semantically less pure, is a private PaaS carved out of a provider's network that is yours and yours alone.

You might have thought it was dumb that I defined all those terms up front, but we are early in this game. In the best of cases these names gets misused; in the worst, they are thoroughly abused.

Posted by Doug Barney on 09/11/2012 at 12:47 PM1 comments

Identity Management as a Service

The last thing IT thinks they would ever outsource to the cloud is identity management. It didn't make sense to me either. But three years ago I didn't think the cloud was secure and I had to give this a bit of a rethink.

Here's how that one went. In the early days of the cloud, the providers were just getting their feet wet and their networks weren't that secure. But cloud providers are dedicated to the business of providing clouds. That means they have people and technology dedicated to securing those clouds. That is their business. A big provider like Amazon might have hundreds of security experts on staff.

Your business, I would argue, is more complicated. You do just as much as, say, Amazon does, but how many dedicated security experts do you have? How many layers of defense do you have?

Identity management follows much the same logic. These providers are dedicated to this mission far more than you are. Think just any schmuck can crack their encryption? Doubt it.

Is IDaaS a no brainer? Certainly not. But it may be worth a look and a lot of tough questions.

Posted by Doug Barney on 09/11/2012 at 12:47 PM1 comments

Exchange in the Cloud

People have long been afraid to virtualize Exchange. I guess it's something about losing the entire corporate mail system or taking that phone call from an irate CEO (well, he can't e-mail you now, can he?) when he can't get his mail.

The cloud is a different story. If you lose the entire corporate mail system in the cloud, it's someone else's fault. And even Microsoft, through Office 360, now offers cloud e-mail.

There are some decent recent reasons to look at clouding Exchange, my reporting shows, not the least of which is the fact that no fewer than two readers, Dennis Barr and Bob Collins, had good experiences.

Dennis six years ago was looking at upgrading a physical Exchange install and looked at a cloud switch. He avoided the costs of all that hardware, let the service provider handle the hassles of ongoing mailbox growth, and used his free time to focus on things more strategic than e-mailbox administration. You know, frequent readers like Dennis have always struck me as pretty bright guys. Now, we have proof!

Collins, who's lucky enough to work at a country club, has a pretty similar story. For him, it just didn't make sense to install an Exchange server for eight users. With the cloud, he barely has to think about it.

What is your cloud app experience? Share your story by writing [email protected].

Posted by Doug Barney on 08/29/2012 at 12:47 PM6 comments

High Marks for Google Compute Engine

Google has been in the cloud business for so long I could have sworn they already had an IaaS offering -- you know, pure raw computers with a simple version of some kind of Linux or something you can rent and process to your heart's content.

Google may be late to the game that Amazon and Rackspace basically own, but according to one Infoworld reviewer, Google done good.

The Google service comes with Ubuntu, but they'll give you CentOS upon request. Many of the features are in lockstep with Rackspace and Amazon and here Google touts lower price, which may or may not be true depending on where all your users are and how much ingress and egress you need.

Now for the differences. The pricing is interesting where ingress is free and egress pricing is weighed in favor of teams sharing racks in the same local zones, perhaps encouraging the creation of cloud-based supercomputers used by local teams, the review surmises.

The compute engine has no storage, so if you don't want your data to go "poof!", you'll have to look at Google Cloud SQL or some other storage plan. Another option is to get an SLA and simply trust the 99.95 uptime. Do you feel lucky?

The most unique feature is being able to tap into Google services such as Maps, Places, or Books.

Posted by Doug Barney on 08/29/2012 at 12:47 PM2 comments

Caringo Reinvents Storage for Cloud

File-based storage has been the norm since there were files and there was storage. I tried to find the exact history but came up short. Better historians can fill in the details for us at [email protected].

In any event, when it comes to the cloud, that era may be coming to a close, at least if Caringo has anything to do with it. This cloud storage company thinks an object-based system is the way to go, and that file-based storage is simply not elastic and flexible enough for the cloud.

Caringo builds what it calls software appliances, which should mean they are easy to use and hopefully easy to install. But remember: This is storage. And remember these appliances are built to handle up to petabytes, which is huge.

When you are talking about this kind of volume, and changing the very way you store data, please, whatever you do, don't take my word for it, and don't take this kind of move lightly. Such a switch takes careful research and, if you take the plunge, a good backup plan.

Posted by Doug Barney on 08/21/2012 at 12:47 PM2 comments

Cloud: The Dark Side

The cloud is getting more and more worthy of your applications every day. But that doesn't mean it's perfect and that doesn't mean you should necessarily trust it. I guess the question is, which network is less perfect, the cloud provider's or yours? These are issues Margaret Dawson tackled in Cloud Computing: Panacea or Power Monger on Enterprise Systems Journal. Dawson is a vice president with cloud provider Symform.

You should already understand your network's weaknesses. Now let's look at your provider's presumed shortcomings.

First, many cloud provider networks are highly centralized. They may seem safe and secure with data centers behind locked doors with security guards, but thieves and terrorists are not the threat. Natural disasters may be. If your data is in one big data center, that is a single point of failure. A massive power outage, hurricane, flood could all put your business off line. And it's not just the data center, but the network connections coming to and from the data center that are points of failure.

Cloud providers love to get their calculators out and show you how much you save by getting rid of capital expenses. But operational expenses are real money too, and these add up, especially when hidden costs are involved.

Before we get to vendor hidden costs, there are IT hidden costs. Cloud apps are network intensive. Getting your WAN ready for the cloud can cost serious bucks.

Now let's get to vendor hidden costs. A lot of providers advertise some pretty sweet deals, even offering free services. But like smart phone plans, exceed the limits and you could pay dearly. Before signing on the dotted line, find out what you will realistically use -- that's what you will realistically pay for! Build this and a little buffer into your budget. If the number looks too big, shop around and stick with what you've got.

The cloud is a big change, and once you move it is hard to go back. Ask a lot of questions and make sure of the answers. What does it take to integrate your existing data sets and apps? If you don't like your provider, how do you move to another and what are the penalties?

Learn more from Margaret Dawson's fine piece here.

Posted by Doug Barney on 08/21/2012 at 12:47 PM0 comments

AppFog Apps Find a Home on Rackspace

AppFog, a platform as a service offering (PaaS) offering formerly called PHP Fog, now works with Rackspace. New apps can be deployed on Rackspace and if you are not happy with your provider, they can be migrated over as well -- with no change to the code.

AppFog developers now have a host of targets, including Microsoft Windows Azure, HP and Amazon AWS.

Posted by Doug Barney on 08/14/2012 at 12:47 PM6 comments

Right and Wrong Apps for the Cloud

Only the most optimistic and misguided cloud salesperson would argue that the cloud is ready for every single app today. But let's face it, cloud vendors generally think and argue that their clouds can do more than they really can, reliably, securely and cheaply.

Instead of listening to cloud sales people, trust your instincts, research and years of experience.

Before stepping out on a cloud limb, take a close look at your environment. Pay particular attention to your network. If it's too slow, your cloud apps will be way too slow.

Factor in the costs of boosting the WAN into the overall cost of your cloud apps before deciding if that cloud is worth it.

Now here's the tough talk. Just as every app shouldn't be virtualized (do you think a Wall Street trading floor is running on a bunch of VMs?), not all software should run in the cloud. Print servers handle a lot of documents. Does it make sense for these to traverse a bunch of network hops? Nah.

More and more vendors are promoting identity management over the cloud, arguing that because it is their sole business they can do it more safely than you can. And maybe so. But at least on Windows, authentication can be pretty processor- and network-intensive. And doesn't it already take long enough for Windows to boot and users to get to work?

And lastly there is file access. File systems were built for LANs, not the cloud where the server may be a thousand miles away and be just one of many VMs on a single physical server. Want to wait an eternity every time you need a Word doc or spreadsheet? Neither do I. For now, local may be best.

Posted by Doug Barney on 08/14/2012 at 12:47 PM7 comments