Critical Cloud Backup Questions Answered

There's no quicker route to an IT pink slip than losing your company's data. That's why backup and disaster recovery decisions are so important. Make a mistake and you may find yourself flipping burgers next to your kid's high school classmates.

Cloud backup and disaster recovery providers are facing a huge trust gap. If you have trouble trusting devices you can see or those trucks that cart away your optical disks and hide them in caves, how on earth can you place your job future in the hands of something as amorphous as the cloud?

IT is not known for taking leaps of faith. IT needs to know the cloud is safe. Imation Scalable Storage director Brian Findlay knows these concerns first hands -- he hears them every day from customers and prospects.

While an advocate of online, or cloud backup, Findlay does caution IT to bring this in cautiously, and only as a piece of an overall backup strategy. Maybe he is thinking about those pink slips too.

IT should look at the vendors very closely and measure the offering for safety and security.

In the early days of online storage (which wasn't that long ago) the cost and speed of moving data across the WAN was daunting. Through deduplication, fewer bits traverse these wires, making the economics more attractive. Making it more compelling, storage prices continue to fall, a nice little double whammy. Oh, and bandwidth costs are dropping too.

Posted by Doug Barney on 06/21/2012 at 12:47 PM0 comments


Protecting Private Clouds

I've had a bit of a struggle with the definition of a private cloud because vendors, like with just about any other buzz word, often toss the phrase around without knowing or caring about its true meaning.

To me, a private cloud should have all the attributes of the kind of cloud owned by an Amazon or Rackspace. It should be a true utility, meaning that one needn't worry about capacity or backup. It should just work no matter what workloads are thrown at it. That means it is elastic, automatically absorbing spikes in demand.

Private clouds are based on virtual servers which have the ability to shift workloads through sophisticated orchestration and have an infrastructure that is a bit overbuilt or has spillover through a service provider in the event that extra processing is needed.

Glad I got all that off my chest!

So how does security fit it? It speaks to the VM part. Because the private cloud is really a set of moving VM parts, your security has to layer intelligently on top. Brian Robertson from Crossbeam Systems lives in this world and has a few words, actually paragraphs, actually pages of advice.

First, just a bit more about the problem. Let's say you move a VM from one server to another. No, let's say you regularly move lots of VMs from server to server. If the security isn't 100 percent in lockstep, these VMs may be vulnerable.

Robertson's main advice is to take a high-level philosophical approach and to "think of security as an extension of the private cloud and to develop a virtualization strategy that enables network security to be as dynamic as the rest of the environment."

Specifically, Robertson advises implementing "intelligent automation that understands the security environment to ensure optimal performance and reliability," moving to take as many of your disparate physical hardware security appliances as possible and consolidate them, and build a security infrastructure that scales as the private cloud grows.

Posted by Doug Barney on 06/12/2012 at 12:47 PM1 comments


Red Hat Tips Cap to Hybrid Clouds

Though not quite Wizard of Oz caliber, Red Hat is working the open source levers into a pretty good position in the cloud world. Working off the Apache DeltaCloud project, Red Hat built a management platform it calls CloudForms. Got all that?

CloudForms, an infrastructure as a service (IaaS) management tool, is hybrid in a couple ways. First, it works with public and private clouds, and pulls them together into managed hybrid clouds. It also hybrid in that fact that it manages heterogeneous cloud systems while at the same time providing access to enterprise apps in a way that maintains existing IT security and compliance provisions.

If it sounds complicated, it kinda is. This is a developer tool aimed at layering new cloud or migrated cloud apps against IT infrastructure, not an off the rack solution!

Posted by Doug Barney on 06/12/2012 at 12:47 PM0 comments


Amazon AWS Ships VMs Both Ways

Amazon has a pretty nifty service, AWS VM Import, which, as the name implies, lets you bring virtual machines from on-premises into Amazon EC2. Problem is, as the name implies, it only lets you import.

Now you can export VMs back to your premises. Equally slick. As you might have guessed, the service is called VM Export Service for Amazon EC2.

Posted by Doug Barney on 06/05/2012 at 12:47 PM1 comments


Intranet-as-a-Service Middle Ground

French concern eXo believes there is a gap in social intranet offerings. Some are purely consumer-oriented public services like Facebook and lack the discipline for enterprise use. Other enterprise tools are hard to set up and take too long to establish, especially for ad hoc use.

eXo thinks it has the perfect middle ground with its Java-based eXo Cloud Workspaces. This tool is designed to let users build their own social intranets equipped with shared calendars, shared documents, wikis and access to all this through popular mobile devices (otherwise known as iPhone/iPads and Android phones and tablets. Windows, someday you'll have your day).

At the same time, IT can centralize what information end users access and how. This should be the best of both worlds.

Posted by Doug Barney on 06/05/2012 at 12:47 PM2 comments


Small Office 365

If you read Cloud Report regularly you may be getting tired of hearing about Office 365 all the time. But it just so happens a lot is going on with this rather massive cloud suite from Microsoft.

One of the problems I've been reporting on is this rather massive cloud suite from Microsoft is too unwieldy for many small shops. It is really built for accomplished IT pros with real budgets.

The software is complicated, being the full Office suite and equipped with a full complement of server software. Not for the weak of heart.

You certainly don't have to use all this stuff, but whatever you do choose to actually invoke, these are full enterprise versions, not like the light offerings of Google Apps.

InterCall hopes to lend a helping hand to its small- and medium-size customers and make a few bucks in the process by offering Office 365 services through its InterCall eCommerce conferencing and collaboration portal.

Besides getting Office 365, customers can also get audio conferencing using mobile phones, landlines or VoIP.

Posted by Doug Barney on 06/05/2012 at 12:47 PM4 comments


Cloud Security Alliance Crafts Certification Framework

The Cloud Security Alliance (CSA) is building a framework for customers and providers that it hopes will result in a more secure cloud.

The alliance is already comprised of vendors and users, which, to my mind, is the way standards organizations or alliances should be.

CSA already has work done in this direction in the form of its Governance, Risk, and Compliance (GRC) Stack projects, which are four initiatives aimed at securing public and private clouds, and include transparency, auditing, and assessment.

Posted by Doug Barney on 05/29/2012 at 12:47 PM0 comments


Windows Tablets Controlled by Cloud

Windows RT is the name given to Windows 8 when it runs on ARM processors rather than Intel. Sometimes I think Microsoft just does all this crazy naming to confuse us.

Here's something else confusing about Windows RT. Unlike Windows 8, it won't run Active Directory (AD), which makes it more difficult for IT to authenticate these tablets.

That's where a new way of managing devices from Microsoft based on the cloud comes in.

AD is a broad-based form of management that includes authentication. The new approach for Windows RT seems to focus on the apps themselves and provides permission on a per-program basis through a new self-service-portal (SSP).

The SSP is really like an apps store for both commercial and custom apps. In fact, SSP includes apps from the Windows Store itself.

The difference is the end-user authenticates through SSP, which itself can be configured to authenticate the corporation's management infrastructure. AD authentication problem hopefully solved.

You can dive into the details here.

Posted by Doug Barney on 05/29/2012 at 12:47 PM2 comments


Citrix Feels Cloud Synergy

I happen to like Citrix and it's not just because they always seem to be nice to me. While VMware always grabs the virtualization limelight, one could just as easily argue that Citrix is the true pioneer.

Citrix invented desktop virtualization way back in 1989. Server virtualization was invented by IBM for its System 360 (a mainframe is just a big server after all) in 1967 or 68 and VMware didn't start until 1998, almost a decade after Citrix.

Now it's true that VMware is outshining Citrix in the dollars department. Last year VMware pulled in $3.7 billion to Citrix's $2.2 billion, but neither is shabby -- especially in the economy. And those were dollars, not Euros or drachmas.

Citrix's next frontier is not quite space, but just below, the cloud. At its recent Synergy show, Citrix had a number of things to say about the cloud. Here is the rundown:

Citrix is making its next move in Windows virtualization with Avalon. I'm still trying to wrap my head around this but it seems like it is really taking off all the limits or nearly all the limits from what you can do with Windows virt but turning it into a cloud service, either private or public. With Avalon, your PC or laptop could become a private Windows cloud. And Citrix isn't thinking small, but by teaming up with Amazon Web Services will let you run any combination of XenApp, XenDesktop, or Windows Server. We're going to need a bigger boat!

Next up is Podia, a company recently acquired by Citrix which offers "social" oriented collaboration tool. Now that Citrix owns Podia, it has begun integrating it with other bits of cloud/Web software such as Citrix's own GoToMeeting, ShareFile, and EverNote, as well as Microsoft SkyDrive and GoogleDrive.

Podia is a bit like Groove being based on the concept of workspaces and teams, except Podia was built entirely with the Internet in mind.

Citrix is also not forgetting its open source loyalists, and announced the Citrix CloudPlatform. This software, based on the Apache CloudStack, is a cloud orchestration tool that hooks to Amazon via built-in APIs.

Posted by Doug Barney on 05/22/2012 at 12:47 PM1 comments


Amazon Embraces SQL Server, ASP.NET

Amazon Web Services (AWS) is getting chummier with Microsoft all the time. The latest example? Microsoft developers, and there are a ton of them, can now more easily write code again AWS.

In particular SQL Server and ASP.NET coders can either migrate existing code or write fresh stuff to run up in the Amazon cloud, thanks to two new Amazon services.

In the case of SQL, only relatively new versions apply -- SQL Server 2008 R2 and the spankin' new SQL Server 2012 to be exact.

That means AWS supports a rich complement of commercial and open databases, including MySQL, Oracle, and SQL: Express. Low-end SQL installs (a paltry 20 GB) are free.

ASP.NET joins the already supported PHP and Java.

Posted by Doug Barney on 05/21/2012 at 12:47 PM2 comments


Vendor to Customer: Demand Open Clouds

A lot of vendors love to tell you what you need through glitzy press conferences, talk of lightning-fast ROI and sure-fire promotions.

Those with proprietary systems talk more about benefits than lock-in and standards.

There are clearly two camps, open and closed.

Jim McNiel, CEO of data protection company FalconStor, has his talons clearly in the former camp. In fact, McNiel feels so strongly he wants you to think the same the way and shout it to all the vendors: "Make your clouds open!"

McNiel recently opened up to Virtualization Review editor in chief Bruce Hoard about openness and how FalconStor is moving to the cloud.

The company is lucky in that it doesn't have to build its own cloud. It partners with HP, which is in itself lucky in that it doesn't have to build its own cloud either since it bought EDS which already had one. Now FalconStor runs on more than 60 EDS ... er, HP data centers.

McNiel has plans for his company. In fact he has a "big, bodacious, hairy goal" to unite backup, archive and disaster recovery "under one single pane of glass."

Check out the complete convo here.

Posted by Doug Barney on 05/15/2012 at 12:47 PM2 comments


Office 365 Phone Home

Office 365 is largely aimed at the enterprise. That is true. It is really on-premises software for servers and clients that is hosted on big honking servers with access served up over the Internet or private lines. Big Office 365 installations are run just like on-premises, just without the wires and A/C.

If you are thinking about the Microsoft cloud service, you might want to check out a story I did based on interviews with about a dozen IT pros who used either Office 365 or Google Apps for Business.

If you don't have time, here's the Spark Notes version: Office 365 hits the mark pretty well for current Microsoft shops and the cheaper simple Google offering is sweet for individuals and seriously small shops.

One small shop -- in fact, a one-man operation -- went the opposite way. Redmond magazine (sister to Virtualization Review) columnist Brien Posey is using Office 365 not to replace a big batch of on-premise applications running on a big rack, but a little old Windows Home Server.

The move all came out due to a little crisis. While travelling, Posey couldn't get to his home network. Thanks, clumsy construction crew.

Hmm, Posey thought. Which goes down more, electric power or Internet service in his Ohio neighborhood, or the Internet itself? May be time to give that cloud a try.

Posey, a 7-time Microsoft MVP, found the migration "process to be extremely tedious."

Isn't this like Charlie Sheen getting bored at the beach? This doesn't bode well for the Microsoft migration or the beach.

Despite the grind of getting going, Posey is pretty happy ... well, mostly happy. After the transition, he got a lot more spam as he trained Forefront to spot the bad stuff that GFI MailEssentials knew by heart.

The best thing about Office 365, which is what I also learned from Redmond readers, is that all the management tools and techniques you learned for on-premise pretty much work in the cloud. Sweet.

Is this mixed though generally positive review spot on? You tell me at dbarney@redmondmag.com.

Posted by Doug Barney on 05/15/2012 at 12:47 PM2 comments


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