Private Cloud Progression

Recently I spoke with a vendor about private clouds. To me the definition of a private cloud is not precise. Many throw it around the way pundits toss around the term "socialist" when they've never read a word of Das Kapital or "Randian" when they shrugged their shoulders at the very first page of Atlas Shrugged.

I asked what a private cloud was and how was it different from a highly virtualized data center. Security, umm, scalability, he said. We finally got to what I think is the answer -- elasticity. A private cloud, as ill-defined as it still is, is the equivalent of a public cloud. By virtue of being highly virtualized, workloads are highly expandable and transferable both in terms of processing and memory, and storage as well. This means the data center is highly orchestrated. It also has to be either very overbuilt, or applications and data must spill over to an external service when your private cloud runs out of gas.

Of course don't even get me started on the notion of having a private cloud hosted by a service provider. It's too early in the day for my head to spin off just yet.

Jason Cowie of Embotics lives in this world and as a result is far more calm about private cloud nomenclature than I.

Here's how Cowie sees the world of private cloud moving. Cowie's piece is in-depth so I'll just give the Sparks Notes version.

First, Cowie is a fan of private cloud, but once you built one, don't just declare mission accomplished. An elastic, utility-style virtual data center that can spin up new services quickly is all well and good, but there is much more that can be done such as tying your private cloud into a public cloud and making it hybrid.

Before you go hybrid, Cowie wants you to take that cloud and make it the best private cloud it can be. That means optimizing.

What is an optimized private cloud? Provisioning is automatic, multiple hypervisors are handled, chargeback is fully integrated, and workloads are easily deployed so long as they are within the scope of cost models.

Also, all your resources are fully optimized, which is really the beauty behind virtualization. Offline capacity shouldn't stay offline for long, but should be allocated to your most critical workloads. The whole idea is to rightsize your entire operation, making sure you have enough capacity to handle spikes and growth, but not so much idle that you are wasting precious company cash.

What is your experience with private clouds? Share at [email protected]

Posted by Doug Barney on 05/01/2012 at 12:47 PM2 comments


Put It On My Bill

Recently we've been reporting on how hard it is to find out how much cloud services cost. It takes a Columbo to get vendors to crack and confess to their actual prices.

Once you've signed the contracts with all the vendors, you are looking at a lot of pay as you go services -- sort of like your Smartphone bill and you know what a surprise those can be!

OS33thinks it can make cloud bills more predictable. The New York-based company bill itself as an IT-as-a-Service Delivery Platform. I had to admit I had to look this one up -- so I did.

Here's what I learned. IaaSDP (don't worry, they don't use this acronym, I just threw it in here to see how it looks), I Googled IT-as-a-Service Delivery Platform and found many places where OS33 used the term, but no place where they defined it. It seems like a vague term where a cloud provider or managed service provider offers IT services such as management as a service to IT. See, not sure it needs such a fancy name for such a general notion as IT service. What is next, Service as a Service? (Sorry, SaaS is already taken.)

In any event, OS33 has a cool new "unified cloud consumption and billing tool" that pulls all your cloud provider's and your usage and costs into one Web-based console page. This includes not just services, but related software licenses from providers such as Citrix and Microsoft, and application management companies.

Posted by Doug Barney on 04/24/2012 at 12:47 PM3 comments


Get Ready for DRaaS

A friend of mine is a long-time cloud aficionado. Yesterday I e-mailed him because the guy who lives next to my friend's cottage is a lunatic. The cops spend more time there than standing next to Linday Lohan's driver's side window.

In response he happened to mention possibly starting a DRaaS company.

Putting my thinking cap on (that used to be a tumbler of Scotch) I quickly surmised that to be disaster recovery as a service.

As a Carbonite customer, I been using DRaaS for years -- I just called it Internet backup!

Eric Beehler calls DRaaS Disaster Recovery in the Cloud and he's quite the expert. But Eric's angle is different. He expounds on DR and backup for the cloud, as opposed to using a somewhat anonymous cloud service for DR.

With Beehler's advice, you can understand and plan precisely how your critical cloud data is copied, saved, secured, and replaced in the event the original is compromised. This advice could perhaps be best applied in a private cloud, but could also presumably be used in conjunction with a public cloud service where you take it upon yourself to protect data and apps running on Amazon, RackSpace, etc. This is opposite of a private cloud which spills over into a public cloud when capacity runs out.

There are several options that Beehler's walks through in ascending order.

One point Beehler makes, and it's indeed well taken, is many shops have disk-based backup held off-site for DR and these systems don't always have the most recent data. A little dash of replication software can solve that, allowing you to chose how often point-in-time backups are made.

Mirroring goes a step further, and is akin to continuous replication. Instead of taking stop-action photos of your moving cloud, you take constant high-res video.

Perhaps the ultimate solution is virtualization, where you can run a separate VM of the production app and if the production machine goes down, the VM is already running.

Posted by Doug Barney on 04/24/2012 at 12:47 PM1 comments


Cloud Foundry Strides to First Birthday

Usually a one year-old is barely able to walk or make sense. VMware thinks its twelve-month strong Cloud Foundry is not just robust enough to toddle, but mature, strong and plenty old enough to lead.

Cloud Foundry is a Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS), which means you have to build new or migrate your existing apps to the service.

To help deploy Foundry apps, VMware released BOSH. BOSH is meant to help you make sure your app is ready for the cloud through release engineering, install and configure the app, and then manage its lifecycle.

BOSH isn't just for PaaS. It is also general purpose, VMware says, able to help you set up services to run against OpenStack, Amazon Web Services and other Infrastructure-as-a-Service offerings.

Posted by Doug Barney on 04/17/2012 at 12:47 PM18 comments


Wrapping Your Arms Around Cloud App Security

There's nothing worse than a leaky cloud. If you are talking literally about the sky you get soaked. If you are being metaphorical and referring to computing, your leaking cloud means lost data and break-ins. Neither are good, but I'd much rather have to towel off.

Like raincoats and umbrellas, there are ways to protect your cloud apps.

Peter Silva, a manager with F5, wrote a piece for Virtualization Review explaining how to secure cloud software when you don't have control over the physical network, such as the ability to deploy what is now a sumptuous array of security appliances.

Since the cloud is virtual, you yourself have to go virtual such as using virtual Web firewalls rather than the ones you actually put in a rack, hook to the network, and tie to Consolidated Edison.

What's cool about these Web-based firewalls is you can set 'em so easily. With a physical firewall you set it up assuming a need and hoping it fully works.

With virtual, if you spot a cloud application vulnerability -- say there is a security alert -- you can quickly deploy the firewall. This way, your cloud app can be proactively and reactively protected.

Find out more about what Silva calls WAFs here.

Posted by Doug Barney on 04/17/2012 at 12:47 PM4 comments


Private Clouds Made Easy

AA is a 12-step program. Jason Cowie claims he you can kick out a private cloud in only 10. (Kinda reminds me of "There's Something About Mary" where the creepy hitchhiker told Ben Stiller about his idea for 7-Minute Abs.)

In any event, Cowie, a VP at Embotics, thinks you should:

  • Prepare to scale up your virtual environment so it can turn into an elastic utility, i.e. a cloud, and increase your level of IT automation so your shop can handle this level of scale.
  • Invest particularly in configuration and change management, capacity planning, and resource management to make your cloud work properly.
  • Not be afraid to take baby steps as you build your private cloud.
  • When you hit glitches, find a permanent fix so you don't keep repairing the same problem again and again.

For more insight, check out Jason's piece here.

Posted by Doug Barney on 04/03/2012 at 12:47 PM8 comments


Office 365 Loses to Private Cloud for Big Shops

A bit of Microsoft Partner-sponsored research makes that partner's services looks both good and bad. Azaleos sells Microsoft apps to run on premise in a traditional way or on a private cloud. The company wanted to find out how its costs compared to a pure Microsoft cloud Office 365 play.

Taking Microsoft's recent 20% cost cuts fully into the calculations, the company hired a research firm to run the numbers. For small shops, Office 365 turns out about a fifth cheaper. Advantage Redmond.

Go up the ladder a bit to where the shop needs all the Office 365 apps such as SharePoint and Lync, then the private cloud is one fifth cheaper. This is because the highest level version of Office 365 in the cloud costs more than running that same software on your own commodity servers. Interesting.

This is a bit contrary to the mantra that the cloud, almost by definition, offers savings compared to on-premise computing.

As with any vendor-commissioned research, one must cast a skeptical eye, but the fact that a partner paid for it doesn't make it wrong either.

Have you run cloud vs. on-premise or private numbers? What are your findings? Share at [email protected]

Posted by Doug Barney on 04/03/2012 at 12:47 PM0 comments


Even Bob Barker Can't Figure out Cloud Pricing

After decades of the Price is Right, Bob Barker knows a thing or two about what things cost. But even he would be flummoxed when it comes to many cloud services. It seems that cloud providers purposely obscure their prices. Perhaps like good real estate brokers, they hope to sell for whatever the market will bear.

Author David Davis learned this firsthand trying to get some simple pricing for putting 10 virtual machines in the cloud. One vendor even wanted him to sign an NDA before they'd spill the beans.

Instead of listing prices, vendors ask that you contact sales. Then the fun begins with call after call. Like with Amway, the real deal doesn't become clear until the very end.

Fortunately as I reported last week, Davis has at least a partial answer in the form of some free tools that price out Amazon and Vsphere instances in the cloud.

Do you have these pricing problems? Yes's and no's equally welcome at [email protected]

Posted by Doug Barney on 03/27/2012 at 12:47 PM2 comments


Cloud a Real PC Killer

I reported these finding on Redmondmag.com, another site I write for, and the IT readers went nuts. Here's the skinny. The Gartner Group, more eager for attention than Madonna, recently announced that it believes that by 2014 the PC won't really matter. It will be just another client, no more important than a mobile phone or tablet. And your corporate servers won't mean a damn thing, either. Apps and data will rest comfortably in personal clouds. In fact, you could mix and match these clients depending upon mood or where you are.

Two year's time may seem like a long time if you're working on an associate degree, but not when it comes to enterprise computing. Heck, how many of you are still on XP are even older?

Redmond readers bust a gut laughing. They remembered Gartner predicting OS/2 would kill Windows and that IT would die off as a profession, along with myriad other misfires.

I think Gartner's idea is dopier than an Ahmadinejad UN speech. First, what IT pros in their right minds would let users choose their core devices and where to store their core business data? And just how does one work on a 10,000-cell spreadsheet on a cell phone?

And you want to make a tablet work like a PC? Just add a keyboard and a few other items. Before you know it, it weighs as much as a laptop with half the power.

The cloud is a great thing, but this is the impact it will have in the near term, except for consumer and teenage computing.

What say you? Speak your piece at [email protected]

Posted by Doug Barney on 03/27/2012 at 12:47 PM3 comments


Cloud Pricing Obscured

Lots of items aren't clearly marked. Expensive restaurants take pride in not listing prices, car prices never bear much relation to actual cost, how the heck can you ever find out what the eBay reserve price is unless you bid all the way up to it?

High-end software, such as ERP, is often the same, with the bottom line as fluid as a government contract.

Cloud services, it seems, are just as bad. For something, like Office 365, you know exactly how hard you'll be hit. Platform and infrastructure services are murkier than a pina colada.

Fortunately there are tools that can help you nail this piece of cloud jello, which author David Davis brought to our attention. And you needn't fret about the cost; the tools we're talking about are absolutely free.

First up is CloudPriceCalculator.com, which dissects what Amazon EC2 will actually cost based on CPU, storage and memory.

SolarWinds has a cool new tool that figures out how much your VMware vSphere infrastructure would cost if moved from the data center to the cloud.

But if you are looking for direct help from VMware itself, don't bother. They have a Yellow pages-style listing of cloud providers with lots of detail, except price!

Are you confused by cloud pricing? Share your thoughts at [email protected]

Posted by Doug Barney on 03/20/2012 at 1:10 PM1 comments


Office 365 Price Shaved

Facing competition from Google Apps for Business, Microsoft just cut the cost of Office 365 by 20 percent.

I think Microsoft is looking for more market share. The company, though, argues increased efficiency and more customers led to better economics.

The software, which is as full-featured as the on-premise counterparts, now costs between $8 and $22 a month per user.

If you are curious as to how Office 365 stacks up to Google, check this out. This story is based on actual users, who gave the edge to Microsoft for more features, better manageability, and less training, while Google ruled on price and was a better fit for smaller organizations.

Posted by Doug Barney on 03/20/2012 at 12:47 PM4 comments


The Cloud-y State of Backup

Backup has always been a problem. The biggest problem is not backing up and most of us have felt that (Doh!).

Even when you back up it doesn't always equal restore. Sometimes the backup is corrupted, and just not usable. Other times it is out of date, so the recent data you really need was never duplicated to begin with. And in the best of cases, your restore can take precious business hours or days.

The cloud may, and I mean may, change that. If backup and hopefully restore are all that vendor does, they ought to be good at it. And all that data should be resting comfortably in the ether waiting for you to call it up.

My guess is that cloud backup should be your last tier and one should have a backup of the cloud backup that is nearer to your data center.

For me, I use Carbonite for personal backup and it is nice to know that so long as the company is in business, all my files are a click or two away.

For more on the changing world of backup, check out this report.

Posted by Doug Barney on 03/13/2012 at 1:10 PM1 comments