Pitching SaaS

Dedicated SaaS vendors used to say moving to their model was a no-brainer. You'd save on all those infrastructure costs and free IT staffers to do other things (and sometimes wink as those other things were often collecting unemployment). On-premises vendors used to say their model was a no-brainer. You control your infrastructure, it is more secure, and SaaS simply can't perform. And why would you want to pay every month for software you could simply own outright?

That has all changed. On-premises vendors by and large also have SaaS offerings. The choice is no longer a no-brainer.

Given that, it is up to IT to decide in a fair and balanced way. Chris Brenton from Cloud Passages goes through the options, the pluses and minuses. However, since Brenton is from a cloud company, he does err more on the side of SaaS, promoting the fact that SaaS doesn't involve upfront capital expense and remote access isn't limited by a VPN.

On the security front, Brenton gives the nod to on-premises for large shops with talented dedicated security staffs, while smaller shops may find more safety in the cloud.

Posted by Doug Barney on 07/31/2012 at 12:47 PM2 comments

Space vs. the Cloud

One thing IT always says when objecting to the cloud is lack of control. IT can control the data center, it can't control the cloud. Usually this concerns security -- you can't protect what you can't control. Sometimes it concerns the data itself -- can you trust that it will always be there if you can't trust that the cloud provider will always be there? And there is performance. IT can control performance if it can control the network and define fast channels everywhere.

In each of these cases, cloud providers are great progress. For security, one could argue that a cloud company that's 100 percent dedicated to securing its site would do a better job than your data center that is trying to do twenty things at once.

Most of us, when we move to the cloud, go with large vendors and have backups of all our data somewhere, so there is no fear of it simply going away. And performance, while still an issue, can be dealt with through good WAN planning and by choosing what apps do and do not go on the cloud.

I thought I had all the big stuff settled until Elias Khnaser threw me for a loop. According to Elias we may have one more things to worry about: solar flares. What if one of these puppies takes out the Internet? One of Elias' clients brought up the possibility, so Elias scurried to his PC in search of an answer. Turns out that a flare strong enough to mess up the Internet would mess up everything, including your data center.

Posted by Doug Barney on 07/31/2012 at 12:47 PM0 comments

Azure Adds Active Directory Services

Microsoft Azure keeps growing into a fuller and fuller cloud platform. The latest addition is what sounds actually like a narrow piece of function, Windows Azure Active Directory with the unfortunate acronym WAAD.

This WAAD, first shown last month in a developer preview, supports directory services such as identity management and will eventually be WAADed up into Azure itself.

New features include the ability to create cloud apps offering single log-on, and a new API that lets apps tap into WAAD data.

Posted by Doug Barney on 07/24/2012 at 12:47 PM5 comments

VMware Cloud Pioneer Maritz Cut Loose

As CEO of VMware, Paul Maritz led the company into the world of private clouds, transforming a largely hypervisor-driven concern into a true platform player. And for this Maritz was replaced by one of its own, Pat Gelsinger, who served as COO at VMware parent EMC. My guess? EMC wants to exert more control over the largely independent VMware.

Others believe Maritz was replaced because he failed to keep Hyper-V at bay. The Microsoft hypervisor is absolutely on the move.

If anyone tells you that Maritz did a poor job, read them this: First, VMware is making gobs of money, and the latest quarter, announced alongside Maritz's departure, was a stunner, with a record-breaking $1.1 billion in revenue. That's a run rate of moer than $4 billion a year.

More than that, Maritz led a technical charge any geek would be proud of. Under his leadership, the company moved from a company with a hypervisor surrounded by some good management tools to a true platform, one that is arguably the leader not just in virtualized datacenters but in true private cloud creation.

Martitz isn't leaving entirely. He'll be on the board of the directors and serve as chief strategist. Often positions like the latter are just to soothe investors or the feathers of the exec himself. Give it six months and we'll see which is the case with Maritz.

Posted by Doug Barney on 07/24/2012 at 12:47 PM2 comments

Cloud Makes Hacking a Snap

I may be naïve, but I find it hard to believe that malware (especially automated malware) in these days of layered protection, can steal millions and millions of dollars from highly successful financial institutions.

But that is precisely the claim of McAfee and Guardian Analytics, who just published a report on the subject that printed loss figures (but didn't name the names of those companies who got hacked).

The malware is based in part on Zeus, and is cleverly (I guess) named High Roller since the companies it steals from have lots of dough.

The hacks are a combination of hands-on hacking and automated pilfering of ongoing financial transactions.

McAfee believes as little as $75 million and as much as $2.5 billion may have been lifted, but with a range this wide, does McAfee really have any clue?

The question 1105 Web Editor Chris Paoli asks is, does the cloud make this kind of hacking that much easier? My hope is it doesn't while my fear is it does.

What is your take on all of this? Is it really still this easy to steal this much money and not get caught? You tell me at [email protected].

Posted by Doug Barney on 07/17/2012 at 12:47 PM6 comments

GFI Moves Anti-Virus, Server Management to Cloud

Last week I had lunch with Walter Scott, CEO of GFI Software. Walter is a colorful character. He leaves his Ferrari at his house in Florida, his 8-foot Bourget chopper at his home in Massachusetts, and I'm not sure what he drives when he's at the company headquarters in Malta. And his most recent last cool vehicle, a whopping Ford F-650 pickup, is somewhere in the Middle East presumably being driven by an oil sheik.

The last big GFI news was the acquisition of Sunbelt Software out of Clearwater, Florida, which may explain the Ferrari 340 parked in the Sunshine State. Sunbelt was kicking some Symantec butt with Vipre, an anti-virus/anti-malware tool. Former Sunbelt CEO Alex Eckelberry always called Vipre the Porsche of anti-virus. It doesn't have every feature; instead it is lean, mean, and high performance. I thought this was CEO hype until I asked his customers. They agreed, feeling Symantec was bloated and Vipre wasn't.

GFI had a product line of its own, long before Sunbelt, which included GFI LanGuard, which offers network security, and Network Server Monitor.

GFI Cloud, for now, offers anti-virus, server and workstation monitoring and management and asset management largely through cloud versions of Vipre, Network Server Monitor.

Posted by Doug Barney on 07/17/2012 at 12:47 PM3 comments

Why Fear Cloud DR

The cloud has won many types of customers. Consumers love their Gmail and Hotmail, leftwingers their Huffington, right wingers their Drudge, sales types live in Saleforce, and Lync is setting the world of unified communication astir.

Meanwhile personal backup with services like Carbonite is revolutionized. Enough bacon has been saved to keep Homer Simpson fed for years.

IT, though, is still wary of using the cloud for hardcore disaster recovery. If they can't see their disaster recovery systems, or know their disks are held in some underground cavern, they just don't feel safe.

Seth Goodling, from storage vendor Acronis, analyzed some recent surveys that drive home this point.

This is actually great news because it serves as a challenge to the cloud storage vendors to perfect their technology, and absolutely prove it works. Once this is done, the cloud could be the easiest, safest, and maybe cheapest way to do DR ever.


Posted by Doug Barney on 07/10/2012 at 12:47 PM5 comments

CIO Cloud Cheat Sheet

Some of you reading this may be a CIO. Some may play that role, but not have the exact title. Others may be a few notches below. But it doesn't hurt for all of us to, at least at times, put on the CIO thinking cap.

So when it comes to imagining a full cloud strategy, here are some things David S. Linthicum, founder of Blue Mountain Labs, himself a CTO, advises.

First, Linthicum sees cloud as a C-level initiative and I guess I agree that a shift of this magnitude, while not always driven from the top, certainly is approved from those heights. For the cloud CIOs drive the strategy, then work with the other big C-level person, the CEO, to get 'er done.

CIOs should only propose what they understand, and so forming a group to analyze how cloud technology applies to the specific enterprise makes sense. CIOs should come away with details, such as where the cloud could have the most immediate impact and how well the current staff is equipped to handle the transition.

Larger shops have to deal with compliance rules, and the cloud adds a new wrinkle. This really means asking the hosting provider a bunch of questions. It might just mean that they are better prepared to handle your compliance than you are.

And lastly, looping back to staff, you may need to make some changes, as not all may be ready for the cloud. The skills of on-premises computing are fundamentally different from cloud. Instead of low-level admin functions, you'll probably need higher level application design and management. The cloud, done right, makes IT more strategic which ain't necessarily a bad thing.

Posted by Doug Barney on 07/10/2012 at 12:47 PM2 comments

Microsoft Buys Yammer, Cloud Social Media Has Consumer and Enterprise Hooks

As largely expected, Microsoft bought Yammer, a social media player. This is not like Bing, which is 100% going up against Google. While Yammer does compete against Facebook for consumers, let's face it -- that ship really has sailed.

I think Microsoft bought Yammer far more because it can be used for enterprise social networking. Those steeped in the Microsoft product line may remember that Microsoft, through Lync and other tools, already offers social networking, but this requires lots of software licenses and even more IT elbow grease. Yammer is much more quick and dirty. Redmond can upsell you later.

The price of all this? A mere $1.2 billion.

Posted by Doug Barney on 06/26/2012 at 12:47 PM2 comments

Private Cloud on the Cheap

Only the richest companies seem to offer public cloud services, or at least make a big name for themselves. Just think of the words Microsoft, Google, and Amazon. So it stands to reason it takes more than a few bucks to build a private cloud. After all, these elastic, self-provisioning capacity-on-demand, always-on utilities are built on highly virtualized orchestrated servers. While that is a mouthful, that's what private clouds in essence are all about.

Aaron Bawcom, CTO for Reflex Systems, is happy to sell you private cloud wares. But he also wants to save you some dough and recently penned a piece about saving money on private clouds without ending up with a hunk of junk.

As a virtualization management player, Reflex is obviously concerned with, er, virtualization management. Having a bunch of cheap servers running a bunch of uncontrolled VMs is not a private cloud -- it's a mess.

The key, if you are working with a service provider, is asking the right questions. How many pieces is the solution made of, or is it all one install? Are professional services needed at any point? Is it turnkey or does your shop have to script or develop around it? If the latter, is all this done in one language or script tool?

Once installed and running, how much of the management is automated versus requires your attendance?

I'm only scratching the surface. If you're itching for more info, head here.

Posted by Doug Barney on 06/26/2012 at 12:47 PM5 comments

Jones on Private Clouds

Microsoft MVP and long time author and trainer and consultant Don Jones is as bothered as I am about the misuse of the term cloud. First it was just cloud. Now private cloud is bandied about expecting we all know what the speaker means when the speaker doesn't always know what the speaker means.

That's why sometimes I takes to define the term before I use it, which can consume several paragraphs (which would be great if I were paid by the word and you would all bear with me).

Don has the same chagrin. He has come to much the same conclusion, except as an Microsoft MVP and long-time author and trainer and consultant, he has way more detail. Here's a summary.

Your data center is automatically provisioned, and even in your own premises, you pay as go. And finally, these private cloud computing resources are fully abstracted. You have no idea what is running where, nor should you.

This is the dream, and like many dreams, will not likely be fully realized. But parts can, Don argues. Areas of the data centers or certain departments can operate as private clouds with all these attributes.

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

Windows Azure Passes PaaS, Moves Directly Down to IaaS

Azure is moving down the stack. Originally a Platform as a Service (PaaS) tool which is more or less a full stack to run your apps, just one level below Software as a Service (SaaS). Most companies move up to higher levels of sophistication. With Azure, Microsoft is moving down, broadening the service into Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS). IaaS are the basic building blocks, servers and virtual machines upon which you place things. This means you really have to build everything from scratch to run on the thing.

For those that feel I'm talking down to you, I apologize, but all these categories are pretty new and these terms aren't always used with great precision.

Now Azure has IaaS and PaaS. And Office 365 is Microsoft's answer to Software as a Service. The story is starting to get pretty complete.

Posted by Doug Barney on 06/21/2012 at 12:47 PM2 comments