Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Going Public or Private

I was asked recently on why you should choose a private cloud, rather than a public cloud.
They may be very similar, and you may want to ask yourself why you would consider a private cloud instead of a public cloud. Take a note if some of these reasons fit your business:

1)      Your organization has already a large datacenter with spare capacity. The existing applications your run in the datacenter would be expensive to move to a public cloud.
2)      You offer IT services to a huge ecosystem of both customers and partners.
3)      Security and trust. You need to protect your lifeblood behind your organizations own firewalls.
4)      and compliance. Do you need to have your data in accordance with these rules?
5)      Performance requirements. Some of the applications and/or services may not perform that well in a public cloud, especially the LOB applications that need to perform in real-time.

Some people (at least every journalist) are mixing up the definitions of the cloud. And they are not able to see the difference between private and public.
I would say that a private cloud is a highly virtualized datacenter located inside your organizations firewalls. It`s something that you own, and manage by yourself.
The rest of the characteristics are as follows:

·         You can allow IT to provision services, applications, infrastructure to internal users in a self-service manner
·         Automated management tasks
·         A well-managed environment
·         Optimized use of computing resources
·         Support specifics workloads that your business requires
·         Self-service based provisioning of hardware and software resources

Key terms: scalability, self-servicing, elasticity. The major difference is the control over the environment.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Software Dependencies – the Big Hitch in Cloud Computing

I will start this article with a joke by Dave Platt (software legend)

How did God manage to create the earth in just 6 days?
-          He did not have any legacy applications
I find this joke quite relevant when it comes to moving applications to the cloud. Either it`s a private cloud, or a public cloud.

It is quite obvious that the biggest problem that every organization face when they consider moving some or all of their applications systems to the cloud, are the software dependencies.
Remember that the cloud uses a SOA approach where these services are loosely coupled together.
In VMM 2012, you`ll see how Microsoft has brought this into the private cloud with the possibility to create services, which is a combination of various tiers of applications, servers, and virtual machines.
But again, it is important that the application itself can be loosely linked.
All of the applications (in theory) running in the datacenter, share infrastructure and data. However, as companies begin migrating applications (or data or storage) into the cloud; these applications need to be designed to support technical independence.

As part of the planning process, you need to do a full inventory of applications and systems that must or at least should – be moved together.
The interdependencies determine this, whatever their perspective:

1)      Hardware perspective (are there any need for a specific CPU etc.)
2)      Platform perspective (do your applications require a specific operating system, and a given middleware product)
3)      Software perspective (are there any services that need to be closely coupled with related applications)

Less dependencies = more flexibility
Establishing this architectural approach, in effect, creates containers of functionality within the datacenter that ease the transition to the cloud.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Questioning your company`s cloud strategy

Deciding to investigate cloud computing is primarily a business decision.
Therefore, start by evaluating these things:

·         Your company`s business strategy
·         The role that your technology infrastructure plays in that strategy

Ask these questions:

·         What type of business am I in?
·         How do I benefit my customers?
·         How much value am I getting from my existing data center operations?
·         What are my company`s short-term and long-term goals?
·         Am I under pressure to reduce capital expenses?
·         Am I planning to develop new, untested technology-based offerings over the next 18-24 months?
·         Am I looking to acquire complementary companies?
·         How are my competitors dealing with their technology strategy
·         Are my competitors able to move more quickly than my company?
·         What are my strategic advantages?

After you understand the company strategy, you can develop your own strategic plan.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Cloud Computing… obviously…

Ok, let‘s have a go. 2011 started well. I remember the PDC back in the autumn of 2010, where Microsoft announced some new features on the Windows Azure platform. –The VMRole, along with remote desktop connection and Azure Connect. Let‘s raise our flags, and celebrate the possibility to use Microsoft‘s datacenters as an IaaS (Infrastructure – as a Service). No, it was not the intention by Microsoft. It should be a simplified way to move your legacy application to their cloud. Microsoft Public Cloud is nothing else but a PaaS (Platform – as a Service). The reasons for this, are is some cases very complex, and in other cases very simple. To work with Windows Azure, you should have a decent understanding of the behavior of the different roles ‘up there’.
(you can read several post that I have previously written on this subject on my blog)
To summarize a bit: I spent the most of my time in the beginning of 2011, explaining the new features to IT-pro‘s, developers, and also decision makers. Windows Azure = PaaS, write your code, and run it up there, where it should run. Do not move your VM containing infrastructure roles, and rely on that the configuration would last.
We are now almost half through the year of 2011, and everything is all about the cloud.
Sometimes I‘m very excited on the subject, and sometimes I‘m sick and tired of it.
The reason why I‘m sick and tired of it, is because of all the misunderstanding out there, and that everyone seems to know what it is, without really have a clue. And that‘s an interesting statement from me, right? Why the heck should I claim that I have a clue, anyway?
The tendency is that as long as you have some server virtualization, you‘ve already fulfilled the ‘requirements’ to call your datacenter for a private cloud. Really? Actually, to confuse you more, you could have a private cloud without virtualization. But virtualization makes it more achievable and also a lot more cost effective and so on. Let`s take a look at some definitions.

The cloud itself is a set of hardware, networks, storage, services, and interfaces that enable the delivery of computing as a service. Cloud services include the delivery of software, infrastructure, and storage over the internet (either as a separate components or a complete platform) based on user demand.
Overall, the cloud embodies the following four basic characteristics:

·         Elasticity and the ability to scale up and down
·         Billing and metering of service usage in a pay-as-you-go model
·         Self-service provisioning and automatic deprovisioning
·         Virtualization (Yes I know, I mentioned that it`s not necessary, but would you really create a cloud without virtualization?)

We have now some sort of basic information about what`s defining the cloud. (Hopefully you would agree with this so far).

But everybody is talking about cloud. Managers, IT-pro`s, developers, and even consumers – the end-users. Should this really be necessary?

In a dynamic economic environment, your company`s survival may depend on your ability to focus on core business and adapt quickly. Yesterday`s profitable business model can`t be counted on to translate into future growth and profits. As your business adapts to changing government and industry regulations, evaluates the new business partnerships, and anticipates competitive threats, IT needs to help the business find new ways to respond.
At the same time, plans for change must often be made in the context of limited resources for finances, people, technology, and power.
While there are a lot of technical considerations, keep in mind the fundamental truth: cloud computing – what it is and how it helps companies rethink how they deploy technology.
The IT-pro`s, or at least the IT-manager should have an in-depth knowledge by now, on the cloud terms. What he/she/they should do with it, and how, why, and when. One of their responsibilities is to bring this information to the CEO, or someone else that has a function as a decision maker. It`s most of all a business model. The technicians should know how to plan for, develop, test, and build the cloud (private), and also have an understanding on how they should move to the public cloud, if that`s an option.

And the end user should not have a clue. The end user doesn`t really have to know anything about the underlying technology. In small businesses, for example, the cloud provider becomes the de facto datacenter. In larger organizations, the IT organization oversees the inner workings of both the internal resources and external cloud resources. Business management needs to take responsibility for overall governance of data or services living in a public cloud. Cloud service providers must provide a predictable and guaranteed service level and security to all their constituents.

So as an IT-pro, how should you ‘attack’ the cloud?
You can consider the Saas (Software – as a Service) offering from Microsoft, as an option if you want to move your Exchange, Sharepoint and Lync servers to the public cloud. If you`re sniffing on the Windows Azure platform, take some time to know how it works, how it works in conjunction with SQL Azure, and AppFabric, and discuss it with your developers.

What about the private cloud?
Microsoft has done a great job on the term ‘cloud’, with their next versions of the System Center suite. The main product that reflects the cloud is System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2012. Yes, it even contains a button that says ‘create Cloud’. Spend some time with it. It`s not only a fantastic tool to manage the entire virtual infrastructure, along with bare metal deployment of Hyper-V servers, clusters, load balancing, storage, networking and so on. It`s even careless if your hypervisor is Hyper-V, VMware, or/and XenServer. It just works. You`ll get a great visual overview of some of the buzz words in our business, along with many useful features. Remember the four characteristics when you`re playing around with VMM 2012:

·         Elastiity and the ability to scale up and down
·         Billing and metering of service usage in a pay-as-you-go model
·         Self-service provisioning and automatic deprovisioning
·         Virtualization (Yes I know, I mentioned that it`s not necessary, but would you really create a cloud without virtualization?)

To add some extra features, take a closer look at System Center Operation Manager, System Center Configuration Manager, System Center Service Manager, and System Center Opalis.

Hurry up, the cloud-train is about to leave the station, and you do not want to miss it! J


Thursday, June 2, 2011

Unplanned downtime (not so technical)

Sometimes, life can take an unplanned turn. You`ll end up with something that you had not planned for.
It`s really ironic. Because in my day-to-day work, I work with failover clusters, building highly available solutions with minimal planned downtime. Really focusing on availability, redundancy, and backup.
But what if these things crashes in real life? What if your wife ‘fails’? You cannot switch over to your second wife? (Probably, you could, in some way. But that`s not appropriate – or at least not an option in my case).
However, bad things happen. And you better be prepared. And that`s why I have taken a break from the community, to sort things out. I`m back now, and will appear as a speaker at www.muligheter2011.no for Microsoft, and have some exciting projects going on beside that.

Thanks to all of you that have reached me through e-mails, twitter, facebook, and linkedin. I really appreciate your feedbacks.

I will provide you with some important information about Virtual Machine Manager 2012 in my next blog post.