2012 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 4,000 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 7 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.


Cloud Computing in 2012 (continued) – Automation of Cloud Resources

With the emergence of cloud computing, the ability to spin up new resources via an API and deploy a new virtual  instance of machines quickly has become one of the more popular paradigms. Resource automation is an important part of any company’s business initiatives. Cloud hosted applications can be deployed, provisioned and created with new instances in an on-demand basis. These computing resources can be created and utilized in very short order, usually in a matter of minutes, and in some cases a matter of seconds.

High Availability, Configurable and Programmable features make Cloud Automation a key driver for adoption

The dynamic nature of cloud automation enables companies to provision and de-provision cloud resources on-the-fly as you meet needed threshold metrics based off of application environment variables, such as increased load traffic, additional users or environment changes on the system running queries, additional taxation of your application platform during data mining or migration processes, and during heavy usage and peak load traffic with data crunching scenarios imposed during run-time.

An important point to note is the rapid adoption and move towards multicore servers strengthing the impact of dynamic automatic virtualization. Overall, the fulcrum points of cloud automation are, increased efficiency, as it pertains to billing, and the ease of implementing highly available computing power required during peak loads of your business applications hosted across the clouds.

Benefits of not having to purchase and provision new servers

By embracing cloud technologies, companies are presented with opportunities to scale their offerings to their clients and serve their business initiatives, all while gaining the ability of  dynamical scaling. Competitive advantages can be seen in hundreds of articles and white papers written by companies, who were either start-ups or building a new application, or migrating an existing data center application to the cloud, and were enabled to get to market quicker and expand or contract their platform hardware requirements in real time as the demand of their systems change.

Amazon and Windows Azure® Cloud Automation Features

There are numerous cloud providers to compare and contrast for Cloud Automation, so we have put together some key points about Amazon Web Services and Windows Azure. Amazon offers auto scaling which the company describes here : http://aws.amazon.com/autoscaling/. Windows Azure offers Autoscaling Application Blog information here: http://www.windowsazure.com/en-us/develop/net/how-to-guides/autoscaling/

Amazon CloudWatch and Auto Scaling ( the following content was copied from the links above )

Amazon CloudWatch provides monitoring for AWS cloud resources and the applications customers run on AWS. Developers and system administrators can use it to collect and track metrics, gain insight, and react immediately to keep their applications running smoothly. Amazon CloudWatch monitors AWS resources such as Amazon EC2 and Amazon RDS DB instances, and can also monitor custom metrics generated by a customer’s applications and services. With Amazon CloudWatch, you gain system-wide visibility into resource utilization, application performance, and operational health.

Amazon CloudWatch provides a reliable, scalable, and flexible monitoring solution that you can start using within minutes. You no longer need to set up, manage, or scale your own monitoring systems and infrastructure. Using Amazon CloudWatch, you can easily monitor as much or as little metric data as you need. Amazon CloudWatch lets you programmatically retrieve your monitoring data, view graphs, and set alarms to help you troubleshoot, spot trends, and take automated action based on the state of your cloud environment.

Amazon Auto Scaling

Auto Scaling allows you to scale your Amazon EC2 capacity up or down automatically according to conditions you define. With Auto Scaling, you can ensure that the number of Amazon EC2 instances you’re using increases seamlessly during demand spikes to maintain performance, and decreases automatically during demand lulls to minimize costs. Auto Scaling is particularly well suited for applications that experience hourly, daily, or weekly variability in usage. Auto Scaling is enabled by Amazon CloudWatch and available at no additional charge beyond Amazon CloudWatch fees.

Features of Amazon Auto Scaling

  • Scale out Amazon EC2 instances seamlessly and automatically when demand increases.
  • Shed unneeded Amazon EC2 instances automatically and save money when demand subsides.
  • Scale dynamically based on your Amazon CloudWatch metrics, or predictably according to a schedule that you      define.
  • Receive notifications via Amazon Simple Notification Service (SNS) to be alerted when you use Amazon      CloudWatch alarms to initiate Auto Scaling actions, or when Auto Scaling      completes an action.
  • Run On-Demand or Spot  instances, including those inside your Virtual Private Cloud (VPC) or High Performance Computing (HPC) Clusters.
  • If you’re signed up for the Amazon EC2 service, you’re already registered to use  Auto Scaling and can begin using the feature via the Auto Scaling APIs or  Command Line Tools.
  • Auto Scaling is enabled by Amazon CloudWatch and carries no additional fees.

Windows Azure® Autoscaling Application Block
( the following content was copied from the links above )

The Autoscaling Application Block can automatically scale your Windows Azure application based on rules that you define specifically for your application. You can use these rules to help your Windows Azure application maintain its throughput in response to changes in its workload, while at the same time control the costs associated with hosting your application in Windows Azure.

Along with scaling by increasing or decreasing the number of role instances in your application, the block also enables you to use other scaling actions such as throttling certain functionality within your application or using custom-defined actions.

You can choose to host the block in a Windows Azure role or in an on-premises application.

A multitude of Cloud Platform offerings, brings compelling opportunity

It is clear that the cloud computing models of deployment, management and ongoing maintenance and support bring a very compelling argument to “why adopt the cloud”. The largest and most innovative companies today are openly embracing this paradigm of technology thought leadership and ROI is proving itself every day.

To learn more about Cloud Computing, Windows Azure®, Amazon Cloud, and other fantastic Cloud and SaaS platforms for business, contact our strategic cloud advisers by visiting http://www.nubifer.com

Cloud Computing in 2012 (continued) – On-Demand Elasticity

Cloud computing, at its core, offers a large set of resources that  enable a concept known as elasticity. Elasticity is a part of the core feature set that comprise cloud computing. The concept behind elasticity is so integral to cloud computing that Amazon Web services decided to categorize the major offering in their cloud as Amazon EC2 (Elastic Cloud Compute).

The definition of elasticity can be described, or sometimes known as, dynamic scaling. The ability to dynamically scale and change resource requirements or consumption needs in direct response to runtime requirements makes this paradigm of cloud computing an integral part of the model. Most applications require a standard level of resources operating under normal, ready state environmental conditions, but also require additional computing resources during peak usage situations.

Before the advent of the cloud model, companies were required to pre-build, pre-purchase and configure sufficient capacities to not just operate properly under standard load requirements, but also handle extensive peak load situations while offering sufficient performance. When looking into the past and present of the self-hosted model, this means companies having to over provision and purchase additional hardware and software for their given application requirements and further requires engineers to try to accurately predict customer or end user usage in peak load scenarios.

When looking into managed hosting, it is possible to start with a small subset of computing resources and hardware and continue to grow the resource as the applications requirements grow. But in the model of managed hosting, provisioning for new hardware and software dedicated to the application’s needs can take weeks, or even larger companies, months.

With cloud computing having hundreds and thousands of virtualized computing resources which can be leveraged, provisioned, and released in conjunction to the application and peak load requirements on demand make the elastic cloud model the most powerful and convenient paradigm available to business. When businesses incorporate automation via dynamic scaling, also known as elasticity, the service-level offerings to end-users increase substantially.

Our next blog will focus on virtualization in cloud computing. Please check back often, or subscribe to our blog to stay up-to-date on the latest posts and perspectives and news about cloud computing. For more information about Nubifer Cloud Computing visit www.NUBIFER.com

Cloud Computing in 2012 (continued) – Shared Resources in the Cloud

A primary characteristic of cloud computing is that the platform leverages pooled or shared assets. These computing resources can be bought, controlled externally, and used for public or private usage. As we look further into the validity of these shared computing resources, one can easily see that they are an integral component to any public or private cloud platform.

Take, for example, a business website. We begin to see standard options commonly available in today’s market. Shared hosting, is one of the choices companies have had for quite some time now. The shared approach leads them to be free from managing their own data center, and in turn, leverage a third party. Most of the time, managed hosting services lease out to their customers a dedicated server which is not the shared with other users.

Based solely on this, cloud computing looks a lot like a shared hosting model of managed services. This is due to the fact that the cloud platform provider is the third-party that manages, operates and owns the physical computing hardware and software resources which are distributed and shared. At this juncture in the paradigm is where the similarities between shared or dedicated hosting and cloud computing end.

With cloud computing set aside for a moment, the move away from IT departments utilizing self hosted resources and using outsourced IT services  has been evolving for years. This change has substantial economic impacts. Two of the main areas of change are in CAPEX and OPEX. This furthers the potential opportunity for reducing OPEX in conjunction with operating the hardware and software infrastructure. The change from CAPEX toward OPEX defines a lowering of the barrier for entry when starting a new project.

When examining self hosting, companies are required to allocate funding to be spent up front for licenses and hardware purchases. Operating under fixed costs, it is an out-of-pocket expense in the beginning of that project. Furthermore, when leveraging and outsourced offering (a.k.a. managed hosting), the upfront fees can typically be equal to a one-month start-up operational cost, and possibly a set up fee. When analyzed from a financial perspective, the annual cost is close to the same, or just a little bit lower, than the CAPEX expense for an equal project. Additionally, this can be offset by the reduction of required OPEX to manage and care for the infrastructure.

In stark comparison, when analyzing the cloud model, it is standard to see no up-front fees. With closer examination, a subscriber to cloud services can register, purchase, and be leveraging the services in much less time than it takes to read this blog.

The dramatic differential comparisons in financial expenditures you might see between these hosting models, and the cloud model, exist because the cost structures when utilizing cloud infrastructures are drastically more attractive than earlier models offered to IT.  With further investigation, it’s clear the economies of scale are multi-faceted, and driven by relation to the economics of volume. The largest cloud platform providers are able to offer a better price point to the IT consumers because they are able to bulk purchase, and offer better goods and services; which in this paradigm, are capacity, power, data storage, and compute processing power.

And so continues our 2012 blog series dedicated to understanding the core layers of cloud computing. Our next blog will focus on elasticity in cloud computing. Please check back often, or subscribe to our blog to stay up-to-date on the latest posts and perspectives and news about cloud computing. For more information about Nubifer Cloud Computing visit www.NUBIFER.com

Cloud Computing in 2012 – The Evolution Continued

The term ‘Cloud Computing’ is now mainstream and well-known in most business sectors. To gain an understanding of how this came to be, and what all the interest and hype is about, you must recall the recent and growing beliefs among vendors analysts that have helped to popularize, and define cloud computing as as the pinnacle of computing service offered by third parties, offering cheap computing infrastructure and software services.

The resources available for use when needed is  described as “on demand”, and can be scaled dynamically in direct response to the needs of the users of the software and platforms. Simply put, cloud computing completes a departure from the past of developing, maintaining, operating and managing IT infrastructure systems. Thus bringing businesses an easier way to focus on what they do best in their own vertical.

Economic Advantage
When you look at cloud computing from an economic perspective, the adoption of cloud computing has the potential to provide economic benefits for all sizes of businesses, providing for greater flexibility and agility in the day to day operations. As the cloud providers and industry leaders continue to refine, evolve and define cloud computing, our understanding of its costs, its values and ongoing benefits proliferate opportunity each day.

Some of the areas we’ll cover in our online blogs are the main principles of cloud computing. Additionally, we will also discuss the benefits from moving from traditional data center driven software applications and migrating to the cloud. Furthermore, we will discuss how evolving IT has brought us to what we now call cloud computing.

Media and News about the Cloud
Nowadays, online journals, blogs conferences, technical books and a myriad of other information sources continue to define and disseminate information about cloud computing. However, even large mainstream technology companies and technical information websites are still learning, and educating the masses on what ultimately brought about the “Cloud”.

In some respects, cloud computing’s entry to the World Wide Web is not new, but what is new is the access that companies and people have. Furthermore, it is clear that Cloud Computing  may also win the award for the most overhyped category, including service oriented architectures also known as SOA, application service providers, business intelligence and other evolving computing terms, just to name a few.

Because our blog discusses the very large scale topic of cloud computing, we need to dive in and discuss the facets of the cloud in its greatest detail possible. It is our goal, at Nubifer to cut through all the hype, and share with you practical applications, frameworks, business thought leaders and approaches to leveraging the cloud for your own endeavors.

Analyze to Understand, Practice to Gain Experience

Many analysts, business users, subscribers and pundits ask themselves, “How did this new paradigm of cloud computing, and its driving popularity come to be?” It’s easy to step back and call cloud computing a marketing approach or another series of vendors trying to play up their offerings. But with all the hype put aside, there is a large body of legitimate information and technology advancements that are fueling the cloud, and all of the excitement behind it.  All of the expectations and hype surrounding Cloud Computing are based on sound information and real-time opportunities aimed at improving business efficiencies profitability and succinctly.

Primarily software developers and SMB’s leveraged the cloud in the first 24 months that it was available for public use. Amazon attracted over1 million customers when it first opened its offering to public consumption.  Amazon’s own website shows the bandwidth consumed by large companies leveraging the cloud has even surpassed their own online store, Amazon.com. Clearly, something is driving the rapid adoption of the cloud.

The Cloud has taken on similar marketing popularity as previous paradigm shifts and offerings evolving in the World Wide Web. For example, the move from traditional mainframes, to then client and server and then from client server to now the Internet, the model of cloud computing has, and will continue to  have major implications for the future of business IT.

Principles that Help Define the Many Layers of Cloud Computing

  1. subscription-based services and resources available via pooled computing resources
  2. hardware utilization maximized by virtualized computing resources
  3. the ability to on demand scale the elastic software approaches
  4. virtual machine management being able to be automated for creation or deletion of existing instances
  5. enhanced billing services for resources used

It is our perspective at Nubifer, that these layers of cloud computing are the main key areas of interest, and are the components necessary for something to be defined as Cloud Computing.

Our upcoming blog series will cover

  • shared or pooled resources
    available via subscription model
  • elasticity
    On demand scale dynamically with capex expenditure
  • virtualization
    Utilization of hardware assets
  • automation
    Complete provisioning deployment configuration build outs and moves all without manual involvement
  • metered billing
    Pay for what you use usage-based business model

And so begins our 2012 blog series dedicated to understanding the core layers of cloud computing. Please check back often, or subscribe to our blog to stay up-to-date on the latest posts and perspectives and news about cloud computing. For more information about Nubifer Cloud Computing visit http://www.NUBIFER.com

Guidelines for Cloud Consumers and Providers

Business users are drawn to the cloud. That’s not surprising, considering they tend to see mostly benefits: self-service freedom, scalability, availability, flexibility, and the pleasure of avoiding various nasty hardware and software headaches.IT leaders though are a different story—they are not always as ecstatic.  They indicate uneasiness about cloud securityand have legitimate concerns that unauthorized users could get their hands on their applications and data. Moreover, retaining a level of influence and control is a must for them. Can both “sides” meet halfway? Is it attainable to provide the freedom that users want while having the control that IT leaders need?
Simply put, Yes…. However, doing so will entail a collaborative effort. Both business users and IT leaders have to assume a few key responsibilities. In addition, you will have to make certain that your cloud provider will be doing its part as well.


Your 5 Responsibilities

Here are a few things you need to be held accountable for:
1. Define the business need. Identify the root problem you want to solve a cloud technology. Is it a perpetually recurring concern, or one that happens irregularly? Did you need an answer “last week,” or do you have time to construct a solution?

Important note: Not all clouds are created equally. Some can run your applications unchanged, with instant access; while others require little tweaking. Recognizing your needs and differentiating cloud technologies will help you determine the correct strategy for handling the particular business problem that needs attention.

2. Identify your application and process requirements. Once you have accurately defined your business needs, it is time to select the application best-suited to meet those needs. Be clear and precise about the nature of the application, the development process you want to adapt, and the roles and access permissions for each user.

Your teams no longer have to struggle through traditional linear and slow development processes. Instead, the cloud can give them access to the best practices that are fluid and agile. Many self-service solutions can even empower them to run copies of the same environment in parallel.

Simply put, the cloud may lead to breakthrough productivity when used properly. However, if used incorrectly it can also lead to enormous amounts of wasted resources. Having said this, take your time to do your research and choose wisely.

3. Determine your timetable. Cloud projects are not short sprints contrary to popular belief. They are better illustrated as long journeys over time. Please plan accordingly.

Nubifer recommends to define your early experiments in a quarterly basis because cloud technology is transformative. Learn from the first quarter, take note, and execute the necessary adjustments and then move on to the next. The objective is to generate a learning organization that increases control over time and progresses based on data and experience.

4. Establish success factors. Define what success is for you. Do you want to improve the agility of the development process? Maybe you want to increase the availability of your applications? Or perhaps you want to enhance remote collaboration? Define achievement, and have a tool to measure progress as well. Identifying metrics and establishing realistic goals will aid you achieve the solution that meets not only your needs, but also your budget and payback time frame.

5. Define data and application security. Companies overlook this critical responsibility more often than they realize. Make sure to do your due diligence and attentively determine whom you can trust with cloud application. After which, empower them. The following are questions that need unambiguous answers: What specific roles will team members take in the cloud model? Does everyone comprehend fully the nature of the application and data they are planning to bring to the cloud? Does everyone know how to protect your data? Do they understand your password policies? Dealing with these security factors early on enables you to create a solid foundation for cloud success while having your own peace of mind about this issue.

Your Provider’s 5 Responsibilities

Meanwhile, make sure your cloud provider offers the following to attain better cloud control:
1. Self-service solutions. Time equals money. Thus waiting equals wasted time and money. So search for cloud applications that are ready from the get go. Determine if the solution you are considering may implement the applications and business process you have in mind immediately, or if the provider requires you to rewrite the application or change the process entirely.

There is also a need to distinguish if users will require training, or if they already equipped to handle a self-service Web interface. Answers to these questions can determine whether adoption will be rapid and smooth, or slow and bumpy.

2. Scale and speed. A well-constructed cloud solution provides the unique combination of scale and speed. It gives you access to the resources at a scale that you need with on-demand responsiveness. This combination will empower your team to run several instances in parallel, snapshot, suspend/resume, publish, collaborate, and accelerate the business cycle.

3. Reliability and availability. As articulated in the Service Level Agreements (SLAs), it is the responsibility of the cloud provider to make the system reliable and available. The provider should set clear and precise operational expectations, such as 99.9 percent availability, with you, the consumer.

4. Security. Ask for a comprehensive review of your cloud provider’s security technology and processes. In specific, ask about the following:

  • Application and data transportability. Can your provider give you the ability to export existing applications, data and processes into the cloud with ease? And can you import back just as hassle free?
  • Data center physical security.
  • Access and operations security. How does the consumer protect its physical data centers? Are these the SAS 70 Type II data centers? Are there trained and skilled data center operators in those places?
  • Virtual data center security. Your provider must be clear about how to control the method of access to physical machines. How are these machines managed? And who are able to access these machines?
  • In terms of scale and speed, most cloud efficiency derives from how the cloud is architected. Be sure to understand how the individual pieces, the compute nodes, network nodes, storage nodes, etc., are architected and how they are secured and integrated.

Application and data security.

In order to be able to implement your policies, the cloud solution must permit you to define groups, roles with granular role-based access control, proper password policies and data encryption–both iin transit and at rest.

5. Cost efficiencies. Without any commitments upfront, cloud solutions should enable your success to drive success. Unlike a managed service or a hosting solution, a cloud solution uses technology to automate the back-end systems, and therefore can operate large resource pools without the immense human costs. Having this luxury translates all these into real cost savings for you.

Despite business leaders recognizing the benefits of cloud computing technologies, more than a handful still have questions about cloud security and control. Indeed, that is understandable. However, by adopting a collaborative approach and aligning their responsibilities with those of the cloud provider, these leaders can find solutions that offer the best of both worlds. They get the visibility and control they want and need, while giving their teams access to the huge performance gains only the cloud can provide.

Contact Nubifer for a free, no-obligation Cloud Migration consultation.

Has Your Organization Adopted a Cloud Migration Strategy?

There has been an increased amount of research lately that indicates that many organizations will move to the cloud in the short term, there isn’t a lot of information detailing who is using it now and what they are using it for.

A published study by CDW reported that a number of enterprises are actually unaware that they are already using cloud applications and have a limited cloud adoption strategy.

It must be noted though, that this does not mean these enterprises have no intention of moving to the cloud. It just means, that these enterprises have not yet approached cloud computing strategically, and have not implemented an organization wide adoption strategy.

Cloud Computing Strategies

Another interesting note, according to the CDW report, is the percentage of companies claiming to have an enterprise policy on the acclimation to cloud computing — only 38%. This comes as a surprise as the report also concludes that 84% of organizations have already installed, at the minimum, one cloud application.

In March 2011, more than 1,200 IT professionals were asked to answer surveys for the CDW 2011 Cloud Computing Tracking Poll, which drew some interesting conclusions. It was discovered that these enterprises are uneasy with using public clouds and would rather go through the private clouds.

Cloud Application Usage

However, it is necessary to examine these statistics again with more caution. As mentioned above, more than 84% of these organizations claim that they have, at the bare minimum, one cloud application, yet they still do not consider themselves as cloud users.

The reason behind this discrepancy has yet to be determined. In other words, organizations are still unclear as to if and how it can integrate with their current enterprise architecture.

This is emphasized by how only 42% of those surveyed being convinced that their operations and amenities have the ability to operate efficiently in the cloud. Statistics show that applications operated in the cloud most frequently are the following:

  • Commodity applications such as email (50% of cloud users)
  • File storage (39%)
  • Web and video conferencing (36% and 32%)
  • Online learning (34%)

Developing a Cloud Strategy

Eight industries that were surveyed as part of the CDW Cloud Computing Tracking Poll back in March 2011 were—small businesses, medium businesses, large businesses, the Federal government, State and Local governments, healthcare, higher education and K-12 public schools. The poll discovered conclusions specific to each of the eight industries. It also included 150 individuals from each industry who acknowledged themselves as knowledgeable with the current uses and future plans of cloud application usage within their respective organization.

Although there are various hurdles to consider prior to adoption, primarily they can be divided into four segments:

1. Adoption Strategy

Despite having a number as high as 84% of organizations using at least one cloud-based application, only 25% of them have an organization wide adoption strategy and recognize themselves as cloud users. Just over a third has a formal plan for cloud adoption.

2. ROI Considerations

Approximately 75% were noted to have cost reductions upon migrating applications to a cloud platform.

3. Security

One of the, if not the primary obstacle, holding both current and potential users back is security. However, quite a number of users, including those who are currently using cloud applications, have yet to realize the full potential of security applications available.

4. Future spending

It is necessary for organizations to discover what future hardware and software acquisitions can be migrated into a cloud ecosystem.

Cloud Computing Now

A lot can happen in five years—this is especially true for the cloud industry. Currently, this study does not discuss in depth the difference between cloud computing and SaaS. However, it is likely that SaaS could be included in the study as it did define cloud computing as a “model for enabling convenient, on-demand access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources.”

With this in mind, along with the recent Forrester research on IT spending, it is highly likely that the data CDW has outlined will be significantly different five years from now.

According to Forrester, a record number of organizations will be investing in SaaS technologies, which broadly, is a subset of cloud computing. The data includes a finding that 25% of enterprises examined have a adopted a new cloud technology this year, with 14% using IaaS, 8% using PaaS, and 6% using business-process-as-a-service.

Does Your Organization Have a Cloud Migration Strategy?

In the end, the research was able to provide some thought provoking data. It was able to show that many companies are already leveraging the cloud without even knowing it.

Regardless of the potential ROI and efficiency gains offered by cloud computing, a significant number of companies have yet to seize the opportunity to leverage the scalability and efficiency of modern cloud applications.

Aside from this, according to the research, many companies find themselves without a coherent company wide strategy for dealing with cloud adoption. This is important to note because it is no secret a lack of planning can lead to disastrous results—with results like these needing a lot of financial and organizational efforts to fix.

If your organization is one of those lacking a coherent and comprehensive cloud adoption strategy, contact the Cloud accelerator experts at Nubifer to help guide the way. Nubifer partners with the leading vendors in order to provide unbiased cloud application architecture diagrams, white papers, security and compliance risk analysis and migration consulting services.