Archive for August, 2011

Cloud Appliances for Private Clouds

Cloud computing technologies have the ability to deliver a vast array of important benefits, including the option to leverage compute and storage resources on-demand. Public clouds are the most visible form of this. But, some organizations need important applications and workloads to be operated behind their firewall.

The size of  modern data sets makes it difficult to send over the internet to a public cloud data center. Management most likely has security concerns about data being stored in a facility outside of IT’s control. Often times there is specific hardware, software, or storage requirements that cannot be adhered to in public cloud ecosystems. In response, many organizations are leveraging private clouds.

There are two basic approaches to deployment of a private cloud environment: Build your own or purchase an appliance.

Build Your Own Private Cloud

With organizations operating their own compute, storage and network resources, one option to look into is redeploying these existing instances into a private cloud. Due to the trend of server consolidation, many of these machines may already be operating a virtualization layer. Beginning from this point, deploying infrastructure (IBM, VMWare, etc.) is a logical nest step.

Erecting a private cloud takes more than piling software layers on top of existing resources. Unfortunately, many enterprises may not have the internal resources and expertise to take on this integration workload. This is where a consulting firm like Nubifer can play an integral role in solving these vexing problems.

The Open Source Alternative

With proprietary and trade-marked technology comes the issue of being stuck with a specific vendor. In response, open-source options have evolved. Rackspace CEO Lew Moorman said his company opted to leverage OpenStack to open-source the software behind the cloud computing stack “because we believe a widely adopted, open platform will drive standards.” In the past 6 months, more than 50 companies had joined the community.

Opposition to adopting open source does exist. For example, the OpenStack code base is still very immature, and features such as supporting ‘VMware hypervisors’ and live migration of instances are still in development.

Also, IT folks need to download the releases and install themwith the existing compute, storage and networking infrastructure. This brings up another potential deal breaker: do you burden your internal IT staff with these modifications? Nubifer is here to help…

Cloud Appliances

An evolving method to deploying a private cloud is by leveraging a cloud appliance. A cloud appliance is a rack of computing resources delivered tested and ready to go, with the software versioned and configured. When the appliance is plugged in to power and the network, you’re ready to go.

For example, Nubifer partner, IBM, sells a private cloud appliance. This appliance blends standard hardware components and x86-based servers. By deploying an integrated cloud appliance,  IT is spared the time it would take to build its own. This frees up an organization to enterprise to focus on delivering business value rather than building IT componentry.

IBM’s private cloud offering is an integrated solution combining self-service, orchestration, and automation for heterogeneous resource pools.

Cloud appliances have drawbacks, though. For example,  new equipment is bought as part of the appliance, versus redeploying existing components.Because of this, an organization would probably consider an appliance during a hardware refresh cycle. In addition, there are a limited amount of pre-configured models, leading to a one size does not fit all situation.

Organizations are attempting to focus more on primary business functions, which for most does not include constructing IT infrastructure. All while public clouds are leveraging standardization to lower costs and offer greater levels of agility.

However, many workload requirements inhibit moving data sets to public cloud environments, spawning the deployment of private clouds. However, when an enterprise considers building a private cloud, it’s back in the discussion of building out IT infrastructure.

Cloud appliances offer a potential solution. By pre-integrating all components, IT simply plugs in and turns the power on. And after all, when buying a new car, you would prefer to turn the key and go, versus huddling hour upon hour reading the user manual. Why shouldn’t your private cloud deliver a similar experience?

For more information on private cloud implementation contact a Nubifer representative.

Compliance in the Cloud

Cloud computing seems like a simple idea, and, ease of operation, deployment and licensing are its most desirable qualities. But when it comes to issues of compliance, once you go beneath the surface you’ll discover more questions than you thought of originally.

Compliance covers a lot of issues, from government regulations, to industry regulations such as PCI DSS  and HIPAA. Your organization probably has internal guidelines in place, but migrating to a public cloud, a cloud application suite or something similar will mean giving up the reins to the cloud vendor.

That’s a position many auditors—and C level officials—discover themselves in today. They want to discover how to adopt the cloud  in a fashion that maintains their good standing with compliance. Here are a few tips for keeping an eye on compliance in the cloud.

Challenges to your Workload

When you survey cloud vendors, start by asking about sound practices and methods for identity and access management, data protection and incident response times. These are basic compliance requirements. Then, as you identify various compliance issues to your prospective cloud vendor’s controls, you’ll probably encounter a few cloud-specific challenges.

Multi-tenancy and de-provisioning also pose challenges. Public clouds use multi-tenancy to better provision server workloads and keep costs low. But multi-tenancy means you’re sharing server space with other organizations, so you should know what safeguards your cloud provider has in place to prevent any compromise. Depending on how critical your data is, you may also want to use encryption. HIPAA, for example, requires that all user data, both moving and at rest, be encrypted.

User de-provisioning is an issue that will become more challenging as password-authentication methods grow in complexity and volume. Federated identity management schemes will make it easier for users to log on to multiple clouds, and that will make de-provisioning much trickier.

Ever-Changing Standards

Like it or not, you’re an early adopter. Your decisions about what applications to move to the cloud and when to move them will benefit from an understanding of new and/or modified standards that are now evolving for cloud computing.

Today you can look for SAS 70 Type II and ISO 27001 certifications for general compliance with controls for financial and information security typically required by government and industry regulations, but these don’t guarantee that your company’s processes will comply.

Bringing visibility to users is a major goal of the Cloud Security Alliance, a three-year-old organization fast gaining popularity among users, auditors and service providers. A major goal of the CSA is development of standardized auditing frameworks to facilitate communication between users and cloud vendors.

Well underway, for example, is a governance, risk and compliance (GRC) standards suite, or stack, with four main elements: the Cloud Trust Protocol, Cloud Audit, Consensus Assessments Initiative and the Cloud Controls Matrix. The Cloud Controls Matrix includes a spreadsheet that maps basic requirements for major standards to their IT control areas, such as “Human Resources  Employment Termination,” while the Consensus Assessments Initiative offers a detailed questionnaire that maps those control areas to specific questions that users and auditors can ask cloud vendors.

Efforts of the CSA and other alliances, plus those of industry groups and government agencies, are bound to produce a wealth of standards in the next several years. The CSA has formal alliances with ISO, ITU and NIST, so that its developments can be used by those groups as contributions to standards they’re working on. And a 2010 Forrester Research report counted 48 industry groups working on security-related standards in late 2010.

Importance of an SLA

Regardless of your company’s size or status, don’t assume your cloud vendor’s standard terms and conditions will fit your requirements. Start your due diligence by examining the vendor’s contract.

Your company’s size can give you leverage to negotiate, but a smaller business can find leverage, too, if it represents a new industry for a cloud vendor that wants to expand its market. In any case, don’t be afraid to negotiate.

Security

To best understand your potential risk, as well as your benefits, you should bring your security team into the conversation at the earliest possible opportunity, says Forrester.

Moving to the cloud may offer an opportunity to align security with corporate goals in a more permanent way by formalizing the risk-assessment function in a security committee. The committee can help assess risk and make budget proposals to fit your business strategy.

You should also pay attention to the security innovations coming from the numerous security services and vendor partnerships now growing up around the cloud.

For more information regarding compliance and security in the Cloud, contact a Nubifer representative today.

Kentico Portal, a CMS for the Cloud

Cloud computing has been gaining momentum for the last few years, and has recently become required ingredient in every robust enterprise IT environment. Leading CMS vendor, and Nubifer partner, Kentico Software, took a step forward recently when they announced that their CMS Portals are now supported by the leading Cloud platforms. This means that you can now decide to deploy Kentico either on premise in your own IT landscape, using a public Cloud platform (such as Amazon or Windows Azure), or leveraging a hybrid model (with a database behind a firewall and a front end in the cloud).

Kentico Software sees the cloud computing as an important step for their customers. The recent releases of Kentico CMS “…removes barriers for our customers who are looking at their enterprise cloud computing strategy. Regardless of whether it’s on-premise or in the cloud, Kentico CMS is ready,” says Kentico Software CEO, Petr Palas.
Based on the influence of cloud, mobile devices and social media, the online needs of users and customers have changed significantly in recent years. The days of simple brochure-esque websites targeting traditional browser devices with one-way communication are quickly coming to an end. The web has evolved to become much more sophisticated medium. A business website is no longer a destination; rather, it is a central nexus for commercial engagement.Nubifer realizes that a business site today needs to cover the gamut – it needs to be visually appealing, it needs to have an intuitive information architecture, it needs to deliver dynamic, rich, compelling content, it needs to have mechanisms for visitor interaction, it needs to be optimized for speed and responsiveness, it needs to be highly scalable and it needs to deliver an excellent experience to traditional browser devices like desktops and laptops.
Kentico identified that in order to deal with the huge demand for web content from the social and mobile Internet, business websites need to be built with scalability at the forefront of the engineer’s minds. This is where the Cloud and Kentico CMS meet; elastic infrastructure which can be optimized to adapt to the growing needs of your business. Whether this is Infrastructure-as-a-Service ( IaaS ), or Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS), Kentico CMS provides turn-key solutions to the various options available which will allow your organization’s web properties to scale efficiently and economically.Kentico’s cloud optimized CMS platform enables organizations to deploy their portal in minutes and easily create a fully-configured, fault-tolerant and load-balanced cluster. Kentico’s cloud-ready portal deployments automatically scale to meet the needs’ of customers, which can vary widely depending on the number of projects, the number of people working on each project and users’ geographic locations.
By automatically and dynamically growing and reducing the number of servers on the cloud, those leveraging a Kentico CMS solution can reduce costs, only paying for the system usage as needed, while maintaining optimum system performance.”Kentico Software shares our vision of driving the expansion and delivery of new capabilities in the cloud,” said Chad Collins, Nubifer CEO. “The Kentico CMS brings automation, increased IT control and visibility to users, who understand the advantages of creating and deploying scalable portal solutions in the cloud.”
About Kentico CMS
Kentico CMS is an affordable Web content management system providing a complete set of features for building websites, community sites, intranets and on-line stores on the Microsoft ASP.NET platform. It supports WYSIWYG editing, workflows, multiple languages, full-text search, SEO, on-line forms, image galleries, forums, groups, blogs, polls, media libraries and is shipped with 250+ configurable Web parts. It’s currently used by more than 6,000 websites in 84 countries.

Kentico Software clients include Microsoft, McDonald’s, Vodafone, O2, Orange, Brussels Airlines, Mazda, Ford, Subaru, Isuzu, Samsung, Gibson, ESPN, Guinness, DKNY, Abbott Labs, Medibank, Ireland.ie and others.

About Kentico Software
Kentico Software (www.kentico.com) helps clients create professional websites, online stores, community sites and intranets using Kentico CMS for ASP.NET. It’s committed to deliver a full-featured, enterprise-class, stable and scalable Web Content Management solution on the Microsoft .NET platform. Founded in 2004, Kentico is headquartered in the Czech Republic and has a U.S. office in Nashua, NH. Since its inception, Kentico has continued to rapidly expand the Kentico CMS user base worldwide.Kentico Software is a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner. In 2010, Kentico was named the fastest growing technology company in the Czech Republic in the Deloitte Technology FAST 50 awards. For more information about Kentico’s CMS offerings, and how it can add value to your web properties, contact Nubifer today.