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IT standards and cloud: mutually exclusive?

As a number of you'll remember the primary anniversary that you simply celebrate is your paper anniversary which comes just a year after the wedding. A year ago we saw the marriage of IBM’s hardware technology with its software expertise to launch IBM PureSystems – a replacement generation of expert, integrated systems.

Marriages lately need tons of designing and infrequently come cheap and IBM PureSystems was no exception – the results of $2 billion in R&D and acquisitions by IBM over four years, that mixes decades of technical know-how with innovations within the core components of enterprise technology including compute, networking, storage, and software – enough to differentiate IBM PureSystems from the rival couplings that other vendors have brought together.

A year on, we invited John Easton from IBM to submit a ‘paper’ (an online one among course) to reflect on how married life goes for IBM PureSystems and the way they're dealing with the domestic chores inherent within the Cloud environment that we all sleep in …

IT standards and cloud: mutually exclusive?

By John Easton, IBM Distinguished Engineer, and CTO for IBM’s Systems & Technology Group within the UK & Ireland

In the rush to cloud computing, only a few users give much thought to the challenges of providing the very services they're so wanting to consume. They expect rapidly provisioned services delivered to them no matter who else is making similar requests. Think then, about the challenges of delivering IT with these kinds of attributes.

The key to the cloud provider is keeping costs in check, which explains the drive to ever-higher levels of virtualization, automation, and standardization. it's the latter of those that provides rise to the “bitter taste” that cloud leaves many organizations; they discover cloud services don’t quite meet their business requirements within the same way because of the bespoke solutions they're wont to.

Many organizations realize the worth here and have embarked upon a journey towards standardized IT, but most struggle to form progress. Why is that this so difficult? This I feel, is more an organizational or cultural issue instead of a technical one. Many individuals have built their careers installing systems or customizing pieces of software to the nth degree. Is there real business value in doing this today? I’d suggest not, yet for this audience, often in positions of influence, there seems to be a fundamental mistrust of anything that infringes upon their domains.

I do ponder whether the challenge arises because these standards are typically set outside of the delivering organization. within the case of cloud, it’s even worse. The interface to the cloud is usually an anonymous website. there's no-one to speak to. what's needed here isn't an arbitrary, remotely enforced standard that suits the cloud provider, but rather one at levels more appropriate to satisfy business needs: i.e. the power to line standardization points within the infrastructure, middleware, and data layers.

IBM’s PureSystems family provides just such a capability .information technology education they will quickly and reliably deploy “as a service” building upon standardization at any of these; be that something as simple as a Windows virtual machine or a posh combination of middleware delivering an enterprise BPM environment, the customization the business demands can then be built upon these underlying standard services.

IBM’s PureSystems family provides… the power to line standardization points within the infrastructure, middleware, and data layers.

For most organizations, the cloud may be a hybrid mixture of Commodity, Core, and Specialist services. Trying to fight its call at the commodity space where differentiation is essentially on price alone is already a lost battle: an enterprise cannot achieve the specified economies of scale. Consider then those differentiated services where the customization the enterprise needs are often built upon a standardized platform. this is often standardization that works; giving the flexibility to settle on how and where standardization is delivered. Allowing the standards to be defined appropriately, yet still allowing the business to rapidly get the services it needs whilst the IT organization can specialize in their value-add, instead of worrying or arguing about the deployment of these standards (whatever these might be) underpinning these differentiated services.

Choice brings ‘tiers’ of joy

By Steve Rushen, Senior Director of Services and Support at Abiquo

As consumers in our day-to-day lives, we've become familiar with choice. A cup of coffee is not any longer an easy “cup of coffee”. We now choose where we choose a coffee. Anything, from little independent cafĂ© to a plethora of worldwide brands present on every main street.

We choose the coffee berry, the strength, the sort of milk, and everyone's kind of flavors and toppings… it's no different.

Once we get to the cafe the alternatives quickly grow exponentially. we elect the coffee berry, the strength, the sort of milk, and everyone's kind of flavors and toppings that customize our coffee experience. this is often only one example of the selection we now expect and it's very different from how we consumed coffee 10 years ago.

IT is no different. We are transitioning to a self-service cloud-enabled world where we expect to possess the alternatives so as to customize our interaction with IT. we have that choice already through our smartphones and tablets, but more and more IT consumers expect to be offered real choice within the IT services that they consume.

This represents a true challenge for the IT department or administrator. For years it's created efficiency and reduced the support overhead by creating “standard” environments and platforms, effectively creating an underlying IT infrastructure with a 1 size fits all mentality. With the increase of cloud technologies and services, the IT consumer is already being presented with the alternatives that they need. IT must adapt and become the enabler to providing that very same option to their consumers.

[Choice]…represents a true challenge for the IT department or administrator.

The IT department still must believe its own costs and efficiency. it's not as simple as creating multiple service offerings for the buyer . within the times where the IT consumer expects choice and self-service the IT department needs one platform that permits them to deliver just that! The technology world has transformed, a bit like the sooner coffee analogy, there is an infinite combination of choices in compute, storage, networking, and therefore the services that software will provide on top of that underlying infrastructure. The IT department needs one management platform that abstracts the buyer from the underlying complexity in those infrastructure technologies but still allows them to settle on which is that the right combination of technology for the task in hand, or the service that they're creating. IT simply needs one platform that gives multiple tiers of service.

For example, my development team are within the early proof of concept stage of creating a replacement application. At this stage, they're briefly development cycles, and their core requirement is agility. They don’t need high-performance servers or the newest SSD storage. because the development of the appliance matures they have to start out considering the performance and availability which will be needed in production and their core requirements change. By creating multiple tiers of service the primary environment would get on a coffee tier, using commodity hardware and storage, and maybe a free hypervisor. As time goes on, it's time to maneuver the appliance to a better tier within the stack. A hardware and software stack that mirrors production. The key here is providing the selection to the IT consumer through one platform, that permits them to form choose the service tier that they need through self-service.

Cloud-buying Questions

By Daniel Steeves

Cloud Service Provider: You’ve made your pitch and you’re within the door, sitting across from some subset of senior management who are waiting to listen to about how you and your cloud can change their world. cloud technology Well done (especially these days!)… but there just could be a couple of questions before the deal closes: buying cloud from you may be a leap of religion – not only in your business – but in their own business and its ability to capitalize on what you're offering.

The following questions, posed in no particular order, are the character of which you would possibly hear coming from the opposite buy-side of the table:

Where are your Data Centres; how are they connected; who and the way has the entire thing been designed and built? what's your current technology landscape and what are your plans?

What happens if my applications/data/websites are unavailable (and /or remain unavailable for an inordinate amount of time?

And, for that matter, what's the definition of an inordinate amount of time?) Tell me about service levels and repair credits?

How quickly are you able to restore lost data (including recovery from user error); what's the back-up regimen, frequency, retention policies? Where is that the data backed up?

Tell me about your support model for my business users, technical users, and developers. Will we've got an account manager and, if yes, what does that mean?

Show me how I'm not locked into you: what are the mechanisms to make sure a price effective repatriation of applications and data (to either another provider or back to my very own data center); what are the prices and timings of such decommissioning?

While at now you foresee no problems in moving our (pick one: ERP; bespoke trading platform; SOA; etc.) to your cloud… what's your approach (from due diligence through to the particular porting exercise) and what happens if there are problems? Will there be any impact on my costs?

You appear to be a replacement and risky (or successful and growing business): what happens to my business if you ought to go under (or get acquired)?

Where have you ever done any or all of the above / am I able to speak with a current customer bearing some relationship to mine in terms of industry sector and scale? am I able to see your Customer case studies quoting business results?

Buying cloud from you may be a leap of religion – not only in your business – but in their own business and its ability to capitalize on what you're offering.

When I started scripting this, I had planned an inventory of a couple of questions only, meaning to discuss each a touch more including views on the way to answer: along the way it's become the beginning of a solid list of tough questions which could prove useful right along the availability chain (and I’d also suggest that, if a customer doesn’t ask such questions, that a bigger opportunity just might exist to start out a journey where you'll start adding extra value from day one among the sale process by posing and answering those questions together… never a nasty thanks to starting a relationship!).

At now I’d wish to throw the ground hospitable you: what are the questions a service provider should be asked? And which are the questions a provider should be prepared for? And what are the killer questions which may have caught you off-guard?!

What makes a top-quality Cloud hosting provider? Part 1

After attending several Cloud Computing and technology-focused exhibitions over a previous couple of weeks, it's crystal clear that the Cloud industry is constantly expanding rapidly, with new technologies and solutions being showcased at each event.

With this observation, combined with predictions from leading bodies like IDC stating that: “the Cloud will comprise of $17.4 billion in I.T. purchases and grow to become a $44 billion market in 2013”, no wonder there's a positive feeling throughout the industry.

What did strike me as a stimulating issue throughout my travels was the uniformity of suppliers. They were pushing out precisely the same message to potential customers and it's becoming increasingly difficult, even for fellow providers, to figure out exactly what services companies were offering.

In an industry becoming saturated with an equivalent marketing message, how maybe a customer expected to interrupt through the noise and identify a top-quality hosting provider? This got me thinking and in my opinion, analyzing two key areas of experience and investment will put your business in a strong position to try to do so.

Investment, both in terms of technology and financial contributions must be considered as an entire. More providers are now telling customers that they're offering a full service, while not disclosing how they're actually achieving this. the primary question one should ask is “what lies beneath?” how is that the service you're looking to shop for actually being delivered? Everyone features a glossy storefront, but backstage all things aren't equal.

Are you dealing directly with the Cloud provider or is your supplier a reseller? With automated self-service portals being increasingly white-labeled, most are a Cloud provider. this is often not a drag it its title, but it does add an additional layer to the service you're purchasing, meaning you would like to see your provider’s suppliers too.

You really got to determine what hardware the provider is running on. to make a basic hosting environment you simply need a PC, some free virtualization software, and an online connection, and until things start to travel wrong you'll be blissfully unaware of your situation. a top-quality hosting provider is going to be using enterprise hardware, with resilient components.

For example, a provider can either buy a 120 GB solid-state drive (SSD) for £80 or an enterprise-grade version for £1000. The difference is that the enterprise drive is meant to last longer under an intense workload, where a consumer drive isn't and will fail every six months causing potential service outages. When extending this idea to 2 servers costing £500 and one costing £6000, it’s not hard to understand the difference.

How is that the supplier operating the platform? does one need to compete with other users for resources? How does the platform effect that contention? Different platforms handle this better than others and as many home broadband providers will notice, services are often slow during school holidays. Fine, but are you able to afford for your applications to be slow thanks to similar events occurring which are out of your control? I even have heard of instances where providers are contending memory by 4 – 8 times on a server. it's vital to form sure you get some performance guarantees from your supplier.

Where is your supplier hosting the service, during a data center or in their bedroom? I met a person a couple of weeks ago who was hosting a Lotus Notes solution in his cellar reception over 6 ADSL circuits and was complaining about the rain. If you can't see the platform, determine where it's . checking out what Tier classification the info center is should also offer you a guide to its suitability. I might suggest that Tier 3 or 4 should be a target, tier 4 being the simplest but still fairly uncommon within the UK.

Is their data center based within the UK or internationally? Location can have implications for both privacy and internet performance. virtualization technology Did you recognize that if your data is affiliated with an American company it instantly falls under the US patriot act, which suggests the American government can view the knowledge, without your permission? As for bandwidth, it's an extended thanks to America, therefore your service using the native internet from the united kingdom is going to be slower. I ran a couple of tests employing a broadband speed check. The results of our fiber broadband connection were as follows: