Monday, June 3, 2013

IBM Cloud Services in a Cube

To maintain vendor neutrality while proposing Cloud solutions for our clients, we spend significant amount of time and effort to compare and contrast various Cloud Service Providers (CSPs) and their solutions. Recently, I had the opportunity to attend an all day IBM event covering a broad range of IBM and its partner SmartCloud and traditional IT solutions update. Our evaluation criteria is driven by many factors such as technology readiness, pricing models, security, support, SLAs, etc.

We reviewed and analyzed the information that we received during and after the IBM event and positioned it within our PCI Cloud Cube framework. 

For those who may be new to our Cloud Cube, we use the cube to simplify your application (workload) journey to the Cloud. For example, each of your workloads will likely have a different set of requirements in the areas of security, performance, and availability. Those requirements determine where in the Cloud Cube that workload belongs. What makes the Cloud work is having a deep understanding of the myriad of options so you can select the correct space, or more likely, spaces, in the Cloud Cube for you. This will ensure that you can transition into, around in, and out of the Cloud without disrupting your business and still maintain the appropriate level of security for you and your customer’s data with the right performance and availability characteristics to allow your business to scale up or down. Our processes are driven by focusing on workloads and  their inter-dependencies.

IBM's primary focus remains on the enterprise requiring business and mission critical workloads with stringent SLAs. This focus is used to develop, deliver,  and support a broad portfolio of Cloud and traditional IT services and solutions. 

IBM Cloud Managed Services (CMS) include SmartCloud supporting IaaS and PaaS services across Public, Private or Hybrid Cloud delivery platforms. SaaS services are provided primarily by IBM partners. 

Security services are offered both in the Cloud and as managed services. With IBM having solutions  and partners across both security and business intelligence (BI), we can expect security solutions leveraging of information and analytics from BI and vice versa. 

Business continuity and Resiliency Services (BCRS) cover a wide spectrum of RPO/RTO requirements with SLAs. This service includes SmartCloud backup, virtual server recovery, email continuity, hot site and work place recovery. 

IBM also shared an excellent case study on how it has been transforming its own worldwide data center through basic, consolidated, and available phases to build ever so more a strategic data center. We expect IBM to add and offer Smart data center capabilities within building a strategic data center 

Now, few words on the state of Cloud adoption process. As we know, most data centers adopting private, public, or hybrid cloud platforms need to either own or acquire traditional IT hardware/software. Depending on the data center complexity and its business driven requirements on optimization, flexibility, security, and automation, the process of selecting the right Cloud solutions with traditional IT products and services  that are  collectively aligned to best meet changing business needs can be a challenge.

Even if a data center has virtualized most of their workloads with the intent to move them to the Cloud, the move can still require significant planning, cost and time. We are often asked, "how do we get started with the Cloud". While there are many new or some existing workloads that can be moved rather easily to the Cloud, there are others that require analysis, planning, implementation, reviews and on-going support. A well thought out methodology and plan can help and save cost and time.

As key Cloud solutions, services or platforms are launched and delivered, we share our vendor specific Cube planning frameworks such as Microsoft AzureMobile Cloud, etc. with our clients and interested communities.We will continue to update and fine tune our methodology and Cloud Cubes. Please let us know your thoughts and experiences as you leverage the cloud.

Purposeful Clouds

Thursday, May 17, 2012

How real is Cloud application performance?

Given the current state of the Cloud technology, determining performance for your application hosted in a Public, Private or Hybrid cloud is less deterministic than you may think.

From a performance perspective, we consider four types of applications. 1. Response Time Intensive applications such as interactive social media, gaming, live media broadcasting or audio/video conferencing where "user experience and availability" have priority. 2. Compute intensive HPC applications and data-intensive biomedical or life science applications caring most about "throughput". 3. Business critical or mission critical applications with performance requirements across "availability, user experience and throughput" and 4. Applications with modest throughput, response and availability requirements such as software development.

For applications hosted in your own designed traditional data center, you know that the key performance-delivery-chain components are represented, for example, by its application server, database server and web server hardware and software stacks. And you also know how to load balance your environment for optimum to maximum performance.

However, achieving deterministic application performance in a Cloud depends on many factors, for example, a great deal depends on the degree of isolation achieved between various instances (VMs) running in a multi-tenant environment. How one instance may influence, more or less, another instance across computation, IO, networking and the rest of the solution software and hardware stack can have significant impact on response time, throughput and even availability.

Whether by design or by coincidence, each offered Cloud service (IaaS, PaaS or SaaS) by a Cloud Service Provider (CSP) is better suited for a certain type of applications and not so for the other. As a word of caution, most of the IaaS and PaaS Service Level Agreements (SLAs) from current generation public Cloud Service Providers commit to the availability performance metrics. Or these SLAs are about "guaranteeing" that if you need 100 instances you will get 100 instances and they will get some specific percentage of the server. SaaS SLAs often include response time, measured within the provider's facility without factoring network time like the Internet. Also, CSPs address some aspects of throughput or response time requirements by offering different size instances and related pricing. Across IaaS, PaaS and SaaS, it remains your responsibility to ensure that the Cloud services you either bought from a Public cloud provider or implemented with a Private cloud deliver the required performance.

So how do you really leverage the Cloud as it relates to performance? Based on business driven requirements, a well thought out Cloud architecture that outlines mapping of complete applications or their components onto various public, private or hybrid clouds plays a critical role. You need to compare and contrast Cloud solution stacks and pricing strategies from different "best in class" vendors so that you can plan and implement a Cloud road-map that can deliver required performance as well as immediate and long-term financial benefits. Check out some of the key criteria used to compare, for example, Openstack vs. CloudStack vs. Eucalyputs.

Reading SLAs fine print helps. For example, many CSPs have some form of payback if their Cloud is unable to meet Cloud availability commitments but you may have to do a lot of  extra work to get any money or other forms of credit back.

As today's Cloud solutions evolve in delivering more predictable and measurable performance, Purposeful Clouds will continue to take an active role in contributing its expertise in the performance area as well as keeping you informed.

Please let me know you thoughts by commenting below.


Tuesday, May 8, 2012

OpenStack vs. CloudStack vs. Eucalyptus

The race to become the preferred choice among three leading open source Cloud software stacks Openstack, Cloudstack and Eucalyptus has been on for some time.  However, it has picked up significant momentum in the last 2-3 months. Many factors are contributing to the accelerated phenomenon. First and foremost has to do with the realization about the business value of implementing a private or a hybrid cloud. For example, virtualization is reaching the so called "maturity phase," while the Cloud Software stack is enabling IT to new levels of access, management, charge-back and authentication of isolated pool of IT resources such as application, compute, storage, and network. This represents yet another key step towards self-service and more optimum utilization of your data center resources.

Second, there are many "early adopters" across multiple industries who have implemented both private and hybrid clouds. These include both Cloud Service Providers  (CSPs) and end-users. They have leveraged any one of the three open source cloud stacks in combination with off-the-shelf-SaaS-cloud services.

Third, the more obvious, reason has to do with the fact that traditional platform vendors like IBM, Dell and HP need to protect their current and future software, hardware, systems, solutions and services revenue. Announcing or offering and supporting Private and Hybrid cloud-related projects and products helps them a great deal in potentially better managing their platform revenue and profitability commitments.
At this stage of the race, no one knows which open source Cloud stack is the best. Most likely all three will continue to evolve well. Also, do we really care if we can identify which stack will meet our business needs the most? So how do we get started in comparing these stacks and selecting that best meets our business needs. Following are some of the key criteria:
  • Strategic fit with your business needs
  • Standard vs. project vs. product
  • Road-map (architecture, release frequency and features)
  • APIs compatibility with other public and private clouds
  • Ease of administration (private and hybrid clouds)
  • Platform vendor and Cloud Service Provider (CSP) support 
  • Customer support and associated cost
  • Quality of community participation
  • Use cases in your vertical market
  • Licensing requirements
Each of the three open source cloud stacks have built and earned sufficient bragging rights to deliver an acceptable solution. However, each one of them also represents risk and challenges as you leverage them in implementing a private or a hybrid cloud for a set of workloads in your business. You need to make sure that you pick the stack that best meets your business needs.

Purposeful Clouds will continue to actively monitor their evolution, build upon our detailed selection criteria for various vertical markets, test all three stacks in Purposeful Clouds lab and continue to share our findings with you in our blogs and on our website.

Please let me know your thoughts.


Monday, September 26, 2011

Will NaaS and Mobile Cloud Computing test sky limits?

While visiting our daughter just before the start of this year's school season and touring Philadelphia, she showed us a local corner coffee shop where she, a proud summer intern scientist, and her scientist boss did a good part of their summer research work for a Fortune 100 company using cafe's free WiFi. This addressed our summer long confusion as to why we could not find company's Philadelphia office address. The fact that mobility is essential to our lives is obvious and evident with the pervasive use of mobile devices such as smart phones, tablets, mobile clients and desktops in enterprises, and public places such as coffee shops, parks, buses, trains, libraries, campuses to name just few. Then there are recent forecasts of up to 50 billion mobile connected "machines" over the coming years, including appliances, smart meters, security systems, healthcare devices, etc. Let us see if we can understand how this phenomenon has been unfolding and its relationship to Cloud Computing.

Cloud Computing has already been extended well into the mobile domain. For example, both Apple and Google offer mobile services, devices, OSs, APIs and use IaaSPaaS and SaaS driven Cloud Computing services coupled with a powerful and fast expanding ecosystem of developers and partners. Both companies offer ubiquitous mobile access by using some combination of the wireless networks of  Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) such as AT&T Mobility, Verizon Wireless, China Mobile, Orange, Airtel, Singtel, T-Mobil, etc. around the world. Most of these so called "mobile services" offered on their platforms are still just Web-based client-server applications and use no more than wireless communications capability of the MNOs. Without a doubt,  mobile business growth of Apple and Google in the market is phenomenal, however, this represents just the first wave of mobility success.

To develop a good feel for how the new wave of mobility growth is unfolding, we need to understand the role and assets of MNOs and associated business opportunities.

So far, MNOs delivering broadband mobile networks has been the essential and key enabler to the mobile applications usage growth. MNOs also have vast subscriber base representing huge assets that are mostly unused and ripe for building new and innovative businesses.  For example, MNO's store better managed and controlled information on their subscribers than most of today's social networks or even the banks. There is tremendous information and intelligence embedded in their subscriber usage of voice calls, text/multimedia messages, location, profiles, used or free minutes/messages, etc.

Another major MNO asset is their highly scalable and mature payment systems that have the ability to handle micro-payments. The ability to contractually track and transact on all the line items, for example, in a monthly mobile phone bill that may include roaming, voice, data, messages and other cross carrier micro charges, taxes, and then managing charges in different currencies is quite impressive. Now if you consider, for example, how  many hundreds of millions of credits cards Apple must be managing for various mobile applications and related services sold on their App Store and then compare this with MNO payment system's ability to potentially support in-line applications targeted at billions of subscribers with their comprehensive payment system, it gets even more impressive. A developer to know how he or she will get paid with the tracking features of a MNO payment system in a worldwide cross carrier environment can be quite assuring and exciting.

So where is the industry in tapping the unused MNO assets? Telecom operators have learnt from the success of SaaS Cloud business model and they are delivering, in the same way,  on-demand "Network as a Service" offering, also called Telco 2.0. Information, intelligence, communications, payment system and billable customer base are huge marketable assets that can be offered to third parties. These assets are now getting exposed through a set of APIs to a large community of developers, ASPs and other service providers. For example, progress made with GSMA OneAPI  platform focused at the development of applications while Wholesale Application Community (WAC) defining an architecture for delivery of mobile applications across multiple platforms and networks is helping accelerate the realization of on-demand in-line mobile applications and services.

We know that MNOs have been delivering services such as SMS, MMS, IVR, user alerts, chat, MNP (Mobile Number Portability), etc. A good example of such an MNO is Orange. The good news is that delivery of these services have given MNOs the required experience in building business models that are scalable and sustainable and they deliver valuable services to their subscribers. But the not so good news is that most of the MNOs use proprietary APIs that work only withing their network.

As MNOs, ASPs, and developers work together in using both industry standard APIs and architectures as well as deliver on more differentiated proprietary capabilities, we will see access to the range of on-demand capabilities inherent in worldwide mobile network platform in the form of Mobile Cloud Computing where sky is the limit. We have extended the Purposeful Clouds  Cloud Computing cube into the mobile domain.

Now back to our lives, we know that most college students get limited sleep which worries parents. However, we like the fact that our daughter can visit us more often by completing her school work using WiFi in a late night seven hours bus trip between Philadelphia and Boston. Should we thank or blame mobility for this, seriously?

In my next blog on this topic, I will talk about Mobile Cloud Service Providers (mCSPs).

Please let me know your thoughts.


Friday, January 7, 2011

Assessment Services and Training Simplify Your Journey to the Cloud

"With so much media coverage and exuberance about various Cloud computing benefits and options, it is a humbling experience to realize that we don't know where to start" was a recent comment from one of our clients. Undertaking changes of any magnitude can be a challenge, however, embracing a new paradigm shift, like transitioning to the Cloud, adds another dimension.

By most accounts, the adoption rate of the Cloud has been phenomenal implying somewhat easier start with the Cloud. For businesses to start offering Cloud services, they need to leverage or acquire a minimal set of technologies and partnerships before they can offer a sustainable and competitive set of services to the fast evolving marketplace. Users ability to start using the Cloud depends on  two main factors: i) workload requirements that are potential targets for the Cloud and ii) Cloud expertise within their organization.

Whether you are a business, providing services, that is planning to add Cloud Services or a user preparing to transition your current IT environment into a future architecture that includes the Cloud, you most likely offer a range of services based on older technologies and solutions. This represents a dual challenge for you, i.e., adopting the Cloud while insuring uninterrupted business operations and data security. In addition, navigating through internal and external competing forces in offering or adopting new services can be hard.

You can simplify your journey to the Cloud by starting with training and use of some well defined services. Purposeful CloudsBuilding Cloud Business services, targeted at service providers, and Assessment Services, targeted at users, will help you get started and will deliver value at every step of the engagement.
Arrow's Purposeful Clouds Cube

Let me share some insight on how we simplify our clients' journey to the Cloud. We use the above cube to put our arms around various Cloud Services and Models. We find the right place in the cube for each workload. Using 3-tier application as an example workload, we determine if the whole workload or parts of it are suitable for IaaS, PasS or SaaS, Then we look at sensitivities as they relate to Service Level requirements and map them on to the right Cloud model such as private, community, public or hybrid cloud.

Arrow Enterprise Computing Solutions, a business segment of Arrow Electronics Inc., for example, offers many cloud services to choose from, for their VARs and for end-users. Purposeful Clouds in strategic alliance with the Arrow Fusion (SM) team of Arrow ECS, has added a robust new set of Assessment and Migration services that help Arrow ECS VARs and end-users to start taking advantage of the cloud with greater ease. These services are complemented with the Cloud Business Imperatives training from Purposeful Clouds Academy.

Our client referred to in the beginning of this blog, is working on offering training and assessment services as part of their ever-evolving portfolio to their end-users. Please share with us your thoughts and experiences as you start or navigate your journey to the Cloud.

You can get more details about the  assessment services by replaying our recent Webinar.

Happy New Year!!!

Chander Khanna

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Microsoft in the Clouds with Windows Azure Platform?

As expected, the well known software called "Operating System (OS)" has expanded into managing its own previous incarnations and a lot more. We can call this new expanded software "CloudOS". This software not only manages the traditional compute, storage, networking, and millions of different peripherals across multiple geographies around our planet but also supports on-demand scaling, metered pricing, access, virtualization, collaboration, and control. In the Cloud, as we know now, CloudOS and related hardware (metal) are referred to as Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS). Increasing adoption rate of this new computing paradigm by both early and mainstream adopters is a convincing proof that the Cloud "delivers a lot more for a lot less".
However, this progress will be of very limited value if proportionate advances are not made in enabling developers to take advantage of IaaS. A higher level of abstraction in the Cloud, called Platform as a Service (PaaS), promises to help developers get the most out of IaaS. This is partly accomplished by PaaS delivering support for ubiquitous access to both the existing and new software tools, web services, libraries and processes as well as usage based pricing.
PFC Microsoft Cloud
The prime concern of businesses is how their services perform. As we know, these services are delivered via applications, also referred to as workloads. It is logical to expect that these services in the Cloud, called SaaS (a topic for a future blog), highly leverage PaaS and IaaS to enable a new application software services business model.
Let us now look at Microsoft’s position in the Cloud. Microsoft’s journey that started with a limited functionality disk operating system (DOS) has its presence today in the Cloud across all SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS stacks as depicted in the following PurposeFul Clouds (PFC) cube:
Windows Azure platform, that represents the central focus of Microsoft strategy, in many ways epitomizes the best of PaaS and IaaS.  On the surface it may seem impractical to aggressively innovate as well as responsibly carry forward the existing Microsoft’s base of many millions of applications, developers, and users to  the latest  technologies. However, without a doubt, Windows Azure platform does represent such a bold step.
To better understand how Windows Azure platform can help you simplify your  journey to the Cloud, you need to  consider whether you want to move, transform, or enhance existing applications for the Cloud or develop new applications. Also, you need to identify what Cloud model is best suited for your business needs today, six to nine months from now, 1-2 years from now, and longer-term. The following figure helps characterize some key scenarios while you assess and identify applications or workloads as candidates for moving them to the Microsoft Cloud.
                      Apps in the Cloud Scenarios
Each arrow represents more leverage of Cloud services. Arrows of the same color represent possible migration paths to leverage even more of the Cloud computing paradigm. Today, Windows Azure platform supports most of the paths leading to Public or Virtual Private Clouds while Microsoft is also working on supporting Private Cloud model  with "Windows Azure in a box" appliance. We plan to closely track Microsoft’s progress into the Cloud and share with you our perspectives along the way.
Please let us know your views and experiences with Windows Azure by posting your comments on this blog. You can also get more detailed analysis of the Windows Azure platform by attending Boston Azure User's Group meeting on November 18th.
Chander Khanna

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Doing more with less is simpler than you think, Really?

Accelerating return on your IT investments and reducing total cost of ownership is a lot simpler than you think. The recipe requires: i) leveraging the right Cloud model; ii) using intelligent workload management where workload is defined as an integrated stack of application, middle-ware and OS; and iii) a dash of discipline.

Being able to accomplish a lot more with a lot less is one of the main reasons for the exponential growth in adoption of the Cloud computing paradigm. If you know your business requirements for your IT now, six months from now, 1-2 years from now, and long term, you are going to have a lot of fun identifying opportunities to reduce IT costs without compromising on your business requirements. Many concerns about risks with the Cloud are overblown by those who are either unaware, trying to catch up, or defending the old ways.

Usage based Cloud pricing model can help convert  traditional 5-10% capacity utilization or, should I say, 90-95% wasted capacity utilization priced model into delivering potentially 10 to 20 times cost improvements. Just working on a plan that defines the future IT state with the Cloud will enable you to see opportunities to do more with less. As you start assessing opportunities and creating plans, you get into a virtues cycle of interacting with the forward looking experts and a number of “best in class” Cloud Service Providers (CSPs) who will help you architect, plan, build, support and transition to the right set of possible future states for your IT infrastructure. You can mix and match various Cloud Models that best fit your business needs and leverage management software that supports orchestration, work-flow management or going from Cloud to Cloud and around. However, leveraging the Cloud for your infrastructure is only half the fun.

We know that applications (workloads) and associated processes  (for a future blog) constitute business services. If  some or all of your application needs can be met by SaaS offerings then Return on Investment (ROI) and Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) analysis is simpler. Similarly, if you use third party applications then you do need to shop around a bit to make sure that you are getting best value from the software licenses paid. On the other hand, if you are are an ISV or build and maintain in-house developed applications, taking advantage of PaaS (for a future blog), Application Appliances and associated tools will reduce costs and give you many competitive advantages.

Software appliances that encapsulate “what you need for an application” to run on a standardized platform are revolutionizing the software industry and associated business models. Whether your application is designed and developed using 3-tier architecture, SOA, or SaaS, it needs to be configured and updated on regular basis. The right set of tools enable businesses create, configure, update and deploy appliances delivering services on Public, Virtual Private, Private or Hybrid Cloud models in a matter of seconds. By combining the best of the Cloud and appliances models you can get a lot more, a lot more faster and for a lot less cost. If you are thinking that it is easier said than done then you are right.

To realize the above stated gains, we do need to learn and develop a minimal set of new processes and disciplines. I call them “a dash of discipline”. For example, benefits from usage based pricing will disappear fast if uncontrolled or wasteful use of workloads consume resources, or if applications are architected or coded without any regards to their hardware or software resource utilization. Is this a wake up call for developers (for a future blog). Although there is a lot to learn during our journey into the Clouds, it promises to be rewarding at every step of the way.

In an attempt to put our arms around the above ideas and opportunities, following PFC Cube is an attempt to present it all together.

PFC-Novell Cloud Cube
Let us know want are your views on this and participate by either posting your comments to this blog or attending our upcoming Webinar on October 13th.

Chander Khanna