Archive for October, 2008

 

Control GoGrid Cloud Programmatically Using Windows PowerShell

Monday, October 13th, 2008 by

MSpowershell GoGrid user Mitch Denny created an outstanding use of the GoGrid API using Windows PowerShell. For the uninitiated, Windows PowerShell is a command line shell and scripting language designed to help IT professionals achieve greater control and productivity through the use of of an admin-focused scripting language, complete with 130 standard command line tools, consistent syntax and utilities (paraphrased from the PowerShell product page). PowerShell runs on Windows XP, Vista, Server 2003 and Server 2008 and is a great way for sysadmins to control existing IT infrastructure through scripting.

The GoGrid API has been available for some time now and I have been waiting for a stellar use of it to showcase. (I’m still waiting for a very resourceful developer to use it either to create an iPhone web application or stand-alone application…hint, hint.) Mitch, who is an avid .NET developer from Australia and Senior Consultant at Readify, created a PowerShell Snap-in for GoGrid which uses the GoGrid API. His project, documented here, is open-source, hosted at CodePlex, and seems like will continue to evolve. Currently a Beta2 release, the “PowerShell Snap-in for GoGrid” was designed to “demonstrate how useful it can be for infrastructure-level SaaS providers to expose an API for their customers to use.” Mitch has some good visions on how and why API’s should be available, including:

  • Configure applications for performance testing.
  • Run load agents for performance testing.
  • Test disaster recovery scenarios.
  • Provision hardware for project work (i.e. development teams).
  • Support instructor led training with virtualised labs.
  • Host demonstration environments for presentations.
  • Controlling scale of your underling SaaS infrastructure.

Mitch’s code seems to work quite well. Following his instructions, I actually used it to provision a new load balancer within my GoGrid instance. It simply worked and took just a few minutes to set up. It’s actually fun executing the commands within PowerShell and watching devices magically appear within the GoGrid GUI.

What you need to get started:

  1. A GoGrid accountsign up now!. You will need access to the GoGrid portal in order to create an API Key.
  2. Windows PowerShell – download it from the Microsoft website here. Be sure to select the proper version for your OS. Have it fully installed before you start.
  3. The PowerShell Snap-In for GoGrid – this is the CodePlex project page, current version is “GoGrid 1.0 (BETA2)”. As of this writing, some of the Wiki pages describing some of the actions have not been fully built out but I expect that to change over time. The Snap-In is available for download in the upper right of the project page.

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GigaSpaces and GoGrid Launch Enterprise-Grade Cloud Computing Solution

Tuesday, October 7th, 2008 by

Yesterday, GoGrid and GigaSpaces announced the launch of an enterprise-grade Cloud Computing Solution. The full press release follows:

GigaSpaces and GoGrid Launch Enterprise-Grade Cloud Computing Solution

Joint Offering Enables Java, .Net and C++ Applications to Scale On-Demand

San Francisco, CA – October 6, 2008 - GigaSpaces Technologies and GoGrid announced today the availability of the GigaSpaces eXtreme Application Platform (XAP), the leading scale-out application server for the cloud, on GoGrid’s enterprise-grade cloud computing service for Windows and Linux.  The two companies’ joint offering enables enterprises to migrate existing and new Java, J2EE, .Net and C++ applications to a cloud computing infrastructure with an hourly pay-per-use pricing model.

Increasingly, enterprises are looking to reduce costs and shorten time-to-market by running their applications on public cloud computing services, such as GoGrid.  However, traditional application platforms and middleware do not allow applications to truly take advantage of the cloud, as they are built for static environments.  GigaSpaces XAP addresses these challenges by allowing Java, .Net and C++ applications to grow and shrink on-demand with complete reliability and high performance.

image By building their applications with GigaSpaces and running them in the GoGrid cloud, enterprises can realize what many consider the ‘holy grail’ of IT,” said John Keagy, chief executive officer at GoGrid.  “Executives can sleep well at night knowing that if there is a spike in demand, the GigaSpaces platform will be able to scale-out on the cloud with complete fault-tolerance.  And the beauty of it is they only pay for what they use.image

“A common challenge enterprise customers face is that many of the current cloud offerings lack basic features required by large organizations.  The GoGrid cloud is particularly appealing to our enterprise customers who wish to run their applications on the cloud,” said Geva Perry, general manager of the cloud computing business unit at GigaSpaces.  “GoGrid offers SLAs, advanced security features, 24×7 support and volume discounts – all of which are must-haves for large companies.”

In addition to the robust Linux systems provided by GoGrid and the powerful Java capabilities offered by GigaSpaces, the joint solution is unique in its offering for running .Net applications on the cloud by combining GoGrid’s Windows-based cloud with GigaSpaces’ .NET API.

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10 Tips for StartUps to Survive the “Recession”

Friday, October 3rd, 2008 by

DontPanic_1024 “Don’t Panic!” These are two words (made popular by Douglas Adams in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy) that every day become more appropriate and valid. Credit has dried up as has funding by Venture Capitalists, Angel Funders and the like. If you are a bootstrapped company, a startup or a company in “stealth mode,” right now you might be wishing that you had taken a more stable job at a large corporation (hopefully not in the Financial sector) or that you had planned better for another bubble to burst. Well fear not…there is always a way to survive, through careful planning and management.

I would like to offer the following “Guide” of my own to those small companies or startups that are struggling now, on the verge of closing shop or just ready to give up. First, let me restate Adams’ words: “Don’t Panic!” There are methods to keep your company and vision moving forward, maybe in a different direction or perhaps a bit more slowly.

Here are a few things that you may want to consider as you re-architect your survival strategy:

  1. Start Now – don’t take a “wait and see” attitude. If you have a great idea, keep moving forward, but DO start your cash conservation immediately. The mere fact that you are searching for information and reading this post is a great sign that you are being active!
  2. Outsource – sure, doing things in-house can save you some cash, but only part of the time. Truly evaluate what makes sense (cents) in your day-to-day operations. If it takes your developer a week to do something and an outside “specialist” a day or two, evaluate the costs of both actions. If you aren’t paying your employees and they are doing work in their free time, try to factor in the time-to-market of that approach. While you may save money in up-front costs, you may lose it in terms of beating your competitors to market. Here are a couple factors within “outsourcing” to consider:
    • Human Capital – frequently small boutiques who are experts in a particular field can do things faster and better than you can in-house. They, too, might be effected by the economic downturn and may be willing to cut some of their costs just to have your business.
    • Operations – this can be both on the technical or just the basic company operations side. If you are providing healthcare benefits, see if you can change your plans or even ask your employees if they have other means to get healthcare (e.g., through a spouse).
  3. Avoid Capital Expenditures (CapEx) – hardware costs money, lots of it. Of course this all depends on what stage your company is at. If you are just starting, you may be able to get away with repurposing old computers and sharing bandwidth, but as you grow and get closer to having to “prove your value proposition” to investors or even end-users, you do need some sort of infrastructure. Consider using Cloud Computing (e.g., GoGrid) to host your infrastructure, whether it be a development environment or eventually your production infrastructure. By using “the Cloud” you have zero CapEx, no monthly/yearly contracts and are billed by your usage. This is a great way to control your costs and scale only on-demand. You can easily control your capacity, and avoid having your infrastructure sitting around unused or idle.
  4. Simplify/Set Realistic Goals – The more complex you make things, the harder they are to undo. Figure out what you really want to do with your business. Is it a hobby or your life work? Do you want to be the next Google? If so, you probably want to rethink that. While it is good to have lofty goals, keep them closer to earth. Did you hire someone who sold you on reaching something unattainable? You may want to reconsider that, hard as it may be, and let those people go. Re-architect your strategies. Clearly identify the most fundamental and basic goals you want to achieve. Sometimes through simplification, you can find a niche that others haven’t. That makes you more viable and attractive. If you are doing something that everyone else is gunning for, and you are struggling, it probably isn’t worth it. You don’t need to throw it all away, but you might want to evaluate what you want to do and choose 1-2 things that are (somewhat) unique. Remember K.I.S.S (Keep It Simple, Stupid).
  5. Remain Flexible – the worst thing that you can do in these trying times is not move or be rigid. Being a startup or small company has definite advantages. You have the ability to move much more quickly than larger companies. Look to be flexibility in many areas: strategic direction, product or service feature set, tools and infrastructures and even work ethic. Keep your employees happy by finding out what works best for them. I’m reminded of a story I heard about a hair dresser who was looking for a change. After some soul searching and help from some personality profiles, they became a landscape architect: similar ideas of grooming but in a completely different field (literally). So stay flexible in your own thinking as well.
  6. Network & Socialize – as you start to panic, the worst thing you can do is do it alone. Trust me, there are many people and business who are sharing your same concerns. Some may be further down the process of recovery or re-architecting and may be willing to share with you their experiences and what to or not to do. There are so many ways to connect with people nowadays. There is the obvious Social Media (e.g., Twitter, Facebook, FriendFeed, etc.) and I’m a big proponent of these methods. However, in this case, you may really need to just “get out” and talk to people face-to-face. If you live near a big metropolitan area, there is most likely some sort of meetup (check MeetUp.com for example – their video really is great!) or event that meets your needs. Go to them. Start talking to people. (If you are in San Francisco, check out an event I host called StartUpSF.) You may be surprised as to how many great ideas you may get and even how many people really want to help. New strategic partnerships are frequently started at events like this. It’s important to listen to new ideas and see how they apply to your own. Some of the things you hear may influence how you attack other points on this list. Remember too that you can socialize your Public Relations very easily now. Read some experts’ tips and you may save costs and time there too.
  7. Conserve Expenses – this is obvious enough. Watch your energy expenditure especially. I mentioned the Cloud before; by outsourcing your IT infrastructure, you can save tremendous costs, especially if you are doing it yourself through your own server rack in your closet. Don’t travel if you don’t need to. With large bandwidth pipes, it’s easy to have video conferencing with almost the same result as a face-to-face. Save the face-to-face for closing the deal. Oh, and pack your own lunch.
  8. Don’t Ignore the Rest of the World – the US economy may be seeing some hard times, but there are other markets out there that may want to spend their money with you. Invest some time in reviewing these other markets. Their currency may be a lot stronger than the US dollar, so they may be more willing to pay for your product or service, or even invest in your business. Don’t ignore the fact that with advances in technologies, the world is a much smaller place than we actually realize.
  9. Cash Flow Management – this is true on both billables and receivables. If you have existing vendor contracts and they are part of your lifeblood, see if you can renegotiate them. As I mentioned before, you are not alone in this economic crunch and many vendors (and even lenders) would rather renegotiate than lose your business. If your own business model is not getting the traction that you desired, you might want to try to tweak it a bit. Consider offering pre-payment discounts (e.g., have people commit for a longer amount of time but discount it against a monthly or smaller cycle rate). ServePath does this type of thing with managed hosting, by offering “server specials” at a lower cost. Old inventory may be sitting around so leverage it through discounts as well.
  10. Keep your Day Job – I had to end with some humor. If your startup is your life-long passion, it is your day job so take these tips to heart. If it isn’t, remember you have to pay your bills somehow.

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Windows in the Cloud? Been there, done that!

Wednesday, October 1st, 2008 by

Today (Wednesday) there were a flurry of announcements about Microsoft Windows suddenly being available in the Cloud, first by Amazon Web Services and then by 3tera. (Oh, and now since the writing of the first draft of this post, Steve Ballmer just revealed the “Windows Cloud.”) It made me scratch my head a bit. If you are a regular reader of this blog or are familiar with GoGrid in general, you would know by now that GoGrid has been offering Windows Server 2003 (and more recently Windows Server 2008) in the Cloud since the public launch at the beginning of 2008. So why is this suddenly “breaking news” in the industry? Probably because the Goliath in the Cloud industry, Amazon, has thrown its weight behind this.

Being the “David” though has its definite advantages. Having the ability to introduce new and different Operating Systems and features quickly (weeks as opposed to quarters or years) is a clear plus. And being able to offer a “complete” package is another. One thing that Amazon EC2 users are used to is using a command line to control their EC2 server instances. Many of those users are Linux programmers and developers – those who are well versed “in the command line.” Windows users are a very different breed. For them, the GUI is very important. Users want to see icons, click on them, use menus, etc. to “make things happen.”

When we started developing GoGrid over 3 years ago, the user experience was a huge factor in determining the feature set. We settled on using Google’s Web Toolkit (GWT) because it provided the structure to create a rich experience without compromising performance. We won awards (Linux World 2008′s Best of Show) for our implementation. The rich web portal won the hearts of many for its ease of use and the eye candy.

GoGrid users wanted to also control their infrastructure programmatically as well. We responded with a public API for full “control in the cloud.” The GoGrid API is a huge untapped resource for any developer. Add the rich experience of a graphical web interface with the programmatic power of an API; GoGrid provides the full control spectrum for all types of users. 

So, before you run off spawning a bunch of EC2 Windows servers (oh wait, you can’t yet), remember that GoGrid has already almost a year of proven experience providing Windows Server 2003/2008 to end users… we are also a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner.

Regardless, it is important for Cloud Users to have a choice. Making the proper one is the challenge however, which means that (as I have mentioned before) one has to look beyond the Cloud itself and also at the ancillary services (SLA, Support, Industry knowledge, etc.) when making the choice.