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Archive for July, 2011

 

How Cloud Computing has Transformed my Data Center!

Wednesday, July 27th, 2011 by

Like many of you, I’m a huge fan of cloud computing. I’ve been lucky enough to see first-hand how the cloud has enabled thousands of companies worldwide get started without having to spend large amounts of CapEx or commit to long term OpEx contracts just to realize an idea or launch a product without any notion of whether it will be a bust or the next big thing.

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I started working at GoGrid’s originating company ServePath in 2005 where our main product lines were dedicated servers and collocation services. ServePath was a pioneer in dedicated managed servers at a time when private networks and load balancing on shared network infrastructure were not yet productized.

John Keagy, GoGrid’s Founder & CEO (now Executive Chairman), was always pushing the boundaries within the four walls of our data center with his motto, “complex infrastructure made easy.” It was with this vision that GoGrid was developed and became a very successful provider of Infrastructure as a Service. However it’s also because of that same vision the GoGrid Ops team has spent countless hours at a whiteboard figuring out how to support “complex infrastructure made easy”.

In the six-plus years of building out our data centers and revamping them to support the constant growth of our cloud computing platform, one thing has stayed constant: power density continues to increase. When we first filled up our flagship San Francisco facility, we had power capacity to spare. As the growth of our dedicated server service became even more compelling over collocation, we started seeing an uptick in our power utilization per rack; power density was increasing from 2-3 kilowatts per rack up to 4-5 kilowatts per rack – that is when we first realized that power could become our limiting factor in our data center if this trend continued. In 2007 when GoGrid was being developed, we were asked to build out the infrastructure to support 7 – 10 kilowatts per rack, a 250% – 500% increase in power density per rack! At 2-3 kilowatts per rack, imagine you’re sitting in a small office with a space heater and you turn it on full blast, it can get a bit warm, however you can stay in the room and continue to work. When we were tasked to build racks at 7- 10 kilowatts, it was like adding 25 space heaters in the same size room; unless you make some changes to your cooling system and redesign your rack layout, you are going to feel the heat real fast. As you can imagine, not only did this create a challenge in regards to supporting that much power, cooling that much power became quite a challenge as well. But we have overcome these challenges and continue to grow.

You may be wondering how much is GoGrid’s power bill with that type of power density, and whether it is even economically scalable. Without breaking out the spreadsheets, I can assure you that one of the many benefits of cloud computing is power saving. You see, in the past, 20 servers could be supported by a dedicated server rack drawing 2 – 3 kilowatts of power, but now we can support over 2,000 virtual (multi-tenant) servers with the same rack drawing 7-10- kilowatts of power! Feel free to call me a bit of a geek, but it’s that type of efficiency that excites me to work at one of the world’s leading infrastructure as service companies.

There have been and will continue to be many challenges that the Ops Team will face as we transform our datacenters to support GoGrid’s cloud infrastructure, stories that I will be happy to share both the challenges and the benefits in future postings. For now, I hope I have given you a bit of insight into GoGrid and the power benefits that come with cloud computing.

GoGrid Cloud Survey Report – The Importance of Private Clouds (Part 5)

Monday, July 25th, 2011 by

As you may recall, at the beginning of 2011 we polled over 500 CTOs, developers and IT professionals asking them about various aspects of cloud computing. Questions included: What is cloud computing and how do you use it?, What security measures do you require in the cloud? and many more. The data from this cloud survey report provides a good idea of the current cloud computing landscape and upcoming trends as we race towards 2012.

Continuing on in the series, we wanted to know what IT professionals thought of cloud computing’s latest innovation: the private cloud. Private clouds have quickly become the topic of much conversation in the industry because they offer core public cloud technology but within a single-tenant environment. Before we jump into the results of our question, What aspects of the private cloud are most important to your organization?, it is important to have a clear understanding of what private clouds are.

What are private clouds?

There are quite a few ways how private clouds differ from public cloud offerings but I won’t go into all of the differences within this post. As I mentioned above, there is the idea of tenancy. To broadly generalize, public clouds are multi-tenant and private clouds are single-tenant. To expand on this concept a bit more, public clouds provide shared resources for consumption by multiple companies or organizations within the same server cluster. However, these resources are dedicated and fully isolated to those users in that networking, storage, RAM and CPU units are allocated to those users. This is very different than traditional shared hosting or VPS’s (Virtual Private Servers) – shared or VPS environments can, at times, suffer from over-allocation of resources or degraded performance if one user on a particular “machine” is “hogging” those resources. Public clouds effectively isolate those resources so that customers don’t experience usage hogs.

Private clouds are essentially public clouds but in an environment dedicated to one company, thus “single-tenant.” That does not mean though, that a private cloud cannot host multiple departments or business units from that single organization. Basically, a private cloud dedicates all of the resources to a single company or corporation and serves just that organization. The computer, storage and networking resources are most likely either owned by that organization, hosted by that organization or running exclusively for that organization but managed by another vendor (see GoGrid’s Hosted Private Cloud).

Private clouds frequently come at a higher cost than traditional public clouds mainly because public clouds give you economies of scale via larger infrastructure installations. Some companies may prefer operating in a non-shared environment due the higher amounts of control that they have on the infrastructure and the hardware or due to compliance or regulatory concerns.

(more…) «GoGrid Cloud Survey Report – The Importance of Private Clouds (Part 5)»

The Importance of Building Your Cloud Infrastructure the RIGHT Way

Thursday, July 21st, 2011 by

The cloud is great for so many things. You can create a web presence in a matter of hours or completely implement an N-tiered, redundant, elastic, secure globally-available cloud topology. Spinning up infrastructure via a web portal or API in minutes via a few clicks of a mouse is a dramatic transformation from the days of racking and stacking servers, untangling miles of cat5/6 cables, connecting load balancers and firewalls to the mix and hooking up storage devices. And let’s not forget about physical security, power supplies, cooling and network redundancy. The neat thing about the cloud is that all of the stuff has become really easy to do and you can do it very quickly.

GoGrid has a long history of enabling IT infrastructure solutions for companies across the world. We have built out core services and offerings to allow businesses to build want they want quickly, efficiently and with state-of-the-art cloud technology. But just because you have great tools at your disposal doesn’t mean that your cloud environment will magically create itself. And that is something that we realize and understand at GoGrid.

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Architect for Success

Cloud computing can be almost magical at times, but we need to remember the processes and best practices for security and ensuring redundancy that we are accustomed to using, and adapt and use them within the cloud as well.

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post “Things to Think About When Building Secure Infrastructure” where I made a few points about “assumption,” namely, assuming that whatever cloud vendor you choose, they will take care of everything for you. Regardless of the cloud vendor, you need to do your due diligence and update your standard operating procedures to reflect how cloud computing works. It is different than traditional IT in many ways. For example, in the GoGrid cloud, you can create a cloud server, harden it with security software and configurations and then save it as a MyGSI (as “server image”). Then, as you need to scale out your infrastructure, you can do this not only quickly, but securely as well, by deploying clones or instances of that hardened server. With a traditional, physical deployment, it takes much longer and there is no guarantee that you will have each and every security patch in place on every server.

(more…) «The Importance of Building Your Cloud Infrastructure the RIGHT Way»

Things to Think About When Building Secure Infrastructure

Wednesday, July 6th, 2011 by

Whether you’re a small, medium or enterprise company using cloud solutions, using secure Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) is a must. A couple weeks ago I shared some survey data showing you the average security and compliance requirements from professionals in the IT industry. The results of the survey clearly shows that security is a forethought for most businesses, but just like the term “cloud”, “security” can be a bit of a buzz word if not given proper context.

When thinking about security and potentially compliance within an IT environment, there are a lot of important items to consider; some of these can be “offloaded” to your provider, but others are your own undertaking completely. Start by asking yourself the following questions:

  1. Who is your “customer”? – Is your customer, your end user? Or is it your internal organization? More than likely, it is both. Do these “customers” require different levels of security? If so, what are they?
  2. What level of security is “acceptable”? – This varies from company to company. Some organizations like healthcare or government must adhere to extremely strict security (and compliance) requirements, while other businesses might have more leeway when it comes to protecting their assets.
  3. Who in your organization is responsible for security? – Is there a particular team that is tasked with not only determining the security requirements, but also maintaining and auditing those requirements and activities over time?
  4. Is physical security required? – Do you need to physically audit and control your environment? Remember, while clouds are highly virtualized or abstracted, the providers are physical entities. Does your cloud environment need to be physically isolated from other cloud environments? (If so, you might want to consider a Hosted Private Cloud)
  5. Does your company have their security best practices carefully documented? – If they do, you should review it with a critical eye to ensure that it reflects changes in technologies.

To the last point above, the most important philosophy for businesses to understand is that security isn’t a destination – it is a process that takes constant iteration and innovation. Regardless what cloud provider you use (or even if you use traditional in-house infrastructure), this mentality is important to maintaining infrastructure security and compliance.

There are two core levels where security is critical: (more…) «Things to Think About When Building Secure Infrastructure»