Posts Tagged ‘Cloud Storage’

 

How To Set Up High Availability Web Applications in the Cloud using GoGrid

Tuesday, April 14th, 2009 by

Web Applications like WordPress, Drupal, Joomla, SugarCRM and others are all the rage and have been for quite a while. The huge availability of Open Source applications, typically based on Linux, Apache, mySQL and PHP (LAMP stacks) that you can find in SourceForge or other repositories, makes the implementation of powerful web-based solutions a snap. Once you find the web application of your dreams, the next step is finding a hosting provider. There are many VPS (Virtual Private Server) hosting providers that offer shared hosting at pennies on the dollar. But with those VPS solutions, you are left with exactly that, a “shared” environment. So, if someone else on your shared server is running bad scripts or code that sucks up resources on your server, you are affected with little or no recourse to resolve other than to complain, moan or move to a different provider.

So, as you grow (or as your service deteriorates due to the resource-sucking of others on your shared box), you are left with a decision of what to do next. Many people choose the most obvious upgrade path of leasing a dedicated server (e.g., at ServePath, we offer dedicated, managed hosting) or colocating (where you bring your own hardware and a hosting provider like Coloserve leases space, power, cooling, security and bandwidth). But now, you have another option that truly fits the model of delivering scalable web hosting…put in in the Cloud, with GoGrid, for example.

Recently I helped map out the implementation of a secure, redundant, load-balanced web application in the Cloud using GoGrid.

Original Setup

A client originally set up the following implementation of a WordPress blog on GoGrid:

“In Cloud We Trust?” ReadWriteWeb Asks & My 2 Cents

Monday, January 26th, 2009 by

readwriteweb_logo Today, Sarah Perez of ReadWriteWeb posted the question, “Do you trust the cloud?” to FriendFeed and wrote about her findings in the article “In Cloud We Trust?” The problem is, I believe the question itself was too vague. But this “finger to the air to test the wind direction” did spark quite a bit of discussion and further made me realize that the public in general doesn’t fully yet understand the full spectrum of Cloud Computing (and this was even within a social media/tech-savvy audience).

As is evident from the 90+ comments that popped up within 18 hours of posting the question, people have a lot to say about the subject. The important thing to consider here is the lack of granularity of the question and the range of responses. To really ask and analyze the question better, one must fine-tune it more to the detailed components of what makes up Cloud Computing, namely: Cloud Applications, Cloud Platforms, Cloud Aggregators, Cloud Extenders and Cloud Infrastructure. My guess is, most people responding to the question don’t truly understand the differences between these layers in the Cloud. Perhaps better, more focused questions would have been:

  • “Do you trust Cloud Applications like Flickr, Facebook and Gmail?”
  • “Do you trust Google or others with your critical data?”
  • “Do you see yourself using the Cloud as your primary or ancillary IT strategy?”

New_Cloud_Pyramid

It seemed to me that the common thread within the FriendFeed responses was that of FUD: Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt. The question itself is phrased with an inherent FUD factor which can quickly skew the resulting answers. However, I do think that this question is important from a consumer standpoint, that of the everyday user of Gmail or Evernote or DropBox, for example. The biggest commonality that I saw from reading through all of the comments was that of “backups.” My read is that people are concerned that their data will be lost in some way, either by a company pulling the plug or a hard-drive crashing or just not being able to physically “touch” it.

From a consumer standpoint, this article is appropriate. As the amount of data that consumers produce in the form of emails or photos for example, continues to grow almost exponentially, they are realizing that storing this un-replaceable data in a single location is risky. Many back up this priceless data on external hard-drives or CDs/DVDs. Some seem to be venturing to the “Cloud” as a secondary redundancy, by using Cloud Storage to solve this.

(more…) «“In Cloud We Trust?” ReadWriteWeb Asks & My 2 Cents»

Presentation: Challenges Embracing Cloud Storage

Thursday, January 22nd, 2009 by

Yesterday, GoGrid’s VP of Technology Strategy, Randy Bias, gave a presentation titled “Managing Storage in the Cloud” which discusses some of the challenges facing companies looking to using Cloud Storage as a storage solution. Highlights include:

  • Cloud Computing Overview
  • Why Storage in the Cloud?
  • Storage Today
  • Management Challenges
  • Future/Vision

The presentation was at the SNIA Winter Symposium ’09 in San Jose, CA.

For those who missed it, we have included the presentation below:

Direct link to Randy’s presentation: “Managing Storage in the Cloud“.

(more…) «Presentation: Challenges Embracing Cloud Storage»

Dissecting SearchDataCenter.com’s “Don’t buy cloud computing hype” post

Wednesday, December 31st, 2008 by

searchdatacenter_logoWell, I thought that I could get away with no more articles in 2008. I guess that I was mistaken. I just read a good article by Chuck Goolsbee on SearchDataCenter.com titled: “Don’t buy cloud computing hype: Business model will evaporate” and I figured that I would put in my 2 cents on some of the items mentioned within.

Goolsbee takes a very pragmatic approach to “slicing through” traditional datacenter hosting (using Occam’s razor to boot), so that he could evaluate each and every aspect of what is contained in a physical environment. To summarize (and I’m paraphrasing, hopefully accurately), he mentions:

  1. Payment Card/eCommerce systems – hard to audit the purchased virtualized hardware within the Cloud
  2. Security – this works with auditing, but is the environment physically secure? Is there “data mingling?”
  3. “Fully acronym-compliant” – is the Cloud HiPAA, SOX, SAS70, GLBA, etc compliant?
  4. Data retention – for legal purposes, how can you ensure data retention?
  5. Cloud Computing Success Stories – pure cloud solution successes are marketing driven
  6. Margins for Cloud Providers – how can a cloud provider keep a good profit margin?
  7. Data Center On-Demand – that is what Cloud Computing is
  8. AWS is only real “successful” cloud provider – they are selling unused capacity
  9. “Buzzword overlap” – SaaS is NOT a cloud

Those are just a few points that I wanted to call out and respond to from my own perspective. First of all, I don’t disagree (completely) with the items that are listed above. Any company looking at the Cloud as the end-all solution for their IT needs may be disappointed unless they fully think it all out. To address the points above:

  1. I somewhat agree with this assessment. It is impossible to fully audit what I call “disposable IT.” However, the shift from CapEx to OpEx means that auditing methods need to be re-evaluated. In the past (and currently), if you wanted to requisition hardware, there was a process for doing so. It took time and had rigorous approval processes built in. Now, with the Cloud, you can do this “on the fly” and servers in the Cloud can be created and disposed of extremely quickly. With data in general, you can never fully have “absolute certainty” with an audit. Compliance requires a “reasonable certainty”, especially since data isn’t persistent in or outside of the Cloud. So, saying that the Cloud model will fail because it isn’t compliant or can’t be audited is erroneous.
  2. Physical security is left to the hosting provider or even to an outsourced 3rd party whose specific job is ensuring security and complaince therein. This is true with traditional datacenters, “cloudcenters” (a term that we at GoGrid are using to describe our Cloud Infrastructure), and even shared hosting. Just as Credit Card fraud initially got a lot of hype due to the launch of eCommerce, security in the Cloud will undergo a similar scrutiny. There is (unconfirmed) more Credit Card fraud that happens over the phone or physically at merchants than with eCommerce. When you choose a hosting provider, cloud or traditional, you need to think about data mingling anyway. Just ask your provider those questions. As standards arise and Government and Enterprise adopt Public and Private Clouds, security, as I have said previously, will be as robust if not more so than traditional centers. As in the Credit Card example, it’s probably safer to use a credit card online now than over the phone, but that depends on the site.
  3. Yes, the ever-persistent acronyms are important. GoGrid and parent company, ServePath, are SAS70 Type II certified, for example. But, these regulatory organizations will ALSO have to adopt to this new business and technology model. This could prevent some traction of the Cloud for a few corporations but I don’t think it will slow down others that much. And audits like we have, like SAS70, are widely-accepted industry standards for showing reasonable assurance and allowing auditability.
  4. I agree with the assessment that the Cloud will make it difficult for Law Enforcement to ensure data retention. Cloud Storage and/or backups can be used to allow for data retention to take place. However, if data retention is a requirement due to compliance or legal issues, processes can be built in to any IT infrastructure, cloudy or not. The other thing to consider here would be “hybrid solutions.” Since GoGrid is run by a traditional managed hosting provider, ServePath, we understand that there are certain items that are better fit for physically residing somewhere. To that end, we developed Cloud Connect. Corporations or businesses that are concerned about data persistence and the physicality of that data could opt for a solution like Cloud Connect to meet this need.
  5. Success Stories generated by providers are great. But what is better is blog posts or end-user reviews of the service. There aren’t too many reviews on successful implementations with datacenter deployments, mainly because it takes a very long time to roll out fully within a data center. And, it’s not “sexy.” Deploying a full IT infrastructure in the cloud in a matter of hours (vs. days or weeks in a datacenter) IS sexy, and people are talking about that. Time is money. If you can reduce your time to market by using the Cloud, then you will be many steps closer to monetizing than if you took a traditional method. Again, this could be where hybrid clouds (e.g., Cloud Connect) might come into play. I don’t agree with Goolsbee’s statement that “the cloud cannot contain anything critical”. Just look at SalesForce or EC2 or GoGrid. Plenty of critical data is contained within those Clouds. I do agree that Cloud Computing IS great for start-ups, but if you stop there, you are missing many larger opportunities.
  6. Margins for traditional data centers is a topic unto itself. I will only scrape the surface here. GoGrid, for example, was born from traditional managed, dedicated hosting provider experience. In order to roll out and deploy servers, there is a large capital and operating expense. When new clients come on board, servers have to be configured to their needs, hard drives formatted, memory installed, cables connected, etc. The man-hours spent to roll out a single customer is quite large. We saw these inefficiencies as well as the fact that once deployed, servers sat idle and under-utilized. GoGrid was developed to combat these internal and external cost and labor inefficiencies. Not only could more “servers” be “contained” within fewer larger physical servers (reducing datacenter footprints, power, cooling, etc. metrics), but also, automated deployment reduced the human capital needs. Coupled with the fact that the control was now in the hands of the end user (in terms of scalability and configuration, for example), time to deploy was reduced (equating to less grumbling on all sides). If you read between the lines here, there are better margins for a hosting provider to convert some internal infrastructure over to providing Cloud “services” than not. Once the technology is created, rolling out Cloud infrastructures within a hosting provider for end users to later use is better than rolling out a handful of customized dedicated servers.
  7. Some Cloud Computing providers are data-centers on demand, but very few. As I mentioned, we now refer to GoGrid as a CloudCenter, the equivalent of a DataCenter but in the Cloud and using the requirements of Cloud Computing: dynamically and rapidly scalable, paying for what you use and using only what you need, programmatically controlled through an API (or web interface), and somewhat “virtualized”. To be a true “datacenter in the cloud” you must have all of the components of a datacenter (servers, switches, firewalls, load balancers, storage, multiple network pipes, internal and external networks, etc.). Only those Cloud Providers that give out Infrastructure solutions (e.g., GoGrid and potentially EC2) can be considered “data-centers on demand” and even then, EC2 doesn’t quite fit.
  8. AWS had a few things going for it to get it on its way to being considered a “successful provider”: its name,  its size and the fact that it was first to market (or appeared to be). Don’t get me wrong, their entire suite is very impressive and they have a lot of extremely happy customers. Also, they have truly cut the ice for other Cloud providers to come along (to which we are thankful). I’m not sure about the accuracy of what Goolsbee says (that they are “selling unused capacity”). This may have been true initially, but I believe they are their own business unit by now and their data centers have nothing to do with their “book selling.” Also, the mention of uptime and security guarantees being lacking will change (they recently released an SLA for EC2…it’s not as robust as GoGrid, for what it’s worth). The general pessimism about AWS not being good for mission-critical IT functions is not really warranted, I don’t feel. Datacenters fail, as do servers. This is not specific to the Cloud. If you are worried about your data, back it up! That is the best practice and not something that you should only do if you are using the Cloud.
  9. I agree that Cloud Computing as a general buzzword is over-used and vague, but it is here to stay until something better comes along. We are already seeing segmentation within it. It is a general encapsulation of many different things. I do think that SaaS belongs as one of the Cloud layers (Cloud Applications) provided it meets the Cloud checklist. Google IS a cloud provider (Google App Engine as a Cloud Platform; Gmail as a Cloud Application). Buying application time (specifically “hosting” your Python application within their datacenters) IS using the Cloud, but not Cloud Infrastructure but rather Cloud Platforms. In fact, you will be able to buy additional capacity on App Engine soon.

(more…) «Dissecting SearchDataCenter.com’s “Don’t buy cloud computing hype” post»

Cloud Computing 2009 New Year’s Resolutions

Monday, December 29th, 2008 by

new_years_hat The start of a New Year is upon us so it is time to get a list together of things that you will do (or do your best to do) in the coming year. Everybody has their own personal Resolution lists, but what about your Business ones? How are you going to remain competitive? What steps are you going to take to cut your budget to remain lean and mean? Are you going to stick with your current methods or adopt some new strategies?

Here are some “Resolutions” that you can think about as you ready your business for 2009.

  1. Invest some time in understanding the term “Cloud Computing” – there are several easy-to-understand definitions and movies that have come out that make Cloud Computing a bit more understandable. This one was done at the 2008 Web 2.0 Expo. Then came the GoGrid “Cloud Computing in Plain English”. Recently, there is a new “In Plain English” from the actual Common Craft folks (whom we got our inspiration from). And here is a more technical presentation that came out recently. Regardless, there are lots of sources out there for quick understandings. I have been maintaining a Bookmark RSS feed as well of many of the Cloud Computing blogs and sites. Subscribe to that feed for updated links. Also, read through the popular Cloud Computing Group on Google. Lastly, you can check Wikipedia for their ever evolving definition of Cloud Computing.
  2. Do some research on different Cloud Providers – no Cloud Computing provider is the same, and the differentiation is continuing. Last year (2008), I introduced the idea of the Cloud Pyramid which has Cloud Applications (SalesForce) at the top, then Cloud Platforms (Google App Engine or Microsoft Azure) in the middle and finally Cloud Infrastructure (GoGrid and Amazon EC2) as the bottom foundation. Also hooked into it are Cloud Extenders (e.g., Amazon’s SQS) and Cloud Aggregators (RightScale). It’s pretty obvious that there are many choices to be made and that these are very specific to the type of business you are running. In fact, we will be further segmenting the IaaS (Cloud Infrastructure) section more over the next few weeks. Briefly, GoGrid is now being positioned as a “CloudCenter” (which is essentially, a DataCenter equivalent but in the Cloud). More on that later. In the meantime, compile a series of questions for yourself and for your prospective provider. We will get a list together of things you might want to ask (post to come).
  3. Review your IT Budget – If you are like most companies out there, you are going through your 2009 budgeting (or have done so already and are probably on your 10th revision now). One way to make your CFO happy is to reduce your Capital Expenditures (CapEx). The easiest way to do that is to really take a hard look at Cloud Computing. If you can slash your CapEx spend by downsizing your physical server footprints, you can easily upsize that same footprint in the Cloud.
  4. Empower your Programmers – Cloud Computing offers something new to Programmers: the ability to programmatically control their IT infrastructure. Using an API, Programmers can skin the functionality provided by Clouds as well as develop “intelligent” applications that scale dynamically, for example.
  5. Empower your IT Staff – Be sure that you don’t ignore your IT Staff as you look at the Cloud as a physical IT infrastructure alternative. They have some best practices and standards that should be incorporated in what your IT strategies will be. Let them experiment with the Cloud so that they fully grasp what it can do for your organization. They may tell you that it is a great direction to go in, or, they may say that your current infrastructure simply cannot be ported to the Cloud. There may also be some hybrid solutions (like GoGrid’s Cloud Connect) that will give them the best of both worlds.

These are just a few Cloud Computing New Year’s 2009 Resolutions to get you thinking. What are your business resolutions for 2009?