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Archive for the ‘Cloud Computing’ Category

Data Architectures holding back the cloud?

Posted by decipherinfosys on February 22, 2011

Read a nice article on GigaOm by Dr. John Busch that talks about the need for architecture innovation to effectively address QoS and TCO – you can read it here.

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Third party tools for cloud performance monitoring

Posted by decipherinfosys on August 16, 2010

A good post at gigaom – detailing the different players in this space – here.

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Is Healthcare ready for the cloud?

Posted by decipherinfosys on March 2, 2010

Our product offering is in the healthcare space so we deal with private practices and small hospitals on a daily basis.  This is one industry which has been the slowest to adopt to digitization so even the very thought of moving healthcare applications to the cloud finds a lot of resistance from folks at such institutions and not all their concerns are incorrect.  Same is also true about the financial sector or any other sector where customer privacy, critical transactional data or compliance issues are of paramount importance.

A recent study conducted by BridgeHead software shows that more than 80% of respondents are concerned about cloud security and availability. The article with the survey link (available till mid March 2010) is available here.

Even though there are very valid concerns about the cloud among the healthcare industry, there are a few factors that make business sense.  Some of them are:

Moving non-critical applications to cloud:

Ever growing compliance requirements keeps the healthcare IT department busy at all the time. During these economic times with tighter budget and lesser resources, it makes sense to move some of the non-critical, non-compliance applications to the cloud. It gives more time to the IT staff to concentrate on the critical, compliance related applications which also provide competitive advantage against their competitors. The lesser Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) enjoyed by moving to cloud can be passed on to their customers by reducing their costs thus providing another competitive advantage.

Moving the risk outside the organization:

Efficient risk management in healthcare involves on-going in-house investment and resources. There are few cloud providers who are specialized and very efficient in handling risks in the industry. In those cases it makes sense to outsource them to the cloud providers to free up internal resources and save cost.

Either way, the key thing to remember in any industry is selection of cloud vendor. Do your research and understand your cloud providers’ SLA and their infrastructure.

There are interesting articles in this area and few of them are listed below:

http://newsblaze.com/story/2010030208042800001.we/topstory.html

http://healthcare.zdnet.com/?p=1025

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Windows Azure Videos at msdev.com

Posted by decipherinfosys on February 24, 2010

http://www.msdev.com/Directory/SeriesDescription.aspx?CourseId=153

A very nice set of introductory videos which explain the basics.  If you haven’t started looking at the Azure platform, this would be a good start.

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Common concerns about moving to cloud computing

Posted by decipherinfosys on December 17, 2009

Cloud computing is no longer just a buzzword that can get a CxO excited.  It is actually in practice in many of the shops now and it is here to stay.  We have covered different forms of cloud computing along with other aspects related to it in some of our posts before.  There are, however, several concerns that companies have about moving to cloud computing.  More than a year ago, those concerns used to be very open-ended questions like:   “What is the difference between Infrastructure as a service vs Development as a Service?  What are the different types of cloud computing and what are the benefits to our organization by moving to the cloud?”.  Some of these questions we had covered in a previous post here.

Lately, as more and more executives are becoming aware of the pros and cons of cloud computing, those questions are changing to be more probing questions about the actual details and ROI.  The questions nowadays are geared more towards security and service level agreements as well as monitoring those services.  And in addition to that, trying to understand the different options that the companies have when trying to pick a vendor for cloud computing whether it will be Google’s AppEngine or MSFT’s Azure or Amazon’s EC2 etc.  Two such major concerns are:

  • Availability – Any possible service interruption from the cloud service provider could severely impact the business.   Users of Gmail for business have experienced this twice this year – once in March and then in September for a couple of hours.   So, knowing your cloud provider and their SLAs well before moving your business critical applications to cloud is a must.
  • Security – This is a huge concern for many in the IT industry considering the dynamic nature of the cloud.  The area of concerns lie around the following :

o    Confidentiality – Who has access to your data and application in the Cloud?
o    Compliance – Where do your data and applications stored in the cloud?
o    Liability – Who is liable in case of a security breach in your cloud infrastructure?
o    E-discovery – Are the data and application immediately retrievable in case of a disaster at one data center?
o    Perimeter/Host security – What type of security is implemented by the cloud provider on traditional DoS and other type of malicious attacks launched against the applications?

To overcome these concerns, there are best practices and solutions being developed by various vendors and non-profits in the Cloud Computing arena.  They key one to be noted is Cloud Security Alliance.  HP, Cisco, IBM and Microsoft recently joined Cloud Computing Consortium to address the concerns.   There is an eWeek article on this which can be found here.

Best way to approach these initiatives is to do a prototype first on your own.  Take one of the non-mission critical system that is used internally and move it to the cloud.  Doing proof of concepts like these will help make your case to the management team and the board and will also help you in charting a plan to move towards cloud computing.  Before you do that though, you of course have to do proper research to pick up a cloud vendor.

Resources:

There are interesting articles in this area and few of them are listed below:

  • IBM Redbookshere
  • Infoworld Article: – here
  • Computer Weekly Article: – here

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SOA and Cloud Computing

Posted by decipherinfosys on December 14, 2009

CIOUpdate had a good article today on SOA and Cloud Computing by Regunath.  You can read it here:

http://www.cioupdate.com/features/article.php/3853076/How-SOA-and-the-Cloud-Relate.htm

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Cloud Monitoring Solution

Posted by decipherinfosys on December 11, 2009

Hyperic has come up with the first service to provide an independent view into the cloud services provided by the different vendors like Amazon Web Services, Google App Engine etc.

You can read more over here:

http://www.cloudstatus.com/

http://www.hyperic.com/products/cloud-monitoring.html

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Microsoft’s Azure Platform

Posted by decipherinfosys on July 15, 2009

Read a very nice post at GigaOm on the MSFT Azure services platform – hereCloud computing is becoming more and more real by each passing day … exciting times are ahead.

And here is a very nice video from Steve Marx. He even gives the details of how he made it which is pretty neat.

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Cloud Computing- The future of computing? – Part I

Posted by decipherinfosys on July 10, 2009

Cloud Computing – A buzz word that is frequently murmured everywhere by the IT folks or even by the non-IT people recently. This post describes what it really means to the beginners those who are interested or looking into cloud computing.

Cloud computing is a computing model where the infrastructure and the application (even the platform) is offered as a service over the Internet. The infrastructure cloud could include servers and storage and the application cloud includes various applications.  This is a major shift in the industry in the way that software and services are going to be delivered in the future.  At the center of cloud computing is the virtualization technology which we have talked about a lot in the past.  Virtualization technology through resource pooling provides the engine that drives much of the cloud.  Companies such as Google, Amazon have already started using their server farms and offering services and Microsoft is not far behind with their Azure service.

Even though cloud computing can be classified into many different types, the major ones are Public clouds, Private clouds, Hybrid clouds and Community Clouds.

Public clouds – As the name suggests, it is usually offered by a company who has invested a lot building their datacenter and offering a part of its infrastructure and platform for a monthly fee. Amazon, Terremark, RackSpace and Google are great examples of public clouds. And Microsoft is joining the game as well with their Azure services platform.

Private clouds – This is something that enterprises build by themselves to be utilized across their organization. This allows them to consolidate their servers (and storage) as a single entity that can be offered to their different business units as needed. There is an interesting article from Network World can be found here.

Hybrid clouds – This is an emerging area of cloud computing where the private and public clouds can be integrated. There are many factors such as security and application compatibility needs to be considered in this model.

Community clouds – These are clouds that are shared by organizations having common interests.  This is similar to the IT-SSO post that we had done a couple of days ago.

Driving factors for moving towards cloud omputing:

The recent developments in the virtualization technology gave a big boost to cloud computing. There are many reasons that drive the cloud computing. Some of them are:

•    Rapid deployment of servers and applications
•    Easier scalability
•    Allowing IT to run as a cost center by running multiple datacenters as single entity which can be shared and charged back based on usage
•    Cost efficient “pay as you go/use” pricing model
•    Greener initiative due to less power consumption since the shared capacity of a virtualized cloud data center reduces the power consumption for everyone.

Apart from its benefits, there are still few concerns about the security, compliance, performance and the application compatibility with cloud computing. However, they are being addressed by the cloud vendors.

We will look into some of the cloud services in-depth in Part II

Posted in Cloud Computing, Hyper-V, Technology, VMWare, Windows | 5 Comments »

A new trend in IT Shared Services Organizations

Posted by decipherinfosys on July 4, 2009

A client of ours recently asked this question: “Are you aware of the trend of companies establishing shared IT services organizations with other companies – not cloud or outsourcing with managed providers but two companies deciding to share data centers or certain applications as an example.”  So, we asked our IT manager to look more into it and provide some more information.  We would like to share that with our readers:

One thing to understand is that IT Shared Services Organization (or IT-SSO as it is called sometimes) could be an external organization that services the needs of multiple organizations OR two (or more) companies can decide to form a cost center by combining their IT organizations…these companies can also decide to have separate IT organizations but they share the load, act as each other’s backup or collaborate on projects and establish DR/HA practices.  The first one where a company does the managed services for several companies has been around for years (example: IBM managed services in their data centers), what he was interested in here is the second trend where a couple of companies decide to form a cost center by forming an IT Shared Services Organization.

Before we dive into the details of it, first thing to understand is why is there even a need for IT-SSO for the second trend that we are seeing in the industry.  Why would any corporation even consider looking into it?

In order to understand the need, consider this scenario – In a city, how many companies and within those companies, how many departments have their own dedicated network and cabling, each with their own:

–              Internal Data Centers or Server Rooms,
–              Desktops
–              Telecommunications
–              Infrastructure security layers
–              Network management
–              Help Desk management
–              Application Hosting
–              Content Management
–              Hardware infrastructure,
–              Their own patch management standards
–              Same kind of software and hardware licenses
–              IT Staff
–              Energy consumption
–              Under utilized hardware and storage resources

About 15-20% of the costs of any SMB organization goes towards IT.  For Tier-1 Organizations, this number is even higher.  Many of these organizations do not go with the managed services from large players like IBM etc. because of cost and more importantly because they want their own teams doing this work to do proper justice to the business and the turn-around times.  Having a team of employees v/s an outside company doing it for you has differences in terms of turnaround time on projects, accountability and protecting your IP for any of the critical business applications.

If many of these companies start using an IT-SSO model, each of them would stand to gain from it.  Here are some of the benefits:

–                      Single Service Organization with better manpower utilization
–                      Cost benefits in terms of resources, hardware and software licenses
–                      Common Patch management and standards
–                      Companies can focus on their core business rather than IT infrastructure
–                      Shared Storage
–                      Cost savings in terms of energy consumption
–                      Cost savings in terms of contracts with external vendors & partners
–                      Uniform practices and standards – for different companies, these might be at varying degrees of maturity depending upon their adoption.
–                      Better scalability because of common pool of resources.
–                      Better insight into & adoption of new technologies so strategic advise and guidance can be obtained.
–                      Organizations can save huge costs on their Production and DR sites as they have their DR at their partner’s primary site and vice versa.
–                      Leveraged resources. With private cloud, the entire infrastructure can be considered as one pool and can be used by other organization during their spike traffic if the other organization doesn’t have much traffic during the same time.
–                      Leveraged knowledge – Both organizations can share their expertise on managing their infrastructure.
–                      Energy cost savings and better scalability due to consolidation – one can make use of VMWare’s VI3 infrastructure and blade servers

So, having said that, what kind of infrastructure and applications are we really talking about over here and do some companies fit this model better than others?  Ideally speaking, every company can fit this model – one main concern could be around security access to the data, their IP and compliance.  Before we delve into that, here are some of the applications and IT infrastructure needs that I think stand to gain from IT-SSO:

–                      Internal Desktop and Server IT infrastructure and support
–                      Internal Applications like:

  • Accounting packages (Great Plains, SAP Business One etc.),
  • HR software applications,
  • MS Office (either through virtual desktop infrastructure or Online),
  • Content management systems like MS Sharepoint
  • Development and QA environments and software like VS2008, QC, Load Runner etc.
  • Source code control systems like Sourcesafe, Subversion, TFS etc.
  • Database Servers – Oracle, SQL Server, DB2 UDB etc.

–                      Phone Systems
–                      Major software systems like PeopleSoft, SAP, Oracle where a lot of differences between 2 organizations is merely in configuration.  The hardware and software requirements are nearly similar.
–                      Operating Systems & their patch management
–                      IM tools like internal facebook/twitter/yammer or MS Communicator
–                      Networking Systems

And what are the hurdles to this approach?  Before jumping on the bandwagon, it is important for the companies to understand how a shared services model fits successfully into the overall business strategy of the firm.  We think that the major changes involved when transitioning to shared services are process and communication related. Aligning the team members and gaining their commitment are necessary for success.  In addition, one clearly needs to understand their security and compliance needs and proper SLAs need to be in place.

So, here are some of the cons or rather hurdles to this approach:

–                      Requires proper buy in from the CxO levels as well as the IT & Development teams.  Easier said than done.  Even after the buy in, proper governance needs to be defined (more on this below).
–                      Defining SLAs would be a bit complex – the more the number of companies involved, the more complex it becomes.
–                      Needs a very strong project management regime/discipline to drive the collaboration activities.  This collaboration must generate business value and each and every step needs to be measurable.  Parties need to agree on the common goals and maintain a clear mode of communication involving the IT-SSO.
–                      Compliance issues – Both organizations need to make sure their information is secure and managed according to compliance regulations – depending upon the different business verticals, this can be a major point so it might make more sense for corporations in the same business domain to do this.  Example: A heathcare software company co-sharing the data center with say an online accounting software company would have totally different compliance requirements.
–                      Companies would have concern about their IP rights which can become a serious issue if the companies are in the same business space.

So, why now?  Because the advancements in technology (VMWare, Blade Servers, Geo Clusters) makes it easier to implement such solutions.  Not only that, the companies are realizing that benefits in terms of cost and time are to be gained if they consolidate and have a shared IT services organization with other companies.

The first movers that we have seen or read about who are adopting this are either educational institutes, universities, small practices/hospitals and Federal Agencies.  As far as private companies go, we think that those that are either funded by the same venture group or those who have some of the same folks on their board, will be the next to move towards this.  Here is an article on computerworld that you would find interesting: http://www.computerworld.com/action/article.do?command=viewArticleBasic&articleId=9029160

We think that if proper governance is there, then moving towards IT-SSO is an achievable goal which has several benefits.  What do we mean by that?  By governance, in this case I mean that three questions need to be answered properly – these three questions were cited by Accenture in their study (Driving High Performance in Government: Maximizing the value of Public-Sector Shared Services, Accenture, Feb. 2005.) and also by Nancy Desormeau:

  • Who decides what?  ==>  The decision-making roles and authorities for strategic direction and for ongoing operations.
  • Who does what?  ==> The roles and responsibilities for achieving results, the form and composition of the decision-making bodies.
  • Who answers for results? ==>  Accountability and recourse.

One needs to define the governance accountabilities at three tiers: Executive, Strategic Partnerships and Operational.  So, this can be done and is being done by different organizations in order to save on costs and also provide a more efficient and scalable solution to their organizations.  Whether it is a right solution for your organization, only you can tell.

Resources:

  • ComputerWorld article referenced above.
  • Accenture Study referenced above.
  • Presentation by Nancy Desormeau – here.
Companies establishing shared IT services organizations with other companies – not cloud or outsourcing but two companies deciding to share data centers or certain applications as an example.

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