Clouds & Infrastructure Management

recently, someone asked me a question around infrastructure management – One of our business units are going in for cloud computing. Do they still have to look at infrastructure management?

 

here are my thoughts on the subject –

 

Typically infrastructure management involves design & planning of infrastructure components, procurement, deployment, operations and disposal. However, cloud computing introduces a different aspect – cloud management activities.

Cloud computing has various flavours like SaaS, PaaS, IaaS from services point of view. Also from ownership model, there are public clouds which are owned by service providers and then there are private clouds which offer cloud computing services but are owned by the customer themselves and reside in their data centers.

Depending on which service viewpoint and what ownership model is the customer considering cloud computing, there will be different levels of involvement in infrastructure management. Public cloud providers have solutions that involve a lot of automation thus making the infrastructure management activities simplified.

for public clouds

SaaS service does not require infrastructure management PaaS service does not require hardware level infrastructure management but will involve activities like provisioning and de-provisioning (cloud management activities), patch management etc.

IaaS service will require activities like provisioning, de-provisioning of compute resources, OS & application patch management etc.

for private clouds –

PaaS & IaaS will require infrastructure management like provisioning of hardware for setting up of private cloud and then cloud management activities like provisioning and de-provisioning of compute resources (cloud management activities), OS and platform patch management, incident, change, problem management etc.

 

from email to collaboration

initially i had titled this post as “email and its imminent demise” but then maybe it is incorrect to say “imminent demise”, rather i think it will slowly move into the background and slowly treated as legacy application if it fails to evolve and incorporates the new web 2.0 technologies that ppl are toying for enterprise use..

email has come a long way since it was invented in early 1970’s. people have used emails to  send simple messages to each other/group, use it as means of sharing documents (much to the plight of the email administrators), use calendaring features for appointments and scheduling meetings. on looking closely at how an email is typically used in an organization, i have noticed that along with the above mentioned functions,  emails are also used as means to store files (hey dude, can u email me that presentation that you took for a xxx client the other day, i may use it in future),  approvals for certain business transactions (e.g approval to buy a new server sent by CIO to IT Manager etc), keep a record of certain communication (he said, i said etc) to basically CYA (covery your a**) in case things go bad..however, along with email came its nuances, maintaining uptodate address book, spam, compliance issues etc. but we are all dealing/living with it.

as time goes by, in the world outside the boundaries of an enterprise, people are adopting techniques that harness the power of technology to reach out to each other, either as part of social networking phenomenon or to work together/collaborate. with the power of the internet coming to the mobile device, the speed at which this adoption is taking place is awesome. now, people dont need to access their emails to know what their friends/peers are doing or what is the latest buzz etc. applications like facebook and twitter have already proven the usefulness of technology outside the enterprise walls..it is only a matter of time when they are adopted within the enterprise also. already there is a lot of talk about web 2.0 adoption within the enterprise by many analysts. email too needs to evolve if it has to stay alive in this fast changing scenario. already there are surveys which shows that more and more people are using facebook/myspace/twitter etc over email to reach out/keep in touch.

in my opinion, organizations will start looking for a better collaboration platform which can increase the effectiveness, efficiency & productivity by harnessing the same technologies that are used by millions outside the enterprise boundaries. realizing this need, some email services have now integrated instant messaging/chat services with archiving features on the messaging platform. . how many times have you noticed that when ur having an email exchange with someone, u end up taking the remaining conversation to the chat as it is faster and more effective. i think the collaboration tools like instant messaging will  evolve and bring convergence of channels of communications viz chat, voice, video along with email and other forms of collaboration technologies like document management systems etc. the other day i wanted to reach out to a group within my company to work on platform migration. instead of sending emails to numerous people and then getting redirected from one group to another, i just sent an update on yammer and got a reply within 2 hours from someone located on the other side of the world.. it was awesome and saved me numerous emails and days in waiting for a favorable response.

there will be initial resistance from many to move from legacy to new forms of collaboration. there will be compliance & security concerns. but like the case with any new technology, it will find its own steady state adoption rate. only that, given the way web 2.0 is evolving,  this rate might be accelerated by few notches.

already there is a lot of noise that google wave has generated on the internet. maybe microsoft solution around corporate instant messaging – OCS will also evolve to bring in convergence of existing communication & collaboration tools with the new web 2.0 toys.

my take is that few years from now, email might just end up as a legacy platform required to retrieve old email data and corporates will use a newer and more efficient form of collaboration technologies.

Cloud for IT Continuity

typically a DR site goes live when the main DC goes offline of fails. quite often, the IT infrastructure at the DR site sits idle waiting for an untoward incident to be kicked back into life. in some cases, the infrastructure at DR site is used to host dev & QA environments also. the DR sites are typically activated for a short period of time and when the main site/DC is restored, the DR goes back to idle state. is there an alternative to blocking investments in a DR site using the evolution in the technologies used in DC and still ensure continuity of operations?

can cloud & cloud based services provide enterprise with the desired level of continuity along with financial flexibility? in my opinion, this is a subject worth further exploration.

during a disaster, you either operate at same or reduced business service SLA’s around performance & availability as from the main site.  the requirements from the DR site are “elastic” in nature,  most of the times, the compute requirement around CPU, memory are pretty low except when activated and operations are run from the DR site.  usually it is the storage that has a consistent use. now, one of the major advantages of cloud computing is to meet elastic demands. put two and two together..i feel there has to be a case to use cloud for IT continuity!

one of the possible challenges is the consistency of the virtualization technology within the enterprise with that of the cloud computing provider. i do not think the cloud computing providers fraternity has something of an intera-operable virtualized images across different cloud providers and private cloud platforms..(or maybe they have. this is something i have not tracked in the google-sphere yet!). so basically what that means is you are stuck with those set of cloud computing providers who use the same virtualization technology as you use in-house in your DC’s for the time being. but compared to having idle investment in your dedicated DR sites, this may be a small trade-off.

some points that i can think of while evaluating the cloud platforms for DR & IT service continuity is – licensing of your existing apps..does the licensing allow you to run the apps from a cloud computing setup, connectivity options to allow migration of large amount of data/images to the cloud computing provider’s setup, how are you going to keep the images of your apps etc in the cloud environment up-to-date with necessary patches, security policies of the providers and client access mechanism.

will update as and when i have discussions with more customers on this topic!

Random Notes on Cloud Computing!

this post captures some random notes i have come across & my thoughts on technical aspects that can facilitate the cloud computing environment. these are not in a structured order, so bear with me!

1. Cloud computing is a way to maximize capacity and utilization and to minimize space, maintenance and to simplify governance.

my thoughts – Does it actually simplify governance is something that is yet to be seen as governance also encompasses security, risk & compliance along with service orchestration.

2. Virtualization is not a cloud solution, but a cloud solution will require virtualization in some form, whether it be cloning or full virtual images.

3. Parallel processing on pooled resources is not a cloud but the principles of that are important to the conception of an effective cloud.

my thoughts – absolutely in agreement with point 2 & 3

4. A cloud also requires understanding of the enterprise, a clear picture of patterns and topologies and an efficient process for managing images as distinct entities.

my thoughts – Cloud computing will have an impact on the Enterprise Architecture of an organization to address the new patterns and topologies.

5. Cloud bursting –  The scale out should not require tremendous effort & specialized skills otherwise the benefit of cloud computing may be lost or reduced.

my thoughts – cloud bursting requires a thorough understanding not only to move from private to public cloud but also enable the reverse. i agree with IBM on the point that applications hosted in the cloud need to run on same platforms as enterprise applications to facilitate movement between the enterprise and public clouds. not everthing can be free in life 😉

6. Scaling out for Scalability – Running another instance of the application on another server(s)

my thoughts – Typical scalability in the cloud is provided by scaling out and not scaling up in cloud computing frameworks. this will also depend on the way the application logic has been written to benefit from multithreading, multicore and multiprocessing technologies that are/will be available in the cloud. the way an application logic is written will eventually determine the ability of the application to seamlessly scale across multi cores, across physical servers and be able to withstand & survive any infrastructure failure.

7. Load balancing – balancing the work across multiple systems in the cloud

my thoughts – usually most of the cloud players will allow you to create exact replica of your systems thus balancing the transactions across these set of “clone” systems. if using atomic code, one can also allocate specific systems for specific tasks instead of creating the clone of the entire application system.

 

8. manageability – ability to manage the cloud systems seamless with lower management overheads

my thoughts – management of the cloud based systems will be a become a big ticket item in times to come for enterprise and cloud providers, both. this can be achieved by using virtualized systems and layer of automation to ease the provisioning and de-provisioning of resources on demand. enterprise will look at how cloud will deal with the applications to be deployed. using the process of cloning of systems, enterprise will prefer multiple instances of applications can be implemented with few clicks of the mouse instead of deploying the application on each virtual instance. same goes for ongoing operations. how easy is it to patch the running application instances? does one need to go to each system to patch it or can it be done on one system with the patch propagating on other instances?

basically it will be all about keeping the opex as low as possible by easing the management of the cloud systems and sub systems.

more to come!

Cisco’s Collaboration Framework – My View’s

 While searching for information on Cisco UCS, I came across some sites where Cisco’s acquisitions were being discussed.

In the past few months, Cisco did some pretty interesting acquisitions. When looked at each acquisition individually, some make sense and some don’t . But if u step away, a picture starts to emerge. Some of the acquisitions made by cisco are:-

· Webex – for USD 3.2 billion – meetings over the web

· Postpath for USD 215 million. – email and collaboration. It has been the most surprising acquisition from Cisco.

· Jabber – financials not known – Jabber has developed a “carrier-class” platform based on open standards that can work across multiple messaging systems, such as AOL Instant Messenger, Google Talk, Yahoo Messenger and Office Communications Server

· Ironport – USD 830 million – email anti virus and anti spam

· Five across – 11 member company which allows large companies to easily add social networking features to their websites

· SoonRgiven USD 9.1 million dollars to soonR – a backup service focused on enabling access to your files from mobile devices. SoonR synchs your files to cloud storage via a downloadable client that runs in the background of both Macs and PCs. When you’re on the go, you can access these files with the web browser in your mobile phone.

· Recently Cisco/Webex introduced – remote desktop management capability and patch management capability in the webex client. I have no idea as of now where cisco is headed with these developments in webex. But it just might be a sign of things to come from Cisco.

Where is Cisco headed with these acquisitions? Well, my thoughts on how Cisco might be planning to play with features from the companies it has acquired can be summarized by the figure below. (I know the handwriting is not clear but didn’t have scanner so used camera phone and anyway..like they saying goes – a pic is worth thousand words.. 

Cisco's Collaboration Framework - My View

Cisco's Collaboration Framework - My View

 Cisco might be planning to take on Microsoft & IBM on business collaboration by using these acquisitions.

Information Management for Individuals

A few days ago, I read a blog from Harold Jarche, about how to manage the wealth of information out there using various web 2.0 tools that are available to an individual. Its a good article and make a good point –http://www.jarche.com/2009/03/sense-making-with-pkm/ 

An interesting point made in the article is about a knowledge management system to index and be able to remember and retrieve the information if required.

Apart from preserving information or knowing where to get it when u need it, it is equally important to discard the information that has outlived its usefulness. We download documents from the Internet and store it in our hard drives and they keep lying there even after they are of no use anymore. Then we end up backing up these file on DVD, USB storage devices and the volume just keeps growing. I know about a guy who carries an 80 GB USB drive to work, had a 250 GB drive in office and a 500GB drive back home just to backup the information. Even you leave about 50% of the space for songs and movies, I wonder how much of the files would he ever access again till he retires. And he is already complaining that he is running out of space.

What I liked about the article was the process of personal knowledge management. There is so much of information to read on the Internet and most of the time that’s what most of us do. We search, read and many times get influenced by what is written, especially if it is by some analyst or research firm.

In my opinion, it is important to analyze what we read, form an opinion about it and express it or share it. When you share your opinion, you invite feedback, points and counterpoints. Many of us are hesitant to express out independent opinion on subjects that we read for the fear of inviting counterarguments. What matters is openness to change the opinion if one is convinced with the arguments against it. 

That is one reason for me to express my thoughts on the blog here. Many a times, I have received emails expressing points and counterpoints to what I have expressed. It is always good to have a healthy debate and discussions. I have found it a very enriching experience.

The article is a good read, do visit the link and no, i am not getting anything for promoting the blog! lol!

Embracing the Twitter

I am finally on twitter. Phew!

my twitter id is tsingh4IT

I first heard of twitter sometime early in 2008 but never paid much attention to it. At that time, all these blogs, micro-blogs, social networking seemed like mumbo jumbo to me. Then again, it was in news during the ghastly 26/11 incident. I was not able to supress my curiosity and started reading about it on the net. I came across an article which said that the only way to experience the web 2.0 ocean was not from the sidelines but to jump right into it.

So, acting upon the advice, slowly I embraced blogs and I finally signed up for twitter. But only recently I became an active participant in the twitter land! 

I intend to use twitter to express my thoughts on some topics, well a vast array of topics that cross my mind now and then and hope to engage in some healthy discussions around the same. In the processes, if I do come across a nice post or an article, I would tweet the url around though that is not going to be my main objective.

I have added the twitter update widget on the blog page to share what I am thinking at any point in time.