Category Archives: Cloud

Two Surveys: Cloud is Growing, Strategies Adapting

Growing Cloud

Cloud is growing at an incredible pace, just as it did in 2015. As cloud comes into its own, IT managers are learning how to better strategize to make the most of these virtual systems.

  • Cloud Becoming Increasingly Popular with Business
  • Rise of Hybrid Cloud, DevOps, Containers

Cloud Becoming Increasingly Popular with Business

A study conducted by the research firm Clutch shows that two out of three medium and large companies will spend more on cloud systems this year than they did in 2015.

For the poll, which interviewed 300 information technology executives, more than two in five (42%) expected their cloud budget to rise moderately: 11-30%. Smaller proportions expected mild and extreme increases in their use of cloud: 27% said it would remain the same, while 14% expected a 31% to 50% greater expense. Meanwhile, only 6% said they would be using less cloud than they did last year.

Since cloud is growing so incredibly, it could be a chance for service providers to fill the emerging business demand. Specific services that enterprises most need include app deployment (51%); disaster recovery and backup (62%); and storage (70%). Plus, all companies require strong hosting as they realize they want the best infrastructure-as-a-service providers. For instance, Superb Internet uses a distributed design (no bottlenecks) and InfiniBand (dozens of times lower latency than the theoretical minimum of 10 GigE).

Companies are putting more money into their cloud budgets simply because it’s better helping them meet their business objectives, notes Go Nimbly CEO Jason Reichl. “The cloud is building ROI faster and with better business accuracy,” he says, “so companies are willing to reinvest in it ever year.”

Businesses tend to hire experts to set up their cloud systems – the majority (53%) do, in fact. There are positives and negatives to working with consultants. Of course it’s good to have access to the expertise of a third party dedicated specifically to working with the cloud. However, keeping the expertise outside the company means the insights of the cloud transition aren’t integrated as fundamentally into your own business.

Rise of Hybrid Cloud, DevOps, Containers

Another survey revealed that cloud is no longer in the realm of shadow IT. Instead, RightScale’s poll of 1060 IT leaders found that “the shift is well underway from shadow IT driven by individual teams to a centralized approach that enables cloud consumption of cloud services across the entire organization,” notes Joe McKendrick of ZDNet. IT executives are becoming cloud brokers, sources of knowledge on how to piece together cloud systems.

More and more, medium and large companies are realizing that it’s best for IT managers to create cloud policies (44% vs. 31% in 2015). Policies generally will include catalogs of acceptable cloud systems. In terms of the three types of cloud, businesses were committing to each category to about the same degree: 29% hybrid, 27% public, and 23% private.

The biggest issue companies have encountered when transitioning to cloud is recruitment of personnel with the applicable skills. Previously companies were worried primarily about security, but the top challenge is now seen as training and internal understanding of the technology (32% training  vs. 29% security).

IT leaders don’t always have the money they need for cloud. However, different techniques are making it easier for companies to achieve their missions affordably and efficiently. DevOps is one area that is particularly important, comments McKendrick. “As companies seek to drive digital business by delivering new software applications and features more quickly,” he says, “they look to both DevOps and cloud as key enablers.” DevOps is headed toward ubiquity, rising from 66% to 74% adoption between 2015 and 2016.

Open-source cloud platforms are becoming more popular as well. The most obvious example is Docker. Docker uses containers to allow businesses to quickly deploy programs broadly and easily allow portability of apps. Docker more than doubled in adoption, rising from 13% last year to 27% this year.

Configuration management systems are also becoming increasingly popular. Puppet and Chef are each used by 32% of those surveyed, while Ansible is in use at 20% of organizations.

Hybrid cloud is now becoming more of a standard. That’s because both public and private cloud use is growing considerably. The vast majority of medium to large companies (82%) currently have hybrid clouds that inegrate public and private components.

Generally speaking, there is greater use of private and public clouds as companies let go of their legacy systems. Companies that have over a thousand public cloud virtual machines rose from 13% to 17%, while those with over a thousand of the private variety went up to 31% (from 22% in 2015). A related finding is that enterprises with more than 1000 in-house virtual machines hit 48% (vs. 42% in 2015). That data is where the numbers on growth of private and hybrid cloud can be a bit deceiving. RightScale explains: “The growth in private cloud workloads also may include long-standing virtualized environments that have been enhanced and relabeled as a private cloud.”

Cloud Fuels Disruption in Security Market

Cybersecurity

Cloud computing is having a major impact on all other areas of IT and delivering generally profound changes to the business world. Here’s a look at how the security field is evolving to embrace the cloud in 2016.

  • Malware Protection
  • Use of Firewalls
  • Load Balancing
  • Encrypting
  • Switching
  • App-Based Storage
  • Conclusion

The security industry is rapidly changing, with firewall and switching companies fading away to make room for solutions more directly geared toward the cloud. On the other hand, there are certain types of security firms that will continue to grow as the landscape shifts increasingly from physical to virtual.

Malware Protection

Anti-malware companies have expertise related to security, but their focus has traditionally been on in-house systems. Now that the cloud is becoming so central to computing, malicious parties are turning to those systems as points of entry for attack. In 2016, anti-malware firms will further invest in the development and introduction of cloud-specific tools.

The services that will be used are fundamentally similar since the basic idea is to check traffic for possible malware injections. One challenging aspect is interoperability, notes TechCrunch – “how the anti-malware solution gets inserted into a cloud system to which it doesn’t necessarily have access.”

This year, cloud infrastructure-as-a-service providers will be allowing people to use more malware options with their systems.

RELATED: As companies explore public cloud, they are realizing it’s important to look beyond brand recognition and price to the actual technologies and design principles that are used. In other words, what defines a strong IaaS service? At Superb Internet, we offer distributed rather than centralized storage (for no single point of failure) and InfiniBand rather than 10 GigE (for dozens of times lower latency).

Use of Firewalls

The unfortunate news for firewall providers is that their market is taking a huge hit with the emergence of cloud since access control is now being handled externally.

Firewalls determine the extent to which communication between certain systems is allowed and which protocols are acceptable. These systems have typically been IP- focused. Services such as packet monitoring and app awareness will still be needed, but access control is handled as part of the cloud service.

Load Balancing

Load balancing is a critical part of computing, but the companies specializing in this area will also become less prominent in 2016. Load balancing spreads workloads evenly across machines, a characteristic that is built into the cloud model and seen as one of its primary strengths.

Load balancing will still make sense with some legacy systems.

Encrypting

With traditional systems, encryption was an afterthought for many scenarios. In 2016, as the cloud blossoms, so will encryption – which now has a more pivotal role. However, adaptation to cloud is key.

“Traditional agent-based encryption is … hard to deploy because it doesn’t work seamlessly with data management and other infrastructure functions,” notes TechCrunch. “[E]ncryption vendors need to develop solutions that are massively scalable and truly transparent.”

Encryption will be built into many cloud systems in 2016. Independent encryption tools will also become more prevalent. Encryption could eventually become a more comprehensive strategy to safeguard networks via access control, alongside its role in shielding the data.

Encryption could gradually become the new “ground zero” for security.

Switching

Switching solutions are sophisticated tools, with capabilities such as establishment of a virtual local area network (VLAN). Typically switching systems designate which servers within a data center can and can’t interact. Within a network management context, switching becomes a much more elaborate undertaking.

With cloud, you no longer have to worry about network management in that sense. You can establish parameters through which switching occurs automatically. Network access control becomes a non-issue.

You do want to have switches so that you can have a single network supported by more than one infrastructure, but that’s not huge business. The business of switching will therefore be in decline in 2016.

The problems of switching companies are amplified by the challenge of cloud integration. “To get a so-called virtual switch inserted in a cloud-based data center, it would need to be tightly integrated with a cloud-based hypervisor,” says TechCrunch. “[There is] no incentive for cloud providers to give third-party switch vendors special access to their systems.”

App-Based Storage

Data is expanding astronomically, and the cloud gives enterprises someplace to immediately store all that extra information. That gives rise, in turn, to storage through applications.

The companies that will be the most successful with these cloud storage solutions are ones that will allow organizations to manage both public and private clouds.

The storage systems that will succeed the most will be ones that have encryption as a central component. Otherwise it will be necessary to encrypt through additional means, and that’s inconvenient.

Conclusion

There has been a lot of hype for the cloud in the last few years, but 2016 will be a year of massive change. As TechCrunch notes, “The transition of the enterprise from private to public clouds is likely to be the most impactful transition in the IT data center sector in the past three decades.”

Cloud as a Standard-Bearer of Service-Oriented Architecture

Cloud Business

Cloud can be thought of as today’s version of the old tech notion of service-oriented architecture. Let’s look at SOA, its benefits, and how cloud fits into the picture.

  • What is Service-Oriented Architecture?
  • Thinking in Terms of Services
  • Benefits of Services
  • How is Cloud a Further Evolution of SOA?
  • How Cloud SOA is Different

What is Service-Oriented Architecture?

Service-oriented architecture (SOA) is an approach to building IT systems that embraces the service as the fundamental point of focus. Here are three basic parameters of an IT service:

  1. It is logically based on a task that occurs over and over again, with a standardized outcome (such as delivering geolocation data or organizing financial documents).
  2. It exists as a single entity.
  3. It could also include additional services.

Thinking in Terms of Services

Service is not an idea that originally comes from IT, of course. Instead, it is a straight business term. Look in any business directory and you will immediately notice how many different types of services are being offered.

For any type of service available on the market, the company, or provider, “is offering to do something … that will benefit other people or companies (the service consumers),” notes the Open Group. “The providers offer to contract with the consumers to do these things, so that the consumers know in advance what they will get for their money.”

This notion of a service was adopted by computer scientists to describe the tasks conducted by applications. A software service is just like any other service in that it meets the needs of its consumers and is backed by a provider. There is a stated or unstated understanding between provider and consumer that the software will consistently and reliably generate accurate results.

Benefits of Services

Here are some of the advantages of utilizing services:

  • Big, complex, stand-alone software is an information silo. It is shut off from external parties. In contrast, by using a system of coordinated services, there is better data exchange from one company to another. It’s also more affordable because integration of big programs becomes unnecessary.
  • Building your applications based on services simplifies the process of presenting it to the world. “This leads to increased visibility that can have business value,” says the Open Group, “as, for example, when a logistics company makes the tracking of shipments visible to its customers, increasing customer satisfaction.”
  • What an organization is able to do on a daily basis frequently relies on applications, and it isn’t easy to adjust huge software programs. That means it is challenging to make sure the operations of the business are adapting appropriately to meet the most recent regulations or to get the best chances for growth. Building the system based off of services allows the organization to be much more agile and much more consistently compliant with the law. The business can profit from this decision.

How is Cloud a Further Svolution of SOA?

It makes sense to set everything up as services, says David Linthicum of InfoWorld – and you can see why from the above benefits. Cloud computing is already set up as a form of service-oriented architecture, so essentially you are probably already experiencing the strengths of SOA even if you didn’t know it. Furthermore, if you’ve created apps with cloud components incorporated, you’re participating in an SOA model.

Related: It’s great that cloud has the positive features of service-oriented architecture. However, cloud technology is not all made alike. When you build your applications, you want cloud hosting that offers distributed rather than central storage (so there’s no single point of failure, among other things) and InfiniBand rather than 10 GigE, which offers tens of times lower latency. See our never-oversold cloud plans.

How Cloud SOA is Different

In what ways is the SOA of cloud different from the earlier model of a decade ago?

  1. Coupling

SOA is essentially a loose coupling of systems connected via a service, notes Linthicum. In the past, “Old SOA typically exposed services from one or two systems,” he says, “and the degree of coupling could be tight or loose, depending on the application.”

The cloud-focused SOA software that is prominent now must be coupled loosely in order to function. Thousands of services are often involved in a single program. Essentially, tight coupling would make the app much more vulnerable to stopping.

  1. Governance

The traditional version of SOA required governance, but a full service governance environment wasn’t necessary until you hit about 500 services. Basically more than 500 would be at about the level monitoring would start to make sense.

The cloud SOA programs require governance immediately, basically at 1 service rather than 500, argues Linthicum. “You cannot manage a set of applications that use remote and local cloud services without a sound service governance approach and technology in place,” he says. “That’s because cloud-based services are widely distributed, … so you must have much tighter checks.”

Interoperability: Key to Fast Cloud Growth

Growth Chart

  • From Legacy to the Virtual Expanse
  • Speed as an Ultimate Priority
  • 2015 & Beyond

From Legacy to the Virtual Expanse

Earlier in the history of the Internet, companies created massive customized environments to store and access customer data, marketing copy, bookkeeping, best practices, and more. When these were developed, interoperability was not a concern.

Typically the software adopted by companies was about making life easier for the IT department (in the sense that they had control of those variables). User-friendliness wasn’t always prioritized, which led to people getting frustrated with IT.

That whole dynamic started to get upended about 10 years ago. That was when Web 2.0 apps started hitting browsers, followed by an explosion of mobile apps. These fundamentally user-focused applications were exactly what people wanted in business.

A short time following the rise of the app, cloud started making it possible for employees to access software immediately, which is how Shadow IT started to develop, explains Ron Miller of TechCrunch. “Instead of going to IT and asking for resources, a process that could take weeks,” he says, “users could sign onto a cloud service and provision software, servers, storage and even developer tools with a credit card.”

As these cloud systems started to mature, it became more and more clear that interoperability was needed, so developers specifically geared their work toward that end.

Related: Do you need ultra-fast, performance-guaranteed cloud hosting? At Superb Internet, we use distributed storage rather than centralized storage, which means even multiple node failures don’t hurt performance. Plus, we use InfiniBand rather than 10 Gigabit Ethernet, which means the latency is dozens of times lower. Learn more.

Speed as an Ultimate Priority

In addition to the shifts toward mobile and cloud seen above, organizations also started to understand how critically important speed and agility were becoming to business. The old systems weren’t always fast enough and couldn’t be adapted as quickly as users wanted.

Cloud and mobile were able to meet that need better than anything else. They allowed developers to introduce complex capabilities within applications more quickly than was possible before.

It was no longer considered the smartest move to build excessively complex and rigid systems. Businesses started to realize they had to coordinate with one another in order to each be able to move forward.

Simultaneously, smart phones and tablets were becoming a lot more popular, notes Miller. “That meant that companies needed to provide apps for their employees to work beyond their cubicles wherever they happened to be,” he says. “Customers were also demanding better tools and easier ways to interact with a vendor.”

Customers were starting to make purchases based off of compatibility, so software and system designers had to become compatible if they wanted to remain relevant. It wasn’t considered appropriate anymore to create rigid environments that were completely partitioned from outside parties. Organizations had to learn to collaborate.

2015 & Beyond

In 2015, cloud continued to become a trusted standard, with General Electric even announcing that it was building nine out of every 10 new applications in the public cloud. More and more thought leaders believe that cloud is fast becoming the way computing will be done and that corporations will gradually get rid of their data centers.

One of those people is Fredric Paul of Network World, who comments that one of the biggest signs of the new dominance of cloud came when the large gaming enterprise Zynga pulled out of its plans to build a data center to move forward with the public cloud in May. “Basically, the company ripped and replaced a $100 million data center investment in favor of the cloud,” says Paul. “That’s pretty darn dramatic.”

A couple months later in July, IDC released data showing that one out of every three IT infrastructure dollars went toward cloud. The research company also noted that it expected cloud spending to rise, accounting for half of infrastructure budgets by 2019.

Last year HP did leave the public cloud market, but that’s probably because they were having difficulty competing. In November 2015, UK financial companies were assured by the Financial Conduct Authority that public cloud was a sound choice for finance.

Market forecasts are definitely positive. Even so, it’s possible that projections are grossly underestimating what’s going to happen, Paul argues. “It won’t be long—maybe not in 2016, but soon—before any computing project that doesn’t happen in the cloud will have to … [justify] what will be seen as an old-fashioned and inefficient approach.”

What is essentially happening is that companies are realizing computer systems fall into the same general category as electrical power. Do you really want to have to deal with your own power generation? Maybe the infrastructure should be external as well. More and more businesses are deciding that’s the direction they will take, and the speed with which that transition will occur could be blistering.

Throughout this process, interoperability will remain fundamental.

Big Banks Talk Containers & Cloud

Banking

In the finance sector, data safety is paramount. The adoption of cloud and containers by two huge banks demonstrates that these technologies are of use to virtually any organization.

  • The Growing Financial Cloud
  • Simplification at the Big Banks
  • Streamlining & Public Cloud
  • Forest, Not Trees
  • Top Performance & Security

The Growing Financial Cloud

For financial firms, the question of using the third-party virtual systems of public cloud is challenging: financial information must be highly secure both to maintain reputation and to stay in line with regulations. Any data solution used by banks must be carefully scrutinized prior to deployment.

Two of the findings from a poll published in the spring by the Cloud Security Alliance suggest that the financial industry, like healthcare and the rest of business, are increasingly comfortable with cloud technology, particularly public cloud:

  • More than four out of five finance-sector companies that are still establishing their cloud plan will use public options (as opposed to private or hybrid ones), at least in part.
  • Almost three-quarters of poll participants were currently transitioning from hybrid to public models.

Those “two statistics show added comfort and assurance when practicing in the cloud and [are] an encouraging sign of maturity in cloud confidence,” according to the team who designed the poll.

Goldman Sachs and Bank of America are cases in point.

Simplification at the Big Banks

Since 2009, Goldman Sachs has been gradually shifting its computing to the cloud. Today, approximately 85% of its infrastructure is cloud-based, according to the company’s cloud director, J Ram. As cloud has risen in finance, so have application containers – and that’s true both at Goldman Sachs and Bank of America.

These companies are technologically massive. While Bank of America has 9000 infrastructure personnel and almost 18,000 developers, Goldman Sachs has more than 4000 applications and 8000 developers.

Beginning in the spring of 2014, containers (dominated by the emergence of the increasingly popular Docker) became increasingly accepted as a trusted way to package apps for easier portability. Ram notes that containers, already used in some production environments at Goldman, are essentially about better integrating the various elements of IT (development, operations, and administration) into a more easily controlled linear progression.

“[Containers] allow infrastructure folks to start optimizing the platform, application teams to think about application delivery and operation teams to think about operational scale and handling that complexity,” he says.

Bank of America has not yet cleared any containers for production, according to the company’s technology strategist, Ryan Thomas. However, they are currently being used in dozens of development and test settings, with broad acceleration planned for 2016.

Thomas thinks that containers are revolutionary because they allow the bank’s developers and datacenter employees to become much more efficient. They help the business shift focus away from enterprise service buses and middleware, amplifying productivity and innovation. It’s primarily about redirecting activity rather than cutting costs.

“Simplifying that and really flipping ratios of people who are just maintaining, supporting, managing applications, to people who are pushing the applications forward and bringing more value for our customers is the foundation of the goal,” he explains.

Streamlining & Public Cloud

This seismic technological shift isn’t just about individual roles but about consolidating systems. Bank of America is in the process of closing nearly 90% of its data centers (64 in 2014 reduced to 8 by December 2016). That change is in large part because of its continuing public cloud adoption. The same trend is seen at Goldman Sachs.

These general IT migrations are certainly not as simple as pushing a button in the case of a large enterprise. For instance, Bank of America has an extraordinarily complex infrastructure because of mergers and acquisitions. Similarly, Goldman Sachs ran into typical obstacles including refashioning configuration and incorporating legacy source code into containers and cloud.

Forest, Not Trees

Another aspect of the size of these two organizations is that it’s easy for managers to think about improving their own piece rather than considering the whole puzzle. Instead of getting excited about what a breakthrough tool can do for 0.5% of workloads, it’s better to think about adjustments that can generally upgrade your efficiency.

Again, another major element is data safety, as Thomas reiterates. ““As you move into a container world… you’re moving more and more into a world that hasn’t been vetted with the compliance and regulatory environments,” he says, “and that’s a challenge for us, and that’s always somewhat of a lag for us.”

Top Performance & Security

Are you looking for public cloud that is top-echelon both in terms of performance and security? At Superb Internet, our cloud is better than the majority of providers for a number of reasons:

  • We use distributed storage, so there are no bottlenecks.
  • We use InfiniBand for dozens of times lower latency.
  • Our cloud plans are never oversold, allowing our confident guarantees.
  • Our certifications include SSAE-16, ISO 27001:2013, and ISO 9001:2008.

Ready to move forward? Get FREE cPanel with any new cloud plan.

Trends & Forecasts from the IDG Cloud Survey

Cloud Computer

As one author explains, cloud is not only technologically but philosophically disruptive: it has changed the way we understand digital interaction. Let’s look at that broad view and then zero in on highlights from a 2015 cloud survey.

  • Cloud as a Tech Model
  • Highlights from New Cloud Survey
  • Use of Cloud to Meet Business Goals
  • Forecast for Adoption of Cloud Infrastructure & Apps
  • Use of APIs in 2016
  • Budgets
  • Decision-Makers
  • Effect on IT
  • Cloud as it Should Be

Cloud as a Tech Model

In the just-published book A Pre-History of the Cloud, author and former network engineer Tung-Hui Hu explores how the cloud changed our perception of the Internet. He does so by tracing the development of the use of cloud as a model within communications and technology.

One of the first appearances of something that resembled the cloud was in a 1922 diagram that suggested a system of telegraph connections to enable mathematicians to rapidly interact for better weather forecasting. Another project fashioned in a similarly nebulous, interconnected manner came in 1951, when AT&T announced its new electronic skyway, which was a US-based network of microwave relay stations.

In the 70s, the notion of cloud had been embraced as a good way to understand Internet, telephone, or other communication networks in which the movement of data could not be explained through a simple linear progression.

Essentially, all these uses of a cloud-like structure were an attempt to bring order to disorder. They each represented “a desire to collect something scattered and far-flung into a legible whole,” notes The New Yorker. “[T]he idea of wholeness was important, since it contained the possibility that an entire network could continue functioning even if one node along the way went offline.”

Highlights from the New Cloud Survey

Every year, researchers at International Data Group conduct a review of the cloud computing field by polling over 900 IT executives through the firm’s website or email list. The IT leaders surveyed are designated in terms of business size (enterprise or midsized).

Here are highlights from the report:

Use of Cloud to Meet Business Goals

Nearly half of enterprises (48%) said that they were transitioning to cloud as an alternative to on-site, dedicated systems. Just behind that reason were the way that it expedites deployment (46%) and reduction of total cost of ownership (TCO).

Business continuity is the top concern of midsized companies, though, at 50% – followed by TCO at 44% and enhancing customer service at 38%.

Forecast for Adoption of Cloud Infrastructure & Apps

The survey sought to establish the proportion of businesses that “have at least one application or a portion of [their] computing infrastructure in the cloud (for example, CRM, application development and testing, and disaster recovery).”

Nearly three-quarters of enterprises (72%) meet that description, up from 57% just three years ago. Compound annual growth rate (CAGR) for cloud apps has been 6.0% between 2011 and 2015.

Use of APIs in 2016

An incredible nine out of ten enterprises will use APIs for cloud adoption over the next 12 months. The two most typical reason APIs are being used in those large organizations are “[i]ntegrating with databases, messaging systems, portals or storage components” (58%) and “[c]onnection of the application-layer with the cloud and underlying infrastructure” (48%), notes Louis Columbus in Forbes.

Those are also the top two reasons that APIs are used by midsized companies, at slightly lower rates (52% and 38%, respectively).

Budgets

There is of course a lot of money being designated for cloud systems, with average enterprise projections at $2.87 million for 2016. Meanwhile, midmarket companies plan to spend $578,000 on average.

Decision-Makers

Who is making the decisions about this technology? People with significant control over purchasing are:

  • Chief information officers – 73%
  • Chief technical officers – 55%
  • Chief security officers – 48%
  • Chief executive officers – 41%
  • Line of business managers – 13%

Note that the most interesting finding there is that line of business management seems to be declining in its influence over cloud purchasing decisions.

Effect on IT

Just over half of enterprises (53%) say that cloud means they will have to provide additional training, while a similar number (52%) say that it will necessitate greater interdepartmental collaboration. The third biggest impact of cloud will be the hiring of specialized IT staff (47%).

“These findings suggest the need for more collaboration and tighter synchronization between IT and business units is making training, internal development, and recruitment of cloud expertise a high priority,” Columbus explains.

Cloud as it Should Be

As you can see above, businesses are continuing to move to the cloud, demonstrating a huge amount of confidence in the technology. However, not all clouds are created the same.

At Superb Internet, we use distributed rather than centralized storage so that there is no single point of failure as well as no bottlenecks because of the preferable design. Plus, our clients benefit from the improved performance of InfiniBand over 10 Gb Ethernet, which provides latency that’s dozens of times lower than the 10 GigE theoretical minimum. Review our never-oversold cloud plans.

Image via Flickr user George Thomas