Tag Archives: IBM

What is High-Availability?


LVS official logo

So what is this new-fangled concept called “high-availability?” Traditionally, high-availability has been experienced by women in nightclubs, when a man has walked up and said to them, “Hey you, I just want you to know that I’m not like these other hard-to-get jokers in here. I’m available 24/7, around-the-clock, to come over to your place and give you a shoulder massage.”

In computer terms, high-availability is different. It refers to how fault-tolerant or resilient a network is, how capable it is of delivering a website accurately every time. If there is an error in one specific location of the software or hardware, that does not affect user experience because the system accounts for the difficulties and resolves them prior to delivery. It similar to a pizza place that checks to make sure there is no maliciously discarded bellybutton lint among the sausages and peppers before the pie goes out the door.

To better understand how high-availability works, let’s take a look at comments on the subject from Microsoft, Oracle, and Linux Virtual Server in this three-part series. While we study the topic, let’s pay an Olympic-trained athlete to swim in a pool that we’ve installed in a glass box over our heads, because a German study from the early 1970s indicates that it improves knowledge-retention.

Availability & Uptime

Okay, the swimmer is swimming. Thanks for chipping in $32,468. Let’s look at what availability is and how it relates to server uptime.

Availability is a general term that includes system failures, reliability, and recovery when anything does go awry. Availability is often phrased in terms of server uptime, whereas any instances of failure are considered downtime. Failure refers not just to when a system is inaccessible, but also to when it is not functioning correctly. My brain, for instance, has an average daily uptime of 23.8% even though I only sleep 90 minutes a night.

Uptime is basic math, and it can get a little boring to see every hosting company out there promoting their guaranteed 99.99% uptime. These figures, though, are significant. Just take a look at Microsoft’s figures for 99% uptime and 99.99% uptime.

With a 99% uptime guarantee, the website could experience as much as 14.4 minutes of downtime each day and 3.7 days of downtime each year. With a 99.9% uptime guarantee, those figures are cut to 86.4 seconds per day and 8.8 hours per year. Um… I don’t want to distract you, but did we forget to put breathing holes in the glass box? He looks like he’s under duress. The problem is, though, the German findings do not allow for any pauses or disruptions during the learning process, so we have to continue.

A brief note on uptime as it relates to us: It’s funny to think that any amount of “unscheduled downtime” (software updates and other server maintenance) is acceptable. That’s why we guarantee 100% uptime in our service level agreement (SLA) with all our customers (reimbursing for errors) – one reason our customer retention rate is over 90%.

Prediction & Availability

Optimizing for availability of a network is complex. Every aspect of the system, from the applications being used to the way that it is administered to how it’s deployed all make an impact on availability. Microsoft recommends that failures will always occur from time to time, and those failures will of course be unexpected. Predicting moments of downtime, then, is virtually impossible. Yeah, let’s… I guess get rid of that glass box. It’s a little depressing.

However, a system will automatically become more reliable as a network develops stronger recovery mechanisms. Microsoft points out, “If your system can recover from failures within 86.4 seconds, then you can have a failure every day and still achieve 99.9 percent availability.” I’ve used this same logic to explain to my wife why it’s acceptable for me to stare at the ceiling and shriek like a wounded and deranged animal for 86 seconds every day when I walk in the door from work.

Effect on Page Loads & Revenue

Availability can be thought of simply as uptime, but it can also be thought of in terms of transactions, such as those on an e-commerce site. The same math really applies to any situation when thought of in terms of pages failing to load or loading incorrectly.

A website with 99.9% availability or uptime that receives 10,000 data requests from visitors each day will experience 10 failures per day and 70 per week. The following is from a table Microsoft provides defining different availability figures as fulfilling the requirements of certain types of systems:

  • Commercial – 99.5%
  • Highly available – 99.9%
  • Fault resilient – 99.99%
  • Fault tolerant – 99.999%
  • Continuous – 100%

Conclusion, Continuation & Poem

Okay, so that gives us a basic starting point for exploring availability. Again, if you like the idea of 100% uptime, that’s our promise – and we put our money where our mouth is in our SLA (and also I put pennies in my mouth sometimes, because I like the way it tastes and can’t think of what else to do with them). Here are our solutions for shared hosting, dedicated servers, and VPSs.

We will move on with this subject in the second part of the series via discussion of the Oracle piece. I’m really sorry about the swimmer. That was a horrible idea on my part. Here is a poem to make you feel better:

Thank you for your time

I think you are very nice

Let’s all go to Tijuana

And eat some beans and rice.

By Kent Roberts

What is Big Data? (Part Two): The 4 V’s … Plus Some Jokes


Big Data: water wordscape
Big Data: water wordscape (Photo credit: Marius B)

Big data, as we discussed in my last post, can mean one of two things: huge data that can you see from outer space (with the Great Wall of China and my eighteen-square-mile heap of used Yoo-hoo bottles as the best examples of this type of data) and the ability of businesses to assess and understand massive data-sets. In this two-part piece, we are looking at the latter form of big data (the prior form was explored thoroughly in my interview with the chair of the Belgian Chocolate Milk Society).

We previously looked at ideas on the subject from McKinsey & Company, a global consulting firm that conducted international research on big data across five different fields. Today we will broaden our perspective by looking at thoughts from IBM on how to best approach this type of data. (By IBM, I am referring to the longstanding high-tech company, not the Irritable Bowel Movement, a self-advocacy group for those suffering from IBS.)

To review the first installment of this series, the amount and detail of data worldwide is developing and accruing at an amazing, if not alarming, rate. As for business, the better a company can get at utilizing big data to its advantage will determine how well it is able to compete, both currently and in the marketplace of the future (as seen in Walmart’s 100%-hologram-run and clothing-optional 22nd-SuperCentury stores). McKinsey says that, in fact, it won’t be enough as time goes on to limit big data expertise to IT or another department; instead, the effects of big data will be experienced company-wide.

Moving onto IBM, their exposition on big data is conceptualized as “Four V’s” (not to be confused with the legendary 1960s feminist folk group of the same name).

IBM’s Four V’s of Big Data

How much data do we produce each day? If you guessed 2.3 quintillion bytes, you’re getting close. The correct answer: 2.5 quintillion bytes. In fact, 9 out of every 10 pieces of the data we have available now has been generated between 2011 and today. The data comes from sources as diverse as electronic images, Internet sharing websites, environmental monitoring devices, and my court-ordered ankle brace.

To simplify our understanding of big data – and to help us keep up with the Joneses so that we won’t be stuck with a small-data (such as the number “6” written on a napkin) mindset forever – IBM organizes the topic into four words that all start with “V.” As it turns out, “V” is not always for “vendetta” or “vivification” (of puppets, y’ know).

Volume of Big Data: The volume of information on hand varies by industry – with tech, finance, and government organizations at the fore – but some enterprises have collected data in the petabyte range (also a virtual dog biscuit). What can our world do with this far-reaching info?

  • Use the 84 TBs of tweets generated weekly to better gauge consumer opinions
  • Use the 6.7 billion pieces of data drawn from meters weekly to improve energy efficiency.

Velocity of Big Data: The velocity with which a company takes advantage of information flowing through its network will optimize its usability (as with cybercrime and sales floor streaking).

  • Use the 35 million weekly trade incidents to study fraud detection
  • Use the 3.5 billion weekly phone call reports to improve customer satisfaction.

Variety of Big Data: Brainstorm, categorize, and consider the full range of types of big data. With a better sense of how this data interrelates, you will gain a better sense of general vs. specific trends (as with mullets vs. perm mullets).

  • Use hundreds of real-time surveillance video feeds to zone in on specific locales of concern
  • Use the 80% rise in content-based Web data to enhance knowledge of demographic sensibilities.

Veracity of Big Data: A third of corporate decision-makers do not believe the data they are using to make their decisions is reliable. Reliability of the data that comprises big data, then, and providing convincing arguments for its veracity, are huge obstacles to overcome. These hurdles are pronounced as sources become even more manifold.

Conclusion & Continuation

As IBM shows us – and as we learned from the McKinsey comments presented in the previous half of this series – big data is not just a bunch of numbers, words, images, and contexts. Rather, it’s an incredible opportunity for businesses to meet the needs of consumers and to outpace their competition. That finishes us off with our exploration of big data.

Also, please note, if anyone from the City of Pierre is reading this: I have been living underwater for the last seven weeks. That’s why my ankle bracelet says I’m in the river. I didn’t remove it and throw it off the bridge.

And, um, did I mention that at Superb Internet, we are experts on hosting, colocation, and managed support?

By Kent Roberts

What is Big Data? (Part One): 7 Findings … Plus Some Jokes


Big Data

Big data can mean a number of different things. As we all know, it can mean writing data in a large, thick marker or painting pieces of data on massive canvases for an epic-scale art project in Central Park (which is technically “enormous data”). Big data, though, can also refer to the process of analyzing large sets of data: we’ll explore that type below.

To conduct this mission, let’s look into the viewpoints of the global consultancy McKinsey & Company as well as those of IBM (the latter of which is in no way associated with IBS, aka spastic colon, at least not publicly).

The gist of our effort today is to gather a basic perspective on how the exponentially increasing volume of data is changing business and the world in general. As time goes on, businesses will need to stay in-step with developments in big data if they hope to keep up with other companies (such as full-spectrum and complex information pertaining to Justin Bieber’s earwax accrual and maintenance). In fact, per McKinsey, it won’t cut it to have expertise limited to a specific department of a company. Rather, everyone in business will be affected by this mind-boggling explosion of information.

I’ll focus on Big Data (or is it BIG DATA?) in a two-part mini-series, not to be mistaken with the two-part mini-series on the Big Bird road rage scandal produced by TMZ. This first part will focus on the research by McKinsey into the subject; while the second part will focus on IBM’s perspective.

McKinsey’s 5 Points of Focus

In order to get as broad a sense as possible of big data, the McKinsey Global Institute looked at the subject in five different areas (six if you count the Earth’s parallel reality that is void of all words, shapes, sounds, and descriptions):

  • US Healthcare & Medicine
  • European Government
  • US Retail Sales (including, but not limited to, bagged kidney beans)
  • Worldwide Manufacturing (except for kidney bean bags)
  • Individual GPS Services


The value available via understanding big data is impossible to ignore. As an example of the impact expertise in big data can have on business, McKinsey found that retailers optimized to incorporate large data sets into their business can boost their operational margin in excess of 60%.

McKinsey’s 7 Key Findings

McKinsey organized its report on the study into seven major findings.  Let’s look at each one below:

  1. Just how big is big data? McKinsey believes that, as of 2009, the average amount of data held within the network of companies of a thousand employees or more was “at least … 200 terabytes.” That’s double what Walmart had at its fingertips just ten years earlier (though that yellow smiley-face thing “stole” 78% of the company’s information when he was terminated: it was in his head).
  2. How is big data valuable? McKinsey says there are five basic ways to understand the value of this type of data: a.) data clarity and implementation at a high rate of speed; b.) flexibility based on a better grasp of fluctuations; c.) more meaningful and directed customer segments; d.) better reliability with decisions; e.) more complex ability to innovate. f.) there is no “f.”
  3. How is it a competitive advantage? Big data is anything but simple. The levels of depth and ability of companies to proactively use data efficiently – even in real time (and unreal time) – will be a major factor moving forward in business success.
  4. How does big data enhance consumer surplus and company productivity? The implications for personal economic efficiency and business streamlining will be enormous. As mentioned above, retailers will benefit by greatly improving their operational margins; consumers, meanwhile, can already benefit from a surplus of $600 billion due to the effectiveness of GPS tracking technology (such as the 17 devices sticking into my brain, complete with external antennae).
  5. Which industries will fare best? Certain types of businesses will be more positively impacted by an increasing sense of how to utilize big data. Victors will be those businesses directly intertwined with digital technology (such as companies building the Internet or anything with a bunch of cords), the banking industry, and the public sector.
  6. Who will specialize in big data? Within 5 years, the McKinsey report suggests, the US will experience a dearth of specialists in this field, to the tune of almost 1.7 million (while the world as whole will be impacted to the tune of Leonard Cohen’s “Suzanne”).
  7. How to realize the strongest results? In order to take big data to the next level, companies will need to reconsider and address issues of privacy and security, alongside the legal ramifications of the flow of information. Additionally, integration of more than one stream of data into central systems will allow better administration and monitoring. Infrastructure must meet big data’s needs, such as sensual reproductive ones, as well.

Conclusion & Continuation

As you can see, big data is growing in complexity, and what it means to business will be a challenge wise companies will want to meet head-on and early. McKinsey’s research findings make this all too obvious. However, so we get a broader perspective on the topic, let’s look at IBM’s statements as well, in Part Two. Then we’ll look at tiny, disembodied data, such as this number: 4.

By Kent Roberts

Top 9 Advantages of Cloud Hosting … Plus Some Jokes


English: Cloud Computing Image

We all know that the cloud is big and fluffy. However, what we don’t know is how it might be able to help our businesses. We fear its unpredictable temper, expressed via occasional and sudden downpours and lightning. Perhaps, though, there are amazing aspects of the cloud that we have not yet considered. Let’s take a look and see if it’s actually even better than sunlight in some ways (doubtful, but we’re open-minded, and we don’t want melanoma).

Actually, let’s specifically consider cloud hosting: that probably makes more sense, given the nature of our business at Superb Internet. We aren’t a weather site, despite my efforts at meteorology (using the traditional “looking up and guessing” method). I’ll look at comments made on the subject by Edwin Schouten of IBM and Wired along with those presented on the Salesforce blog.

  1. Efficiency – Cloud services allow ultra-fast, on-the-fly implementation; the speed alone makes it hugely popular as businesses try to outpace the competition. NASCAR, as we all know, uses the cloud to change tires while they are moving at 200 mph.
  2. Automatic Updates – Speaking of changing tires in transit, the cloud is also powerful in its ability to make updates in process. Companies that provide cloud technology manage both the hardware and software, including security, which accounted for about 100 hours each month for the average UK firm in 2010. (Keep in mind, that’s the UK. In France, only 10 hours are spent on the same task to free up time for drinking coffee and eating cheese, per France Business & Coffee-Break Weekly.)
  3. Adaptability – You see how many of these are about time-saving. A by-product of saved time on implementation and management is that your time-to-market on projects is shortened significantly, per Edwin. The entire project, not just the cloud aspect, becomes easier to drive forward to completion, making adjustments and revisions as necessary, in a small window (18 by 18 inches).
  4. Company-Wide Access – Think, if you dare, of Google Drive. Use of the cloud allows everyone in the company to enter the system and work on projects simultaneously or in rapid succession. This easy access allows employees, no matter where they are or what they’re doing (such as any form of diving, whether springboard, sky, or dumpster) to know what’s going on and to develop projects as a team. Salesforce references a study revealing that business use of collaboration tools offers an ROI of 400% (also an excellent spelling test score).
  5. Simplified Operations – Operations of your company will typically improve via the cloud, because it allows a central system that is built for broad-spectrum use and maintained on your behalf.  Glitches, then, are less common. You can deploy a service over and over again, with the same predictable outcome. Edwin recommends using this characteristic of the cloud as you develop pre-constructed design patterns (be sure not to skimp on Polka dots).
  6. Enhanced Security – Almost a million computers are stolen or misplaced each year just at airports. Now, there’s a lesson to be learned here: never bring your computer anywhere; just keep it in your tree-house, where it’s safe. When someone takes a computer, there are immediate concerns regarding what’s on the computer and the cost of replacement. However, the data itself for projects is not lost because you are using cloud storage.
  7. New Business Development – If you are looking to improve on your business, the cloud can make those efforts easier to establish. Use of the cloud can allow a company to develop new ways to interact and exchange information, both internally and externally. New techniques mean new ways to grow (such as we see with the grab-and-run industry, a branch-off of the swindle industry). Some businesses are dedicated entirely to cloud models; Edwin mentions Spotify.
  8. Yogi-Like Flexibility – Looking at the cloud purely in terms of bandwidth needs and that form of scalability, the cloud can meet any increasing requirements (such as the need for more break-room napkins) as you go. Edwin cites an InformationWeek poll that shows 65% of IT professionals believe immediacy of meeting business requirements is a huge plus for the cloud.
  9. More People Power – Freeing up time and resources is seen in the ability to use your labor force wisely. As time is reduced for projects and operation is made more predictable with cloud computing, the people power is freed to be used for other concerns (including promoting Hawaiian t-shirt day and cross-checking the credentials of company ownership). Additionally with power, says Edwin, use of both hardware and energy is often significantly reduced per the parameters of economies of scale.


I know what you’ve heard: your parents, friends, business associates, and fairy godmother have all told you that the cloud “isn’t that into you.” That’s absolutely not the case. As you can see above, the cloud has much to offer; and a large, mythical bird told me she wants you to get in on the action. We’ve already written about disadvantages of the cloud. This article gives you a sense of how it also might be a great way to take your business to new heights (generally increasing the height of employees by 2 inches during the first year!). Need a hosting partner to succeed on the cloud? Here we are.

By Kent Roberts

What is ITIL – 5 Goals & 6 Reasons

English: An ITIL Foundation Certificate pin us...
English: An ITIL Foundation Certificate pin used to attatch on a shirt. The diamond is the ITIL logo, there are three levels: Green: Foundation certificate Blue: Practitioner’s certificate Red: Manager’s certificate (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Hosting Company Auditing and Certification — Part 1 of 3

At Superb, we have a staff that is certified in ITIL.

“So, what? What is it? Tell me what it is!”

Just hold on, hold on, whoever you are. Let me get through the introduction. ITIL stands for Information Technology Infrastructure Library http://www.itil-officialsite.com/WhatisITIL.aspx. It’s used by organizations as large and different as NASA and Disney. Providers who help implement accreditation and consulting for ITIL include IBM and Hewlett Packard.


Sir, please, no heckling. All right, let’s get to it. The man we’ve all been waiting for – well, not really a man, or a woman, but a thing – the Information Technology Infrastructure Library in all its glory. This is gonna be fun.

History of ITIL

“Hey, hey you, with the book-smarts and the highfalutin ideas. You ain’t from around here, are ya? I can tell by all the words and pages and … dag-nabbit, that’s a Europe accent ain’t it? Ooh-ee, I was wondering what was smellin’ so bad around here.”

Calm down sir, and behave yourself. Yes, it’s true: ITIL originated in the United Kingdom. The Central Computer Telecommunications Agency (CCTA), a department of the UK government, came up with a set of standards in the 1980s. These standards were not considered a set of rules but recommendations.

The original reasoning behind ITIL, then, was to offer companies a way to be held accountable and to help improvement IT management for the benefit of businesses, partners, and clients. It offered a freely given set of best management practices for IT so that those practices weren’t just growing independently within private businesses – a central knowledge base and certification process seemed desirable. The end goal was that service was improved as the IT management system was improved.

“Ohhh … I get it. Some kind of government takeover of our minds. I knew it! I knew it! Anytime I see a bunch of capital letters in a row, I go get ready for a shotgun wedding, because I know there are some squirrely men in town.”

Now that’s just not fair, sir. The IT Infrastructure Library was initially issued as a series of books. Each one focused on a different “best practice” area. The basis of the books may have been W. Edwards Deming (no, not the inventor of the modern toilet brush – that’s William C. Schopp … completely different names really), whose plan-do-check-act cycle is a version of organizational modeling for businesses – or any organization or person, really – to use to optimize their systems (discussed below).

ITIL Version 3, released in 2011, is now the standard for any type of ITIL accreditation. ITIL covers a broad range of IT topics, but generally speaking, the service-oriented knowledge is what’s of most interest to businesses, as opposed to application and management focused materials that have also been developed within the ITIL model.

It’s also important to note that ITIL itself does not give out accreditations. All it is is a government-developed system of recommendations that you can either follow or not – up to you. You can, however, become ITIL certified by any of a number of examination organizations that ARE vetted by the HM government via its partner the APM Group.

“HM, as in ‘Her Majesty’?? What, now I’m bowing down to the queen? Can I at least be knighted while I’m on my knees, like Dubya’s dad was?”

Well, uh … you might want to read this article. Also, I don’t think you’re qualified to be knighted, sir, unfortunately, but I’ll see what I can do.

Plan-Do-Check-Act (aka PDCA) Cycle

Let’s look briefly at Plan-Do-Check-Act, so we get a sense of the basic philosophy behind ITIL or at least something with a lot of similarities to its theoretical basis, so we know why it’s so damn awesome.

OK, so the Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) cycle is also called the Deming cycle (after Deming, above) or the Shewhart cycle (after Walter Shewhart). It’s a way to model an organization or a piece of an organization that allows for continuous improvement. It consists of course of four steps, but those steps keep continuing, cycling through repeatedly. There’s nothing mandatory about it, it’s just a system you can potentially use if you like.

“Oh, like Driver’s Licenses, I get it. They want my numbers.”

No, it’s nothing like Driver’s Licenses. Come on buddy. With the PDCA cycle model, you do the following:

  1. Plan – The plan is, simply put, the activity of getting ready for a change in the organization. Note: The change is by trial, so it won’t have to be correct.
  2. Do – Do involves taking a small sampling and seeing if the planned change improves things. Think of test-marketing or beta-testing – but this system also applies internally.
  3. Check – This step is essentially analysis. Does it work, or not? The analysis is very important – if the analysis is rigorous and refined, you’re golden. This step is the easiest place for corruption, so Checking must be performed carefully.
  4. Act – Go for it. Didn’t work? Start over with planning again.

Note how similar this system is to the scientific method – testing hypotheses (Do) and reviewing outcomes (Check) to determine if your objective (Plan) is correct. It essentially is the scientific method put into different words. Again, the Checking is crucial – it’s easy to think something works or trick oneself into thinking something works that doesn’t.

“Trickery from the state of Mississippi! They all want to build highways to the moon!”

Again sir, you’re making less sense all the time. Remember, this process we’re focusing on is ITIL, which comes out of the UK, not Missisippi. We don’t need your input. I’m not quite sure why you’re a part of the article.

“So it ain’t one-sided, you 1s and 0s bookworm!”

Right, gotcha. Hm, you understand binary … uh, let’s move on.

5 Goals of ITIL

ITIL today – vs. its past broad approach toward service, applications, and management as discussed above – is focused squarely on service and the management of service. ITIL calls itself “practical” and “no-nonsense” – so it’s an organizational IT cycle you can use that has a lot in common with wrinkle-free slacks. ITIL is intended to encompass the way that IT departments and IT professionals go about business.

“Encompass. Sounds like the Eye of Providence on the one-dollar bill to me, staring at me like a cackling witch.”

Uh … no comment. For us at Superb, having an IT staff who knows ITIL parameters means we can know that both our management and support teams are part of a structure that allows our IT services to be truly “Superb.”

Where’d the guy go with his snappy comments?

“I’m fishing.”

Oh, well … all right. ITIL is not one-size-fits-all: it’s an adaptable set of principles. You can customize it to your business. So the theory and principles are what’s important within the ITIL perspective. Application of ITIL will always be a little different depending who’s using it and the setting in which it’s used. The core of ITIL, though, is adaptation and improvement as a continuous cycle, as described above.

ITIL addresses the following through its five modules that comprise the ITIL v3 Service Management framework:

  1. Needs/Requirements – This helps a business identify the “demand” for certain IT specifications. (Analogous to Plan of PDCA)
  2. Design & Implementation – This is of course where design, development, and similarly active problem-solving come into play. (Analogous to Do of PDCA)
  3. Operation – Next you’re putting all the pieces into play. This is the second part of actual systemic testing. (Analogous to Plan of PDCA – Part 2)
  4. Monitoring – Here’s where the analysis comes in. A lens is focused on whatever aspect of the organization is attempting change: “Is it working?” (Analogous to Check of PDCA)
  5. Improvement – Well, this is the goal. Based on monitoring, either the organization has improved or it’s back to square 1. That’s not a bad thing. It’s crossing out something that didn’t work. Sometimes service management, like anything, is about process of elimination. (Analogous to Act of PDCA)


“Shhh. You’re scaring away the … whatever kind of fish these are.”

That’s a very algae-infested pond you’re fishing in, sir.

“You and your ‘sanitation.’ I bathe when it rains, as does this pond.”

Why ITIL? 5 Reasons

Here are a few of the positive results that can arise from implementation of ITIL certification:

  1. Efficiency: Better, streamlined, more efficient IT service.
  2. Cost: Lowering the expenses of IT departments and the overall business.
  3. Customer Experience: Customers have a better experience – because the system “works” coherently so that everything makes sense to all parties involved.
  4. Productivity: The business becomes more productive before there are fewer snags preventing evolution to changes in the business and the market.
  5. Employee Optimization: Positive employee attributes – skills and experience – are put to better use. This process allows individuals to flow into the most appropriate positions and tasks.
  6. Partner Servicing: Better delivery of any services that are issued by a company outside the organization. This improvement is felt both by the business itself and by its partners. It’s especially applicable in the case of hosting, since that’s a service so integrally connected to its clients’ own businesses.


“In case you’re wondering, I’m taking a nap now. That’s why I’m … you know, it’s sunny out here. So I’m asleep in the hot sun.”

OK … thanks. Goodnight.

Summary & Conclusion

ITIL is part of a general picture for us at Superb Internet. We have a few other auditing and certification standards that help our business have the kind of credibility we want but that also help us see where we can do a better job. We take these standards very seriously.

ITIL itself has adapted considerably since the 80s (which is a good thing!), but it’s still fundamentally concerned with Planning, Doing, Checking, and Acting. In its own terms, ITIL allows a business to Identify needs; Design, Implement, and Operate potential solutions; Monitor the results; and Improve. All of this is a perpetual cycle, allowing the business to grow stronger for itself and its clients over the long haul.

by Kent Roberts and Richard Norwood

Four Cloud-Based Services: PaaS vs. IaaS vs. SaaS vs. Precipitation


IBM Cloud Computing

Let’s look at the basic categories of cloud-based services – PaaS, IaaS, and SaaS. These acronyms stand for Platform as a Service, Infrastructure as a Service, and Software as a Service. What’s with the “as a service” lingo? Well, similar to with hosting, you’re accessing these services from a remote server. Your platform, your infrastructure, or individual pieces of software – that you’re using via your network or an individual PC or device – can be running in a remote location rather than directly at your location or on the server at your data center or hosting company.

Below we’ll dig into exactly what these different types of hosting services provide and what, if any of them, might be right for you or your business. I’m referencing articles from VentureBeat by Sean LudwigWikipedia, and Network World by Jeff Caruso.

Alongside the various “as a service” models, precipitation is also provided by clouds. Forms of precipitation include rain, snow, sleet, and hail. This service is not a good choice during picnics or parades.

What is the Cloud?

Cloud is a way to pull everything together onto central servers – providing a service through those servers – rather than running off your own PC or host machine. The term “cloud,” though, has been somewhat misunderstood and made more complicated than it actually is: it’s been turned into this concept for sort of an abstract universe accessible via the Internet. That is in part marketing language, trying to make us think of certain services as ethereal or dreamy. Sean describes the cloud succinctly – as a metaphor for the Internet. That’s more apt: it’s simply different services that are provided via the Internet that used to be provided directly on networks or PCs.

Cloud is not something that was invented but something that was defined and refined – framing the Internet in a certain way. (As Sean points out, any company with an Internet-based focus for any aspect of its business is a cloud company in a sense.) New technologies, however, have developed to support a more cloud-based approach – and these services have certainly become much more prevalent and popular in the last few years.

The different layers of the cloud are the different types of services that are provided – again, these layers, like the cloud, are a way of organizing information, not something that was invented. The layers are the various “as a service” models: IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS (and actually more of these types of terms are used, though not in as common of usage).

There are many reasons to dislike and distrust the cloud. With its precipitation capacity, the cloud can ruin your picnic, for example. IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS are much less likely to ruin your picnic. In this sense, the cloud is like fire ants. It doesn’t  care about you. It’s selfish. It’s like that ex-boyfriend you spent years trying to get your sister away from before he moved to Pierre, South Dakota, to work in his cousin’s sign shop.

Layer 1: SaaS (Top Layer of the Cloud)

SaaS or Software as a Service means that you have access to software that has been installed “in the cloud.” In this scenario, you are only controlling variables within the software itself. You do not have any administrative control over the infrastructure or platform. Because you are accessing the software via the Internet (as it resides on another company’s servers), you do not need to maintain the software yourself. There are, of course, security concerns related to cloud-based software – because rather than having the software installed on your own devices or on the servers of a host company that you trust, you are putting all your data directly into the Internet and storing it on the cloud company’s servers.

Cloud applications – those operating as SaaS – are more scalable than other types of applications are, per Wikipedia. Using a variety of VPSs (virtual private servers) to complete a task via cloning can make it easier to spread out the load across a number of different servers, finding resources where they are available. So that the load does not become excessively heavy on one VPS, a load balancer is used. Anyone who’s accessing the software does not see that back-end aspect, but it allows a heavier volume of traffic without interruptions in data flow.

A cloud application can be multitenant (think of a multitenant home). Having more than one “tenant” company use the same VPS at one time also can allow for a greater number of people to be using the software at one time.

Generally when you use a cloud application, you will pay for a month or year at a time for each user within your network – and then you can change your number of users throughout that period. This is one of the things that people especially like about SaaS, and cloud services generally, is its adaptability: you can quickly and efficiently expand or retract your usage of the service. It doesn’t have a set size in the same way that non-cloud offerings do (which are not as immediately easy to adjust for size).

Here are a few samples of subcategories of software as a service, per Wikipedia:

  • desktop as a service
  • test environment as a service
  • communication as a service
  • business process as a service


Sample SaaS providers:

  • Google Apps
  • Microsoft Office 365
  • GT Nexus
  • Casengo

Here are a few things you want to do before a cloud becomes angry and starts to dump stuff all over the place:

  • Close your windows and blinds, and hide under your table in case there is thunder.
  • Get your snow shovel and go outside so that you’re ready to clear your walkways as soon as the precipitation falls. This makes the cloud feel powerless.
  • Put on your raincoat and get ready to do your “It’s Raining Men” routine for the other soldiers, who love musical theater as much as you do.

Layer 2: IaaS (Bottom Layer of the Cloud)

IaaS or Infrastructure as a Service means you’re using virtual machines (VM’s), otherwise known as virtual private servers (VPS’s). This service allows you full control of the environment in which your applications exist – just not at the level of the hardware itself. No need, then, to support and maintain servers. Everything is virtualized, but you have full control.

IaaS means that you can install whatever applications you want on your system. A cloud service provider (CSP) provides whatever bandwidth or other resources you need but doesn’t set any other guidelines. With virtualization, your network is separated from other networks that might be running on the same server – and from the hard drives as well – protecting all parties involved both regarding security and speed/stability of the network.

Amazon and IBM are examples of companies that provide this service. Jeff specifically addresses the importance of picking out a quality CSP when using cloud services at this deep of a level. The article he references on that subject is here.

Ways to know if the cloud is going to precipitate on your parade:

  • You hear a rumbling sound in the distance.
  • Lightning strikes one of the floats, and it falls over to the side. That’s the float you helped build for the nonprofit dog-racing track, and it makes you very upset to see how heartless the cloud is being right now.
  • The clown’s and beauty queen’s makeup are both running. The beauty queen looks more concerned for some reason. The clown got second place in the beauty pageant, so she doesn’t feel like she has anything to hide.

Layer 3: PaaS (Middle Layer of the Cloud)

In between software and infrastructure you have the platform – also known as middleware (additionally the term given to tableware that is made out of a combination of plastic and metal). If you use a CSP to provide your platform, you can develop your network at that level. In other words, you don’t have to worry about managing the whole infrastructure, but you have wider freedom and mutability than you do just at the level of using cloud-based software.

The platform that the CSP offers, per Wikipedia, typically includes the database, server, operating system, and programming language execution environment.

Development and deployment of applications via platform as a service can involve virtual machines and virtual OSs. Use of the cloud at the level of the platform cuts down on hardware costs and make it easier for a bunch of different users from various locations to access the same code and content as it develops. Per Jeff, here are a few of the basic categories of PaaS tools:

  • Storage
  • Security
  • Application development
  • Application management
  • Application hosting
  • Application design

A few of the most prominent CSP’s for platform as a service:

  • Microsoft Azure
  • Google App Engine
  • Salesforce
  • Engine Yard

What you should do if the cloud starts precipitating on your entire network:

  • Turn off all the electricity in the building.
  • Call the CEO – even if it is the middle of the night. Tell him to get to the office immediately, and to bring his galoshes.
  • Install a roof on your company. Many companies have not discovered the value of a roof. Sunlight is nice, but it is not worth the threat of precipitation that can arrive from an angry cloud.

Summary & Conclusion

So again, we can think of the cloud, simplistically, as the Internet or as the realm of Internet-based services. The cloud is typically divided into layers that basically describe the degree of administrative control a cloud client has over the environment within which they are working.

Software as a service (SaaS) – the top layer – is simply a web-based application. Infrastructure as a service (IaaS) – the bottom layer – gives you control over virtual private servers, which means you can install whatever applications you like and have significant freedoms but must handle administration yourself. Platform as a service (PaaS) – the middle layer – is sometimes referred to as middleware. This level can be used for development of applications without the need to maintain infrastructure.

by Kent Roberts and Richard Norwood