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AIG Moves towards DevOps and Cloud

In a blog post this morning, the Head of Enterprise Strategy at AWS, Stephen Orban, shares a personal note he received from Salvatore Saieva, CTO Lead for Public Cloud Projects and Initiatives at American Insurance Group (AIG), about why the company moved away from traditional infrastructure methods and towards DevOps and the Cloud.

In his note to Mr. Orban, Saieva detailed how his infrastructure support team was managing production applications on VCE Vblock equipment and how working with converged technology led them to automation, agile methods, continuous approaches, and, ultimately, DevOps. By using DevOps to collaborate with other teams through the company, Salvatore’s IT team led the charge in becoming cloud-ready.

Read more about AIG’s move to DevOps and the cloud on Stephen Orban’s blog.

-Nicole Maus, Marketing Manager

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The Infrastructure Side of Digital Marketing – Interview

Pam Scheideler is Partner and Chief Digital Officer with Deutsch, an advertising and digital marketing agency with offices in New York and Los Angeles. The agency’s clients include Volkswagen, Taco Bell, Target, Snapple and many other global brands.

2nd Watch: When working with clients, are IT infrastructure issues overlooked or misunderstood?

Pam Scheideler: One of the trends we have seen as website and ecommerce projects have transitioned from a Waterfall to an Agile software development methodology is that we need more participation from IT and infrastructure providers during the requirements definition and architecture phases. Because the UI and features are evolving based on iterative user ing and business feedback, our infrastructure partners are not working with a static set of specifications. Instead, at the beginning and end of each sprint, we continually validate our infrastructure assumptions with our partners. 2nd Watch understands our iterative design and development process and is able to provide guidance throughout development.

2nd Watch: Recently, your agency helped Taco Bell launch online ordering. How did you choose the technology partners to pull it off? 

Scheideler: Dynamic auto scaling was a big reason we selected AWS and 2nd Watch to be our partners in the solution for Taco Bell. When @katyperry tweets, her 91 million followers are listening, and we have seen huge bursts of unanticipated traffic come from social media mentions for our brands. With large media investments like Super Bowl placements and multiple product launches that can garner billions of media impressions, Taco Bell’s infrastructure is put to the on a daily basis. So we knew we needed a very flexible and reliable cloud platform and an expert partner like 2nd Watch to design the optimal environment on AWS for these demands.

2nd Watch: How have these challenges become greater in recent years, as customer experience demands become more complex?

Scheideler: Customer expectations are at an all-time high. If you asked the average person if they expect four 9’s in uptime, they probably wouldn’t understand the question. But if you asked them if they expect to be able to order a taco or shop through a messenger bot 24/7, they would say “Of course.”

2nd Watch: What role does the cloud play in digital marketing now?

Scheideler: Cloud-based hosting has absolutely changed our clients’ expectations and put a lot of pressure on IT organizations to deliver. Marketers are expecting systems to scale. It’s the job of marketing to acquire customers and generate demand and it’s the role of IT to help meet the demand and ensure business continuity. Simultaneously, digital business innovation has been exploding, which is great for consumers and the brands we serve. It’s putting IT infrastructure in the middle of emerging products and services.

2nd Watch: What other key technologies are pivotal to help marketing organizations be nimble and also efficient?

Scheideler: System monitoring has really changed the game, especially in companies with complex architectures. Finding the right people is equally important. The 2nd Watch team is always one step ahead and can bring diverse stakeholders together to troubleshoot system performance issues.

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New Survey: Enterprise IT Procurement Patterns Favor Cloud Technologies

We’re back with more survey results! Our la survey of more than 400 IT executives shows that enterprise IT procurement patterns favor cloud technologies, although most execs polled still see themselves as operating “Mode 1” type IT organizations – we’ll get into an explanation of this below. Our Public Cloud Procurement: Packaging, Consumption and Management survey sought to understand the organizational emphasis and strategic focus of modern enterprise IT departments based on the tech services they’re consuming and how much they’re spending.

Gartner refers to Mode 1 organizations as traditional and sequential, emphasizing safety and accuracy and preferring entire solutions over self-service, while Mode 2 organizations are exploratory and nonlinear, emphasize agility and speed, prefer self-service and have a higher tolerance for risk. Going into the survey, we expected most enterprise IT organizations to be bimodal, with their focus split between stability and agility. The results confirmed our expectations – bimodal IT is common for modern IT organizations.

Here are some of our findings:

  • 71% of respondents reported being a Mode 1 IT organizations.
  • 72% of respondents emphasize sequential processes and linear relationships (Mode 1) over short feedback loops and clustered relationships (Mode 2) for IT delivery.
  • 65% said plan-driven / top-down decision making best represented their planning processes – a Mode 1 viewpoint.

However, respondents also showed considerable interest in public cloud technologies and outsourced management for those services:

  • 89% of respondents use AWS, Google Compute Engine or Microsoft Azure.
  • 39% have dedicated up to 25% of total IT spend to public cloud.
  • 43% spend at least half of their cloud service budget on AWS.

Many respondents found the process of buying, consuming and managing public cloud services difficult. A large majority would pay a premium if thatprocess of buying public cloud was easier, and 40% went so far as to say they’d be willing to pay 15% over cost for the benefit of an easier process.

Read the full survey results or download the infographic for a visual representation.

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The Elusive Enterprise Cloud Architect

If you’re an old hand in IT (that is, someone with at least 5 years under your belt), making a switch to the cloud could be the best decision you’ll ever make. The question is, do you have what it takes?

Job openings in the cloud computing industry are everywhere – Amazon alone lists 17 different categories of positions related to AWS on its website, and by one estimate there are nearly four million cloud computing jobs just in the United States. But cloud experts, especially architects, are a rare breed. Cloud is a relatively new platform, which limits the number of qualified personnel. Finding people with the right skillsets can be hard.

Cloud architects are experts in designing, running and managing applications in the cloud, leading DevOps teams and working with multiple cloud vendors. A senior cloud architect oversees the broad strategy of a company’s investment in the cloud, and is responsible for managing and delivering ROI from cloud investments and continually aligning with business objectives.

Instead of maintaining legacy databases, they’re re-architecting IT departments and helping their employers or clients transform business models. The knowledge bar is high: top cloud computing IT skills include SQL, Java, overall software development skills, Linux, JavaScript and experience with software quality assurance. Cloud security certifications are also extremely important to ensuring data security and user access controls.

Yet being a cloud architect is not simply about understanding new technologies and features as they come off the conveyor belt. Beyond dealing with rapid technological change, you’ve got to have some creativity and business acumen. If you are fiercely independent and don’t enjoy a little schmoozing with business colleagues and chatting up vendors, this probably is not a good career choice for you. If you don’t like things changing frequently and problem-solving, you may suffer from recurring anxiety attacks.

In talking to customers, we’ve come up with a list of the top non-techie skills that every cloud architect should have. Here are the top 10:

  1. Strategic problem-solving skills
  2. Security & compliance experience
  3. Ability to balance trade-offs with agility
  4. Business and accounting knowledge
  5. Customer experience focus
  6. Deploy & destroy mentality
  7. Adept negotiation and communications skills
  8. Ability to solve problems with an eye for the future
  9. Understanding of platform integrations
  10. Ability to evolve with the business

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In short, cloud architects are like great companions: once you have one, hold on and never let him or her go. Check out the infographic for a complete mapping of the perfect cloud architect!

-Jeff Aden, EVP Business Development & Marketing

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A Peek Inside How Companies are Using Amazon's $6 Billion Cloud

Last week, Amazon confirmed (as if proof was needed) just how popular its AWS platform really is. Now we know a bit more about how companies are using it.

Today we’re releasing our Q1 2015 AWS Scorecard, highlighting the most popular AWS products, instance types, regions and more. The data is based on tens of thousands of AWS instances under our management. As a reminder, 2nd Watch is an original AWS Premier Partner and AWS Managed Service Partner. Our clients include Conde’ Nast, Diane von Furstenberg, Lenovo and Yamaha, among others.

Here are the major AWS usage trends from Q1:

  • According to our analysis, companies are moving more big data and analytics applications to AWS. This is based on an almost 50% increase in the number of medium EC2 instances used in Q1, which increased to 29% from 19% in Q4.
  • Windows-based instances in the cloud are also growing. No longer a mere developer playground, CIOs are moving production apps onto AWS. Windows-based instances grew sharply in Q1, from 34% in Q4 to 76%, while Linux instances declined from 66% to 24%.
  • Cloud-based security products once again topped the list of most purchased third-party products for AWS deployments. The top four products were: Alert Logic Log Manager for AWS, Alert Logic Threat Manager for AWS, AlienVault Unified Security Management for AWS and Barracuda Web Application Firewall. This trend makes sense given that more companies in highly regulated industries are moving data and applications to AWS.
  • An overwhelming majority of companies are using S3 Storage (97%), EC2 (82%) and SNS messaging (70%). Close behind was SQS message queuing service (61.4%, up from 46% in Q4, ‘14) and RDS relational database (46.9%). As for databases, the second most used database service was the EC2 SQL Server standard (16%).

It will be interesting to see how this data changes in future quarters. For example, we will be watching to see what effect, if any, Amazon’s continued investment in Redshift and EC2 Container Service availability have on the way customers use AWS. In the meantime, the Q1 Scorecard data backs up what we’re hearing from customers: big companies are moving more business-critical data and applications to the public cloud. And that’s a trend we don’t see changing anytime soon.

Download the Q4 Scorecard for a full run down of the usage trends we’re seeing.

-Jeff Aden, EVP Business Development & Marketing

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Cloud Forecast 2015: Skills, Security and Public Cloud Infrastructure

Public cloud is growing. Private cloud is not. Big Data and Internet of Things is hot. Virtualization is not. These are just a few of the findings of the 2nd Watch enterprise cloud trends survey, just released. More than 400 IT managers and executives from large companies participated, and 64% of them said that they will spend at least 15% more in 2015 on public cloud infrastructure. All signs point to the fact that the public cloud is continuing to grow. Q3 earnings statements from both Amazon and Microsoft for their respective cloud services, AWS and Azure, were robust.

Companies are going to need some help though. As always, IT skills are at a premium. In our own conversations with customers, supported by the survey, CIOs and CTOs are looking for bright engineers who know how to manage and optimize workloads in the cloud. As well, the ability to natively design applications for the public cloud will be a critical competitive advantage in the coming year. The opportunity is there for any company – regardless of your size or industry. Large consumer goods are innovating with mobile apps that require not just savvy developers, but an IT organization that can leverage public cloud services to mash-up data and deliver cool new services that drive brand loyalty.

2015_Trends_Skills

The trick is that each provider, such as AWS, operates differently. CIOs need specialists, and when they’re hard to find, using third-party experts can reduce risks and deliver faster ROI. 2nd Watch has years of diversified experience across many different project types, regimented training and continued learning programs for their employees that can supplement your IT staff.

A parallel challenge is that few large companies are ready to migrate their entire data center to the cloud just yet. With legacy applications and customer requirements, large companies typically still require or desire some systems to be hosted on their own data centers. Thus, cloud providers and technologies that are able to integrate data centers will see ample demand next year. Hybrid cloud terminology will still be popular with enterprise IT in 2015, according to our survey. However, this is not an end state but a state of transition in maintaining physical data centers while they migrate to public cloud.

The recent news that the AWS OpsWorks application management service (based on Chef) is now available for managing public cloud and on-premise servers is one sign of the growing flexibility that CIOs will have in managing workloads across their environments. Companies want to see more industrial-strength management tools that can bridge internal data centers and public cloud data centers and deliver a unified picture of the entire infrastructure.

IT executives are also looking for more help on the security front. The major public cloud providers are already investing heavily in this area, particularly AWS, but startups will play a significant role in bringing new endpoint security solutions to market in 2015. Survey participants said that security tools and services is the most underinvested category by cloud technology firms. I believe they will say differently in a year’s time. Software companies also have opportunities in modern IT management, with many companies demanding more automated options for performance monitoring, system management and change management in the cloud.

2015_Trends_Security

If you are interested in learning more about the best-in-class cloud management tools that are available today, schedule your free 2nd Watch Workshop now*.

*Applies to Enterprise Customers new to 2nd Watch with a specific use case to build the workshop around.

Download the full Infographic for more trends to watch for in 2015.

2ndWatch-Info-Trends2015

Read more on Enterprise Cloud Trends for 2015 in 2nd Watch CTO, Kris Bliesner’s, article in Data Center Knowledge – Planning for the Future: Enterprise Cloud Trends in 2015.

-Jeff Aden, EVP of Marketing & Strategic Business Development

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