Implementing Cloud Infrastructure in the Enterprise is not easy. An organization needs to think about scale, integration, security, compliance, results, reliability and many other factors. The pace of change pushes us to stay on top of these topics to help our organization realize the many benefits of Cloud Infrastructure.
Think about this in terms of running a race. The race has not changed – there are still hurdles to be cleared – hurdles before the race in practice and hurdles on the track during prime time. We bucket these hurdles into two classes: pre-adoption and operational.
Pre-adoption hurdles come in the form of all things required to make Cloud Infrastructure a standard in your enterprise. A big hurdle we often see is a clear roadmap and strategy around Cloud. What applications will be moving and when? When will new applications be built on the Cloud? What can we move without refactoring? Another common hurdle is standards. How do you ensure your enterprise can order the same thing over and over blessed by Enterprise Architecture, Security and your lawyers. Let’s examine these two major pre-adoption hurdles.
Having a clear IT strategy around Cloud Computing is key to getting effective enterprise adoption. Everyone from the CIO to the System Admin should be able to tell you how your organization will be consuming Cloud and what their role in the journey will be. In our experience at 2nd Watch, this typically involves a specific effort to analyze your current application portfolio for benefits and compatibility in the Cloud. We often help our customers define a classification matrix of applications and workloads that can move to the Cloud and categorize them into classes of applications based on the effort and benefits received from moving workloads to the Cloud. Whether you have a “Cloud First,” “Cloud Only” or another strategy for leveraging Cloud, the important thing is that your organization understands the strategy and is empowered to make the changes required to move forward.
Standardization is a challenge when it comes to implementing Cloud Computing. There are plenty of Cloud Service Providers, and there are no common standards for implementations. The good news is that AWS is quickly becoming the de facto standard for Cloud Infrastructure, and other providers are starting to follow suit.
2nd Watch works closely with our customers to define standards we call “Reference Architectures” to enable consistency in Cloud usage across business units, regions, etc. Our approach is powered by Cloud Formation and made real by Cloud Trails, enabling us to deploy standard infrastructure and be notified when someone makes a change to the standard in production (or Test/Dev, etc.). This is where the power of AWS really shines.
Imagine… A service catalog of all the different application or technology stacks that you need to deploy in your enterprise – now think about having an automated way to deploy those standards quickly and easily in minutes instead of days/weeks/months. Standards will pay dividends in helping your organization consume Cloud and maintain existing compliance and security requirements.
Operational hurdles for Cloud Computing come about due to the different types of people, processes and technology. Do the people who support your IT infrastructure understand the new technology involved in managing Cloud infrastructure? Do you have the right operational processes in place to deal with incidents involving Cloud infrastructure? Do you have the right technology to help you manage your cloud infrastructure at enterprise scale?
Here are some people related questions to ask yourself when you are looking to put Cloud infrastructure to work in your enterprise:
- How does my IT organization have to change when I move to the cloud?
- What new IT roles are going to be required as I move to the cloud?
- What type of training should be scheduled and who should attend?
- Who will manage the applications after they are moved to the cloud?
People are critical to the IT equation, and the Cloud requires IT skills and expertise. It has been our experience that organizations that take the people component seriously have a much more effective and efficient Cloud experience than those who might address it after the fact or with less purpose. Focus on your people – make sure they have the training and support they need to ensure success once you are live in the Cloud.
Cloud infrastructure uses some of the same technology your enterprise deploys today – virtualization, hypervisors, hardware, network, etc. The difference is that the experts are managing the core components and letting you build on top. This is a different approach to infrastructure and requires enterprise IT shops to consider what changes will need to be made to their process to ensure they can operationalize Cloud computing. An example: How will your process deal with host management issues like needing to reboot a group of servers if the incident originates from a provider instead of your own equipment?
Finally, technology plays a big role in ensuring a successful Cloud infrastructure implementation. As users request new features and IT responds with new technology, thought needs to be given to how the enterprise will manage that technology. How will your existing management and monitoring tools connect to your Cloud infrastructure? To what pieces of the datacenter will you be unable to attach? When will you have to use Cloud Service Provider plugins vs. your existing toolset? What can you manage with your existing tools? How do you take advantage of the new infrastructure, including batch scheduling, auto-scaling, reference architectures, etc.? Picking the right management tools and technology will go a long way to providing some of the real benefits of Cloud Infrastructure.
At 2nd Watch we believe that Enterprise Architecture (in a broad sense) is relevant regardless of the underlying technology platform. It is true that moving from on premises infrastructure to Cloud enables us to reduce the number of things demanding our focus – Amazon Web Services vs. Cisco, Juniper, F5, IBM, HP, Dell, EMC, NetApp, etc.
This is the simplicity of it – the number of vendors and platforms to deal with as an IT person is shrinking, and thank goodness! But, we still need to think about how to best leverage the technology at hand. Cloud adoption will have hurdles. The great news is that together we can train ourselves to clear them and move our businesses forward.
-Kris Bliesner, CTO
Ideally, selecting the correct cloud partner should be as simple and straight forward as the cloud itself. However, any selection requires time to qualify the right partner according to where your company is at in its cloud journey. Additionally, the term cloud has been over marketed by all companies in the last several years, even by companies who do not have a cloud offering, which adds confusion to the partner selection process.
We know partner selection is a very important process that is vital to your cloud migration success. Luckily, it does not have to be a long, drawn out, or difficult process if you look toward best practices. Here are some suggestions based on learnings, analyst discussions, and market drivers.
First, you need to determine where you are in the cloud journey. Ask yourself some key questions to help you identify where exactly you are, and where may want to go:
- Does my company have a clear vision of how we want to use the cloud?
- Your vision could take several different forms. One example is having all applications move toward being Software as a Service (SaaS) first, Platform as a Service (PaaS) second and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) third while maintaining a small data center footprint. Another could be a “cloud first” approach for all new development while “lifting and shifting” everything old to IaaS. Either way, your vision and strategy need to be clearly defined. If they are not, you definitely need to select a partner who can help you develop a cloud vision.
- Has my company selected a short list of Cloud Service Providers (CSP vendors) and prioritized that list?
- This would include selecting companies that are identified by the likes of Gartner to have a mature cloud offering. If you are focused on IaaS, the Gartner Magic Quadrant is a useful tool to dispel the FUD and find out what the strengths and weaknesses are for each CSP. For this blog, we will focus on the CSP of IaaS.
You now need to evaluate the partner network for those CSPs. AWS has a useful tool for this on its partner page. From the highest level, AWS buckets partners in two categories – Independent Software Vendors (ISV) and Consulting Partners (SI). Further delineation is made only within the SI bucket into three categories – Premier Partners, Advanced Partners and general AWS partners.
- You then need to ask, are any of my short-listed partners listed as Premier? If not, here is why it matters:
- Premier Partners are qualified by:
- Focus on the customer
- Number of Globally Certified Architects and qualified personnel on staff (AWS proven skill set)
- Customer imonials
- Use cases
- Even within the Premier Partners category there exist differences between partners and their companies’ focus, so it is important to determine what type of partner you need. Ask yourself:
- Do I need a partner that is more focused on building and managing my data center in the cloud?
- Do I need a partner that is more focused on application development?
- Do I need a partner that is a business consultant?
- Do I want a partner that does everything from strategy to managed services or do I want to handle this myself?
At the end of the day, there are limited partners that have highly skilled staff on AWS. As Terry Wise, the AWS Head of Worldwide Partners, pointed out in a recent article, “We don’t have enough partners in the ecosystem who really understand – and can deliver – cloud managed services.”
As you identify your short-list of partners we would highly recommend ing at least two of those partners with a cloud Proof of Concept (POC). The main reason for the requirement of ing out a partner is that many partners sell with their A Team, but deliver with less qualified staff. The leaves you, the customer, frustrated at the outcome. Some partners may say they have thousands of AWS users today, but keep in mind that these individuals are not working on AWS projects 100% of the time. On the other hand, there a few Cloud Born partners, like 2nd Watch, that focus 100% on cloud solutions, delivery, and management.
We wish you well in 2015 and will leave you with one final recommendation based on 2014 Q3 and Q4 conversations with budget owners. The amount of demand for qualified partners is coming at such a high rate (2nd Watch has been growing at 600% in bookings YOY) that we’d advise getting your short-list of partners together soon and qualifying them quickly.
If you fail to build strong partnerships now, there may be more customers demanding work than what the partner supply can handle, as Kurt Marko pointed out in his recent Forbes article.
-Jeff Aden, EVP Marketing & Strategic Business Development
At AWS re:Invent, Amazon introduced its new EC2 Container Service (ECS). Although not available yet, it promises to be a vital part of the future of the AWS ecosystem. ECS is touted to be a high performance, highly scalable service that allows you to run distributed applications (in the form of Docker containers) on a fully managed cluster of EC2 instances. The main benefits of ECS as described by Amazon are: Easy Cluster Management, High Scale Performance, Flexible Scheduling, Extensible & Portable, Resource Efficiency, AWS Integration, and Security. All of these benefits help you easily build, run, and scale Docker containers in the cloud.
Is the concept of containers new to you? Let’s take a step back and talk about virtualization and the benefits of containers in terms of running web applications.
In its simplest most well-known form, classic computer virtualization is the process of separating the software layer (guest OS) with the hardware layer (physical server). The separation is facilitated by other layers of software (host OS and hypervisor) that act as the go-between. This gives you the ability to run multiple virtual machines on a single piece of physical hardware. This simple explanation is the basis for virtualization technologies including Amazon’s EC2 service.
Now let’s say you want to use the virtual infrastructure to run a web application. In a classic VM you are in charge of installing the OS. EC2 goes one step further than a classic VM as it provides you the virtual infrastructure with a vanilla OS. With EC2, when you fire up an instance you are given the choice of which operating system to run – Amazon Linux, Red Hat, Windows, etc. From there, the common steps needed to run a web application would be to build the application, install the needed binaries and libraries, and start the appropriate services. With a few changes to firewall rules or Security Groups, your application would be online. Congratulations you now have your application running!
So how does containerization help? I like to think of it as containerization takes virtualization one step further. Having the ability to run applications on individual virtual machines or instances is great but can become bulky and difficult to manage. An application that may be only 10-50 MBs still requires all of the binaries, libraries, and the entire guest operating system to function. This can easily require an additional 10-15 GBs, yes gigabytes, not megabytes, for the application to run on its own VM. If you want to run several applications, VM resources and administration overhead multiplies quickly. Containerization technologies like Docker have gained industry popularity for the ability to build, transport and run distributable applications in these smaller self-contained packages. A container includes just the application and needed dependencies. It runs as a separate isolated process on the host operating system and shares the kernel with other containers. This allows it to be highly portable and much more efficient by allowing multiple containerized applications to run on the same system. The beauty of it is that a Docker container is completely portable, so you can run it anywhere – like on a desktop computer, a physical server, VM, or EC2 instance – effectively facilitating faster deployments for development, QA, and production environments.
With ECS, Amazon aims to simplify managing containers even more by allowing you to run distributed applications on a managed cluster of EC2 instances. By having a managed cluster you can concentrate on your containerized applications and not cluster software or a configuration management systems to manage the infrastructure. This would be similar to how RDS is a fully managed database service that allows you to concentrate on your data and not the management and administration of the infrastructure that runs it. The light weight footprint of a container allows the environment to scale up and down quickly with demand, making it a perfect match for the elasticity of EC2. Additionally, AWS provides a set of simple APIs, so you have complete control of the cluster running your containers and the ability to extend and integrate with your current environment.
The initial announcement is definitely intriguing and something to watch closely. The service is currently in preview, but you can sign up for the waitlist here.
-Derek Baltazar – 2nd Watch Senior Cloud Engineer
As you’ve probably noticed from all the chatter in the media lately, 2nd Watch has teamed up with software analytics company, New Relic, to offer application data as part of our 2W Managed Services offering. What does this mean for Managed Services customers? Enhanced insight into enterprise application performance!
Now our customers will have greater visibility into their AWS environments, from infrastructure metrics to application performance, without additional cost or complexity, and New Relic customers can simplify management of their cloud infrastructure by turning to 2nd Watch to help eliminate unnecessarily complex and expensive infrastructure.
Read more about the partnership
Learn how you can shut down your data center and migrate to AWS in only 2 months. Alvaro Echeverri, Senior Cloud Engineer at 2nd Watch, discusses how to move data out of your data center quickly in the final part of our 5-part video series.
Learn how you can shut down your data center and migrate to AWS in only 2 months. Imran Ahmed, Practice Director at 2nd Watch, discusses key factors in ensuring a smooth transition of your data center to the cloud in part 4 of our 5-part video series.