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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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Raising the Bar – Managing Enterprise Cloud Workloads

Momentum continues to build for companies who are migrating their workloads to the cloud, across all industries, even highly regulated industries such as Financial Services, Health Care, and Government. And it’s not just for small companies and startups. Most of the largest companies in the world – we’re talking Fortune 500 here – are adopting rapid and aggressive strategies for migrating and managing their workloads in the cloud. While the benefits of migrating workloads to the cloud are seemingly obvious (cost savings, of course), the “hidden” benefits exist in the fact that the cloud allows businesses to be more nimble, enabling business users with faster, more powerful, and more scalable business capabilities than they’ve ever had before.

So what do enterprises care about when managing workloads in the cloud? More importantly, what should you care about? Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that your workloads are already in the cloud – that you’ve adopted a sound methodology for migrating your workloads to the cloud.

GraphRaise your expectations I would submit that enterprises should raise their expectations from “standard” workload management. Why? Because the cloud provides a more flexible, powerful, and scalable paradigm than the typical application-running-in-a-data-center-on-a-bunch-of-servers model. Once your workloads are in the cloud, the basic requirements for managing them are not dissimilar to what you’d expect today for managing workloads on-premise or in a data center.

 

The basics include:

  • Service Levels: Basic service levels are still just that – basic service levels – Availability, response time, capacity, support, monitoring, etc. So what’s different in the cloud world? You should pay particular attention to ensuring your personal data is protected in your hosted cloud service.
  • Support: Like any hosting capability, support is very important to consider. Does your provider provide online, call center, dedicated, and/or a combo platter of all of these?
    • Security: Ensure that your provider has robust security measures in place and mechanisms to preserve your applications and data
  • Compliance: You should ensure your cloud provider is in compliance with the standards for your specific industry. Privacy, security and quality are principal compliance areas to evaluate and ensure are being provided.

 

Now what should enterprises expect on top of the “basics?”

  • Visibility: When your workloads are in the cloud, you can’t see them anymore. No longer will you be able to walk through the datacloud gears center and see your racks of servers with blinking lights, but there’s a certain comfort in that, right? So when you move to the cloud, you need to be able to see (ideally in a visual paradigm) the services that you’re using to run your critical workloads
  • Be Proactive: It used to be that enterprises only cared if their data center providers/data center guys were just good at being “reactive” (responding to tickets, monitoring apps and servers, escalating issues, etc). But now the cloud allows us to be proactive. How can you optimize your infrastructure so you actually use less, rather than more? Wouldn’t it be great if your IT operations guy came to you and said “Hey, we can decrease our footprint and lessen our spend,” rather than the other way around?
  • Partner with the business: Now that your workloads are running in the cloud, your IT ops team can focus more on working with the business/applications teams to understand better how the infrastructure can work for them, again rather than the other way around, and they can educate the business/applications teams on how some of the newest cloud services, like elasticity, big data, unstructured data, auto-scaling, etc., can cause the business to think differently and innovate faster.

 

Enterprises should – and are – raising their expectations as they relate to managing their workloads in the cloud. Why? Because the cloud provides a more flexible, powerful, and scalable paradigm than the typical hardware-centric, data center-focused approach.

-Keith Carlson, EVP of Professional and Managed Workload Services

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How to be Your Company’s Cloud Champion in 2015

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

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

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

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.

Processes

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?

Technology

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

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How to Choose the Right Cloud Partner to Migrate Your Data Center

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.

Step One

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

 

Step Two

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.”

Step Three

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.

Final Thoughts

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

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EC2 Container Service (ECS) – A Docker Container Service for the Cloud

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

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Optimize Your AWS Environments with 2nd Watch & New Relic

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!

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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

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