1-888-317-7920 info@2ndwatch.com

Increasing Your Cloud Footprint

The jump to the cloud can be a scary proposition.  For an enterprise with systems deeply embedded in traditional infrastructure like back office computer rooms and datacenters the move to the cloud can be daunting. The thought of having all of your data in someone else’s hands can make some IT admins cringe.  However, once you start looking into cloud technologies you start seeing some of the great benefits, especially with providers like Amazon Web Services (AWS).  The cloud can be cost-effective, elastic and scalable, flexible, and secure.  That same IT admin cringing at the thought of their data in someone else’s hands may finally realize that AWS is a bit more secure than a computer rack sitting under an employee’s desk in a remote office.  Once the decision is finally made to “try out” the cloud, the planning phase can begin.

Most of the time the biggest question is, “How do we start with the cloud?”  The answer is to use a phased approach.  By picking applications and workloads that are less mission critical, you can try the newest cloud technologies with less risk.  When deciding which workloads to move, you should ask yourself the following questions; Is there a business need for moving this workload to the cloud?  Is the technology a natural fit for the cloud?  What impact will this have on the business? If all those questions are suitably answered, your workloads will be successful in the cloud.

One great place to start is with archiving and backups.  These types of workloads are important, but the data you’re dealing with is likely just a copy of data you already have, so it is considerably less risky.  The easiest way to start with archives and backups is to try out S3 and Glacier.  Many of today’s backup utilities you may already be using, like Symantec Netbackup  and Veeam Backup & Replication, have cloud versions that can directly backup to AWS. This allows you to use start using the cloud without changing much of your embedded backup processes.  By moving less critical workloads you are taking the first steps in increasing your cloud footprint.

Now that you have moved your backups to AWS using S3 and Glacier, what’s next?  The next logical step would be to try some of the other services AWS offers.  Another workload that can often be moved to the cloud is Disaster Recovery.   DR is an area that will allow you to more AWS services like VPC, EC2, EBS, RDS, Route53 and ELBs.  DR is a perfect way to increase your cloud footprint because it will allow you to construct your current environment, which you should already be very familiar with, in the cloud.  A Pilot Light DR solution is one type of DR solution commonly seen in AWS.  In the Pilot Light scenario the DR site has minimal systems and resources with the core elements already configured to enable rapid recovery once a disaster happens.  To build a Pilot Light DR solution you would create the AWS network infrastructure (VPC), deploy the core AWS building blocks needed for the minimal Pilot Light configuration (EC2, EBS, RDS, and ELBs), and determine the process for recovery (Route53).  When it is time for recovery all the other components can be quickly provisioned to give you a fully working environment. By moving DR to the cloud you’ve increased your cloud footprint even more and are on your way to cloud domination!

The next logical step is to move Test and Dev environments into the cloud. Here you can get creative with the way you use the AWS technologies.  When building systems on AWS make sure to follow the Architecting Best Practices: Designing for failure means nothing will fail, decouple your components, take advantage of elasticity, build security into every layer, think parallel, and don’t fear constraints! Start with proof-of-concept (POC) to the development environment, and use AWS reference architecture to aid in the learning and planning process.  Next your legacy application in the new environment and migrate data.  The POC is not complete until you validate that it works and performance is to your expectations.  Once you get to this point, you can reevaluate the build and optimize it to exact specifications needed. Finally, you’re one step closer to deploying actual production workloads to the cloud!

Production workloads are obviously the most important, but with the phased approach you’ve taken to increase your cloud footprint, it’s not that far of a jump from the other workloads you now have running in AWS.   Some of the important things to remember to be successful with AWS include being aware of the rapid pace of the technology (this includes improved services and price drops), that security is your responsibility as well as Amazon’s, and that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution.  Lastly, all workloads you implement in the cloud should still have stringent security and comprehensive monitoring as you would on any of your on-premises systems.

Overall, a phased approach is a great way to start using AWS.  Start with simple services and traditional workloads that have a natural fit for AWS (e.g. backups and archiving).  Next, start to explore other AWS services by building out environments that are familiar to you (e.g. DR). Finally, experiment with POCs and the entire gambit of AWS to benefit for more efficient production operations.  Like many new technologies it takes time for adoption. By increasing your cloud footprint over time you can set expectations for cloud technologies in your enterprise and make it a more comfortable proposition for all.

-Derek Baltazar, Senior Cloud Engineer

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedinmailrss

Psychology of Enterprise Cloud Adoption

As Amazon Web Services (AWS) continues to develop their enterprise adoption strategy, we sometimes forget that less than 10 years ago these services were created for the developer community. The vision for developing an enterprise-grade cloud infrastructure was only an apparition. This dream of running enterprise applications in the cloud is starting to take hold. Many years of ing, qualifying, and redesigning has led us to a time when enterprises have the choice to host more than a simple website in the cloud. Today, we are seeing this adoption take place right in front of our eyes based on a few simple human factors when it comes to trying new things. This physiological human factor is defining the way that we are consuming cloud technologies, and we are seeing it play out time after time in just a few simple steps.

Pre-Observation – In this stage, you have either never thought about needing to change your IT structure or you have never thought about it seriously. Trying something new often takes courage. You never want to be the first to try something for the first time for fear of failing. Often we receive ideas about things we might need to change from others—family, friends, co-workers—but react negatively by reflex. After all, we are usually quite happy with our current stable of habits (if we were not, we would not have them in the first place). However, if we can find a way to react more openly to change, we might find some value in learning something new. As Humans, we are inherently defined by our surroundings and we constantly review and evaluate our progress by the actions of others near us. At this point, you understand if you are a leader or a lager.

Observation – Here we have begun to actively think about the need to change a behavior, in this case adopting cloud services. This stage can last anywhere from a moment to an entire lifetime. What exactly causes us to move from this stage to the next is moving from awareness to practice. What causes this change can come from many different factors. They can include competition, survival, personal perception, growth, and the list continues. Everyone has their own motivational drivers, so it is up to each of us to understand them and react to them when we see fit. Trying new things can be very rewarding as it offers us an opportunity to develop into something better than our current state. Observe where you are and think if you are in a place to accept change.

Purpose – In this stage, we begin preparing ourselves mentally and even physically for action. This is our opportunity to place our preverbal stake in the ground and say, “Now we change.” The commitment to change energizes our promise to achieve a goal. This change away from our routine helps challenge us. It helps guide new opportunities and growth because we have alleviated our fear of change. This stage is extremely important for decision makers, as the commitment states that you understand all the facts, you understand a path for change, and it is measureable and achievable to your organization. In the case of cloud services adoption, this stage is also known as “The cloud migration strategy and adoption methodology”.

Action – In this stage, you start changing. You can feel this in every action you put forward. Business units, stakeholders, and executives feel the change happening with every move. It is uncomfortable, but it is leading your team in the right direction. Your commitment keeps driving you to stay the course, and you know that your earlier preparations will guide you to success.

Management – Now that you have changed to cloud based services, you are done, right? Not likely. Just like losing weight, once you lose it, you need to maintain a healthy lifestyle to keep the weight off. Once you have made the commitment to using cloud-based services, you need to maintain that change by reviewing our adoption processes. What worked well and what didn’t? What other units of your business could benefit from this change? Management of a new behavior can be the most challenging part of the adoption process. Changing habits and practices is tough because you will find resistance at every level. Constant evaluation will keep the adoption process moving forward successfully. This process will need to be executed from the top-down and bottom-up. You have just changed a process, now you need to change behavior.

Change is hard for any organization, let alone just one person. The larger the organization, the more challenging the process will be. However, the process will be more rewarding in the end as well because you were able to make considerable impact to the way processes are completed within your organization. You must be willing to take risk, and you will benefit from the reward.
-Blake Diers, Alliance Manager

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedinmailrss

Resisting Cloud: The Human Factor

The human factor of IT embracing the cloud must always be taken into consideration.

Cloud computing is causing IT to evolve from the back office to a catalyst for business transformation and company growth. When leaders such as the CIO communicate their desire to shift technology from on premise to the cloud, IT is generally scared to death. People fear change and the unknown. They immediately ask, “What does this mean for me?” “How will this impact my job?” These feelings can cause IT to see the cloud as a threat and resist the shift. Thus, the human factor of IT embracing the cloud must always be taken into consideration.

CIOs and other IT leaders must be clear with their teams on their desire to shift from leveraging technology on premise to the cloud and the why behind it. CIOs must understand that some people will jump onboard quickly; others will jump onboard over time; and some people will not want to work this way and will never jump onboard. As a consequence, IT leaders must commit to having a lot of conversations with team members to gain buy in. IT leaders must always be sincere and work to demonstrate understanding with their people; otherwise, they will do more harm than good.

For example, job security is often the top issue. If you are an Exchange administrator, you spend half the day ensuring email is working. What happens when the company moves to a hosted solution? The CIO can communicate the desire to allow iPhones and the need to learn mobile device management, which is far more interesting and valuable than watching email go across the server. The CIO could have a similar conversation with a system administrator moving into dev/ops (supporting stable software to enabling rapid deployment of stable software).

Smart providers know that the human factor of consuming cloud must always be taken into consideration, especially with IT departments at the start of their journey. While establishing a compelling business case – solution, ROI, payback, etc. – is table stakes, there is also often a need to arm IT leadership with the messaging and tools to help guide their teams through the change management process.  That is, not losing their job, but doing a different job; shifting from undifferentiated work to high value activities. How the status quo is the real risk.

-Josh Lowry, West Coast GM

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedinmailrss

Enabling Growth and Watching the Price

One of the main differentiators between traditional on premise data centers and Cloud Computing through AWS is the speed at which businesses can scale their environment.  So often in enterprise environments, IT and business struggle to have adequate capacity when they need it.  Facilities run out of power and cooling, vendors cannot provide systems fast enough or the same type of system is not available, and business needs sometimes come without warning.  AWS scales out to meet these demands in every area.

Compute capacity is expanded, often automatically with auto scaling groups, which add additional server instances as demands dictate.  With auto scaling groups, demands on the environment cause more systems to come online.  Even without auto scaling, systems can be cloned with Amazon Machine Images (AMIs) and started to meet capacity, expand to a new region/geography, or even be shared with a business partner to move collaboration forward.

Beyond compute capacity, storage capacity is a few mouse clicks (or less) away from business needs as well.  Using Amazon S3, storage capacity is simply allocated as it is used dynamically.  Customers do not need to do anything more than add content and storage, and that is far easier than adding disk arrays!  With Elastic Block Storage (EBS), these are added as quickly as compute instances are.  Storage can be added and attached to live instances or replicated across an environment as capacity is demanded.

Growth is great, and we’ve written a great deal about how to take advantage of the elastic nature of AWS before, but what about the second part of the title?  Price!  It’s no secret that as customers use more AWS resources, the price increases.  The more you use, the more you pay; simple.  The differentiators come into play with that same elastic nature; when demand drops, resources can be released and costs saved.  Auto scaling can retire instances as easily as it adds them, storage can be removed when no longer needed, and with usage of resources, bills can actually shrink as you become more proficient in AWS.  (Of course, 2ndWatch Managed Services can also help with that proficiency!)  With traditional data centers, once resources are purchased, you pay the price (often a large one). With the Cloud, resources can be purchased as needed, at just a fraction of the price.

IT wins and business wins – enterprise level computing at its best!

-Keith Homewood, Cloud Architect

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedinmailrss

What is CloudTrail?

Amazon Web Services™ (AWS) released a new service at re:invent a few weeks ago that will have operations and security managers smiling.  CloudTrail is a web service that records AWS API calls and stores the logs in S3.  This provides organizations the visibility they need to their AWS infrastructure to maintain proper governance of changes to their environment.

2nd Watch was pleased to announce support for CloudTrail in our launch of our 2W Atlas product.  2W Atlas is a product that organizes and visualizes AWS resources and output data.  Enterprise organizations need tools and services built for the cloud to properly manage these new architectures.  2W Atlas provides organizations with a tool that enables their divisions and business units to organize and manage the CloudTrail data for their individual group.

2nd Watch is committed to assisting enterprise organizations with the expertise and tools to make the cloud work for them.  The tight integration 2nd Watch has developed with CloudTrail and Atlas is further proof of our expertise in bringing enterprise solutions that our customers demand.

To learn more about 2W Atlas or CloudTrail, Contact Us and let us know how we can help.

-Matt Whitney, Sales Executive

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedinmailrss

Disaster Recovery on Amazon Web Services

After a seven-year career at Cisco, I am thrilled to be working with 2nd Watch to help make cloud work for our customers.  Disaster recovery is a great use case for companies looking for a quick cloud win.  Traditional on-premise backup and disaster recovery technologies are complex and can require major capital investments.  I have seen many emails from IT management to senior management explaining the risk to their business if they do not spend money on backup/DR.  The associated costs with on-premise solutions for DR are often put off to next year’s budget and seem to always get cut midway throughout the year.  When the business does invest in backup/DR, there are countless corners cut in order to maximize the reliability and performance with a limited budget.

The public cloud is a great resource for addressing the requirements of backup and disaster recovery.  Organizations can avoid the sunk costs of data center infrastructure (power, cooling, flooring, etc.) while having all of the performance and resources available for their growing needs.  Atlanta based What’s Up Interactive saved over $1 million with their AWS DR solution (case study here).

I will highlight a few of the top benefits any company can expect when leveraging AWS for their disaster recovery project.

1. Eliminate costly tape backups that require transporting, storing, and retrieving the tape media.  This is replaced by fast disk-based storage that provides the performance needed to run your mission-critical applications.

2.  AWS provides an elastic solution that can scale to the growth of data or application requirements without the costly capital expenses of traditional technology vendors.   Companies can also expire and delete archived data according to organizational policy.  This allows companies to pay for only what they use.

3.  AWS provides a secure platform that helps companies meet compliance requirements due to easy access to data for deadlines that is secure and durable.

Every day we help new customers leverage the cloud to support their business.  Our team of Solutions Architects and Cloud Engineers can assist you in creating a plan to reduce risk in your current backup/DR solution.  Let us know how we can help you get started in your journey to the cloud.

-Matt Whitney, Cloud Sales Executive

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedinmailrss