Archives for : October2011

How Will Cloud Computing Affect IT Careers?

Cloud computing is no longer just an industry fad. It’s here to stay, and it’s not going anywhere for a long time.

But if you work in IT, what will this mean for your career? How will your job change? How should you prepare?

That’s a question that I’d recently asked to some of the leading minds in both the HR and the technology fields. And what they had to say might make you reevaluate your career strategy going forward.

The cloud is a step towards efficiency and overhead reduction. IT jobs will be migrated more than eliminated. Instead of maintenance teams at individual organizations, there will be individuals at individual organizations interfacing with maintenance teams on the other end, as necessary. The cloud providers will still require an IT staff.

Additionally, with the cloud still emerging, IT workers have a relatively unsaturated market for entrepreneurial ventures in cloud-interfacing software and IT efficiency applications.

Tilak Joshi from Columbus Technologies and Services

How should IT workers prepare?

Ironically, I think IT workers should begin to look to work for themselves as consultants and contractors. With the coming wave of cloud computing, there will be less of a need to have in-house IT departments and that could result in leaner IT budgets. Start preparing now to go into business for yourself so that you can supply expertise to more than just one company at a time.

How will the role of IT be different?

Less face to face interaction. With things being remote, there is a strong chance that higher level issues can be outsourced to contractors with cloud/VPN access and lower lever (T1, T2) support functions can be handled by in-house or third party desk side support techs. Either way, I don’t think there will be room for too many IT professionals in one spot. They will begin to look like the old Maytag Man, bored with nothing to do.

Joey V. Price from Jumpstart:HR

When utilizing the cloud, you eliminate that demarcation point, and still manage everything from the premise, even though it resides in the cloud, all with a user login and password. This eliminates the finger pointing and allows the IT staff to have more control of the company’s resources. Instead of working late during the week or on weekends when everyone else is already at home or enjoying their weekend, you won’t have to sit on the phone with different vendors, trying to work out issues. With the cloud, you work with one service provider who can give you the flexibility that you should already have.

IT professionals should start preparing themselves to convert their enterprise IT infrastructures into private and/or hybrid clouds, to take on the role of provisioning cloud services for end users and business partners.

A public cloud serves multiple companies while a private cloud serves a single company. However, generally they are never one or the other. Usually, it’s a hybrid cloud, a mix of private and public clouds talking to one another. Hybrid clouds allow IT professionals to be more effective in their roles and better manage vendors as opposed to fire fighting, but no matter which model comes into play, cloud computing and its impact will vary depending on your job role and your company’s business.

Louis Hayner from WVT Communications Group

As businesses move their supporting infrastructure to the cloud, there may be little or no need for onsite support of physical systems, however, the need to manage the applications will still be necessary depending on what type and quantity of cloud services an organization buys. Temporarily, while some businesses are still shifting to the cloud, IT personnel will be required to develop migration strategies and to ensure that applications are compatible and properly ported to cloud resources.

Higher adoption of cloud for Platforms, Software, and Infrastructure is going to introduce new IT governance paradigms. These paradigms may exist in a non-cloud environment at subtle levels but will assuredly become more apparent the more an organization adopts the cloud. The reasons for this are actually simple and they center on having the ability to identify cloud services that meet business requirements in a manner that is flexible, efficient, and secure. Equally if not more importantly, the ability to evaluate a cloud offering against a set of business and technical objectives and be qualified enough to determine if the offering will preserve the efficiencies gained by investment in the cloud (i.e. will not introduce additional management or operational burdens, degrade the user experience, or pin the business into a corner or other sense of dependence).

The evaluation and selection of cloud providers and services should not be a function of the Finance or Procurement departments, but rather a collaboration between those parties and Architect-level technologists who possess the ability to visualize what the business needs in a cloud provider and the levels of service and performance required by the user population.

The best people for these roles are the top internal IT people; those who have spent considerable time serving the user community and are in touch with what the business needs and expects out of IT. These people are going to come from nearly all levels of IT and organizations that are looking to make significant investments in the cloud should begin identifying and grooming those within the IT department that can see the long term vision and where they fit in beyond the internal corporate data center.

Kris Domich from Dimension Data

The cloud has arrived and businesses must begin strategizing on how they will train IT professionals to manage and maintain such a diverse virtual and cloud-based environment. In order to leverage today’s technologies, businesses will have to begin by hiring or re-training the right kind of people who are open to connecting external and internal services to drive business solutions with sensible governance. Yesterday’s need for system administrators whose only role is lower-level functions is gone and we now need IT staff who better understand how IT aligns with business goals. What we now need are IT teams who are able to find out the best available solutions for each individual company. IT is currently being challenged to prove its worth. Job descriptions will change and we simply must think about tomorrow, today.

Harry Labana from AppSense

Cloud computing is changing the expectations on IT, but IT is struggling to change itself to meet those expectations. Tomorrow’s enterprise needs to be responsive and transparent with the services IT can deliver.  Give the internal teams the same experience they can find externally, show the cost of a resource or service, allow it to be delivered on-demand, and make it simple to access and consume.  This, of course, is easier said than done.  But in the absence of this IT model, more applications will continue to be built and consumed via off premise clouds.  I’ve heard that adding automation and centralizing functions is concerning to many IT professionals, as it may impact their job.  Of course in these times, that’s a concern.  But if there is less to manage because more is outsourced, the end result of fewer IT people on the inside might still hold true.

To move IT forward, show your personal value and drive efficiency, consider how to automate or centralize your function, get out of the low-value,  tedious admin role and start to align as a strategic advisor to the businesses that consume application resources.  Help them get the experience they want, with the security and pricing the business needs, on or off premise. That makes you more valuable, helps the business unit be successful, and drives a better bottom-line, everyone wins.

Wendy Perilli from Abiquo

3 Leading Approaches To Server Virtualization

nestingSo you say your datacenter is starting to fill up with under-used boxes, power bills are getting unmanageable, maintenance is taking up too much of your time, and now you’re running out of server room space?

Looks like it’s time to consolidate those servers using virtualization.

But there are so many different approaches out there, and new virtualization technologies seem to come out almost every week. How do you know which approach is right for you?

That really depends on what you want to accomplish, and what kinds of servers you want to virtualize.

Thankfully – when it comes to server virtualization – most solutions can be classified into one of 3 broad categories:

  • Hardware Emulation Virtualization
  • Operating System Virtualization
  • Paravirtualization

Hardware Emulation

Hardware emulation is the most common and most easily explained type of virtualization. If you’ve ever tried to use a desktop virtualization program like Virtual Box to make another operating system run inside of a window on your desktop, you’ve already seen this concept in action. This just takes the same idea and applies it to severs.

With hardware emulation, the virtualization software actually creates an artificial hardware device with everything it needs to run an operating system. This way, you can have multiple servers running on a single box… each completely independent of the other.

The drawback with this approach is that you’re adding another heavy layer of software between the operating system and the hardware… so you will notice slower performance. But if you’re consolidating various under-used servers to save space and energy, this should not be so much of a concern.

Operating System Virtualization

Operating System Virtualiztion is made to serve just one specific function, but it serves this role very well.

Let’s suppose that you have 5 physical SQL database boxes with identical operating systems, each running at only 15-20% capacity.

If you were to place all of these servers onto a single machine using hardware emulation virtualization, you may run into performance problems because of the high overhead associated with running the hypervisors for each instance.

This would also be wasteful because you’d need to install the same OS 5 times, and pay the licensing fees for each instance.

With Operating System Virtualization, you install the virtualization software layer on top of the  operating system. All of the guest systems run on top of this layer using the same operating system as the host OS… but with each guest having its own resources and running in complete isolation from the other guest machines.

The main identifying differentiator for OS virtualization is the fact that every guest OS must be identical or similar to the host.

This is a cost-effective and efficient approach, but it’s only practical for certain situations. The most common application for this kind of virtualization can be seen in web hosts, where you have multiple operating systems running on a single box or blade.

Paravirtualization

Because hardware emulation uses software to trick the guest OS into communicating with simulated non-existent hardware, this approach can sometimes lead to driver compatibility problems. (Although this is much less of a problem than it used to be)

Also, the extra layer of complexity created by this simulated hardware can be a real drag on performance.

Paravirtualization tries to fix these problems by allowing the guest operating systems to gain direct access to the underlying hardware. Instead of creating simulated hardware resources, paravirtualization acts as a thin layer which ensures that all of the guest operating systems share the system resources and play nicely together.

Many have compared paravirtualization to an air traffic controller for virtualized servers. This method is generally much more efficient than traditional hardware emulation virtualization.

As you can see, virtualization isn’t a generic, one-size-fits-all solution. The options and features are vast and rapidly-growing. Before you invest in virtualization, you need to consider how and why you will end up using your virtual machines. This will help you make smarter decisions for your datacenter.

Image Source:http://www.flickr.com/photos/johnkay/3539126525

Want To See How Businesses Will Use The Cloud In The Future? Look At How The Creative Industry Is Using It Today!

Not too long ago, maybe five or so years past, it used to be a vital part of life to make the commute to work, toil away for four hours, have lunch, toil away until the sun set, and drive back home just to do it again the next day. Work and office files were kept on separate hard drives and only accessible to people who worked at the office. Today, more and more companies are turning to services such as cloud computing and virtual offices in order to satisfy employees and cut down on costs.

Cloud computing allows people to enter onto a network and share files with each other. You can access your company’s stock of Excel Spreadsheets and update them from the comfort of Starbucks instead of the fluorescent jungle of the office. Designers can create web sites and print ads from a laptop at home and then visit the office when they want to gain input from the creative director. Instead of relying on the office to be the creative hub of the workplace, your employees can perform from where they feel most comfortable.

Tech companies such as ad agencies, enterprise SEO firms, and software developers are the easiest for employees to have an excellent work and life balance. Because they have been working on the Internet since its inception, new advances in technology are only making it faster and more convenient to perform office tasks. Some professions like teaching, accounting, writing, and design will see radical advances in the way employees view their offices.

Worker happiness will soar from the lack of office related stress. Things like the daily commute will be a thing of the past because of the ability to work from home. This will also save workers a lot of money because of the rising prices of gasoline and car maintenance products. Office workers will be able to purchase cars with their own thoughts in mind instead of being comfortable on trips from the exurbs to the urban commerce centers.

One of the biggest announcements for the telecommuting and work from home industry has been Apple’s introduction of the iCloud. The company that changed the way we consume media and communicate with each other is now trying to revolutionize the way we conduct our business. Sure, there have been companies before Apple that have tried to market their cloud services, but Apple’s genius marketing, well-designed products, and easy to use interfaces will set them far apart from the competition.

Office politics will also disappear because employees won’t be hesitant to speak their minds. Instead of a single person holding all of the sway, your employees will be free to speak their minds and contribute opinions and ideas freely. A drama-free workplace is always the safest bet when it comes to work and a cloud computing system and work from home capabilities leaves all of the conflict and emotions at home where they belong.

You can even view the office as more of a social gathering place than a center to work from. In order to attract more talented and free-thinking people to your company, you can advertise the fun loving nature and laid back atmosphere of your office. Your place of work will be considered a haven for creativity instead of a drudge factory where people are trapped eight hours a day.

Ryan Sandberg is a blogger with a passion for entrepreneurship, efficiency and ice hockey. He enjoys sharing his opinions/findings on finance, marketing, entrepreneurship and current tech trends.

10 Ways Virtualization Will Affect Your IT Career

It may seem hard to believe, but there once was a time when the use of computers was strictly the domain of a few computer operators that worked in a back-room warehouse full of big noisy industrial boxes.  These were simpler times, before viruses, clueless end-users or teenage hackers.

Then, came the introduction of personal computers.

Suddenly, everyone in the company had access to their own box. As a result, the role of the IT department was completely changed.

  • The IT department had to track PCs, laptops and licences.
  • The IT department was in charge of training end-users how to use their computers.
  • The IT department had to worry about network, information and computer security.

Instead of using the machines themselves, the role of IT now consisted of supporting and assisting end-users.

This was over 30 years ago, and much has changed since then. The rapid growth of virtualization adoption – along with other new trends such as cloud computing and teleworking – are about to once again revolutionize the role of the IT worker.

Here are a few of the ways that the role of the IT department will change within the next few years:

  • As a result of server consolidation, the amount of time devoted to hardware maintenance work will fall dramatically. Instead of relying on physical hardware, virtual servers rely on pooled resources which are provisioned though the hypervisor.
  • Thanks to virtual appliances, IT administrators won’t need to spend time installing and configuring new servers. Instead, they will purchase and launch pre-configured packages that run perfectly out of the box with virtually no additional configuration.
  • Because of mobile computing, end-users will want to work from multiple locations and multiple machines. This means that IT departments will no longer need to support or fix laptops or desktops. Instead, companies will implement a “Bring Your Own PC” policy and the end-user will be responsible for purchasing and maintaining their own computers.
  • As users begin to work from multiple machines (ex: Laptop at work, tablet on the road, and desktop at home) there will be a trend towards centralization of applications. Companies will increasingly rely on web-based SaaS apps that can be accessed from anywhere, and end-users will log into remote virtual desktops which can be securely accessed from any machine.
  • Thanks to cloud computing and mobile computing, the Internet will soon become the primary corporate network for every company. As a result, network security will become much more important and more challenging. The importance of network security will also become apparent as the number of web-enabled devices increases, causing a larger potential attack footprint.
  • The corporate office will dissolve and become more fragmented. It will soon be common for companies to have dozens of employees – who’ve never met each other – spread out all over the world.  You will also begin to see an increase in the number of outside consultants requiring access to internal systems.
  • As hardware maintenance, software maintenance, and end-user support take up less IT time, a larger portion of IT time will be devoted to more strategic IT functions. These include things such as optimizing performance, capacity planning or proactively taking action to anticipate and prevent future problems.
  • Rapid growth in power consumption and data storage will require a greater focus on resource efficiency and cost-control.
  • A web-enabled market and worldwide workforce will require IT support staff to work 24 hours per day.
  • There will be little change to routine IT maintenance work, except that this work will be confined to only a few giant machines instead of many small ones. Additionally, this the nature of this maintenance work will become more complex.

As a result of virtualization, today’s IT skillset will quickly become insufficient and obsolete. If you want to maintain a successful IT career, a skills upgrade is absolutely crucial. This could be said for any type of career, but it’s especially true in IT.

Critical Elements OF Data Availability

Since information is the life blood of most organizations, measures must be taken to ensure that this information remains accessible and useable at all times. When your servers suddenly shut down, everyone panics. Customers start to look for new suppliers, employees stop producing and reputations get tarnished.

Information availability is more than just backup. It involves a maintaining a number key attributes which are critical to the accessibility and usability of this information.

Quarantine and Isolation

If your systems are being attacked through a hole in the security, you should have a plan in place to quickly plug the hole or isolate the damage so that it doesn’t affect other systems.

Data Recovery Processes

Once primary data storage has been wiped out, how fast can you get the data back from a secondary source? Different types of data have different levels of criticality, and high-priority data should usually be recovered first and with the tightest recovery points.

Data Protection Procedures

How often do you back up your data? If you back up too often, you could end up with long backup windows and expensive backup storage and handling costs. But if you back up too little, you increase your data loss risk since recent data is usually much more critical than older data.

Point-In-Time Recovery Capability

How many historical versions of your data do you keep on file? Can you roll back the clock to yesterday, last week, thirty days?

And what about archival backup copies? Can you go back several years if you had to?

Data Integrity

What processes are in place to ensure that the data within your files and databases is authentic? If a virus, hacker or other malicious entity went in and altered your corporate information – such as modifying salaries in the payroll system or adding a new unauthorized user account – it could potentially have very serious effects on your business.

This may not seem like an availability issue, but data that’s invalid is data that’s inaccessible.

Worst-Case Scenario Plan

You must plan for quick action in any conceivable situation ahead of time. An emergency or crisis is no time to improvise. If all of your plans fail, what is your fall-back?

I used to work for a company that had gone to the effort of creating paper versions of all their internal systems. If all of their IT systems should go down, they could keep running at limited capacity using only a pen, a telephone, and a series of pre-printed forms.

Mirroring and Replication

For your most critical systems, you should consider having replicated copies of your servers at a remote datacenter. This way, you can switch over very quickly in an emergency.

Until 2 or 3 years ago, this was a very expensive option which was only available to large companies. But cloud computing has made it cheap and accessible to small and medium businesses.

Privacy and Confidentiality

You may not think of data privacy as something which affects data availability. But privacy and confidentiality have a huge impact on our ability to use certain kinds of data.

A poker player’s hand is an important piece of information. But if his hand is revealed to the other players, then that information becomes completely unusable.

Maintenance, Review and Testing

You should have all of your information handling policies and emergency procedures in writing. These plans and documents should be reviewed at least once a year to make sure that everyone knows their roles and obligations, and employees should be asked to sign documents confirming their understanding and acceptance.