Archives for : March2013

Could Cloud-Based Virtual Desktops Infrastructure Die Before It Ever Takes Off?

Virtual Desktops Infrastructure (VDI) is the one of the hottest trends in the enterprise computing space.

By replacing physical machines with virtual desktops, you greatly reduce maintenance costs and security risks, while also extending the useful life of existing hardware and enabling employees to access their workplace desktop from home or from any device. And in the event that a laptop is stolen, a Virtual Desktop will help ensure that no critical data is lost or leaked. And finally, a Virtualized Desktop Infrastructure can help lower the increasingly costly electric bills associated with running computers.

Unfortunately, VDI is only accessible to larger companies with large IT budgets. The costs associated with network infrastructure, server hardware, and licensing are still too high for budget-sensitive businesses. But these costs will surely drop in the future.

Of course, we all know what the solution is. The market is currently waiting for the introduction of cost-effective cloud-based Virtual Desktop Infrastructure services to emerge. Although a few managed service providers have begun offering VDI, the costs can still be significant due to the same infrastructure and licensing challenges that made it expensive to implement in-house.

However, another important trend has emerged within the past few years which may effectively cut down cost-effective cloud VDI before it ever gets a chance to take off.

Mobile computing and tablets have taken off in popularity in recent years. And – on a lesser note – so has the popularity of Linux. It’s expected that 5% of all PCs sold will ship with Linux within the next year, and this doesn’t include the millions of Linux-based consumer electronics sold every year. So now, we’re seeing the emergence of mobile workers wanting to access their data on Android, Windows, Mac, Linux, and other operating systems.

As a result, demand for platform-independence has emerged  as consumers and workers are increasingly become accustomed to web-based interfaces which can access and manipulate their information from any location.

  • Email
  • Calendars
  • Chat
  • Project Management
  • Databases and Software Development
  • Spreadsheets
  • Word Processing
  • Photo Editing
  • Invoicing
  • Presentation
  • Video Editing

All of these are examples of applications which used to run as installed desktop applications, but now also offer an in-browser web-based option.

Although the quality of these applications can’t yet match the performance and functionality of the established software leaders, developers are hard at work in a race to catch up. And as Internet bandwidth becomes more accessible and RAM continues to become cheaper, we’ll begin to see web-based apps overtake installed software.

In addition to this, these cloud-based applications will benefit from added functionality which can only exist in a cloud-based delivery model.

And I’m not the only one that thinks this Microsoft is currently moving in this direction with Office 365. And in the future, most custom business applications will be designed with web-based interfaces in mind.

So this brings up an interesting question. Once employees can access all proprietary systems, collaboration and communication systems, and productivity applications through a web-based interface, what else would you need a Virtual Desktop for? It really doesn’t leave much else.

IaaS, PaaS and SaaS. What’s the difference and why are they important?

These days, it’s almost impossible to read any kind of technology publication without coming across the word “cloud computing” multiple times. Often, these cloud discussions come mixed up with strange acronyms such as IaaS, SaaS, PaaS and others.

My aim in this piece is to clarify some of the leading “aaS” acronyms you may come across.

SaaS – Software As A Service

The most common form of cloud computing would be Software-as-a-Serivce, or SaaS.As the name would imply, Software-as-a-Service is (usually) software that doesn’t need to be installed on your local machine. Instead, you access a remote system which hosts the software for you.

In essence, any interactive web site could technically be considered a SaaS application.  When you access Gmail, you don’t get access to the Gmail source code and you don’t need to install Gmail on your computer. You simply access a web site, log in, and start using the application.

Video players – which formerly had to be installed – were replaced by YouTube’s SaaS video player.

Although “ideally” SaaS should never require local software installations, you may sometimes need to install a “client” which serves as an interface to the remote server which performs most of the work. For example, you may need to install a small application to access a Virtual Desktop Interface which resides on a remote server. In this context, even your web browser could be considered a client application which must be installed to access your SaaS apps.

The important thing to keep in mind with SaaS is that the critical functions of the service are performed on the SaaS company’s remote servers.. and not on your local machine.

Today, there is a growing preference amongst developers to release business productivity applications through browser-based interfaces. This ensures that systems can be accessed through any OS, whether Windows, Linux, Mac, Smartphone or Tablet.

PaaS – Platform As A Service

Platform-as-a-Service is a slightly more complicated embodiment of cloud computing which is more suited to developers. In its essence, PaaS providers host development environment featuring a number of libraries and tools which can be used to develop and deploy custom cloud-based applications. PaaS simplifies development by eliminating the need to host and manage the underlying infrastructure which supports custom applications.

IaaS – Infrastructure As A Service

Infrastructure-as-a-Service is one of the fastest-growing flavors of cloud computing within the business space. It is also based on a very simple concept, which has wide-ranging implications and benefits for IT administrators.

Most servers today are hosted in “virtualized” environments. In other words, a single server may contain dozens of software-based “virtual machines” which trick the operating system in to believing that it resides on physical hardware. Virtualization offers a number of core advantages in terms of efficiency, cost-saving, disaster recovery and deployment. (But that’s a discussion for another article)

With the IaaS model, you simply host a virtual server in a remote third-party datacenter in the same way that you would host a virtual machine on your own hypervisor inside of your datacenter.

IaaS is attractive to small businesses because building your own server room can be expensive, and these IaaS facilities have lots of features which would simply be cost-prohibitive for smaller companies.

Larger companies also like IaaS because it allows them to obtain temporary on-demand capacity in the event of a sudden short-term spike in systems requirements. This is a much more cost-effective option than simply purchasing new hardware to fill a temporary need.

And there we have the 3 main flavors of cloud computing: IaaS, SaaS and PaaS. You’ll see other versions of this acronym such as BaaS, CaaS, DaaS, FaaS, ect… but these are usually more of a marketing ploy than anything else. If you break it all down to its essential elements, most “aaS” acronyms can be placed intro one of these 3 broad categories.

How to Leverage WAN Optimization for High-Performance Cloud Services

Driven by agility and convenience benefits, companies around the world and across all market sectors are in some phase of moving their business applications to the cloud. Many of those that have taken the plunge have experienced significant cost savings and productivity gains; however, some have also experienced the performance and availability issues inherent in many public cloud offerings. As a result of performance concerns, organizations have delayed migrating business-critical functions to the cloud in favor of testing the waters with applications and services that are not essential to the organization.

As the public cloud IaaS market continues to evolve, providers are beginning to recognize the need to increase performance levels by adding enhanced computing capabilities to their offerings. One area that these providers have turned their attention to in particular is the wide area network (WAN). The WAN is the foundation of any globally connected cloud service offering, enabling cloud providers to speed-up the time of data transfer between locations. With WAN optimization embedded as part of the cloud provider’s infrastructure, data transfers run faster and more efficiently, delivering consistent service levels to all cloud service consumers. This helps cloud users overcome the latency and bandwidth constraints often associated with public cloud services.

While some cloud providers allow organizations to install their own virtual WAN optimization client on a virtual server to optimize traffic and performance, it is more efficient to place WAN optimization between cloud data centers to transparently accelerate traffic for enterprise users. By having WAN optimization integrated into a cloud platform on a global scale, the speed of transfer between locations is optimized, resulting in efficient throughput. Additionally, by using compression, caching and optimizing network protocols (TCP, UDP, CIFS, HTTP, HTTPS, NFS, MAPI, MS-SQL) and databases (Oracle 11i and 12i), organizations can experience a more dramatic improvement in performance.

With a core that is optimized for acceleration, organizations can speed the process of migrating their data and applications to the cloud. This performance enhancement is particularly critical for resource-intensive enterprise functions such as database replication, file synchronization, backup and disaster recovery between data centers. When evaluating cloud services today, it is important to ensure that WAN optimization capabilities are offered as part of the core service and not provided as an add-on service with an additional charge.

Although WAN optimization is a key part of the equation, another key component when it comes to ensuring the performance of any cloud offering are SLAs. A strong SLA should include provisions around uptime, response time and latency guarantees. When it comes to uptime, the network and servers should be up and running more than 99% of the time. Response rates to any emergency incident should be less than 30 minutes, and latency should be less than one millisecond (1ms) for the transfer of data packets from one cloud server to another within the same cloud network. Organizations negotiating cloud contracts should make sure strong SLAs are part of the service.

As companies begin to tap into cloud offerings that seamlessly integrate WAN optimization, they should immediately realize significant increases in application performance while at the same time streamlining operations, improving performance visibility, reducing the overall cost of IT infrastructure – and most importantly, delivering on the business and technology promises of the cloud.

About The Author: Yogesh Rami is the senior director of the cloud solutions business unit with Dimension Data

Having the Enterprising Mindset

The mind is a powerful aspect of our body. It is the key ingredient in establishing a successful business and thriving career. It is also the secret factor in creating an attractive public brand that automatically attracts opportunities and clients.

In relation to enterprising, the enterprising mindset refers to the capability to completely focus on the opportunity and possibility to focus on every current situation, and take action as fast as possible. The success of productive professionals as well as industry moguls is often fuelled by the efficiency of enterprising mindset.

What Enterprising Mindset Does

Having the enterprising mindset allows an individual with the enterprising skills to completely rebound from failures by means of influencing lessons that are learned, and implementing lessons into projects and programs. It is an idea of the society needed to continuously and consistently propel action to produce success.

Without the right enterprising mindset, there will be a waste of energy and time lamenting on what has not happened. Therefore it is very important to have the ability to see different possibilities. This includes opening your mind to opportunities. There should also be the ability to focus on things. Setting focus and goals in accomplishing goals can work a long way.

 

Personal Commitment

Along with enterprising mindset, it is very important to have the commitment to discipline. Some businessmen create a schedule for themselves and sticking strictly to it. There should also be a good surrounding which reflects positive energy. Success if often restricted or propelled with the people around you. Therefore, it is very important to surround yourself with positive people and experiences.

You also need to be relaxed, not thinking too much of pressure surrounding you. Have time for yourself. Do things that you want to do, such as playing online gambling at www.cosmiccasino.org and other hobbies that you may want to engage in. Study the lives of people who can become your role model. Identify people who have also reached success in your particular area of interest.

It is also very important to have decisive action. Success often results from good action. It is also helpful to have a strong and solid foundation of faith. Many times, a strong faith and confidence would do the trick in making sure that a healthy enterprising life is possible. In the end, this will become a very rewarding endeavor.

 

Emerging Tech: External Solid State Hard Drives

Understanding External Hard Drive Components

For quite some time, people with PCs have had the option of using an external hard drive to enhance their computer’s storage capabilities and to provide a backup for their important data. Of course, technology continues to advance, and a new kind of hard drive has made its way onto the scene, gaining in mainstream usage. Solid state drives (SSDs), available for both internal and external needs, have been around for a while, but only recently have they begun to gain more popularity. When contemplating what kind of external drive is right for your needs, it can be helpful to understand some of the main differences between SSDs and traditional drives.

Mechanical Differences

Though they do share common features, SSDs have some fundamental functional differences from traditional hard disk drives. Both pieces of tech are, of course, data storing devices that can hold data even when the device is not plugged in. However, whereas hard disk drives use electromagnetic spinning disks and movable parts, SSDs do not. This lack of moving parts makes an external hard drive with solid state tech less susceptible to physical trauma and mechanical failure and accounts for several other contrasts.

Speed Divergences

In general, SSDs work faster than do traditional drives, so if you need your external hard drive to be capable of high speeds, then a solid state external drive may be right for you. Let’s break it down: SSDs tend to start up quicker (within a few milliseconds) than traditional drives because they do not have those mechanical parts, which usually require a bit of time to start turning—a few seconds in most cases. SSDs also get you your information faster because random access time is lower and data transfer happens at speeds on par or greater than traditional drives.

Noise Distribution

Those moving parts in hard disk drives produce some noise while they are moving, as can the fans used to cool these devices. By contrast, a solid state drive’s lack of moving parts makes this device virtually silent. Incidentally, no moving parts also mean that SSDs create less heat and can withstand higher temperatures than traditional drives, even without fans to cool them off.

Fragmentation Discrepancies

If your external hard drive is a solid state device, then fragmentation becomes a negligible issue. Fragmentation is the process by which a storage device becomes less able to lay out data in sequence and is due, in large part, to files being rewritten. SSDs often suffer from very little fragmentation and don’t need to be regularly defragmented like hard disk drives do in order to keep performance levels up, meaning that you will have more usable storage space available.

Conclusion

Differences between mechanical parts, speeds, noise, and fragmentation are just a few of the disparities between an external hard drive with solid state technology as compared to a traditional hard disk drive. As you learn more about these devices, you will see that there are others, including a price jump.  As you might conclude from the points above, SSDs tend to be much more secure than hard disk drives, but their higher cost might not justify your need to simply increase your computer’s storage space. Unless you absolutely cannot afford to lose the data you plan to store, carefully consider the cost to benefits ratio when deciding whether or not solid state drives are right for you.

About The Author: Jared Jacobs has professional and personal interests in technology. As an employee of Dell, he has to stay up to date on the latest innovations in large enterprise solutions and consumer electronics buying trends. Personally, he loves making additions to his media rooms and experimenting with surround sound equipment. He’s also a big Rockets and Texans fan.

Start Your Cloud Journey with a Cloud Readiness Assessment

startingAs a CIO, you’re probably in the early throes of determining how best to move to the cloud.  You may have taken some preliminary steps such as using some SaaS offerings, done a small proof of concept, maybe even moved a function like test/dev to the cloud – but now you’re feeling the heat to embrace the cloud in a more substantial way.  Before taking the plunge, there are a myriad of activities that need to be considered and steps that need to be taken to ensure that any move you make will ultimately be the right one.  Take heart, as you are in good company with what you are facing.

Get Off on the Right Foot

Step one in any cloud journey should be a Cloud Readiness Assessment (CRA) where you do a frank evaluation of your actual level of cloud readiness (basic, moderate, advanced or optimized) compared to your desired level, determine a timeframe to achieve this, and the steps you need to take to get from A to B.  Without undertaking an initiative such as this, you are basically adopting a “hit or miss” approach as opposed to implementing a well thought out and actionable strategy.

Today, most companies are in the basic to moderate level of readiness, and most have a goal of moving to an advanced level of readiness over time.  In addition, most companies will admit they are not prepared when it comes to how to move to the cloud and could use help moving forward.

When undertaking a CRA, it is important to ensure that key business owners are included in the process.  While IT should lead the process, key personnel from the business side of the shop need to be involved to truly “legitimize” the process.

Your Current Level of Readiness

There are two key activities that should be carried out as part of a CRA.  The first is identifying your current level of cloud readiness. This is accomplished by evaluating your organization from four perspectives. Two are focused more on the business side of the shop – business alignment and organizational change, and two are associated with IT – infrastructure readiness and applications and workloads. Within each of these categories, there are five to six attributes that need to be assessed, rated against standard definitions of readiness, and then totaled to come up with a score for each category.  As an example, within business alignment, key attributes include strategy, finance, sourcing, compliance, metrics, and culture, while within infrastructure readiness, key attributes include network, virtualization, security, storage, backup/DR, efficiency/agility, and communications.

It is important to note that I use the term “standard” above rather loosely as there is no industry standard that has been established for cloud readiness, just fairly consistent definitions that have been put forward by companies that provide tools and/or consulting services for determining cloud readiness.

Your Future Level of Readiness

Once you have determined your current state, you are ready to go through the evaluation process again with emphasis on the future state – where you want to be in the short and longer term.  As was done when determining current state, you will use the “standard” definitions of cloud readiness to determine future state.  Once this is done, you will be in a position to build a preliminary roadmap focused on closing the delta from where you are today to where you want to be tomorrow. Activities and deliverables will need to be prioritized and broken down into monthly increments.

Moving to the cloud can seem like a daunting task, especially since many organizations don’t have the knowledge or resources to figure out where to start and how to ensure that all of the necessary business and technology related factors are taken into consideration. However, with a solid CRA plan enterprises’ migration to the cloud can be smoother, faster and deliver the expected benefits.
About The Author: Geoff Sinn is the principal cloud consultant for Dimension Data Americas.

Image Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/1flatworld/3249911962/

The Taboo Danger of Cloud Computing

tabooCloud computing has been a godsend for the IT industry. Delivering applications in a hosted model does away with maintenance, hardware and licensing costs…. and makes it much faster and easier to launch and provision new services.

Cloud-based applications also provide rich access to collaboration features and API data feeds in a way that would’ve been impossible with stand-alone installed software. And in the case of browser-based SaaS software, applications can be accessed from anywhere – including tablets, smartphones, desktops and laptops – meaning that employees are mobile and empowered.

But there is one major risk which comes from cloud-based applications… and it’s particularly accplicable to Software-as-a-Servicee applications such as Gmail, Salesforce and others.

One of the most promoted benefits of SaaS applications is the ease of purchase and deployment. Anyone with a credit card can set up and launch their own CRM, ERP, email server, accounting system, collaboration suite, etc…

But I would argue that – rather than being a benefit – this is actually a very serious flaw which could have disastrous consequences for many companies.

With traditional IT deployment models, there was centralized control over every aspect of information management within the company. It would be impossible to create a new server without the involvement of IT.

But the reality today is very different. Any marketing manager with a credit card can set up a Salesforce account and implement a web server with ecommerce capabilities. And they can do it without the knowledge of IT or any other key people who should normally be involved in the process. This is simply a recipe for disaster.

  • What happens if the ecommerce system – although completely secure – is implemented in an insecure and non-compliant way by this marketing manager? This could lead to a major privacy breach which could put the company at risk of a major lawsuit?
  • And what happens if this marketing manager needs to be fired? They’ve spent years compiling valuable, critical and irreplaceable customer information. Now, they’re the only ones with the passwords. When they leave, they could potentially take the entire company down with them.

Cloud computing is great, and its benefits are substantial. But for Software-as-a-Service to truly provide value, it must be delivered in a secure way.

This means maintaining tight and appropriate controls over all information assets owned by the company. The company needs to set strict policies in place which forbids employees from using cloud services without explicit permission from those in charge of information governance within the organization.

If the IT department can’t have administrative control over a cloud application, then it should not be used. IT should have centralized insight, and the ability to easily close or lock any user accounts on applications being used for work purposes.

Otherwise, you run the risk of having a rogue employee run off with critical business information… and possibly misusing these critical resources. A single serious incident would be all it takes to put your company out of business.

Image Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/beau-daph

Survey looks at the growing mobile device market and how companies can profit from it

With more and more people relying on their mobile devices to shop and access information, companies that have mobile-ready websites and apps that consumers can easily download are experiencing a plethora of new revenue stream opportunities.

In this arena, companies have the ability to reach consumers to market and sell, inform, solve problems and provide necessary support for everything from billing to product usage.  Overall, the explosion of the mobile device market has given companies a quick and convenient way to provide excellent service.

A 2011 Zokem Survey Study found that 82.2 million Americans own and use smartphones, and a little over 40 percent of these have downloaded apps.

Almost half of the consumers taking the survey said they use mobile apps 10 times a day or more, which opens a world of possibilities for companies prepared to engage in this arena.

What do these numbers mean in terms of total time?  The survey revealed that consumers average more than 660 minutes per month using apps on their smartphones.

In terms of popularity, Apple devices won out, with Android and Blackberry coming in second and third.  Apple is dominant with almost 500,000 apps that can be downloaded.  Android has about half as many with Blackberry trailing significantly.

How important is it for companies penetrating the mobile device market to have well-working apps?  Very.  The survey found that over 50 percent of users, when faced with a broken app, will get rid of it and forget about it.  About a third of respondents said they would just go to the website in this case.  Just three percent would actually follow up with customer service.

With so many options, it’s clear that most consumers are not as loyal as some companies might think they are.  This is why it’s critical for mobile apps to be user-friendly, full of the features consumers want and built to work.

The advantages with these kinds of apps are huge.  The Zokem survey found that, overall, nearly three-quarters of consumers have either made purchases or sought help with purchasing issues through a mobile app.  This shows that huge numbers of people are poised to buy on the go.

Apple users are more prone to purchase this way than those who use Blackberry.  Eighty-one percent of Apple users buy through mobile apps, while just over 60 percent of Blackberry users do.

In summary, the mobile device market is growing and showing no sign of slowing down.  Smart companies can significantly increase their opportunities for customer service and sales and build greater brand loyalty if they provide consumers with access to mobile apps that work right and make communications easy.

About The Author: Doug Thomas is a freelance writer interested in advanced technology and call center service outsourcing.

Pros & Cons Of Cloud Storage

Businesses are definitely moving more towards the cloud for their business needs, especially for data storage. The cloud platform offers convenient and efficient access to storage space, which would otherwise have been difficult for any business to mobilize. However, as with any other technology, the cloud is not without its own set of disadvantages. Before opting for this technology, it is important to understand the pros and cons of storing data in the cloud.

Pros of cloud storage

  • Cost effective: The biggest advantage in favor of outsourcing your data storage needs to cloud hosting service providers is that you save a lot of money. With cloud services, you can avoid investing in expensive storage equipment and you save money by not having to hire specialists to maintain your data and equipment. Moreover, you also free up your existing resources to concentrate on growing your business.
  • Convenient and easily accessible: Businesses can enjoy extremely convenient and easily accessible storage solutions which were not possible with traditional solutions. In other words, you do not have to go through the trouble of creating or maintaining storage space for your data. Moreover, you can access your data, even when on the move, and from anywhere.
  • Quick recovery: When you opt for a certified data center, you can rest assured that your data is safe against any disaster. Cloud disaster recovery plans are very intricate and are often designed to have impressive recovery time objectives (RTO).

Cons of cloud storage

  • Security concerns: While everything is definitely advantageous with cloud hosting services, the most important concern is that of data security. Given that you are sharing space with other companies and that you have less control over who accesses your data, security could be a concern for those looking into cloud storage for the first time. However, when you choose a certified data center with a private cloud solution, you can rest assured of complete security of your data.
  • Bandwidth limitations: Another disadvantage is the bandwidth you get allotted for your data. You can overcome this problem by choosing a cloud hosting company that gives you close to unlimited bandwidth.

Despite the disadvantages of cloud storage, it is still the best and most cost effective way to ensure that your data is stored conveniently. Of course, it is important to choose a good cloud storage provider that meets all of your business needs.

About The Author: NetPulse Services is a leading provider of Canadian Cloud Hosting services.