3Sep/110

Fighting “Database Sprawl” in the Cloud

cloud-computing-maze

A few months ago an interview was conducted with Jignesh Shah, a recognized expert on running databases, especially PostgreSQL, in virtualized environments, including VMware.

At that particular point in time Jignesh had just completed a number of closed door sessions at PgEast 2011 in New York.

While a number of points were discussed in the interview, he also offered some general comments on which hosting platforms a database developer should focus his attention on, especially in the context of virtualization and cloud computing technologies. Here is an audio excerpt of that interview:

He also hinted that there were some exciting new developments being discussed at VMware for virtualizing databases. And, in the last 72 hours VMware crystallized its public solution to improving and managing database performance in the cloud by announcing a new Database-as-a-Service (DaaS) called vFrabic Data Director.

The first database supported on Data Director is VMware vFabric Postgres, a new offering from VMware based on and fully compatible with PostgreSQL. Fully ACID and ANSI-SQL compliant, PostgreSQL is an enterprise class database, with a long history of mission-critical customer adoption and support from a vibrant open source community.

We have written about the ascendency of PostgreSQL in two recent blog posts, MIT paper says “Databases-in-Virtual Machines offer limited scaling" and Apple Drops MySQL in favor of PostgreSQL.

Jignesh called the VMware announcement "moving out of stealth mode" on his personal blog and confirmed that "vPostgres will be only available for download as part of vFabric Data Director. However there is a vPostgres Service available on CloudFoundry.com for Cloud Applications. It is free for use by all applications that support the Cloud Application programming which includes Java, Ruby, node.js in CloudFoundry.com."

The product is a direct assault on enterprise "database sprawl", designed to to tackle the proliferation of under-managed, under-secured and even unknown databases across the IT organization.

Via a web-based portal, developers will be able to leverage vFabric Data Director for self-service access to a broad range of database services to serve their specific needs.

Built on VMware vSphere, vFabric Data Director integrates with resource management capabilities in vSphere, optimizing resource utilization and reducing overall operating costs.


According to VMware, vFabric Data Director will be available for download in Q3 2011 at a list price of $600 per virtual machine for databases managed by vFabric Data Director. vFabric Postgres is available in conjunction with vFabric Data Director free of charge for non-production use and $1700 per virtual machine for production use.

28Aug/110

Inside scoop into choosing a cloud hosting provider

cloud-provider-tips

Not all roads that lead to a cloud server are paved in gold. When making the decision to migrate in-house servers to a web hosting company which provides private or public cloud servers there are some golden rules to follow.

Rule #1: Start slowly, finish strongly

If you are currently heavily invested in onsite physical server infrastructure take small steps to test and confirm the benefits of a cloud infrastructure. Most experts agree that fringe non-mission critical applications are prime candidates for migration, especially to a public cloud consumption model. The ability to tap on-demand resources using a utility pricing model is a great way to test your apps in a cloud model before considering more drastic server consolidation that can save you further Dollars (or Pounds) in the future.

Rule #2: Customer Support is VI-TAL

If your considering a cloud model to drive your business apps or to help with server consolidation you have probably read (or experienced) some nightmare stories relating to web hosts that were unable to deliver regular, top-notch support when customers really needed it. Make sure your host offers 24/7 support, 365 days per year backed by experienced engineers.

Rule #3: Demand technical qualifications

24/7 Support mentioned in rule #2 is not enough. Good support requires good training and a company policy of fostering high standards. Probe your web host to find out what certifications and accreditations the host has obtained or is pursuing. These could include ISO 27001 and ISO 9001 certifications. If they employ VCP qualified engineers and VSP qualified staff this indicates a strong technical and engineering pedigree which backs up the VI-TAL support promise.

Rule #4: Cloud diversity

In recent whitepapers we have outlined some of the key characteristics of private and public clouds within the IaaS, PaaS and SaaS layers of cloud computing. One way to identify a cloud provider with real firepower is to find out if they offer both virtual dedicated servers (VDS) and virtual private servers (VPS). While many hosts out there tend to blur the lines that distinguish these two models as part of their marketing hype, they are not the same. Further, many hosts may offer one version, but not both. Virtual Internet offers both VDS servers (built on top of VMware software) and VPS servers utilizing Xen OnApp server technology. This diversity shows a strong cloud backbone and the ability to meet a large cross-section of customer requirements.

Rule #5: Seek maximum uptime

Make sure you choose a web host which demonstrates good uptime. If there is some Act of God and the hardware fails or goes down, make sure your host has an agreement in place to help with hardware replacement. These include processors, RAM, hard disks, power supplies, motherboards and network cards. Also inquire upon how they have set up their emergency maintenance plans that could affect the uptime of your network.

One last thing…

We could have made this a rule, but saved this as a concluding remark to drive this point home: Make sure your cloud host offers flexible and custom SLAs to complement the points above. No two customers are the same, although they may share some common challenges. A reputable web host will be willing to work with you to draft a SLA that matches your company roadmap and gives you piece of mind.

25Aug/110

Google Patents hints at new cloud computing inventions

Google Patents

Google patents offers fascinating insights into coming inventions for cloud computing. Here are five patents we uncovered that may influence cloud services in the future, including IaaS, PaaS and SaaS.

MOBILE TERMINAL SERVICE

The Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute has submitted an application describing a mobile terminal connected to a cloud service that delivers a cloud app to the phone and toggles services based on the way the user has set up his local phone environment and OS.

Read more in Google Patents

GEOGRAPHIC CLOUD COLOCATION SERVICE

This patent application by Microsoft describes systems, methods, and computer storage media for geographically organizing the storage of data and hosted services in a distributed computing environment.

Read more in Google Patents

SURVIVING AN ELECTROMAGNETIC PULSE (EMP) ATTACK

We could call this war games in the cloud. This patent describes a method of processing data to survive an EMP attack "wherein a sub-plurality of said geographically distributed distal select content data stores are operated in a cloud computing configuration."

The system further processes data to geographically distribute the data with data processes including: copy, extract, archive, distribute, and a copy-extract-archive and distribute process with a sequential and supplemental data destruction process

On a side note read this parallel article we posted a while back called NATO Sends War Games Into The Cloud

Read more in Google Patents

VMWARE BACKUPS IN THE CLOUD

Since we offer VMware as both private and public clouds, we could not resist highlighting this patent, which describes systems and methods for backing up applications executing on a virtual machine (VM). Three individuals put this one together and summarize it this way:

The method comprises submitting a first notification to a remote computing system to prepare an application running on a virtual machine for backup, such that application data consistency is maintained during the backup process; receiving a second notification from the remote computing system, indicating that the application is prepared for backup; creating a snapshot of the virtual machine in response to the second notification; and receiving application data from the computing system to process the snapshot and complete an application-specific backup for the virtual machine.

Read More in Google Patents

WEB BROWSER OPERATING SYSTEM

This patent submitted by the University of Washington uses Linux and Xen Cloud virtual machines to create a trusted software layer on which the web browsers execute. The virtualization layer allows publishers to exercise damage control cutting out 87% of traditional vulnerabilities present in conventional web browser environments.

Read more in Google Patents

26Jun/110

E-commerce surges in the United States

e-commerce-in-cloud

The recent launch of Virtual Internet in the United States, offers a moment to pause and consider activity in the U.S. online e-commerce sector.

This is one arena that is perfectly suited for cloud computing, allowing enterprises to quickly scale up or down during seasonal spikes in activity.

According to U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, the world does an estimated $10 billion of business online, including:

• Consumers pay their utility bills from their smart phones;
• People download movies, music and books online; and
• Companies, from the smallest local store to the largest multinational corporation, order goods, pay vendors and sell to customers via the Internet.

The Internet Retailer reports that U.S. e-commerce sales spiraled upwards by nearly 15% between 2009-2010, with sales totals reaching $165 billion!

The estimates are based on quarterly surveys of more than 11k U.S. merchants conducted by the U.S. commerce department.

Meanwhile Comscore reports that about 50% of all computers and 30% of all consumer electronics brought in the U.S. are now purchased online.

Further, 31% of U.S. mobile phone subscribers or 72 million consumers now purchase online using their Smartphones. Between March 2010 and March 2011 people visiting an online store from a mobile device increased by 90%. This is a staggering increase.

Being constantly connected, means consumers are also now decreasing time spent in stores, even for perishable items. According to Comscore, 12% of Internet users say they have bought grocery items online.

The E-Commerce Times reports that the average America credit cardholder carries 3.5 credit cards, which they are using to buy both large-ticket and small-ticket items. In short, this growing reliance on credit cards by consumers demonstrates the importance of protecting these numbers.
This makes the PCI DSS standards developed in collaboration between MasterCard, Visa and American Express a critical goal for all merchants involved in rising e-commerce activity.

“All merchants and service providers who store, process and transmit credit card information must undergo quarterly self-assessments as well as audits (vulnerability scans) by an Approved Scanning Vendor (ASV) in accordance with PCI DSS Scanning Procedures,” said The E-Commerce Times.

One interesting point brought up in the article centered on broad system protection, not just for databases, but other tools such as Sharepoint sites that house spreadsheets and documents containing sensitive data.

Bloomberg news reports that in 2010, "companies lost about $37 billion to online fraud or theft, and 8.1 million U.S. adults had their identities stolen."

Further, the same report suggests that the U.S. government plans to spend $56.3 million on technology aimed at safeguarding the online marketplace and those who operate in it, including consumers, businesses and government agencies. We recently published an interview with UK-based PalmTree which offers LiveEnsure, a cloud-based SaaS mash-up authentication service, which goes beyond traditional token-based services. Expect to see this technology become more prevalent over the next few years.

Research agencies predict that 80% of all e-commerce activity will be done in the cloud by 2020 which raises concerns regarding protecting data in virtualized environments spread over multiple locations.

And, security was the focus on recent guidelines released by the PCI DSS Standards body which sought to clarify security issues in virtualized environments that form the basis of cloud computing. Read the latest PCI DSS Standard's update here!

With powerful, secure data centers delivering private and and public clouds to enterprise customers, Virtual Internet puts a premium on meeting ISO 9001 and 27001 standards, all designed to protect and safeguard your data.

Our United States cloud centers are officially open for business!

5Jun/110

Are you hip to Virtualisation and the Cloud?

cartoon-cloud

Check out these fun, introductory videos which illustrate the evolution of virtualisation software and its use in the cloud computing business and operating model.

Virtualisation is the software underlying on-demand cloud services, allowing enterprises to consolidate several servers into one.

By the year 2020, 80% of all computing is expected to take place within the cloud. Currently service providers are aggressively positioning new private and public cloud offering to enterprise customers within the Iaas, PaaS and SaaS layers.

Generally, clients have the option to move forward with entry-level VPS services or consume more powerful IaaS platforms which offer network admins root access to the underlying server.

The utility pricing model of a cloud allows an IT manager to incrementally migrate on-premise datacentre servers (and apps) to remote web hosting companies at lower price points.

The ability to scale up and down on services simplifies datacentre operations and contributes to agile software development.