Two Kinds of Cloud Infrastructure

I’m just getting around to writing about a terrific post by Rodrigo Flores over at GigaOm about SLAs and cloud infrastructure. Flores neatly articulates something that we have based nScaled on – the importance of the enterprise service agreement and SLAs in cloud, and the factors that make a cloud “enterprise grade.”

Flores starts by pointing out a classic mistake that IT teams make when comparing make-vs-buy decisions: they undervalue their own time, particularly with respect to ensuring that systems are dependable.

Recently, I received an e-mail comparing a customer’s internal storage costs to Amazon’s. Of course, Amazon seems to be cheaper based on a pure gigabyte comparison. But it was a flawed analysis because it didn’t include the service level promised, never mind guaranteed.

Back To School – Disaster Recovery Lessons

The past week and a half have brought us the trifecta of business continuity / disaster recovery (BC/DR) stories: Hurricane Irene, the San Diego blackout, and the 10th anniversary of 9/11. I’ll try not to belabor the point – stuff happens, and business need to be prepared – and instead highlight some of the more important lessons.

Lesson #1 – Disasters happen all the time

It’s unfortunate that our industry refers to “disaster recovery”. The word disaster sounds like something that happens rarely. In our normal lives, that’s true. But in technology, “disaster” has come to mean anything that causes the loss of a server (or more), or some data. And this happens all the time. Aberdeen reported a couple of years ago that more than 60% of business report having 1 to 5 “disasters” every year.

Lesson #2 – Disasters come from all directions

A simple breakdown of the causes of business continuity disruptions:

Backup is NOT Disaster Preparedness

I just got done reading a survey report put out by Symantec on the topic of SMB disaster preparedness. It stated what I think most of already know, that something like 50% of small and midsize businesses (SMB) don’t have a disaster plan. This is a terrible state of affairs, and I applaud Symantec for highlighting the issue with the report.

Much less laudable was Symantec’s recommendation for how SMBs can address the gap. As I read, and then re-read the report to be sure, I realized that all the advice had to do with performing backups of data, and said nothing about doing real disaster recovery.

I’m not surprised, of course – as far as I know, SYMC sell backup software but do not offer any DR solutions. So a piece of marketing collateral like this survey report is bound to support what they sell.

It’s Not a DR Plan If You Don’t Test It

There’s a fine story by Jacob Gsoedl over at SearchDisasterRecovery.com called, “Disaster recovery in the cloud explained” that makes for good reading.

Gsoedl provides a good overview of matters. I would like amplify one topic that I think deserves more emphasis than Gsoedl provides – testing.

As one of our customers recently put it to me, “You don’t actually have a DR plan if you haven’t tested it.” Meaning, you can spend all the time and money you want on a DR solution, but if you don’t test it, then you won’t really know if it works until you experience a disaster. And that’s a lousy time to learn for the first time what gremlins there are in your failover, runbook and failback procedures.

Real Cloud Disaster Recovery & Beyond

There’s a good piece over at TechTarget today about disaster recovery in the cloud, a subject near and dear to our hearts at nScaled.

The writer, Joseph Foran, does a great job untangling some of the confusion about traditional offsite disaster recovery and DR in the cloud. The main issue that Foran addresses is how the use of virtualization by the DR service provider makes for a true cloud solution. The multi-tenancy and elasticity that virtualization provide drastically change the economics of DR for the provider and the customer. Careful over-provisioning lets the DR provider offer high, enterprise grade  SLAs for RPO and RTO at prices a fraction of what the traditional offsite disaster recovery providers can offer.

Why Our Partners Love the Cloud

We recently held our latest Partner Training Program event here at nScaled headquarters in San Francisco. We’ve been signing up new channel partners in the US and UK and it was time to get them together for a couple days of in-depth training – how to sell, implement and support nScaled cloud services.

We asked our partners to tell us, in their own words, why they had partnered with nScaled. In summary, their reasons were:

What’s Wrong with Backup?

At nScaled, we talk to a lot of businesses about backup. Backup-as-a-service is one of the solutions we provide through our hybrid cloud infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS). Customers have a lot to say about their current backup solutions, and not much of it is positive. We’ve tried to provide a backup solution that solves the problems that they cite.

It turns out that the IT teams we talk to are pretty representative of the big picture. Frustration with tapes is well known, but other problems remain, even with disk based backup:

Our fourth and final installment on the subject of Low Risk Adoption of Cloud Infrastructure for Enterprises

Selecting an Enterprise Grade Cloud Provider 

As we’ve seen, the reasons for a business to design and implement a cloud migration plan are twofold. First, the business needs to assess its own needs, resources and constraints in moving its IT operations to the cloud, and it needs to develop confidence in its ability to integrate and manage the cloud infrastructure. Second, the business has to choose a cloud infrastructure provider and develop confidence in the provider’s ability to perform. Vendors should be evaluated based on their architecture, support offerings, and strength of the contract/SLA. 

Hybrid cloud architecture

nScaled keeps growing in the UK

Michael Evans, nScaled’s Managing director for EMEA, writes…

We are pleased to announce the appointment of Duncan Appleby as our new Sales Engineer, EMEA. Duncan’s appointment is a response to the growing customer and partner driven momentum for nScaled in EMEA. Duncan was previously a Technical Architect with SJ Berwin, one of the twenty largest law firms in Europe, where he was responsible for their data centre infrastructure across their 9 offices. Duncan’s presence will ensure that nScaled have enough staff to handle the increasing demand for cloud infrastructure-as-a-service in Europe.

As a result of customer demand and in particular for hosted applications, we have recently established our second data centre in London with Equinix. The Equinix data centre is a tier 3 secure environment, is ISO 27001 accredited and importantly, it provides us with the scope to grow to meet our customer’s requirements.

Low Risk Adoption of the Cloud, part 3: Creating a Cloud Migration Plan

This is the third part in our series on Low Risk Adoption of Cloud Infrastructure for Enterprises. In this installment, we’ll look at how to create a cloud migration plan.

Once a business has assessed its reasons for migrating to cloud infrastructure, it needs to develop a roadmap for which parts of its IT operations it will move, and in what order. The first priority is to develop a plan that minimizes risk, including deciding how to evaluate vendors and their service offerings. The IT team also needs to determine what new skills, if any, they need to develop, especially in the area of vendor  management. 

Low risk offerings