Is the cloud failing or are you?

The cloud is not failing. That’s the good news. Now for the bad.

Many people complain about the mess their cloud usage has become and how cloud sales people did not tell them to read the small print. As a business, whether for profit or a non profit you need people in charge with a reasonably amount of intelligence and a drive to push the organization forward, not just themselves.  You can not take the easy way out, pocket your pay check and let the “details and annoying technicalities” to your employees. Basically you’re saying “screw you” to them so don’t be surprised when that works both ways. If your cloud projects are failing is due to the same reason your other IT projects were failing. You’re doing it wrong.

In a world of political correctness, this is going to sound harsh. But that’s not the problem. The problem is that you as a business, a manager, a “leader” are failing. You are failing and you’re incapable of dealing with that fact. Because it hurts your sensitivities. Well you are hurting your employees, your customers, your future.

Way to many cloud (private/hybrid/public) projects are done as “self service” or minimal effort projects. There is no design. There is no expertise, experience, knowledge, context or a deeper understanding of the systems, their interactions, capabilities and needs. In this commodity world it just has to work. Nothing just works. Deal with it. If you don’t put value on the above that’s how things end up.

Cloud project in many environments look way too much like a classic house where they bolted on new fashioned extensions without a clue about how to do what they were doing. By doing so they ruined the roof, the wiring, the isolation, the functionality and livability. It’s leaking, it’s rotting the house and fungi rule the realm.

You did not get what you paid for but you get exactly what you value: nothing.

It’s not that you don’t spend ridiculous amounts of money. You outsourced all your in house capabilities and expertise and on top of that you’re are paying 3 to 5 times too much for services and “consultants” that have been on your payroll for decade. You don’t even even have the capabilities in house to realize the above anymore. If you do they probably have gone into hiding. You buy over priced shit on a daily basis and are told it’s great and what the industries best practices dictate.

The fallacy that IT, which is the cloud and nothing but the cloud for many today, is nothing but a commodity that has to work out of the box at the cheapest possible price is making you fail. But how could that be?  After all it’s just computers in the cloud so you don’t even have to hook up the power and a cable any more. No? These almost absurd simplifications that are in play here are totally pushing aside knowledge, experience, skills, a continuous educational effort. The end result, excellent service to your business and / or customers, dies a thousand small deaths in collateral damage.

You’re deploying cloud solutions without planning, coordination, design, governance, responsibilities, skills and what not. You’ve lost control over your (cloud)  IT. You’ve lost control over the data, the access, the backups, disaster recovery, the accounts of the service subscription, everything. These are the essential parts of a functional, maintainable, cost effective and supportable IT environment. This will bite you hard, deep and will perhaps bleed you to death.

This is not the cloud failure. It’s you. If you go about “old school” on premises IT the same way the failures are there as well. So you hate the solutions you pay way too much for, you hate the lousy service and the lack results. You get shafted every day.

The easy fix you come up with is just more of the same. More consulting, more work and responsibility avoiding, more meetings, task forces, more multi year over sized super projects that are doomed to fail because there a more than enough people to take your money form idiots.

How is this possible? Because I way too many places criticism has been banned and died. Meanwhile in that political correct always peaceful and quiet environment real damage is done to people as talent, motivation, money and value is destroyed along with a better future. No one in those places has any skin in the game as you risk more by doing your job than by watching the place go to hell. Good luck!

To any one else: there are real experts out there that can really help you. All you have to do is value results, your business and your clients.

Azure Done Well Means Hybrid Done Right

If you think that a hybrid cloud means you need to deploy SCVMM & WAP you’re wrong. It does mean that you need to make sure that you give yourself the best possible conditions to make your cloud a success and an asset in the biggest possible number of all scenarios that might apply or come up.

DC1

Cool you say, I hear you, but what does that mean in real life? Well it means you should stop playing games and get serious. Which translates into the following.

Connectivity

A 200Mbps is the absolute minimum for the SMB market. You need at least that for Office 365 Suite, if you want happy customers that is. Scale based on the number of users and usage but remember you’ll pinch at least a 100Mbps of that for a VPN to Azure.

Get a VPN already!

Or better still, take the gloves off and go for Express Route. Extend your business network to your cloud and be done with all the hacks, workarounds, limitations, tedious & creative yet finicky "solutions" to get thing done. I guess it beats living with the limitations but it will only get you that far.

Any country or business that isn’t investing in FC to the home & cheap affordable data connectivity to the businesses is actively destroying long term opportunity for some dubious short term gain.

So without further ado, life is to short to do hybrid cloud without. It opens up great scenarios that will allow you to get all the comforts of on premise in your Azure data center such as …

Extend AD  & ADFS into Azure

Get that AD & ADFS into the cloud people! What? Yes, do it. That’s what that good solid VPN between Azure and on premises or better still, Express Route enables. Just turn it into just another site of your business.  But one with some fascinating capabilities. DirSync or better Azure Active Directory Sync will only get you that far and mostly in a SAAS(PAAS) ecosystem. Once you’ve done that the world is your oyster!

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Conclusion

So don’t be afraid. Just do it!  People I have my home lab and it’s AD connected to my azure cloud via VPN! That’s me the guy that works for his money and pays his own bills. So what are you as a business waiting for?

But wait Didier, isn’t AD going away, why would I not wait for the cloud to be 100% perfect for all I do? Well, just get started today and take it from there. You’ll enjoy the journey if you do it smart and right!

“Your cloud, your terms”. Well that’s true.  But that’s not a given, you’ll need to put in some effort. You have to determine what your terms are and what your cloud should look like. If you don’t you’ll end up in a bad state. If you have good IT staff, you should be OK. If they could handle your development environment & run your data center chances are good they’ll be able to handle “cloud”. Really.

Consultants? Sure, but get really good ones or you’ll get sold to. There’s a lot of churning and selling going on. Don’t get taken for a ride. I know a bunch of really good ones. How do I determine this? One rule … would I hire them Winking smile

Load Balancing In An Ever More Demanding Virtualized & Cloudy World

We’ve been using the Kemp Loadmasters for many years now and they have served us very well. You might know that Microsoft Azure has a partnership with Kemp technologies to provide full featured load balancing in your public & hybrid cloud solutions. I pretty happy with that as when talk about load balancing with Microsoft we always end up discussing the need for more features and layer 7 support. I sometimes jokingly tease them that this is due to their Windows NLB legacy. While I have done some magic with that, it is way too limited for today’s (and yesterdays) demands and needs. Also the hacks they use to get it to work can’t be used in network virtualization. In the cloud Microsoft has the Azure Load Balancer. Whilst nice when combined with availability sets many of the current workloads need more. That’s exactly what the KEMP Virtual LoadMaster for Azure delivers in their partnership with Microsoft:

  • Layer 4, Layer 7 Load Balancing
  • Layer 7 (or Cookie) Persistence
  • SSL Offload/SSL Acceleration
  • Application Health Checking
  • Adaptive (Server Resource) Load Balancing
  • Layer 7 Content Switching
  • Application Acceleration: HTTP Caching, Compression & IPS

To me (and many other IT Pros) Kemp is the company that opened load balancing up to everyone on this planet with budget friendly but high value solutions. They took away the barrier to better & more capable load balancing for the masses. Furthermore they keep improving and I have seen many existing customers, including me get ever more benefits with the newer firmware releases, even on their entry level, older models like the LM2200 that are not for sale anymore. So you can keep using them or move them to the lab. They have great support and respond very quickly to vulnerabilities like Heartbleed, Shellshock and Poodle.

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Another benefit of this partnership is that we can use the load balancing solution we know and trust in all our environments: on premises (physical or virtual appliance), in the cloud & at our hosting companies. Partner ships with OEMs ensure that you can use the hardware you prefer (the DELL R320 is a nice example) and their Virtual Load Master now even extends into the cloud. So our options are to …

… deploy an appliance …

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…  virtualize the LoadMasters …

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… leverage Kemp in the cloud

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…. or select your own preferred OEM …

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They cover all our bases with that line up and it helps with operational ease & efficiencies.

As I’m investigating some scenarios with KEMP LoadMasters in a Hyper-V environment (on premises, multi sites, Azure IAAS & Multifactor Authentication you can expect to see some blog posts on this. Some of these will leverage technologies available in Windows Server vNext (Technical Preview). Lot’s of very interesting ideas to support high availability & flexibility that are affordable and not just point solutions.

Ah the joy of being in virtualization is that one gets great exposure to storage, networking, cloud solutions and on premises. The experience & knowledge of the entire stack isn’t just fun (yes working can be fun) but it is also what allows to build great solutions.

Is there longevity in Private & Hybrid Clouds?

This blog is just thinking out loud. Don’t get upset Smile

Private & hybrid clouds demand economies of scale or high value business

Let’s play devils advocate for a moment a look with a very critical eye at private & hybrid clouds. Many People are marketing, selling and buying private & hybrid clouds today. Some of us are building them ourselves, with or without help. Some of us even have good reasons to do so as it makes economical sense to do so. But for many that do it or consider doing it that might not be the case. It depends.

Why are so many marching to the beat of those drums? It’s being marketed as great, it’s being sold as what you need and that’s what makes money for many people. But one can say the same of Porsches, but chances are you’re not buying those as company cars. Well it’s perhaps a bit like VDI. If you have a use case that’s economically sound, design and implement it well, it will serve your needs. But it’s not for everyone as it can be expensive, complex & restrictive.

You want your cloud to be this:

AZurenice

Not this:

cloudnasty

To get great results you’ll need to do more than throw your money at vendors. So what’s the real motivation to do private/hybrid clouds for companies? If the answer is “well so many people are doing it, we can’t ignore it”. Well not doing something is not ignoring it, it’s a valid choice as well. And what others do isn’t relevant per definition. You need to know what you do where and why to make plans & choose technologies to achieve your goals. Think about what you do. When does a private/hybrid cloud make sense? How big do you need to be? What kind of delta should you have to make this worth while, i.e. how many VMs do you deploy per week? How many do you destroy each week?  What economies of scale must you have to make it wise? What kind of business? What are your pain points you’re trying to solve? What are you trying to achieve? Private clouds today are not void of complexity and there a are few abstraction layers that are at the quality/functionality level they need to be at.

My biggest concern here is that too many companies will build expensive, complexes private & hybrid clouds without ever seeing the return on investment. Not just because of the cost, complexity but also because they might not be very long lived for the use cases they have today. Many see these as transition models and they are great for that. The question is how good are you at transitioning? You don’t want to get stuck in that phase due to costs of complexity. What if the transition lasts to long and you complete it when public cloud has evolved into services that wipe away what the reasons your TCO/ROI was based on?

Note: as cloud means everything to every one you could call doing on premise & Office 365 + backup to the cloud also hybrid. So in that case Hybrid is a better fit for many more organizations.

Things are moving fast

Cloud offers are increasing at the speed of light and prices are dropping in free fall. While some say that’s a race to the bottom, it’s not. This is an all out battle which is raging to grab as much market share as possible. When the dust of this settles who’ll be left? Google, Amazon and Microsoft. They’re not loss leaders, they have a purpose and only they know the financial picture behind their solutions.

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From there they’ll defend a fixed and entrenched position.  Where will that lead us? Stalemate and rising costs? Or a long term tug of ware where mutual assured bankruptcy will make sure prices won’t rise too much … until some game changing event that breaks it all open. For many people IAAS is still (too) expensive and non of the cloud vendors seem to run a profit, all this at ever lower prices. Sounds like a price hike will be in order once the market shares have been grabbed. But have people really calculated the cost of on premise? Can one compete? Or is the benefit of on premise worth the cost? Oh and I take on premise as being anything that even resembles racks in local or regional data centers running a cloud stack on it for you. Now I have to admit that in my region of the world most cloud hosters are not on a level of professionalism & scale like they are in the Nordics for example.

SAAS, PAAS, IAAS

That’s my order of preference actually. I think SAAS & PAAS are the areas where cloud really shines. IAAS can be a great solution for many needs but I don’t see it as ready yet a a whole sale replacement of on premise.  While many offerings in IAAS are not perfect yet and there are many blocking issues to be solved there is a lot of value in the cloud when you do it right for your needs. If you have a very modern and optimized IT infrastructure IAAS can feel like a step back right now but that will change in the right direction over the next 2 to 3 years I think. And as during that time frame you start using SAAS & PAAS more en more I which means improved IAAS will be able to cover (all?) your remaining needs better. Again, you need to things that deliver fast or you run high (financial) risks.

Intersecting fields of fire

In this race at light speed,which cloud vendor is best? If you want and need to have all bases covered I think it’s reasonably safe to say Microsoft holds the most complete port folio from IAAS, PAAS, SAAS & Cloud storage. They’re now throwing in MPLS networks (http://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/services/expressroute/)  to tie it into hybrid scenarios which should take last century VPN technology out of the picture. Some more standardization in network virtualization, flexibility and capabilities would be welcome as well. But in the end will it matter? People might choose based on possible use cases or capabilities but if you don’t need them that’s a moot point. They become commodities you buy from a few players, I just hope we like our cloud dealers a bit better than we do our energy and telecom providers. Nobody seems really happy with those. But as a buyer I like the idea of having options, as the saying goes “I’d rather have it and not need it than need it and don’t have it”.

Now MPLS s coming what else is missing? A storage gateway / proxy in IAAS

One of the biggest issues in airlifting the entire on premise infrastructure into the cloud is the legacy nature of the applications in combination with the high cost of IAAS (VHD) storage and the limitations compared to what you can do with VHDX on premise. That’s probably an artificial licensing decision bit what can you do? What we need to alleviate this is a REST based cloud gateway to present storage to legacy apps in IAAS while storing the data in Azure blob storage. It’s a bit of a cludge as we’’ just love the fact we can get rid of pass through, vISCSI, vFC thanks to (shared) VHDX. Why do I think we need a solution? Apps have a very long (too long?) live time and it would speed up cloud adoption big time. Just dropping the price for virtual disk storage would be the easiest path to go but I don’t see any indication of that.

The lure of being in the cloud is big but bandwidth & latency in combination with storage costs is keeping people from going there when it comes to so many “legacy” on premise applications. There is a fix. Put everything in the cloud where is is close together and where bandwidth and latency can become a none issue. We need affordable storage and a way for legacy apps to handle object based storage. The fact that the new StorSimple offering has an azure appliance doesn’t really help here as it’s tied to on premise and it’s iSCSI to the guest in IAAS. Not that great is it? For now it looks too much like on boarding to Azure for non MSFT shops and people who are way behind the herd in modern technologies. At least for the environment I work in. Physical server are there to host VMs, so no StorSimple. Other physical servers are point solutions (AD, Exchange or specialized software that needs more hardware access than virtualization can supply). Again, no StorSimple target.

I cloud, you cloud, we cloud

Building and maintaining a data center is loosing it’s economic edge fast. At least for now. I’m not saying all data center or even server rooms will disappear but they’ll reduce significantly. The economics of public cloud are to attractive to ignore. Private and hybrid clouds cost money on top of the cost of running a data center. So why would you? Sure, the cost of cloud isn’t cheap but there are other reasons to move:

  • Get rid of facility management of data centers and server rooms. It’s a big issue & cost.
  • Power/cooling needs. The big cloud players are rapidly becoming the only ones with a plan when it comes to developing an energy plan. Way more innovative & action driven then most governments. They’ll have way better deals than you’ll ever get.
  • Infrastructure costs. Storage, networking, compute, backup, DR, licensing … the entire life cycle of these cost a lot of money and require talent.
  • Personnel costs. Let’s face it. Talented people might be a companies most valuable resource in HRM speak, but in reality they’d love to get rid of a much of that talent as possible to maximize profits. The only reason they employ talent is because they have to.
  • The growth in compute & storage in the cloud is humongous. You’ll never keep up and compete at that level. It was said recently Moore’s law has been replaced by “Bezo’s law’’ http://gigaom.com/2014/04/19/moores-law-gives-way-to-bezoss-law/

I’m going to make a bold statement. If you want/need to do cloud, you should really seriously consider spending your money in public cloud and minimize your investment in private/hybrid clouds. Go as directly to the future and try to keep your private/hybrid stack as simple and cheap possible as a transition to the public cloud.  Leverage PowerShell, SMA and for example Azure automation to manage what you leave on premise. I have my doubts about the longevity of private/hybrid clouds for many organizations and a such investments should be “optimized” => cheap & easy to replace. So unless you have a real big business case for wanting to keep on premise and can make that economically feasible, it’s not your goal, it’s a transition tool. If you’re a huge enterprise, an agency involved in national security a hosting company or Switzerland you can ignore this advice Winking smile. But I see no one rushing to buy RackSpace?

Security, Privacy, Concentrated Power?

What about security, privacy, vendor lock in? You have to worry about that now as well, and you’re probably not that good at avoiding it on premise either. Switching from Oracle to SQL is not an easy feat.  Cloud companies will have a lot of power due to the information they distill form big (meta) data. On top of that they’re set to be the biggest providers of compute, energy & if they buy some telecoms companies  even of data communications. More and more power concentrated in ever less players. That’s not desirable, but it seems that’s how it will play out. The alternatives cost more and that determines most of all what happens. The economies are too good to ignore.

Government clouds to mitigate risk?

I now also see the call to build government clouds. Often at various levels. Well for decades now, bar some projects, a lot of their IT efforts have been slow, mediocre and expensive. 400$ to lift & place back some floor tiles. Having to buy a spool of 2km fibre channel if you need 80 meter. 5000$ to answer a question with yes or no, a VM that costs 750$ per month … (1000$ if you want a backup of the VM). 14 days to restore a VM from backup … abuse & money grabbing are rampant. Are these people going to do private cloud and compete? Are they any better at securing their infrastructure than Amazon? Is on premise encryption any better than in the cloud? And even if it is, it’s only until someone pulls a “Snowden”. And who’ll build ‘m? Where are the highly skilled, expert civil servants after decades of outsourcing leaving them at the mercy of 3rd parties? Are they going to buy them away in an era of cost cutting? And if they could, can they use them, do they have the organizational prowess to do so? So they’ll be build by the same pundits as before? Outsourcing to India would at least have been “the same mess for less”, while now it’s the same mess for more.

Sheep, lemmings, wolves & a smart CIO

I see way to little strategy building on this subject and to much “comfort” decisions being made that cost a lot of money and efforts delivering not enough competitive advantages. The smart CIO can avoid this an really deliver on “Your Cloud, Your Terms”. The others, well they’ll all play their role …

Just some food for thought. But I leave you with another musing. 100% cloud might be a great idea but it’s like leasing or renting. There are scenarios where ownership still makes since depending on the situation and business.