Designing an Office for Collaboration and Culture

November 7, 2014
By Wendy White. Find Wendy on Twitter at @wendywhite.

Q&A with James Newkirk, CenturyLink Cloud VP of Engineering

This week CenturyLink will celebrate the opening of our Cloud Development Center in Bellevue, WA.  I sat down with James Newkirk, Engineering VP for CenturyLink Cloud, who anchored the team designing and overseeing the build out of the new Center’s space to get his insights on what went into the design.

Why did we select Bellevue, WA as the home of our new Cloud Development Center?

Seattle and its surrounding area are the growing center of the cloud universe. We know that if we want to tap into the growing talent pool of cloud computing experts and developers, the greater Seattle area is a great place to be.

We chose our new location in Bellevue for a couple of reasons.  First, as a nod to our heritage with Tier 3 which was founded and headquartered in Bellevue.  Secondly, was access to transportation – a lot of employees use public transport and our new location is close to the transit center.  Finally it’s very central to great restaurants – we wanted employees to have options to get quality food on lunch breaks or easy access to social outlets. We all know engineers like food.

It’s a...

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Hadoop Simplified: Managed Cloudera & CenturyLink Cloud

October 31, 2014
By Ben Brauer

Today we are excited to release six managed Cloudera Blueprints, the newest managed service in the CenturyLink Cloud big data Blueprints portfolio, which also includes Cassandra and MongoDB solutions.

The Apache Hadoop open-source project solves all sorts of big data problems, but for many it’s difficult to deploy and manage. Cloudera solves this problem by provisioning and managing Hadoop components in a manner that allows users to focus on their data sets. And now, with the CenturyLink Cloud Blueprint for Cloudera – a deployable configuration that brings the new environment online in a couple of clicks—users can take all of the complexity of Hadoop and shrink it down to one black, err blue, box:

Running Hadoop with Cloudera and CenturyLink Cloud combines simplicity, superior performance and flexibility, allowing businesses to utilize their data to drive innovation faster than ever before. By deploying Cloudera on CenturyLink Cloud, customers get all of the expected benefits of hourly pay-as-you-go self-service, agility, elasticity and governance. Given that the service is also managed, customers can also take advantage of software updates, patching and general cluster management. It’s an easy way for IT pros and database administrators to get their cluster provisioned and managed.

Making Managed Cloudera Easy

Automating a...

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CenturyLink Cloud and Open Source

September 27, 2014
By Jared Ruckle, Senior Product Manager. Find Jared on Twitter

On the heels of the opening of Cloud Development Center, it seems timely to revisit one of our founding beliefs: the embrace of, and contribution to, open source technologies.

We have seen open-source win in the enterprise again and again - especially as it relates to cloud computing and new web-scale architectures.  Why?

  • Many developers, rather than few publishers.  The creativity of the masses is fundamental to open source; with a diverse set of creators, a diverse set of technologies is the result.  Some of them are bound to stick.
  • No “innovators dilemma.”  While traditional vendors are focused on existing revenue streams, new players and individual developers are free to experiment without cannibalizing an existing product.
  • Low cost of failure.  Developers can download bits, and start experimenting.  If something doesn’t work out, the only loss is time.  With a licensing model, there are usually more complex business terms involved in even trying a new product or tool.
  • New business models focused on usage and support, not licensing.  The companies that have successfully commercialized open source tend monetize “customer success” and “win-win” scenarios instead of a multi-year licensing model that is likely to favor the publisher.
  • More options. Open source doesn’t always mean you are free from
...

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CenturyLink Expanding our Cloud Managed Services to the UK

September 21, 2014
By [email protected], or follow me: @jimbattenberg

Today we are pleased to announce one-click access to cloud-based managed services on the CenturyLink Cloud in the UK.

CenturyLink Cloud managed services provide automated provisioning of operating systems and applications – check the box when you need them, uncheck when you don’t – all billed hourly.  When paired with our easy-to-use cloud infrastructure, you get up and running quickly with the peace of mind you need from managed apps and operating systems.

Now customers in the UK or global customers using UK nodes can mix and match cloud-based managed services, public and private cloud, and even colocation – all under one roof. This suits enterprises who want to embrace hybrid IT as part of their cloud journey, as well as those who just want to leave legacy applications where they are for the time being, but have access to the flexibility of cloud infrastructure when they need it.

With this launch, customers can take advantage of the following services from our Slough data center: Windows and Red Hat Enterprise Linux managed operating systems, as well as managed applications Active Directory, Apache HTTP Server, Apache Tomcat, Microsoft Internet Information Services, Microsoft SQL Server and MySQL.

And, if you want even more assistance, our cloud...

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CenturyLink Cloud October Release: ‘Execute Package,’ SAML Options & a New UK Data Center

September 10, 2014
By Bryan Friedman, Senior Product Manager. Find Bryan on Twitter

Our latest platform release went live earlier this week. Check out the release notes. As usual, we’re focused on increasing automation, security, and flexibility. Here are a few of the highlights, along with some details that illustrate how users can take advantage of these new capabilities.

‘Execute Packages’ - Server Management using Automation

Cloud computing isn’t just about provisioning servers. You have to administer them too. Ideally, you could administer these servers in bulk, and avoid the pain of one-offs.

CenturyLink Cloud has several options to help you manage servers in bulk (groups, scheduled tasks, alerts, power operations, and more). But perhaps the most powerful solution available to users? The newly re-factored capability to execute Blueprint packages. With the latest enhancements to the Groups user experience, you can run a script package on any or all of the servers in a Group with just a few clicks.

CenturyLink Cloud includes several publicly available packages for customers to use. Need to install SQL Server? There’s a package for that. How about Active Directory? There’s a package for that too. Looking for the LAMP stack? Yep, there’s a package for that. You get the idea.

But best of all, you can create your own custom...

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DevOps Gets Physical (Office Space)

September 7, 2014
By Jared Ruckle, Senior Product Manager. Find Jared on Twitter

There’s no shortage of DevOps experts these days.  These luminaries are everywhere - blogs, social media, trade shows, you name it.  Most agree that DevOps best practices fall into three categories: People, Process, and Tools.

You can read all about those in this space, and elsewhere. But once you look past the slideware, the conferences, and the consultants – one question lingers.

What does DevOps look like in a workplace?

How do the principles of collaboration, instant feedback, cross-functional teams, and shared objectives actually come together in a physical office?

As we designed our new CenturyLink Cloud Development Center in Bellevue, a few delegates from the CenturyLink Cloud team had the opportunity to create the perfect environment for DevOps. And, to do it from scratch, with few restrictions.  After all, this Center was one of the major components underpinning CenturyLink’s acquisition of Tier 3 nearly a year ago.

So what are some of the results?

Team rooms, organized by function.  The majority of our space is dedicated to “team rooms” – large, open rooms where employees are grouped by workstream (platform team, application services team, service engineering, etc.). As we build new features and push them to production, all the people you need to interact with...

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Safehaven Run Book Automation – A small change with a big impact

August 30, 2014
By Scott Good, Senior Product Manager

In an earlier post, we discussed SafeHaven for CenturyLink Cloud Disaster Recovery- as-a- Service (DRaaS) solution and the benefits it offers IT Administrators.  As we noted, failing over a multi-tiered application when executing a disaster recovery plan is critical. However, it’s not always as easy as it seems.  In order for a multi-tiered application to recover correctly, the VMs upon which it depends start up according to a prescribed “recovery plan.”  For instance, it is usually necessary for the database to be running before application servers boot and, similarly, necessary that application services be running before webservers boot.

Safehaven for CenturyLink Cloud’s latest feature enhancement, Run Book Automation, allows end users to configure custom shut-down and bring-up plans for each group of IT systems that received disaster protection.  For example, delivering web services often involves a set of interdependent workloads that need to start in a specific order and taking into account time intervals between applications.

For each group of IT systems within the CenturyLink Cloud, users can pre-configure and test recovery plans in the Safehaven Console that identifies bring-up and shut-down order, actions, delays, as well as any custom script to be executed as part of the recovery operation. ...

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Inside Look at CenturyLink Cloud Development Center

August 30, 2014
By Guest post by Joe Kanagusuku, Global Account Manager

Cloud. It’s a disruptive force. Here in Seattle some may think of it only in terms of weather, but at CenturyLink we know it’s something much greater and its impact on our organization is being felt company wide. It’s been less than a year since CenturyLink acquired Bellevue-based Tier 3 and branded it CenturyLink Cloud. At the time we announced our plans of opening the Cloud Development Center in the Seattle area, saying “Tier 3’s products, roadmap and vision are now the foundation of CenturyLink’s cloud strategy and anchor the new Seattle-based CenturyLink Cloud Development Center.”

Why Seattle? It turns out Seattle is the center of the cloud universe. Forbes ranked it the best city for tech jobs. We all know that Amazon has an enormous campus in South Lake Union, Microsoft is headquartered in Redmond, but did you know Google’s development center for cloud is based in Seattle and Kirkland? And, since the entire country believes it rains here 24/7, can you think of a more natural place for the Cloud Development Center to be placed?

Officially opening on October 14th, the CenturyLink Cloud Development Center encompasses almost 30,000 square feet in Bellevue, WA. Beyond its partnership with CenturyLink Field –...

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[UPDATED] “Shellshock” Vulnerability & What You Need to Know

August 25, 2014
By Jared Ruckle, Senior Product Manager. Find Jared on Twitter

A new vulnerability was recently identified in the “bash” shell that a default component of most Linux operating systems deployed globally today. This vulnerability – dubbed “Shellshock” - is being compared to what was experienced earlier this year with the Heartbleed bug because of the widespread use of the impacted Linux operating systems.

Shellshock has been assigned the highest risk rating of “10” according to the Common Vulnerability Scoring System (CVSS). Why? The vulnerability can be exploited across the network, it does not require any authentication to exploit, and exploiting this vulnerability is simple.

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Unmanaged Customers - Patch Your Systems in the CenturyLink Cloud Immediately

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If you have instances running a Linux operating system in CenturyLink Cloud data centers, you are likely affected.  Our unmanaged customers are responsible for day-to-day configuration and deployment of these systems, so it is the customer’s responsibility to remediate any affected systems.

We recommend you apply the updates for this vulnerability as quickly as possible. This is especially important for those servers running Apache web servers as there are published exploits already circulating for Apache websites.

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Managed Customers – Request Patching via Ticket with Managed Services Help Desk

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Customers running managed environments (including Apache) on CenturyLink Cloud will have their systems...

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Private Cloud: Tradeoffs and Transformation

August 15, 2014
By Jared Ruckle, Senior Product Manager. Find Jared on Twitter

A few weeks ago, we announced CenturyLink Private Cloud – a new approach to the private cloud segment that offers breakthrough simplicity for large enterprises.  CenturyLink Private Cloud is designed for those looking to deploy a transformational private cloud, instead of eking out incremental gains.

Entering a new market segment is a significant undertaking for any product organization.  Every solution requires a series of trade-offs —just ask any product manager - and development of the CenturyLink Private Cloud is no exception.  So what were the trade-offs that we made, and how do they compare to other private cloud alternatives?  For a little insight into how we evaluated the private cloud market landscape and our decision making process, read on.

Homegrown solutions

Successful private cloud deployments – though more common these days – remain elusive. The brave souls that pursue a “do-it-yourself” approach often discover that:

  • Building a cloud is hard (especially the self-service and automation)
  • Running a cloud to 99.99% SLAs is hard
  • Just because you call it cloud doesn’t mean it is one
  • Users do not automatically gravitate to what you build
  • Lots of time and money are wasted when these lessons are learned the hard way. Forrester Research posted this great analysis of DIY private clouds:
...

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Recognizing the Challenges of Hybrid Cloud – Part IV

August 9, 2014
By Richard Seroter, Director of Product Management. Find Richard on Twitter

Hybrid cloud is becoming a standard operating model for many organizations. But how can you realize the expected agility when there are so many challenges ahead of you? In this series of articles, we’ve dissected each challenge and proposed some corresponding solutions. Whether you’re facing security and network concerns, or integration and system management issues, it’s critical to have a proactive plan in place. This final article rounds out the discussion by looking at ways to address the issues around portability, compatibility, and your existing toolset.

Solutions to Hybrid Cloud Challenges

In many cases, a hybrid cloud is the combination of complimentary – but not identical – computing environments. This means that processes, techniques, and tools that work in one place may not work in another.

Compatibility. Gluing together two distinct environments does not come without challenges. Now, it’s possible that you have the same technology stack in both the public and private cloud environment, but the users, technology, and processes may be dissimilar!

  *Move above the hypervisor. Even if your public cloud provider supports the import and export of virtual machines in a standard format, no legitimate public cloud exposes hypervisor configurations to the user. If you want...

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Recognizing the Challenges of Hybrid Cloud – Part III

August 8, 2014
By Richard Seroter, Director of Product Management. Find Richard on Twitter

As hybrid cloud adoption grows, proper architecture and design of these solutions becomes critical. In the first part of this article series, we discussed the challenges any organization faces when linking public and private cloud environments. The second article outlined strategies for mitigating the network and security challenges of hybrid cloud. In this third of four articles, we will assess success strategies for application integration and system management in hybrid clouds.

Solutions to Hybrid Cloud Challenges

Data and Application Integration. Nearly every useful system is made up of data and business logic from multiple applications. Siloed, monolithic systems are fading in popularity as more dynamic systems take their place. But as you look to work with data and applications in a hybrid cloud, you need to keep a few things in mind.

  *Recognize the presence of data gravity. The concept of data gravity—a principle identified by Dave McCrory that claims that applications and services are drawn closer to large collections of data—comes to play in a hybrid cloud. Do you find yourself shuttling data back and forth over long distances? Would it make sense to move some of your large data repositories to whichever cloud most of the consuming applications...

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