Docker and the Future of the PaaS Layer

March 4, 2013
By Originally Published On AppFog

You know what’s pretty easy nowadays? Throwing a bunch of processes onto a server running somewhere far away. Dozens. Thousands. Millions. As many as you want. This was really, exasperatingly hard just a few years ago. But Amazon Web Service, CenturyLink, and other players have come along to make this pretty painless.

But you know what’s still really hard? Making those processes completely self-contained and yet running on one kernel and manageable from a single interface. This is the problem that Docker was meant to solve.

Brief intro to Docker

Docker chose to address this problem by building a developer-friendly abstraction layer on top of Linux containers (LXC). LXC is a powerful concept, but it simply wasn’t built as an intuitive interface. It’s a pain to use and prohibitively complicated for anyone but the most adept Linux power users.

And so the idea of enabling developers of all stripes to actually use them in a way that gets rid of tons of conceptual overhead and streamlines the use of containers into an actual runtime that makes real sense amounts to a massive win over the more low-level containerization tools that already exist.

Docker takes LXC and constructs a set of basic commands around it, commands...

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Why JSON will continue to push XML out of the picture

March 4, 2013
By Originally Published On AppFog

The world’s digital infrastructure is currently characterized by a plethora of data interchange formats. It’s not the least bit surprising that such a multiplicity undergirds things at the moment. The internet is scarcely a generation old, while the “Internet of Things” and “Big Data” more closely resemble regulative ideals than realities. But I nonetheless believe that there are strong, discernible historical tendencies currently at work in this field, tendencies that strongly favor JSON over others.

Ten years ago, XML was the primary data interchange format. When it came on the scene, it was a breath of fresh air and a vast improvement over the truly appalling SGML (Standard Generalized Markup Language). It enabled people to do previously unthinkable things, like exchange Microsoft Office documents across HTTP connections. With all the dissatisfaction surrounding XML, it’s easy to forget just how crucial it was in the evolution of the web in its capacity as a “Swiss Army Knife of the internet.”

But it’s no secret that in the last few years, a bold transformation has been afoot in the world of data interchange. The more lightweight, bandwidth-non-intensive JSON (JavaScript Object Notation) has emerged not just as an alternative to XML, but rather as a...

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Load Balancing, High Availability, and Disaster Recovery: What They Are and How We Can Help

March 1, 2013
By Richard Seroter, Senior Product Manager. Find Richard on Twitter

It’s easy for cloud customers to get confused about the roles and responsibilities of their internal team and their cloud vendor. That confusion is especially evident when it comes to application availability and business continuity planning. How does disaster recovery differ from high availability? Does my cloud provider automatically load balance my application servers? The answers to these questions are critical, but sometimes overlooked until a crisis occurs. In this post, we’ll talk about load balancing, high availability, and disaster recovery in the cloud, and what the CenturyLink Cloud’s cloud infrastructure has to offer.

Load Balancing

What is it?

Wikipedia describes load balancing) as:

Load balancing is a computer networking method to distribute workload across multiple computers or a computer cluster, network links, central processing units, disk drives, or other resources, to achieve optimal resource utilization, maximize throughput, minimize response time, and avoid overload. Using multiple components with load balancing, instead of a single component, may increase reliability through redundancy).

You commonly see this technique employed in web applications where multiple web servers work together to handle inbound traffic. Load Balanced ApplicationThere are at least two reasons why load balancing is employed:

  • The required capacity is too large for a single machine. When running processes that consume a

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A Better Way to Provision Cloud Servers (And Why Templates Aren’t Enough)

February 14, 2013
By Richard Seroter, Senior Product Manager. Find Richard on Twitter

If you’ve ever looked at cloud server prices, or deployed a cloud server instance, you’ve likely noticed that most providers have a selection of “templates” to choose from. Users browse and select from a library of pre-baked server templates that contain combinations of compute, storage, operating systems, database technology, web servers, and commercial software. This isn’t the approach we take at CenturyLink Cloud, however.


We see at least two challenges with templates.

  • Impossible for providers to match complete need, and difficult for customers to maintain custom templates. The number of templates offered by leading cloud providers range from dozens to thousands. With templates, the provider aims to offer as many useful combinations of OS + software as possible. However, this requires providers to engage in an endless quest to assemble server images that are useful to customers.

    What if the customer doesn’t see anything they like? Sure, you can upload custom templates, but that shifts the maintenance responsibility to the customer. The provider may have automation tools available for updating and patching images, but enterprise IT departments may not have the necessary capabilities to do the care and feeding of a custom template library.

  • Not a complete replacement for the way enterprise IT builds
  • ...

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    Node.js is taking over the Enterprise – whether you like it or not

    February 4, 2013
    By Originally Published On AppFog

    Node.js is taking over the Enterprise – whether you like it or not

    The question is no longer if Node is enterprise ready. The question now is the following: what major digital enterprises will end up being the last hold-outs?

    There’s now no question whatsoever that Node is far more than a flash in the pan. The question nowadays is not whether or not Node will break out of its so-called “hipster hacker” bubble, but rather how much of the digital world it will conquer.

    In spite of all of the early FUD directed at the Node community and arguments that you shouldn’t use Node for anything much less for enterprise-ready web development, a pretty sizable chunk of the corporate world has gotten on the train.

    It turns out that the same things that made hackers fall in love with Node are more or less the same reasons why enterprises are turning to it. In a world in which we want information pipelined to us in real time and in which technological advancements like open APIs and distributed computing have made that possible in once-unprecedented ways, then it’s no surprise whatsoever that the contemporary digital marketplace would begin looking for tools to not just...

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    Resellers, MSPs, and SIs: The Private Label Cloud Services Opportunity

    January 31, 2013
    By Richard Seroter, Senior Product Manager. Find Richard on Twitter

    The shift to cloud services is, in part, about empowering business users to manage more of their own IT needs themselves. To wit, traditional infrastructure service providers are rapidly introducing self-service, elastic capabilities to meet market demand. Enterprises can deliver on their “IT-as-a-Service” roadmap with a branded cloud administrative portal – complete with rapid provisioning – that matches corporate guidelines.

    Solving this scenario has been a roadmap priority for CenturyLink Cloud. So we are pleased to announce new functionality today that helps resellers, ISVs, and enterprise IT shops deliver a personalized version of our cloud. Leading infrastructure provider like PEER 1  have found success with our model, and so can you.

    How do we deliver a personalized cloud? Five key ways: user interface rebranding, content settings, email templates, single-sign-on support, and API access. Let’s briefly look at each of these.

    User interface rebranding

    Easily alter the visual appearance of the Control Portal, our web-based cloud management interface. This is the easiest – although most superficial – way to rebrand our cloud as your own. We provide two collections of settings for changing the look and feel of the admin console. The Site Branding settings let you define (1) the name of the site, and (2) the graphic logo...

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    The 4 Cloud Integration Dimensions: The Architects Guide to Avoiding Silos

    January 28, 2013
    By Richard Seroter, Senior Product Manager. Find Richard on Twitter

    Cloud adoption is growing significantly as more enterprises see the business value of having a scalable, elastic pool of computing resources at their fingertips. However, enterprise CIOs are concerned with building application silos in the cloud that don’t integrate with the rest of their systems, data, and infrastructure. One survey asked respondents to rank their areas of satisfaction for a set of SaaS applications and found that integration with on-premises systems was the area with the most frustration. Another survey found that 67% of CIOs reported problems integrating data between cloud applications. The long-term competitive advantage you gain from the cloud will likely depend – in part – on how well you can connect your assets, regardless of location. There are unique considerations for integrating with the cloud, but the core business needs remain the same. We at CenturyLink Cloud see four areas that require focus from both the cloud provider and the customer.

    Application Integration

    Each application – whether packaged or custom built – serves a unique functional purpose. Frequently, information from another applications is required to meet this purpose. For example, a CRM system may submit a query to an accounting system so that a call center agent can get...

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    Performance in the Cloud: Upping the Ante

    January 22, 2013
    By Shantu Roy — Developer @shanturoy- twitter 

    IT managers know that speed is the number 1 usability factor for internal apps.  For customers, who use systems and sites run by IT, speed is crucial to maximizing online engagement, and ultimately, conversion and revenue.

    This situation is just another reason why the IT-as-a-Service movement is gaining steam.  IT is transitioning from a cost center to a business enabler.  And the two common scenarios mentioned above illustrate where IT and the business have a shared objective around performance.

    Many of the elements that have caused latency in the past are disappearing, thanks to cloud computing.  Bandwidth, security, and server performance are no longer the primary obstacles to delivering a snappy online experience.  Issues that arise today are usually the result of the application itself.  Properly diagnosing these root causes has given rise to a new class of products, Application Performance Management (APM).

    Join CenturyLink Cloud and New Relic for an online webinar on January 24 to hear us review the challenges that enterprises commonly face with application performance, and some common strategies you can investigate and put into place.


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    Pick a Size, Any Size: How Choice in VM Capacity Empowers Customers

    January 16, 2013
    By Richard Seroter, Senior Product Manager. Find Richard on Twitter

    One size definitely doesn’t fit all. Nearly every cloud infrastructure provider gives their customers a choice of virtual machine configurations.These configurations often take the form of pre-defined “buckets” of VM attributes, so fine-grained choice is still not really an option. But does this really matter?

    At CenturyLink Cloud, we think it does, and our customers do too. Instead of asking our customers to decide between a set of vendor-specified instance sizes, CenturyLink Cloud encourages customers to provision machines with any combination of processors, memory, and storage that best fits their needs.

    There are at least three benefits we see to offering in-depth customization of virtual machines attributes.

    Meet the hardware requirements of pre-packaged software without over-provisioning. The cloud isn’t just for custom web applications. vmsizing01Many users want to run commercial-off-the-shelf software in a cloud environment and apply vendor-recommended hardware sizing guidelines. Whether you’re installing Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 (recommended hardware: 4+ cores and 8+ GB of RAM per web server), or the Adobe Creative Suite (recommended hardware: 16 cores, 16 GB of RAM), each application will have its own battle-tested preferences. One choice would be to fit the packaged software into the “best fit” instance size offered by a cloud...

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    Anatomy of a Website Redesign: An Interview with CenturyLink Cloud’s Creative Directo

    January 13, 2013
    By Richard Seroter, Senior Product Manager. Find Richard on Twitter

    CenturyLink Cloud recently launched a new version of the CenturyLink Cloud website. This was a complete site redesign and an important step in explaining why CenturyLink Cloud is a premier choice for your cloud computing needs. This redesign was led by Nathan Young, CenturyLink Cloud’s talented Creative Director and UI Designer. I sat down with Nate and asked him a few questions about the goals and technology behind the new website.

    Richard: I suspect that when you planned the CenturyLink Cloud re-design, you also looked at what our peers in the industry have done with their own web presence.  Without naming names, what sort of things did you see that you liked, and disliked?

    Nate: One thing we noticed while doing a competitive audit was that many cloud company websites felt very “cards close to the vest.” Granted, there would be tons of information, but nothing that actually shows what the customer experience is like. It felt like as if there was a standard checklist of benefits and specs that had to be on the site, but nothing to supports those claims with product experience demonstrations.

    Part of my job as Creative Director for CenturyLink Cloud is being an experience designer, so I...

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    Stop Wasting Money on Idle or Forgotten Cloud Servers

    January 9, 2013
    By Richard Seroter, Senior Product Manager. Find Richard on Twitter

    Every infrastructure cloud provider makes it easy to create servers. However, one of the most important characteristics of cloud computing is that it’s easy to delete servers. Go ahead and use a server for as long as you need to and then get rid of it, along with all associated costs. However, cloud cleanup is typically the sole responsibility of the customer. Some smart folks have come up with their own solutions to this problem (see Netflix and their open-sourced Janitor Monkey for AWS), but we prefer to give our customers the automation capabilities they need to easily get rid of servers that aren’t needed anymore.

    Set a Server Time-to-Live

    When building temporary cloud environments, you often know exactly when you’ll be done using a server or set of servers. However, after the requisite days/weeks/months have passed, who remembers to shut off those machines? During the provisioning process of a CenturyLink Cloud server, users have the option to select a server lifespan and decide whether to archive or completely delete the server.


    Use Scheduled Tasks to Automatically Shut Down and Resume Environments

    Many servers will not be for temporary use, but they do have a defined windows of usefulness. For instance, consider a development...

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    Running Out of Disk Space? You Can Expand It Yourself!

    January 7, 2013
    By Richard Seroter, Senior Product Manager. Find Richard on Twitter

    The November update to our enterprise cloud platform brought with it all sorts of valuable capabilities including a new Canadian data center, enhancements to our self-service networking, an upgrade of the Platform as a Service PaaS to the latest version of Iron Foundry, the introduction of first-of-its-kind Billing/Account/User management APIs, and more. What I’ll highlight today is the ability to do self-service disk resize from within our Control Portal.

    Elastic Machines Result in Better Value

    Properly sizing a server has always been a challenge because you need to try and anticipate future need. Do you allocate just enough resources to get by, or do you leave yourself lots of headroom in case of spikes in usage or unexpected growth? These decisions often lead to over-provisioning that results in idle CPU cycles, unused storage, and wasted money. Up until now, CenturyLink Cloud customers have been able to modify CPU and memory allocation on demand. This has proved very useful for organizations that wanted to be conscious of cost while not getting locked into an undersized server instance. Our customers have also asked us to add disk growth to our collection of self-service capabilities, so that's what we've done.

    Feature Walkthrough

    2012-11-30-resize01 To demonstrate, I created...

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