ITaaS: The Innovative CIO’s Recipe to Curb Shadow IT

October 31, 2013
By

Early this month I was at the CIO Executive Leadership Summit in San Diego, which attracted about 900 people; among them were CIOs from big enterprises, influencers from the press, and portfolio companies sponsored by Intel.

At this popular networking event, I had a chance to meet several C-level executives from enterprises that turn over upwards of a billion dollars in annual revenue. It was great to connect with these folks because you get to hear of challenges from a whole organization’s perspective thanks to their bird’s eye view.

Wary of the Shadow

In our meetings, the CIOs talked about shadow IT problems that affect departments today. Shadow IT happens typically when groups inside your organization quickly start experimenting with or using SaaS and cloud services without waiting around for IT and organizational approval.

Shadow IT problems spring up in large enterprises when IT departments are slow to respond to pressing business demands. IT is often too busy processing a flood of requests related to production, post production, dev, and test. They’re held back from delivering services fast because of workflow processes and the amount of manual setup involved.

Let me give an example. Company A, a publicly traded fortune 500 company, has a policy...

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A Personal Message from Tier 3’s Jared Wray

October 19, 2013
By Jared Wray, CTO. Find Jared on Twitter.

Tier 3 has joined CenturyLink.  We are going to build amazing things together.

But let’s look back before we look ahead.

Many people contributed to the success of Tier 3.  Developers launched feature after feature, while network engineers supported customers day and night.  A passion for problem solving fueled their achievements.  A tireless team of marketing, sales, and finance pros helped along the way as well – building our thought leadership campaigns, winning new business, and keeping our back office humming.

I’d like to thank these talented individuals.  This is the team that built APIs, designed the UX, rolled out new self-service functions, and helped our customers grow.  We’ve worked with lots of great partners too.  Together, we advanced cloud computing.

Cloud is really, really hard.  Just read the headlines – enterprises and traditional IT vendors are struggling.

We started Tier 3 to make cloud easier.  We created products, processes, and a culture to help enable cloud for the enterprise.

And cloud is a littler easier now, thanks to Tier 3’s ecosystem of people and partners.

This deal would not be possible without Tier 3’s customers.  Their support, their decision to trust a smaller company for their cloud needs, and their feedback on how we could improve...

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Cloud IaaS Price/Performance Benchmarking – Part 2

October 18, 2013
By Jared Ruckle, Product Marketing

In part one, we highlighted Tier 3’s strong showing in a recent performance benchmarking survey.

So what to make of reports like this?  Here are 6 observations that might help you, a buyer of cloud services, interpret findings like this.

Two Things These Reports Can Tell You

  • Quantification of vendor claims & normalization. Vendors will describe their products as “high performance.”  Well, compared to what?  And given that each vendor has a different hypervisor and hardware in their data center – in addition to different instance sizes, or a build to custom specs capability (Tier 3’s approach) – it is hard to gauge clock speeds across providers.  This particular report cuts through that.
  • Each cloud on this list is likely better than another competitor – your internal data center. Every cloud provider on this list is operating at scale, releasing new features often, and supporting a multi-tenant service.  As a result, they are almost certainly delivering better performance than what you have on-premise today.  And due to the expansive self-service offerings some of these providers offer, superior agility relative to your internal data center is a given.  The really interesting – and possibly confusing - thing?  Some of the vendors on this list
...

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Cloud IaaS Price/Performance Benchmarking – Part 1

October 7, 2013
By Jared Ruckle, Product Marketing

It’s difficult for businesses to compare so many diverse players in the cloud.  To make the task a bit easier, the team at Cloud Spectator recently issued a useful report: “IaaS Performance and Value Analysis.”  View it here, registration required to download.

At CenturyLink Cloud, we’ve always claimed to be a “high performance” cloud (who doesn’t?), so it is nice to see this validated by a third party.  A summary of findings that brought a smile to our faces:

  • #1 “Performance Leader” for overall system results
  • #1 performance leader for Disk and RAM
  • #2 performance leader for CPU and internal networking

My personal favorite passage:

UnixBench highlights the significant system performance difference among the top providers in the IaaS industry. The highest and lowest scorers show a difference of 4.7x in system performance; CenturyLink Cloud’s average UnixBench score is 2998, while Amazon EC2’s is 642.

Results in visual form (image edited to highlight CenturyLink Cloud):

Cloud Spectator - Results Summary

There was considerable public chatter about these results, and industry analyst Ben Kepes wondered if these types of reports even matter. Since price/performance is only a single dimension of a cloud’s value, how should a buyer and consumer of cloud services use this type of information?

In Part 2, we’ll build on his train...

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Cloud Developers & Resellers Get a Boost from CenturyLink Cloud Webhooks

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

“Getting a little bit of the right information just ahead of when it’s needed is a lot more valuable than all the information in the world a month or a day later.” That quote – found in the book The Two Second Advantage by Vivek Ranadive and Kevin Maney – highlights a new reality where responsiveness can be a competitive advantage. Smart companies are building a responsive IT infrastructure where data isn’t just hoarded in massive repositories, but analyzed quickly and acted upon. How can you know more, faster and have better situational awareness?

With an increasing amount of critical IT systems running in the cloud, there’s a need to know what’s happening and act on it. This month, CenturyLink Cloud introduced Webhooks, making us among the first public IaaS cloud providers to send real-time notifications to a web service endpoint. For this initial release, customers can set up Webhooks for events within accounts, users, and servers.

When To Use This?

Webhooks are relatively new idea, although already used by diverse web properties like Wordpress and Zoho. Let’s look at three different scenarios where CenturyLink Cloud Webhooks can lead to better decisions.

Scenario #1 – Data Synchronization

Polling is an inefficient way to retrieve data...

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Gartner Symposium, The Digital Industrial Economy, and Web-Scale IT

September 22, 2013
By Jared Ruckle, Product Marketing

I went to my first Gartner Symposium last week for a big picture view of the intersection between business and IT. Symposium is billed as “the one show to go to if you only go to one show a year.” As such, my expectations were high.  It did not disappoint.

Keynote speakers, most notably Peter Sondergaard, in full prophet mode, discussed the disruptive nature of new cloud architectures, the Internet of Things, and 3D printing.  These trends, combined with other socioeconomic factors, would bring about the “Digital Industrial Economy.”

He then offered this choice to today’s IT executive: either enable your enterprise to thrive in the Digital Industrial Economy, or be relegated to caretaker of legacy systems while other roles lead the transformation.

The unease in the audience was palpable.  Squirming continued as he discussed a simple graphic on-screen: 90% of CIOs believe they are doing a good job, while 50% of CEOs say they need more from IT.  The keynotes set the tone for the rest of the conference.  Clearly, Gartner is advising clients to do more, and think bigger.

Our first analyst meeting the next day reinforced this.  The Gartner research team focused on “Web-Scale IT” mentioned that many clients are asking...

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CenturyLink Cloud Hack House

September 21, 2013
By Mai Hoang, Senior Online Marketing Manager.

Last month, CenturyLink Cloud rented a house in St. George, Utah to provide our engineers time to collaborate – they coded their hands off and had fun while doing so!

We asked our Sr. Software Engineer, Mr. Matthew Osborn (@osbornm), about his time at the Hack House and what he found most rewarding about the experience. His highlights:

  • Time spent solving problems. Often problems, especially big ones – related to computer science, engineering, or anything for that matter - take hours of work to solve. Having more than the standard 8-hour day to think about and solve these problems is amazingly helpful. Yes it’s a lot of work, and it sucks some of the time, but you can do some truly awesome stuff.
  • Time spent with the team. In a normal setting, you come to work do your job and then go home. You interact with your coworkers on a purely work-related level. Living with these same people changes that dynamic, and you are forced to build relationship that you otherwise would never choose to make. Interacting with folks on not just a work level but on a social level helps you understand their thinking and ultimately can really improve collaboration.
  • Time spent on
...

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CenturyLink Cloud Setting the Bar: Control Portal UI Evolution Under Way

September 8, 2013
By Richard Seroter, Senior Product Manager. Find Richard on Twitter

In a few weeks, CenturyLink Cloud will roll out the first phase of visual changes to our Control Portal cloud management software. These changes are not only visually stunning, but functionally significant for our customers. Why are we making these changes, and what should you expect? This blog post dives into our motivation for the changes, and provides a sneak peek into what’s coming in the months ahead.

Why the Change?

We’ve all heard the saying “if ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” CenturyLink Cloud constantly receives positive recognition for our Control Portal, and Gartner recently lauded our “easy-to-use self-service portal” that showcases an “excellent, highly differentiated set of features.” Why are we moving forward with some substantial modifications to the user experience? We’re focused on five reasons:

  • Improve Application Performance. Web applications need to be fast to maximize utility, and so too does our Control Portal. We want our users to spend _less time _in our interface, create and manage complex environments, and more time solving strategic business problems. We’re constantly tweaking the current software experience to squeeze out performance improvements, but needed to take a new approach if we wanted to speed up the experience _and achieve new embedded analytics functionality. Our

...

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New horizons in Node.js: App.js and WebRTC

September 4, 2013
By Originally Published On AppFog

It’s hopeless trying to keep up with developments in the Node.js community. Believe me, I’ve tried.

Once upon a time, I held out hope that I would be able to keep my finger on the pulse of Node-related discourse, but it all turned out to be in vain. New modules are added and updated to npmjs.org on an almost minute-by-minute basis. It’s enough to make your head spin (in a good way, if that makes sense). However, there have been a few big and bold movements in the Node.js space that have caught my attention recently that I think are incredibly promising and that I just couldn’t keep to myself: desktop client creation with App.js and WebRTC.

Make some room, Qt: App.js is the new kid in town

Did you ever want to use JavaScript to construct a rich UI experience in a non-browser setting? Well, now is your chance. Did it never even occur to you to try such a thing? Well, that’s okay, too, because I always assumed that I would have to learn C++ to ever accomplish such a thing. But playing around with App.js, which is available as an NPM module, has convinced me that this is a really...

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Achieving High Availability in the Cloud: Part 1 - Provisioning Storage

August 23, 2013
By Richard Seroter, Senior Product Manager. Find Richard on Twitter

Does running your application in the cloud mean that it’s suddenly able to survive any problem that arises? Alas, no. Even while some foundational services of distributed systems are built for high availability, a high performing cloud application needs to be explicitly architected for fault-tolerance. In this multi-part blog series, we will walk through the various application layers and example how to build a resilient system in the Public Cloud solution. Over the course of the next few posts, we will define what’s needed to build a complete, highly available system. The reference architecture below illustrates the components needed for a fictitious eCommerce web application.

HA Application Architecture

In this first post, we look at a core aspect of every software system: storage. What type of storage is typically offered by cloud vendors?

  *Temporary VM storage. Some cloud providers offer gobs of storage with each VM instance, but with the caveat that the storage isn’t durable and does not survive server shutdown or server failure. While this type of cheap and easy accessible block storage is useful in some situations, it’s not as familiar to enterprise IT staff who are used to storage that’s durable by default.

  *Persistent VM storage....

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CenturyLink Cloud at Platform: The Cloud Foundry Conference

August 10, 2013
By Mollie Jahner, Marketing Manager

Earlier this week, over 450 developers and cloud leaders gathered in Santa Clara for the first Cloud Foundry Conference - Platform. The event brought together contributors to the open platform as a service product, as well as real world users for two days to discuss technical topics, product roadmap priorities, community contributions, and operational best practices.

CenturyLink Cloud founder and CTO Jared Wray was one of the thought leaders who spoke during the conference. His topic: Extending Cloud Foundry to .NET via Iron Foundry.  This open-source project unites two large ecosystems: .NET developers and Cloud Foundry.

To learn more, check out the slides and video of Jared’s presentation.

We were happy to be sponsors of this event and are looking forward to the next one!

Iron Foundry

[University Students from China who have used Iron Foundry to deploy .Net applications]

...

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Autoscale – with an enterprise slant – now available from CenturyLink Cloud

August 5, 2013
By Richard Seroter, Senior Product Manager. Find Richard on Twitter

Elasticity is a core tenet of cloud computing. Cloud has become so popular simply because resources can be adjusted up or down, based on business need, instantly. Manually resizing cloud environments is still MUCH easier than altering physical hardware. But human action is still required, adding human cost to cloud.

A few cloud vendors have attempted to automate this process through “auto scaling” – services that expand and reduce the size environments based on user-defined parameters. However, this capability by and large automates the addition and removal of virtual machines to an existing resource pool.  In engineering terms, this is “horizontal scaling” – adding capacity across multiple virtual machines. This approach is useful for consumer applications (think Netflix scaling up for Saturday night), but the enterprise scenario is much different, as we found out in our market research when developing this feature.

While we always recommend that our customers build highly available cloud systems with no single points of failure, there is value is sizing those resources up and down (i.e. “vertical scaling”) instead of only being able to add or remove entire servers. Having multiple servers is key for fault tolerance, but some workloads can benefit from additional server capacity, not...

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