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....

Read on...

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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Putting the MOVE framework in proper perspective

August 4, 2013
By Originally Published On AppFog

In a recent post, on data models and persistence, I made what I now realized to be a pretty fundamental mistake: I talked about the use of data models in web development, but I restricted my discussion to MVC-style frameworks alone and should have said more about alternative design patterns.

I restricted my discussion in this way more for the sake of brevity than anything else, but I’ve learned a lot in the last few weeks about alternative architectures and want to begin weighing in. Next week, I will discuss Knockout.js’s MVVM (model-view-view model) front-end architecture and the abstraction gains associated with it. But first, I want to discuss another alternative to MVC that’s been getting a lot of traction on the webs in the last few days: the MOVE framework, as outlined by Conrad Irwin.

MOVE is an (admittedly quite clever) acronym for Models-Operations-Views-Events. What the term seeks to capture is an emerging way of structuring applications that doesn’t rely on an explicitly defined and coded controller. The problem, according to Irwin, is that quite often “you end up stuffing too much code into your controllers, because you don’t know where else to put it.”

A much better way of doing things...

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Why Cloud Foundry matters to Hackers

August 4, 2013
By Originally Published On AppFog

Unless you live under a rock, you have heard of Cloud Foundry. However there is still a lot of skepticism out there about PaaS in general and Cloud Foundry in particular.

I’ve been an open source hacker for over a decade. Compiling linux kernels, hacking MySQL, and generally getting my hands into every system that I could. I have also authored over a dozen open source libraries, some being used widely.

When I saw PaaS in the early days, with EngineYard and Heroku, I thought it was really cool and inspiring. Like many hackers though, it is hard to trust something or fully enjoy it when you can not get under the hood.

Why does Cloud Foundry matter?

EDIT — It is a great PaaS. As the first commentator noted, none of this matters if the technology sucks. Cloud Foundry is a great, easy to use technology that works reliably, simply, and smartly. It supports many languages and many services. To a hacker and tinkerer, it is a haven for fun.

It is well designed. Example: A message bus acts as a nerve center to various components via pub/sub. For example, when a new app server comes online, it subscribes to listen for new app...

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Twitter Bootstrap and the rise of total front-end frameworks

August 4, 2013
By Originally Published On AppFog

It’s no secret that there’s lots and lots going on in back-end web development these days. As an example, debates surrounding node and asynchronicity, to give just one example, have reached a fever pitch and have occasionally felt more like philosophical arguments than technical arguments.

The same has been true for debates between “thick” frameworks like Rails and Django versus “thin” frameworks like Sinatra, Flask, and Express. On top of these issues, we’re also witnessing an explosion of creativity in the world of full-stack frameworks (Padrino for Sinatra, Tower.js for node, etc.). (More on this very soon, so be sure to hit a subscribe link on the right)

But what has surprised me recently is that similar developments are afoot in the world of front-end development. The shining example par excellence: Twitter Bootstrap.

Bootstrap was essentially a big, juicy bone thrown to the web development community by Mark Otto and the folks in the design department at Twitter. The purpose is to allow third-party developers to easily lend some much-needed aesthetic consistency to the world of Twitter-related web apps, which now number in the hundreds of thousands (see this article by Drew Heatley, which gives a figure of a million, which I didn’t...

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