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 package to provide consistent automation and repeatability for your most commonly performed tasks. You can configure, update, and patch your servers in the most efficient way possible.

You can use a package to join an entire set of servers to a domain, deploy application code from a repository to all your web nodes, install a new performance monitoring agent to a bunch of servers, or add a software patch to a subset of machines. Anything that is scriptable from the Windows command line or Linux shell can be turned into a package and executed across a number of servers.

Packages also support ‘parameters’ to maximize reuse and utility. Maybe you have two slightly different configurations for your database installation script. Include a parameter to indicate ‘master’ or ‘slave’ at run time. If you need to include the server’s IP address in a config file, pass that in as a parameter too. With parameters, the possibilities for what a package can do are endless!

Option to ‘Require SAML’ at Login

We’ve supported SAML in CenturyLink Cloud for nearly two years. For our customers and partners, it’s a great way to extend existing IT systems and policies to the public cloud (and now the private cloud). In this release, we add a key feature for administrators – the option to require SAML at login.

This capability closes the ‘back door’ login option at control.tier3.com, and instead automatically re-directs the user to the SAML login page, as configured by the user’s administrator.

Administrators enable this feature with a single click (shown above), and can also easily apply to all (or opt-out) to sub-accounts.

Many customers have given us interesting ideas on how we can improve our SAML support, and this “option to require” is the next step for the platform.

As far as what lies ahead, identity management requires a bit of a balancing act. We want the nuts-and-bolts of IdM configurations to live in the customers’ IdM system, while building in flexible, standards-based capabilities in our platform.

Our goal is to make it easier, and frictionless for customers to access our platform – while focusing on what we do best. Consequently, we have a proverbial ‘line in the sand’ for what we will do in the platform and what we won’t.

New UK data center – GB3

Santa Clara, Sterling, Toronto – and now Slough, UK. These are the four new locations for CenturyLink Cloud that we’ve opened so far this year. Each site offers the ability to deploy resources closer to users and employees, to maximize performance.

Another benefit? Hybrid IT becomes far simpler for customers already deployed in these facilities. For the UK market specifically, our EMEA leader Fiona Cullen explains more in a recent blog post here.

These new features – and others – are available at your fingertips. Take advantage of them today!