In this issue
Hybrid Cloud - Business Drivers
Is it time to engage a managed services provider? (MSP)
The evolution of APIs
IBM Bluemix - Who does this appeal to?
SAS IT has a YouTube Channel
Change freeze notification
Hybrid Cloud - Business Drivers
Organisations considering change typically look at implementing a solution that incorporates a mix of on premise, and public or private cloud, referred to as a hybrid cloud model. Hybrid cloud can simply be a single on premise application connecting to a single cloud function. However, today’s business systems are more likely to follow a distributed computing model, and form part of a complex network of business functions spanning on premise virtual machines, and many cloud functions.
Cloud is typically marketed to promote benefits such as improved efficiency, flexibility and even opportunity for expansion. However many of these benefits can lack tangibility, often making it difficult to validate a move to the cloud.
Whilst the term “hybrid” has become popular in recent years, essentially we are talking about distributed systems: Modern systems are highly distributed in terms of information inputs and outputs.
Twenty years ago enterprises were focused on controlling and protecting information within their boundaries. In contrast modern enterprises work with highly distributed information systems extending well beyond their physical boundaries.
The business drivers for the adoption of modern distributed systems can be grouped into four areas:
Distributed systems allow for greater overall service performance than systems whose function is centralised in a single location. By spreading the computational load across different application services, each location is under less stress, allowing each application service to perform more efficiently, which increases the performance of the overall service. One example of how this works is in high demand messaging services. Instead of placing the load for every current user transaction onto a single server, transactions are spread across a number of different servers. In this way, the demand on each individual application service is reduced, and the data each application service receives percolates to the other application services in the background.
When computation is centred on a single machine, the health of that machine is the health of the entire service; if it goes down, so does the entire service as is often the case in hardware centric systems. However, distributed systems can continue to function if one application service ceases to function. While the performance demands on the other application services will go up, as will the stress each virtual machine is under, the other application services will still work; so the risk of failure is reduced.
Because distributed systems work across a variety of different machines, they are inherently scalable. That is, the distributed system can adjust how many system resources it is making use of in light of what kind of demand the system is under. If a system is under high demand, then it can have every machine running to capacity. However, if the load on the system is relatively low, it can take different components of the distributed system offline to save power. When demand on the system goes up again, these components can come back online.
When services run on a single server, there are no issues associated with data synchronisation: all the data is simply present on that machine. However, an issue can arise with distributed systems. Different distributed system components are handling tasks and data at any given point in time, there will be small periods of time in which data exists on one component, but not on others. As long as the application service stays online long enough for this temporarily unique data to percolate across to other application services, there will not be a problem. However, if an application service goes down before it proliferates its unique data, there will be inconsistencies within the system. This outcome can be designed for by ensuring any unique data is minor and in the event of a failure that transactions are re run to ensure there is no loss.
The Benefits of Hybrid Cloud
Hybrid cloud benefits build upon the advantages of distributed systems. Essentially a hybrid cloud model takes all of the advantages of public cloud and integrates these advantages with more traditional systems.
More specifically those benefits are:
Options for Innovation
Barriers to innovation are reduced in a cloud environment, as large capital expenditure is not required for modelling a new service. Previously, cost associated with such an initiative would include capital expenditure for infrastructure, labour and time for research then more resources to install and maintain. These resources could place a lot of pressure on capacity management practices and impact forecasting given the many uncertain variables.
In a hybrid cloud environment, concepts can be tested without capital expenditure, prototyped in the cloud environment then rapidly deployed and measured for success. The added benefit of hybrid cloud is the availability of resources combining both internal and external environments including data, network, processing, and storage.
Scalability / flexibility
Scaling on IT infrastructure can be expensive, inefficient and place pressure on accurate forecasting in growing companies. However a hybrid cloud environment can provide the opportunity for businesses to scale out to a cloud environment for specific workloads. Implementing automation rules on the cloud provides the ability to scale resources up and down as business demands change. This allows the hybrid cloud system to take advantage of unlimited resources based on demand driven usage, optimising the environment for performance and efficiency.
Increased Speed to Market
In many organisations speed to market is a key differentiator. In the digital age the ability to quickly spin up environments to test, prototype and launch new products is highly desirable. For organisations with IT infrastructure that is working near or close to capacity, spinning up new environments can be a challenge and potentially hinder business progress.
Business continuity has been identified as one of the most important considerations for IT operations. A business continuity solution is not just backing up and/or replicating information to the cloud, nor is it simply a Disaster Recovery plan. Business continuity means being able to continue to do business during a failure or disaster. In basic terms, it means that when a failure or disaster happens, information is still accessible with little or no downtime.
A business continuity solution therefore needs to be planned to consider key elements such as resilience, recovery and contingency. Hybrid cloud solutions are often considered by organisations as a key component of a business continuity solution where critical data is replicated to a cloud in a different location to the primary system. This solution provides data insurance in the event of a disaster (natural or technological), minimising downtime and costs associated with such an event. Providing robust data connections and messaging through solid API based designs is key in delivering on this benefit.
Companies can leverage hybrid cloud as the first step in moving to a predominately cloud environment. A hybrid solution provides the perfect opportunity for companies to test the capability of particular workloads and providers and thereby assists them in planning cloud strategy.
When moving components of a business to the cloud there can be problems from network performance that impact critical applications. This problem can be difficult to prevent, especially during peak traffic periods and is a result of irregular public internet performance. A Hybrid Cloud solution could mitigate this issue by leveraging connectivity solutions to guarantee bandwidth between on premise and cloud locations, thereby improving performance by reducing distance-based latency.
There is an argument to be made that network security can be compromised in public cloud environments. Security compromises can be expected as data is no longer kept entirely in a private location across private systems but rather accessed via the internet, so additional security measures need to be applied. However, a private hybrid cloud system allows much more control in design and architecture and so a higher level of data security is attainable over public cloud alone.
Hybrid cloud architectures have obvious potential to benefit many organisations, but are dependent on each businesses requirements and desired outcomes. There is rarely a one solution fits all scenario when it comes to complex IT infrastructure. It is therefore important to understand each and every critical variable in order to make informed, aligned and beneficial decisions.
Is it time to engage a Managed Services Provider? (MSP)
It is becoming more difficult to cover all the bases with in-house IT expertise. The speed of change in digital business means that it is almost impossible to have an in-depth knowledge of all the technologies that your organisation needs. Even the simplest organisation can have many virtual servers and networks to maintain, terabytes of data, distributed enterprise software, web servers, complex security demands, and decisions to make on placement of workloads in cloud or on premise.
Digital business requires agile implementation of new business models using cloud services and 24x7 operations. Adoption of cloud service technologies often results in a diverse and unique hybrid IT environment, spanning a number of vendors, processes and delivery models. To add further complexity often all of this needs to be delivered in the face of flat or declining IT budgets.
Handling complexity is where Managed Services Providers (MSPs) can add significant value. MSPs enable organisations to transform, manage and maintain systems through the provision of skills, technology, and processes that complement those skills and capabilities held within your organisation.
Why organisations adopt managed services
Typically organisations seek assistance from an MSP to address a range of issues including complexity, service quality, risk and cost. Not in isolation but collectively; keeping operations running efficiently, evaluating and implementing new capabilities whilst managing cost and risk.
The business drivers most often cited when engaging an MSP are:
Improved service levels. The level of service quality is usually the overall measure being assessed, backed by a written SLA (Service Level Agreement) - a contractual document defining the roles and responsibilities and expected outcomes. Whilst an SLA is important the speed of change means it should be regularly updated.
Increased efficiency and business resiliency. An MSP will have capabilities to achieve these outcomes including best practices, standards, monitoring, automation, and a range of business continuity measures.
Better access to skills. It is increasingly difficult to find, retain, and develop specialist skills. An MSP has the advantage because these resources can be pooled across multiple customers giving the individuals greater opportunity and at the same time giving organisations access to a wider range of specialist skills.
Cost reduction. An MSP is able to leverage economies of scale to deliver services at a lower cost point than can achieved by a single organisation. Costs of infrastructure, cloud services, and staff resources can be shared across multiple customers.
What to look for when selecting a managed service partner
Skills & experience that you don’t have - organisations are not going to engage the services of an MSP if they already have all of the skills needed. Expect an MSP to have in-depth knowledge and skills to support the technologies and cloud services that are required. At one level technology is becoming much easier to buy and use however the number of technologies and their “under the hood” sophistication continues to grow rapidly. Consider the number of technology job titles in use today that weren’t conceived of five years ago.
An effective MSP goes beyond break/fix and simple monitoring. It is proactive, nips problems in the bud and looks to make continuous improvements through prioritisation and automation. An MSP adds value, by contributing to improvement and optimisation of your business operations. An MSP should keep abreast of emerging technology and market changes. It should also be able to add new services easily as a customer’s suite of IT products and services grows and changes.
Customer focus – it’s vital that an MSP has a customer-focused approach. Most businesses aren’t one size fits all, so an MSP should be prepared to tailor its approach to each organisation. MSP staff should listen closely to requirements and respond to them efficiently.
Increasingly customer environments are hybrid environments comprising a range of in-house systems and public and/or private clouds. It is likely that a variety of vendor products are involved; expect the MSP to have extensive knowledge of and relationships with key vendors. This knowledgebase should include visibility of product roadmaps.
Most importantly an MSP should take the time to understand the customer business because only by doing this will they be able to optimise your value proposition. Lastly, and it probably goes without saying, the MSP should have a human touch along with deep technical expertise.
Clear processes including compliance oversight – look for clear, transparent and consistent processes. Processes inform about reliability and professionalism. Well defined processes will reduce risks related to compliance, security, and business continuity.
Financial stability and reputation An investment in engaging an MSP is an investment that both parties make. Time will be invested, information will be exchanged and relationships formed. Given the scope of the investment made it is well worth confirming the financial stability and reputation of the MSP before getting started.
If you are considering engaging the services of an MSP please talk to SASIT. We have a successful 40 year track record and pride ourselves on close and productive relationships with our customers. Our product and service offerings are continuously evolving as we strive to stay at the forefront of what it means to be an industry leading MSP.
The evolution of APIs
Doing business today is highly dependent on being interconnected. Not that long ago businesses often worked hard to avoid connecting their information with anyone outside their organisation.
APIs are actually not that new, in fact they have been in extensive use in the corporate world for at least the last 20 years. Serious API focus started around the year 2000, with Salesforce.com producing the first web-based API. That same year, eBay released its API and two years later, Amazon started Amazon Web Services.
The practical use of APIs over that time has evolved as the industry has incrementally improved the efficiency, access and security of their APIs. The idea of providing publicly accessible entry points to a system has been a key part of software design since the earliest days of computing. What has accelerated the concept is obviously the internet and maybe not so obviously, distributed systems. Simply put todays systems are becoming highly distributed in terms of their information sources and outputs.
APIs have now come of age with the advent of cloud computing, where the ability to host external APIs has matured to a point where cloud service providers have scalable capacity to handle transaction loads and spikes in traffic. Mobile platforms now put applications in reach on millions of devices, all having access to back-end APIs across the Internet.
Some businesses are adding interconnections at a rate of hundreds per month, which is huge growth. However, the rapid growth of APIs is at the same time creating a massive problem to manage. Given the rapid rise of internet security threats, the problem of managing API interconnections is also growing in to a high risk security issue. Until very recently API's, and more to the point, connecting them, was a bespoke development function, but in todays, high rate of change, extensively connected business environment, that simply doesn’t cut it.
API gateways enable enterprises to very selectively control access to information for both internal and 3rd party developers. API gateways allow the rapid implementation of new APIs using low code techniques that can take the dependency away from developers and in to the hands of digital delivery teams to drive business agility. API gateways add further value by providing standardisation of interfaces and common application of policies to maintain efficient response times across all the APIs that an enterprise needs to manage. Further to this API gateways provide sophisticated security measures specific to the needs of APIs.
What is fuelling the growth of APIs today is the monetisation opportunities that they create. Traditionally and to this day, the primary commercial driver for APIs was in business to business relationships. However B2B revenue is being rapidly overtaken by the ability to sell information on the open market. API managers are facilitating this by providing using tracking and thus monetary metering of information consumption making API managers a revenue generation potential opportunity.
SASIT in association with Computer Associates are this month launching a new package of services and consulting centred on API management. These new services are centred on CA's market leading API Manager. SASIT along with CA, has moved beyond API management; we now provide all the tools you need to modernise application architectures using API’s and micro services, with the speed and security required to create a scalable and agile business.
Please contact SASIT for further information or to organise a demonstation.
IBM Bluemix: Who does this appeal to?
The public cloud market is dominated by Amazon and Microsoft. However when you look at the Gartner quadrant you quickly see who is in the pack behind. One interesting member of that pack is IBM with their Bluemix public cloud. What catches the eye is that IBM's Bluemix seems set to break from the pack and head in the direction of the two dominant players, something that not many of the other pack members currently appear to be doing.
IBM Bluemix is a Platform as a Service (PaaS) developed by IBM. IBM continues to add new developer functionality onto its Bluemix cloud platform, providing support for low-code application development and adding security authorisation into applications, among other enhancements. Bluemix supports several programming languages and services as well as integrated DevOps to build, run, deploy and manage applications on the cloud. Bluemix is based on Cloud Foundry open technology and runs on SoftLayer infrastructure. Bluemix supports several programming languages including Java, Node.js, Go, PHP, Swift, Python, Ruby Sinatra, Ruby on Rails and can be extended to support other languages such as Scala and buildpacks.
Overall, IBM’s goal is to make Bluemix the go-to platform for developers of all types, from so-called “citizen developers” to professional development teams building enterprise applications and commercial products. The Bluemix platform features more than 150 tools and services covering areas such as cognitive intelligence, blockchain, security, Internet of Things, DevOps and more.
By focusing on the DevOps model, Bluemix can reduce the downtime of redeploying applications. Continuous delivery is one way this outcome can be provided. The integrated environment provided by Bluemix allows developers to automatically deliver code without the hassle of building and debugging installation scripts. This automation reduces the time needed to manage code delivery and puts it in the hands of the testers and user community faster. an application can be deployed to multiple spaces which allow segregation of environments for development, testing and production.
Bluemix allows developers to focus on delivering business value, rather than on maintaining the development environment, by scaling environments elastically based on business demand. Instead of manually deploying workloads, Bluemix will automatically redeploy workloads to other virtual machines (VMs) if there is an outage. To provide continuous availability, Bluemix abstracts the underlying architecture and keeps the manageability of services and applications at an easily understood level. Users are able to stop or start applications and define how much memory is associated with each application while Bluemix manages the rest.
In a recent Forrester study on the low-code development market, analyst Jeffrey Hammond wrote, “The market for mobile low-code development platforms is growing because more aspiring, semi-professional, and professional developers use them to close the gap between demand for mobile applicationss and the talent available to create them. Tools must support a variety of mobile workloads, as well as developers with varying skill levels.”
The report added that vendors who support multiple workloads with a high-fidelity, what-you-see-is-what-you-get (WYSIWYG) experience will lead the pack. In addition, “Vendors that can provide easy but extensive integration, support mobile specific features (e.g., notifications or TouchID), and create pixel-perfect UIs will emerge as market leaders,” the report said. As an overview the Bluemix WYSIWIG editor provides the following:
- Bluemix has all the popular runtimes already installed and ready to go. And you don't see your favourite runtime; you can install your own, because Bluemix is based on Cloud Foundry technology.
- Bluemix has a large and growing catalogue of services that are already installed and licensed for the platform, so they are easy to incorporate into your application. And they have usage-based pricing.
- The Bluemix composable service approach lets you "kick the tires" of new technologies like Watson services.
- If the Bluemix runtimes and services aren't enough for your needs, you can build your own environments using Docker-based containers.
- If you need to control the entire software stack, Bluemix supports virtual machine deployments via OpenStack.
“We have a maniacal focus on the developer,” Angel Diaz, IBM’s vice president of Cloud Technology & Architecture. “We can support rapid application development and address the so-called citizen developer and manage it in a way that the CIO is comfortable with. But then we can go further, it’s not just rapid application development with low-code and no-code, it’s about bringing the capabilities around cognitive, around data cleansing, around content carrying of unstructured data, around block chain, etc.”
Bluemix for developers is growing fast and add Watson a dash of cognitive, and artificial intelligence that creates unique appeal.
SASIT YouTube channel
YouTube is home to around 1.5 Billion active users and is the second largest social media site on the Internet. SASIT recently set up a YouTube channel in order to bring you interesting and relevant video content.
We have created four playlists:
- Partner videos: Videos created by our suppliers that we think you might find interesting
- Service overviews: SASIT service offerings presented in video format
- Industry expert interviews: Opinions of a number of IT industry experts
- Customer stories: First hand stories told by SASIT customers
Our YouTube channel is available to be viewed here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCK7dNMe_U_uzUusR1AH8iZg
Christmas period - Change freeze
SASIT systems will be subject to a change freeze from:
8:00 am Monday 11th December until 8:30 am Monday 8th January
The change freeze is applied to reduce the risk of a disruptive issue related to critical systems at a time when many engineers are on holiday. SASIT does, however, maintain a skeleton staff working 24x7 throughout the change freeze period.
Whilst the change freeze will be transparent for most customers it does mean that no modifications or upgrades associated with critical systems (Production and DR) will be undertaken during the change freeze period. In the event that your business requires your own specific freeze period, or the SASIT change freeze could create a problem for your organisation, please discuss the circumstances with your Account Manager.