Bluemix Cloud Computing Solutions Drive Value for Businesses

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By Doug Polen, Evolving Solutions Software Sales Specialist

Can Walmart really influence its vendors to migrate away from AWS cloud computing solutions?  If I was a supplier to the retail behemoth, I’d certainly want to consider my options.  AWS is the Uber of the cloud marketplace, but there are other players in the marketplace that offer viable cloud solutions.   Consider IBM’s Bluemix…

You may ask – what is IBM Bluemix, I’ve never heard of it?  Is that Softlayer?  IBM has a cloud computing solution?  These are things I have heard multiple customers say to me over the past couple of months as I have been working to create brand awareness in the Upper Midwest.  Bluemix is IBM’s IaaS and PaaS cloud solution, the IaaS components were previously branded under IBM’s Softlayer acquisition.  Earlier this year, it was merged with the Bluemix PaaS catalog of offerings which was originally launched back in 2014.

Why should you care about Bluemix now that IBM has gotten serious about IaaS and PaaS cloud computing solutions?  There are many finite details, but the top reason for a medium to large enterprise would be Private Cloud.  Many organizations are just fine with sharing their cloud environments in the public space, but as organizations embrace Hybrid Cloud models going across multiple data centers and cloud providers, how do you know your “stuff” is secure?  IBM is able to offer Public, Private, Semi-Private and Local cloud computing solutions for customers to choose what makes sense in their world…while this is likely to change, it can be a very compelling reason for customers to opt with Big Blue.

As a customer, you’ve got options.  It all depends on the use case and what you are trying to accomplish.  Based on my interactions with the IBM teams and my customers, there are some key offerings within Bluemix that are Hot on the Truck at the moment:

  • VMWare Solutions (Hytrust, Veeam & Zerto alliances)
  • Virtual Servers
  • IBM Watson Services for Cognitive Computing Capabilities
  • Weather Company Integration
  • Websphere Application Server
  • Data & Analytics Services
  • Application Integration with API Connect and App Connect

I am excited to see IBM break down many of the silos that previously made it challenging to work with.  Given the robust catalog of offerings, there are multiple ways to procure these cloud tools and services (pay/go, gift card model or subscription).  If you are an existing IBM software customer, be sure to consider the Bridge to Cloud programs at renewal time, you could get a low cost test drive of the Bluemix platform for a couple years.  Nothing on your software renewal that is eligible to bridge…ask for a small sample of Bluemix, you’ll likely see some additional discounting on your annual maintenance bill.

We are Evolving Solutions, Let’s get to work and help you understand how Bluemix cloud computing solutions can bring value to your organization. Contact us today.

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Doug Polen is a Software Sales Specialist at Evolving Solutions.

 

 

 

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Cloud Security – Questions to Ask

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Cloud services can provide any-sized business efficiency and cost savings. Cloud services can also help free up time to allow for innovation and speed up time to market. For some companies cloud services can also provide better security.  IT teams wear many hats to keep their systems in tip-top shape as the world demands always on service.  Many teams are looking to trusted partners who offer solutions to help them manage.

When it comes to adopting a cloud solution, many put security on the top of their list of concerns.  In fact, IBM recently found that 76% of CIOs consider IT security their biggest risk. Security just like other criteria should be evaluated thoroughly when looking at a new IT service whether that service is cloud related or not. IBM Cloud pulled together these questions to ask when evaluating a cloud service:

  • Who is responsible for security? Understand who owns what once the cloud solution is in place. You may find that the provider does not take full security responsibility or uses a third party.  Depending on the skills  of your team, you will need to decide if you can handle the added security needs or perhaps you can work on a shared responsibility setup or you may want a vendor who has full cloud security expertise and handling
  • How do you evaluate if the security is adequate?  When it comes to security don’t stop your evaluation at the certificate level. Dig in and find out what and where the certification covers and what it means to your business. Better yet, look for a cloud service provider that covers security for the entire infrastructure and can help you manage regulatory compliance standards
  • What happens if something goes wrong? You must understand the provider’s disaster recovery process. In today’s always on world, quick recovery is crucial not only to your customers and employees but also to your bottom line

Finally, once the decision is made to move forward, be sure to clearly document the process, procedures and the division of responsibility for managing your cloud service.

Public or Private – It’s Not All or Nothing

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Many organizations are still in the decision making process when it comes to cloud solutions. Should we go private cloud? Should we go public cloud? Should the question be centered on which type of cloud to adopt or should the question really be centered on which cloud best fits your need? We think the latter is the right approach.

Judith Hurwitz writes for IBM’s Thoughts on Cloud, “There are times when a public cloud makes more sense and other times when private cloud is ideal,” she further adds, “There are times it makes sense for security and governance concerns to place workloads in a private cloud. When the organization must be accountable for customer data, it may find that that private cloud enables its users to track and govern data more predictably.”  And still other times, to build new infrastructure to support a need may be unfeasible and a public cloud solution offers an attractive alternative to support and move fast.  Of course, there are also times when your workload or business need requires a hybrid cloud approach.

Don’t get hung up on the type of cloud solution. First, understand the problem you are trying to solve or the new demand you are trying to meet. As an example be sure you know:

  • What sort of security and control is required?
  • What sort of processing, scalability and flexibility is needed?
  • Who is the ultimate end user?
  • What systems are currently in place and would they hinder or integrate well?
  • What benefit or new revenue will come from meeting this need?

Then sit down with a trusted partner and talk through which cloud solution is the right fit. By starting first with a thorough understanding of your needs, you can better ensure a successful cloud deployment for your organization – whether public, private or hybrid.

How Cloud Can Help Provide Data Insights

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Data, data, data. Businesses across all industries are faced with not only the challenge of storing and processing ever-growing data, but also utilizing it to draw actionable insights. Not only do businesses have their own internal data sources, but in today’s world there are also external data sources that can prove to be just as critical – but how do you process and integrate.

Maia Sisk of IBM’s Big Data and Analytics Hub blog provides this perspective, “while many businesses are aware of the potential value of external data—including event, social, weather, and geospatial data—many organizations don’t have the time or resources needed to fully leverage that data once they get their hands on it.”  External data is often unstructured, it can be fragmented, and all-in-all difficult to integrate with your own internal data. Even if integration does happen, as Mr. Sisk points out, many businesses still lack the internal expertise (or time!) to draw actionable insights from it.

Ms. Sisk points to cloud data solutions as the answer to help businesses make sense of external data sources. Before jumping in, she provides these considerations when choosing a partner:

  • Data variety. The cloud data solution provider should ensure that decisions are made based on all available data –open data, business-owned data.  It should also provide you access to high velocity data from mobile devices and Internet of Things sensors
  • Comprehensive. When looking at cloud data solution try to find one partner that can bring it all together. This will reduce the time needed to manage down the road
  • Real-time.  Look for a solution that processes data in real-time and can deliver actionable insights to a diverse set of end users

Finally, create a solid strategy. What does your company hope to achieve? What questions do  you want to answer? What systems do you have (or not have) to react to insights? Use this to communicate with potential cloud solution partners so your solution can be tailored to best meet your needs.

5 Things to Know About SaaS

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Many are familiar with the term software-as-as-service (SaaS), and in fact SaaS may be some organization’s first step into cloud solutions. Janet Whaley Sifers shares five things you may not know about SaaS on IBM’s Thoughts on Cloud.

SaaS as a solution to address digital disruption. Ms. Whaley Sifers writes, “We are seeing dramatic changes in how corporate value is created. Rather than being based on tangibles, today’s shared economy is more focused on intangibles—your brand, your intellectual property and your people.” How these are managed is key to an organization’s success. As digital disruption continues to drive us to consider new ways of engaging customers and news ways of operation, software-as-a-solution can provide businesses the flexibility to test and react quickly as well as the ability to scale up and down.

SaaS is secure.  Gartner analysts find that businesses can be safer in the public cloud than in their own data centers but the key is to have the right policies and procedures in place. Ms. Whaley Sifers looks to IBM’s Chief Information Security Officer, David Cass, for advice on what a cloud vendor should be able to deliver. Taken from her article, here are his recommendations below.

Vendors should be able to provide:

  • Security by design, achieved through a secure engineering framework
  • Enforced standards, tested processes and dedicated tools to protect your data
  • Operational security enforced by state-of-the-art scanning and intrusion detection
  • Global security incident process monitored at all times

The right vendor can make it easy to adopt a software-as-a-service solution. Again look to the processes and procedures proposed before moving forward and define a clear strategy.

SaaS can bring you access to cognitive computing.  Cognitive computing is in the news more and more and businesses are interested in moving from systems that process to “think.”

Finally, to quote Ms. Whiley Sifers, “With SaaS, every department is an IT buyer. This decentralization has changed the role of IT and how every organization engages with new apps.” Although IT may find this environment tricky at times, it also opens the door for IT to engage the business and become a thought-leader for driving new processes that bring a competitive edge to their companies.

Small Businesses Take Advantage of the Cloud

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As technology continues to change, it can be difficult to keep up especially for small businesses with limited IT budgets. Look to cloud solutions as a way to stay on top.

BizTech Magazine writes, “Technology is essential to any successful company, and as many small businesses make their way on the journey to becoming big businesses, they find that optimizing their use of IT can be a major challenge. Many small businesses lack the IT skills and resources needed to take full advantage of technological advances.”

Have you found that to be true at your own company? Cloud solutions can give any-sized business the access to timely services that are scalable, ready-to-use and many times budget-friendly.  Cloud services allow your team to more easily tap into industry expertise and best practice solutions. BizTech Magazine highlights the three most common ways that small businesses use the cloud:

  • Communications
  • Productivity
  • Data/Security

While communications and productivity may center around apps, a common data/security function that more businesses are looking into is disaster recovery-as-a-service or disaster recovery in the cloud.  DR in the cloud or cloud clustering containerizes your workload and enables the ability to treat disaster recovery and testing the same way data centers treat generators and electrical load.  It offers small businesses a reliable and affordable DR solution.  In fact, the Evolving Solutions team has written in detail about DR in the age of cloud infrastructure If you would like to learn more, check out our blog post.

Cloud can open up many opportunities for small businesses but it is important to remember that you must lay a solid foundation by first evaluating your needs to determine the right cloud solution.

If you are still on the fence about how cloud might help your business, we have a great opportunity for you to learn more. Join us February 11, 2016 in St. Paul, our team will discuss what is happening in the cloud industry and break down the questions (and answers!) you should ask to develop a solid cloud strategy.  After the discussion we will head over to the Xcel to watch the MN Wild take on the Washington Capitals. We invite you to register.

Transparency & Collaboration for Better Data Security

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David Cook of IBM’s Thoughts on Cloud writes, “Security breaches are a fact of modern life. These days, it seems that every time an attack hits the news, companies redouble their efforts to prevent another one—only to find themselves facing an even more insidious threat the next time around.” So what can you do to create a great data security process?

Mr. Cook points to transparency and collaboration as being key themes to keeping your data safe in an ever growing cloud, mobile and IOT device environment.  He also adds, “As businesses and technologies evolve, so do vulnerabilities and attack vectors. That means your data security program must change with them. If it doesn’t, your company’s exposure to risk will continue to increase over time.”  Here are Mr. Cook’s recommendations for developing a solid security program to protect your data:

  • Review new data protection technology and methods constantly –often times looking to outside providers to tap their expertise and resources
  • Be open to feedback. Collaboration and transparency are a key theme here.  First, listen to your employees. Get them involved and engaged with protecting the company’s assets. Next, don’t  forget about your customers. Mr. Cook writes, “depending on your industry, product or service, your company could benefit from letting your customers review your security program. And then listen to their feedback. Oftentimes, your customers will have expertise that can help improve your program”
  • Invest in third party audits. An outside resource can spend the time to review processes and procedures to identify gaps and opportunities.  Mr. Cook recommends SOC2 Type 2 or ISO 27001 certifications.
  • Turn mistakes into opportunities.  Don’t just fall into the routine of reporting why an incident happened instead turn those misses into actionable items that improve your data security

No data security program can ever be perfect, but if you keep evolving and learning from past mistakes and recognize opportunities, be open to tapping into the expertise of outside resources and engage employees and customers, you can develop a solid secure foundation.

Cloud Trends from IBM

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Kevin Allen of IBM’s Thoughts on Cloud interviews Distinguished Engineers from IBM about the cloud trends they are seeing for the coming years.

But, first what is an IBM Distinguished Engineer (DE)? Mr. Weeks explains, “Distinguished Engineers are key technical experts with in-depth knowledge of a particular subject matter, or multiple areas. DEs, as they’re often called, help shape business decisions and processes not just at IBM, but throughout the technology field.”

Public vs. Private Cloud.  DE Jesse Proudman believes the distinction between public and private cloud will not exist within the next five years.  He sees architectures and platforms moving into a monolithic model.  This model will share the following characteristics:

  • Open APIs, hardware and software
  • Reliance on software for failover
  • Hardware moves further from cloud operations software

He points out, “The result of these forces is that increasingly similar cloud architectures are being deployed on both sides of the firewall. That’s the future we’re building at IBM. It’s a vision that lets customers build an application one time, then run that app and move its associated data to the infrastructure that makes the most sense from a business, performance, and economic standpoint. This puts customers in control, no longer forcing them to make artificial cloud architecture choices that limit future options and increase risk.”

Standards creation. DE Christopher Ferris predicts that cloud will continue to reduce the time to market for new interoperability standards. With cloud and open source not only is the feedback cycle reduced but also standards can be more easily integrated into the product from the start.

Collaboration drives innovation. Cloud continues to pave the path for increased developer collaboration. DE Andrew Hately  predicts, “As a result of the collaboration in code we’re seeing in Open Source communities, the next wave of innovative cloud services will emerge from these collaborative and vibrant developer ecosystems.”

DevOps becomes second nature. DE Dan Berg predicts, “I believe that over time we will not use the phrase DevOps anymore (or OpsDev, for that matter) because the behaviors and practices will be second nature. The principles, tools, and culture of DevOps will just become an inherent aspect of being a successful developer in the cloud.”

Share your thoughts on what cloud trends are developing.

Enterprise Cloud – Where are we now?

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Louis Columbus of Forbes walks us through several recent studies about enterprise cloud use and overall IT spending. Let’s walk through some of the key findings to learn more about the current enterprise cloud landscape.

The first study he sites is from Oxford Economics and SAP who looked at cloud adoption and use. In terms of adoption, 69% of enterprises plan to make cloud investments in the next 3 years. Many are working to migrate core business functions. Enterprises with cloud are currently using it as follows:

  • 44% to launch new business models
  • 32% to streamline supply chains
  • 29% to manage data and analytics

Mr. Columbus also reported that when compared to past studies, “they found many C- and VP-level executives are taking a more pragmatic, realistic view of what cloud technologies can contribute. Enterprises are moving beyond the hype of cloud computing, putting in the hard work of launching new business models while driving top-line revenue growth.”

An interesting infographic from the article and study showed that 61% expect cloud to help drive new products and services within the next 3 years. 51% expect new lines of business and 40% expect to enter new markets.

Enterprise cloud
image source: forbes.com

Enterprises are also seeing the impacts of their cloud adoption. 31% found the cloud to have a “transformative impact” on their business and 48% have seen performance improvements.

In another article, Mr. Columbus sites that “as enterprise cloud computing adoption matures, investments in application development increase.” The study released by Cowen & Company found IT spending on applications the top priority for 2015. It also predicts that within five years 25% to 49% of enterprise workloads will be in the public cloud.

The rise of enterprise cloud adoption in previous years seems to be now, in 2015, bearing its fruits and allowing CIOs and IT to view cloud use in new ways and apply it to solving new problems.

Why Small Businesses Should Move to the Cloud

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According to Mr. Steve Strauss of USA Today the first Top 10 list that David Letterman created aired in  September 1985 on his “Late Night” television show. It was titled “Things That Almost Rhyme with Peas.” As “The Late Show with David Letterman” comes to an end this week, Mr. Strauss takes this opportunity to engage the host’s famous top-10 list format to communicate why small businesses should move to the cloud. Check out some of those reasons…

  • It’s the future. Mr. Strauss explains, “Whether we like it or not, and whether you want to or not, your business will be moving to the cloud. Of course, you already do email in the cloud, but it is just as easy to move your other business applications there as well, whether for document storage, security, office applications, backup, finances and accounting, sales and marketing, or what have you.”
  • It’s safer. Cloud solution providers have invested in some of the best security technology out there that small businesses can tap into to better protect their own data
  • It’s easier than you think. Mr. Strauss points out that time and money are often the two biggest hurdles for small business owners. He recognizes there will be a learning curve with the cloud but not one so big that it outweighs the money and time benefits
  • It will make you more productive. In order to keep day-to-day operations going small businesses can find themselves focused on too many non-revenue generating activities beyond their specialties. There are many cloud solutions that can help take those woes off your plate and allow for more focus on strategic areas
  • It’s scalable. Cloud solutions are ready to grow with you or to dial down as needed without large investments
  • It’s affordable and up-to-date. Still running an old back-end system? Hoping an upgrade is in the budget for next year? With the cloud this is no longer the question because the app is always updated. Plus instead of buying the entire software package you are just “renting,” as Mr. Strauss puts it, what you need – improving affordability.

So what was Mr. Strauss’ number 1 reason to move to the cloud? The cloud can make your life easier. Why? Your data and applications will be accessible as needed by your team from anywhere and at anytime…and from any device.

The time is right to take that next step to get your business on track to benefit from the strengths of the cloud.