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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The Cloud Today: Hybrid

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“Cloud can be the centerpiece of an overall organizational transformation,” writes Meenagi Venkat for IBM’s Thoughts on Cloud blog.  That is today.   His team in a recent survey asked: how are organizations currently differentiating themselves using cloud.  78% of the executives they surveyed identified their cloud initiatives as “coordinated or fully integrated.” That is a big jump considering that Mr. Venkat’s team also found that in 2012, just 4 years ago, cloud was considered “special.”  A special project, a pilot project – no longer for enterprises, today, cloud is opening up new markets and revenue streams for businesses across many industries. And much of successful cloud use is a combination of public, private and internal systems – hybrid.

Why has the cloud allowed many companies to succeed in new ways? One reason Mr. Venkat’s team points out is its natural on-demand and scalable features.  These cloud features have created new testing environments that are quick and automated enabling what he calls “rapid experimentation.” Companies can more easily test new ideas and find out failure or success faster, and when they find success they can move quickly to roll out and expand. Often businesses are achieving this success through a blend of public cloud, private cloud and traditional IT services.  They are taking the approach that a hybrid model should be molded to best fit their company needs.

What if your company is just getting started or has had some success and wants to go further? Mr. Venkat’s study found that common considerations or questions that you should start to address are the following:

  • Hybrid. How will your company blend public, private and your own IT systems to take your strategy and operations to the next level?
  • Investment and monitoring. What level of investment can your company make? What will your company need to regularly monitor and how does that change over time?
  • External expertise. Firms achieving success in the survey are also taking advantage of outside resources to gain expertise and efficiency. How effective is your company with utilizing external expertise?

The cloud can open up new doors for your company but you need to have a solid strategy and the right tools and people in place.  Approach the different models not as all or nothing, but instead blend the models into a hybrid approach that works best for your company – that is cloud today.

The Road to Using Hybrid Cloud

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Integrating cloud into your organization is more of a journey than a one-time project. As your business needs evolve so can your cloud needs.  Is hybrid cloud adoption your next stop?   By adopting hybrid cloud companies can tap into the flexibility of public cloud services while also utilizing private cloud for more sensitive data and applications. Today let’s look at seven steps your organization can take to integrate hybrid cloud from John Meegan of IBM’s Thoughts on Cloud.

How to get started:

  • Determine the cloud deployment model
  • Integrate with existing enterprise systems
  • Address connectivity requirements
  • Develop governance policies and service agreements
  • Assess and resolve security and privacy challenges
  • Manage the cloud environment
  • Consider a backup, archive and data recovery plan

Mr. Meegan explains more on how to choose the right cloud deployment model, “The right deployment model aligns IT and business needs, and makes it easier to achieve those objectives.” He lists out the following decision criteria to guide your hybrid cloud adoption (or any cloud model):

  • flexibility
  • security
  • speed
  • automation
  • cost
  • locality
  • service levels
  • system interdependencies.

Your company’s unique operation and needs should drive what cloud model to choose.

On connectivity, he points out that IT should remember that aside from connecting components, you must also consider does the connection meet service levels, security and does it empower your overall IT management strategy.  Mr. Meegan also mentions your organization should consider using network virtualization if available and make sure connectivity also supports resilience and disaster recovery requirements.

Finally, think through how you will manage your hybrid cloud environment. What tools do you have in place? What tools does your cloud provider have? How can these be utilized in your operations? Working in multiple environments creates additional challenges but the right management strategies and tools can help your team manage your IT operations in and out of the cloud.

Hybrid Cloud
Source: thoughtsoncloud.com

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.

A Breakdown of Cloud Storage

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Do you find yourself getting the question, “What exactly is cloud storage?” Today, let’s breakdown what cloud storage is.

According to an article on IBM Cloud, storage software is predicted to overtake storage hardware by 2020, by which time it will have to manage 40 zettabytes (40 sextillion bytes) of data. From these stats, you can clearly see that cloud storage is definitely in your future if not already part of your day to day now.

First, IBM points out that “cloud storage enables applications to upload data to a network of remote, connected servers. Applications can then maintain that data and access it from anywhere.” There are a few varieties of cloud storage. There is personal cloud storage, which many may be familiar with. Personal storage services allow any individual the ability to store and sync data across multiple locations and devices.  At the enterprise and business level, the three break outs for cloud storage are public, private and hybrid.  When choosing public cloud storage, you are working with a provider who manages the storage completely offsite. Private cloud storage is on-site/on-premise storage within your data center.  Finally, hybrid cloud storage is a mix of both public and private features.

Why cloud storage? Also a good question and one your team may be getting. At the most basic breakout, cloud storage provides advantages around the following:

  • Accessibility – whether from multiple business locations or multiple devices data in the cloud can be more easily accessed when needed
  • Data recovery – some still associate cloud as a risky place to put data, but actually many businesses take their first steps into cloud for data backup and recovery.  The cloud presents more options (at more affordable prices) for data recovery, allowing any-sized business the ability to build a better business continuity solution
  • Cost – most businesses find themselves handling more and more data each day. Whether structured or unstructured, data sources are expanding and companies who learn to draw actionable insights have a competitive advantage in the marketplace.  But, how do you store all this data without expensive hardware purchases? The answer is in the cloud

Finally, if you are are new to the cloud, first identify low hanging fruit or non-critical data that you could test in a cloud environment to gain experience not only with the cloud itself but also with how the cloud integrates with your company’s systems and processes.

We also invite you to contact us with your cloud questions and you can also check out our cloud webinars for helpful information on trends and cloud options.

Building a Successful Cloud Storage Strategy

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Cloud StorageDid you know that more than 80% of enterprises embarked on a hybrid cloud strategy in 2015? That is true according to a Rightscale survey reports Steve Uniack for IBM’s Thoughts on Cloud blog. This also took place in a world with ever-growing data – much of it unstructured – creating new demands on storage. So how do you now adjust your cloud storage strategy as your company’s data grows?

Mr. Uniack recommends that you evaluate your company to create a cloud storage strategy that enables you to be “agile” in order to tackle not only growing data but also new data sources. “Start with identifying the storage use cases for your workloads,” writes Mr. Uniack. Below are what he considers to be “high-value” storage opportunities:

  • Back up and archive
  • Disaster recovery or data recovery
  • Storage bursting
  • Collaboration
  • Unstructured data
  • Analytics

Each of the above utilizes the cloud to bring your company flexibility and scale as you need it. He adds, “A successful cloud storage strategy includes not just the use of public cloud storage, but also techniques that reduce costs and provide business agility using private and hybrid cloud approaches.” Mr. Uniack also gives specific examples of effective cloud storage strategies. Here are a few of note:

  • Virtualizing on-premises storage environments to drive utilization and provide a foundation for automation
  • Automating the placement and movement of data to the right storage platform at the right time based on demand and service levels
  • Employing compression and deduplication solutions to store and do more with less

Cloud storage has the ability to offer your company more agility to move, plan and react to changing data demands but it first starts with developing a solid strategy.

Thriving with Hybrid Cloud

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Cynthya Peranandam and Laura Sanders of IBM discuss in a recent article what benefits hybrid cloud brings to organizations.  Today, let’s look at their breakdown:

Efficiency and productivity benefits.  This may sound familiar as it is regularly noted as a hybrid cloud benefit.  To be more specific, Ms. Peranandam and Sanders cite a recent IBM study of hybrid cloud leaders which found that 85% of those surveyed reported cost benefits from being able to shift some fixed costs to variable costs. 82% reported productivity gains.

Advancements up the “digital value chain.”  The author’s write, “what’s new is the focus on hybrid cloud as an enabler of digital change, by enabling product and service innovation and the ability to expand into new markets and serve new customer segments.” The survey finds leading companies are four times more likely to use hybrid for digital services.  Hybrid cloud allows developers to accelerate development to bring new services faster to market.

Increased ability to use emerging tech.  Technologies such as cognitive computing have hybrid computing part of their foundation.  Hybrid leaders in IBM’s survey are using hybrid cloud to gain an edge in the market place.

The authors point out that  hybrid cloud has become the norm, but many businesses still struggle to gain the above benefits. The reason why is the lack of a clear and deliberate strategy. Before you begin your hybrid cloud journey they recommend that first your strategy must maximize your existing infrastructure and also that any hybrid solution you choose must grant you greater visibility over the entire system. Having a clear strategy will help you reap more benefits from your hybrid cloud solution.

App Performance in the Hybrid Cloud

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As more and more businesses move to hybrid cloud solutions, it becomes important to also manage the “application-performance gap” as Steve Brar writes for the Data Center Journal.

“IT departments need visibility, optimization and control across hybrid clouds and networks to ensure that all on-premises, cloud and SaaS applications perform” and he later points out, “to deliver superior application performance in today’s hybrid environments, enterprises need a comprehensive solution that provides end-to-end application visibility, optimization and control.”  A study in Mr. Brar article finds that many executives while moving more apps to the cloud are still also lacking the right visibility and control to ensure software performs well.

Mr. Brar breaks down first what is needed for achieving visibility:

  • Network- and application-aware path-selection capability
  • Dynamic tunneling capability with a central control plane
  • Interface with a cloud-based security provider
  • Inbound QoS
  • Unified management plane

By implementing the above you can better understand what users are experiencing problems, where the problem is happening and what is the root cause.

Control is also important in app-performance. IT must not only be able to diagnose the problem but also lead the way to fix it. Mr. Brar provides some insight on how to approach control.   First don’t keep the problem in-house.  Not only should you communicate what is happening to your critical service providers, the business and other executives but you can work together to develop a solution to fix.  Become aware of where problems are happening.  Mr. Brar writes, “follow the traffic.”  Finally, Mr. Brar recommends that you also move to becoming predictive.  What trends are you seeing? Is there a way to foresee problems or determine trigger points?

Poor app performance doesn’t just affect employees and productivity but it also impacts customers and clients and ultimately the bottom line. Closing the “application-performance gap” is an opportunity for IT to take the lead to improve overall organizational performance.

IBM: How Hybrid Helps CTOs

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“The debate is over. Hybrid cloud services—seamlessly blending on-premise infrastructure with cloud infrastructure—are firmly established as the engine of growth and transformation for companies across the globe,” IBM declares in a recent white paper developed in partnership with Hurwitz & Associates.  In their white paper, they outline how hybrid cloud solves five challenges that chief technology officers (CTOs) face.  Today, let’s take a look at their findings.

The Challenges. First as they discussed the current operating environment and market demands with tech leaders, common concerns became apparent. CTOs report they are concerned about:

  • Responding rapidly to changing business demands
  • Delivering on SLAs
  • Securing data and intellectual property
  • Controlling costs
  • Simplifying management and orchestration of assets

Do any of these challenges sound familiar?  Do you have the same concerns?

The Benefits of Hybrid Cloud. Hybrid cloud allows companies to build a competitive advantage with better service integration, more flexibility and faster workload deployments.  One leader in the white paper remarked, “One of the drawbacks of standard IT is being flexible enough to meet changing customer needs while being rigid enough and consistent enough to be automated in a cloud environment.”  As the world continues to go more mobile, more web and more social both customers and employees demand information and services instantly.  Hybrid cloud allows for seamless integration across operating models and provides the flexibility and the ability to scale-up to meet today’s needs and be ready for tomorrow’s. A hybrid cloud solution gives companies an end-to-end view to better evaluate costs.  The white paper also points out that hybrid cloud solutions grounded in virtualization, multi-tenancy and micro-partitioning are key to better orchestration and management. Finally, hybrid cloud can help maintain security at all levels. Hybrid cloud brings the best of both public and private cloud services allowing IT visibility into each area.

Hybrid cloud has become an important solution that allows companies to remain competitive in today’s ever changing environment.

Building a Successful Hybrid Cloud

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Judith Hurwitz writes for IBM’s Thoughts on Cloud, “Increasingly, organizations are looking to cloud services to respond to the need for speed, flexibility and containing costs. As cloud becomes more strategic to the business, the hybrid cloud is becoming the optimal method for delivering services in a predictable and secure manner. Hybrid cloud environments allow businesses to quickly react to market changes and deliver a new generation of applications to customers. When implemented correctly, the hybrid cloud can become a business game changer.” In a recent article she walks through three “imperatives” for a successful hybrid cloud:

  • Data integration – most companies have data existing across their organization and often in silos. Proper work must be completed to ensure data is integrated up front, so it can flow and combine as needed in a cloud-based environment
  • Workload management – hybrid cloud allows companies to gain flexibility when it comes to where their workloads run. This can bring improvement to operational efficiencies and effectiveness. Before this can happen work needs to be completed to determine how workload management will take place as well as identification of restrictions. Ms. Hurwitz gives the example of privacy laws which may be a restriction on certain workloads from operating on the public cloud
  • Data and application portability – again this piece has to do with taking advantage of the efficiencies gained from having the option to run in the cloud or via an on-premise system. If your data and applications are not built for portability your organization will not be able to toggle between the new environments when needed

In closing, Ms. Hurwitz underscores, “Hybrid cloud will continue to grow as organizations strive to increase their speed and agility to react to changing business circumstances. New, data intensive applications, often delivered to mobile devices is also driving the adoption of hybrid cloud deployments. Having the right infrastructure to support business and IT requirements for performance, capacity, security and management is foundational for a successful hybrid cloud model.”