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Notes from the Field: Inside a Real World Large-Scale Cloud Deployment
I thought I’d share some important generalities about this type of effort

I’ve been granted an incredible opportunity. Over the past three and a half months I have gotten to lead a real world large-scale delivery of a cloud solution. The final solution will be delivered as Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) to the customer via an on-premise managed service. While I have developed SaaS/PaaS (Platform-as-a-Service) solutions in the past, I was fortunate enough to have been able to build those on public cloud infrastructures. This has been a rare glimpse into the “making of the sausage” having to orchestrate everything from delivery of the hardware into the data center in four countries to testing and integration with the customer environment.

All I can say about this opportunity is that the term, “it takes a village” applies well. I thought I’d share some important generalities about this type of effort. It’s important to note that this is a Global 100 company with data centers around the globe. Regardless of what the public cloud providers are telling the world, this application is not appropriate for public cloud deployment due to the volume of data traversing the network, the amount of storage required, the types of storage required (e.g. Write-Once-Read-Many), level of integration with internal environments and the requirements for failover.

The following are some observations about deploying cloud solutions at this scale:

  • Data Centers. As part of IT-as-a-Service (ITaaS) we talk a lot about convergence, software-defined data centers and general consolidation. All of this has major implications for simplifying management and lowering the total cost of ownership and operations of the data centers. However, we should not forget that it still takes a considerable amount of planning and effort to bring new infrastructure into an existing data center. The most critical of these is that the data center is a living entity that doesn’t stop because work is going on, which means a lot of this effort occurs after hours and in maintenance windows. This particular data center freezes all changes between mid-December till mid-January to ensure that their customers will not have interrupted service during a peak period that includes major holidays and end of year reporting, which had significant impact on attempting to meet certain end-of-year deliverables. On site surveys were critical to planning the organization of the equipment (four racks in total) on the floor to minimize cabling efforts and ensure our equipment was facing in the right direction to meet the needs for hot/cold isles. Additionally, realize that in this type of business, every country may have different rules for accessing, operating in and racking your equipment.
  • Infrastructure. At the end of the day, we can do more with the hardware infrastructure architectures now available. While we leverage virtualization to take advantage of the greater compute power, it does not alleviate the requirements around planning a large-scale virtual environment that must span countries. Sometimes, it’s the smallest details that can be the most difficult to work out, for example, how to manage an on-premise environment, such as this one, as a service. The difficulties here is that the network, power, cooling, etc. are provided for by the customer, which requires considerable efforts to negotiate shared operating procedures, while still attempting to commit to specific service levels. Many of today’s largest businesses do not operate their internal IT organizations with the same penalties for failure to meet a service level agreement (SLA) as they would apply to an external service provider. Hence, service providers that must rely on this foundation face many challenges and hurdles to ensuring their own service levels.
  • Security. Your solution may be reviewed by the internal security team to ensure it is compliant with current security procedures and policies. Since this is most often not the team that procured or built the solution, you should not expect that they will be able to warn you about all the intricacies for deploying a solution for the business. The best advice here would be to ensure you engage the security team early and often once you have completed your design. In US Federal IT, part of deployment usually requires that those implementing the system obtain an Authority to Operate (ATO). Quite often, medium- and large-sized businesses have a similar procedure; it’s just not spelled out so succinctly. Hence, these audits and tests can introduce unexpected expenses due to the need to modify the solution and unexpected delays.
  • Software. Any piece of software can be tested and operated under a modest set of assumptions. When that software must be deployed as part of a service that has requirements to meet certain performance metrics as well as meet certain recovery metrics in the case of an outage, that same software can fall flat on its face. Hence, the long pole in the tent for building out a cloud solution at this scale is testing for disaster recovery and scalability. In addition to requiring time to complete, it often requires a complementary environment for disaster recovery and failover testing, which can be a significant additional cost to the project. I will also note that in a complex environment software license management can become very cumbersome. I recommend starting the license catalog early and ensure that it is maintained throughout the project.
  • Data Flow. A complex cloud-based solution that integrates with existing internal systems operating on different networks across multiple countries will have to cross multiple firewalls, routers and run along paths with varying bandwidth carrying varying levels of traffic. Hence, issues for production operation and remote management can be impacted by multiple factors both during planning and during operation. No matter how much testing is done in a lab, the answer seemingly comes down to, “we’ll just have to see how it performs in production.” So, perhaps, a better title for this bullet might be “Stuff You’re Going To Learn Only After You Start The Engine.” Your team will most likely have a mix of personalities. Some will be okay with this having learned from doing similar projects in their past, others will not be able to get past this point and continually raise objections. Shoot the naysayer! Okay, not really, but seriously, adopt this mandate and make sure everyone on the team understands it.
  • Documentation. I cannot say enough about ensuring you document early and often. Once the train is started, it’s infinitely more difficult to catch up. Start with good highly-reviewed requirements. Review them with the customer. Call to order the ARB and have them review and sign off. This is a complex environment with a lot of interdependencies. It’s not going to be simple to change one link without it affecting many others. The more changes you can avoid the more smoothly the process of getting a system into production will be.

Most importantly, and I cannot stress this enough, is the importance in building a team environment to accomplish the mission. Transforming a concept into a production-ready operational system requires a large number of people to cooperatively work together to address the hurdles. The solution as designed on paper will hardly ever match perfectly what is deployed in the field for the reasons stated above. This project is heavily reliant upon a Program Management Organization with representatives from engineering, managed services, field services, product and executive leadership to stay on track. Developing the sense of team within this group is critical to providing the appropriate leadership to the project as a whole. Subsequently, we also formed an Architecture Review Board (ARB) comprised of key technical individuals related to each aspect of the solution to address and find solutions for major technical issues that emerged throughout the project. In this way we ensure the responses were holistic in nature, not just focused on the specific problem, but also provided alternatives that would work within the scope of the entire project.

Read the original blog entry...

About JP Morgenthal
JP Morgenthal is a veteran IT solutions executive and Distinguished Engineer with CSC. He has been delivering IT services to business leaders for the past 30 years and is a recognized thought-leader in applying emerging technology for business growth and innovation. JP's strengths center around transformation and modernization leveraging next generation platforms and technologies. He has held technical executive roles in multiple businesses including: CTO, Chief Architect and Founder/CEO. Areas of expertise for JP include strategy, architecture, application development, infrastructure and operations, cloud computing, DevOps, and integration. JP is a published author with four trade publications with his most recent being “Cloud Computing: Assessing the Risks”. JP holds both a Masters and Bachelors of Science in Computer Science from Hofstra University.

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There is little doubt that Big Data solutions will have an increasing role in the Enterprise IT mainstream over time. Get a jump on that rapidly evolving trend at Big Data Expo, which we are introducing in June at
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Cloud Expo was a fantastic event for CSS Corp - we easily exceeded our objectives for engaging with clients and prospects."
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With our launch at Cloud Expo, we successfully transformed the company from a relatively unknown European player into the dominant player in the market. Our competitors were taken by surprise and just blown away. We got a huge number of really high quality leads..."
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@CloudExpo Blogs
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I wanted to gather all of my Internet of Things (IOT) blogs into a single blog (that I could later use with my University of San Francisco (USF) Big Data “MBA” course). However as I started to pull these blogs together, I realized that my IOT discussion lacked a vision; it lacked an end point towards which an organization could drive their IOT envisioning, proof of value, app dev, data engineering and data science efforts. And I think that the IOT end point is really quite simple…
IT planning is an imprecise science that allows IT experts to increase the flexibility and agility of IT environments while reducing the bottom line. In an ideal world, where time and budget are not limiting factors, upgrading an organization's infrastructure happens on an ongoing, as-needed basis. In the real world, IT administrators have to make decisions about the hardware they put in place and how to maintain acceptable service levels over the course of the equipment's expected life. Most businesses do not have the luxury of replacing their current storage systems when IT demands outpace ...
Microsoft took another step toward being king of the cloud hill when it announced in January that it was releasing its Azure stack to the public. There are many technical reasons why this is cool, but more importantly, it's the psychological advantage this gives Microsoft. Google has always had the ability for developers using its stack to develop locally on the same tools that run in Google App Engine. It recently forked its environments, so now the local and cloud environments are slightly different for some of the configurations -- I can't tell you how many nights I have lost sleep becaus...
No matter how well-built your applications are, countless issues can cause performance problems, putting the platforms they are running on under scrutiny. If you've moved to Node.js to power your applications, you may be at risk of these issues calling your choice into question. How do you identify vulnerabilities and mitigate risk to take the focus off troubleshooting the technology and back where it belongs, on innovation? There is no doubt that Node.js is one of today's leading platforms of choice for microservices and gluing tiers, connecting the heavy lifting business logic with modern o...
Yes this post is about the #Brexit, but it's about your data more importantly! As a company that has a large customer and open source user community in the EU, I thought a quick note on some considerations following the Brexit vote were in order. This is not an opinion piece, as that would seem to be casting stones at this point. The vote is done and the process will move forward as it was voted, but I do think the impacts of this decision are going to be incredibly disruptive and likely felt for a long time to come in many ways well outside the economic or political realms. There is no secto...
The Dean of the University of San Francisco School of Management, Elizabeth Davis, recently asked me to sit on a Big Data panel at the Direct Sales Association conference. I was given a 5-minute slot to “demystify” Big Data to a non-technical group of about 1,000 people; to help them understand where and how this thing called “Big Data” could help them. Well if you know me, I can barely introduce myself in 5 minutes. But this was particularly challenging for me, as I’m used to talking about Big Data with organizations with at least some level of Big Data experience or understanding (maybe the...
The data warehouse and data lake are two different types of data storage repository. The data warehouse integrates data from different sources and suits business reporting. The data lake stores raw structured and unstructured data in whatever form the data source provides. It does not require prior knowledge of the analyses you think you want to perform. A data lake is a storage repository that holds a vast amount of raw data in its native format until it is needed. While a hierarchical data warehouse stores data in files or folders, a data lake uses a flat architecture to store data.
Are you still pondering whether to integrate cloud computing services into the structure of your IT network? You are not the only one. Most IT professionals are very concerned about data security, so they aren’t that willing to switch to cloud computing solutions that easily. It’s a fact that even advanced services like Amazon’s EC2 aren’t ready to cater to all privacy needs of data-sensitive companies.
More than with previous technological (r)evolutions a side effect of cloud computing seems to be an increase in the degree of centralisation and concentration, not just within company organisations, but particularly in the wider commercial market. This is the most obvious with Software as a Service, where providers such as AirBNB, Uber, but also earlier cloud services such as LinkedIn and Google Search quickly established a ‘winner takes all’ distribution of market share and thus market power. And also in Infrastructure as a Service, we see an quickly diminishing number of suppliers still hav...
It feels like the barbarians are continually at the gate. We can’t seem to go more than a week before a new data breach is in the news, impacting potentially millions of individuals. The targets range from companies like Omni Hotels, which had been breached affecting up to 50,000 customers whose personal and credit card information was exposed, to North Carolina State University, where over 38,000 students’ personal information, including their SSNs, were at risk. As I mentioned in a recent blog ‘Internet of Things and Big Data – who owns your data?’, we have been storing our personal and cred...
Tangerine Bank in Toronto has improved end-user experiences for online banking and made data more secure across its lifecycle, speeding the delivery of a new credit card offering. We'll now learn how improving end-user experiences for online banking and making data more secure across its lifecycle has helped speed the delivery of a new credit card offering.
Clouds are typically classified into four different topologies: private, public, community and hybrid clouds. Let’s focus on hybrid clouds: what are the use cases that require this topology, what are the challenges, and who stands to benefit from the hybrid cloud trend? First off, a definition: A hybrid cloud is a topology in which more than one cloud infrastructure is utilized to solve a particular problem.
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Past SYS-CON Events
    Cloud Expo West
cloudcomputingexpo
2011west.sys-con.com

 
    Cloud Expo East
cloudcexpo
2011east.sys-con.com

 
    Cloud Expo West
cloudcomputingexpo
2010west.sys-con.com

 
    Virtualization Expo West
virtualization
2010west.sys-con.com
    Cloud Expo Europe
cloudexpoeurope2010.
sys-con.com

 
    Cloud Expo East
cloudcomputingexpo
2010east.sys-con.com

 
    Virtualization Expo East
virtualizationconference
2010east.sys-con.com
    Cloud Expo West
cloudcomputingexpo
2009west.sys-con.com

 
    Virtualization Expo West
virtualizationconference
2009west.sys-con.com
    GovIT Expo
govitexpo.com
 
    Cloud Expo Europe
cloudexpoeurope2009.sys-con.com
 

Cloud Expo 2011 Allstar Conference Faculty

S.F.S.
Dell

Singer
NRO

Pereyra
Oracle

Ryan
OpSource

Butte
PwC

Leone
Oracle

Riley
AWS

Varia
AWS

Lye
Oracle

O'Connor
AppZero

Crandell
RightScale

Nucci
Dell Boomi

Hillier
CiRBA

Morrison
Layer 7 Tech

Robbins
NYT

Schwarz
Oracle

What The Enterprise IT World Says About Cloud Expo
 
"We had extremely positive feedback from both customers and prospects that attended the show and saw live demos of NaviSite's enterprise cloud based services."
  –William Toll
Sr. Director, Marketing & Strategic Alliances
Navisite
 


 
"More and better leads than ever expected! I have 4-6 follow ups personally."
  –Richard Wellner
Chief Scientist
Univa UD
 


 
"Good crowd, good questions. The event looked very successful."
  –Simon Crosby
CTO
Citrix Systems
 


 
"It's the largest cloud computing conference I've ever seen."
  –David Linthicum
CTO
Brick Group