Zadara Blog

News, information, opinion and commentary on issues affecting enterprise data storage and management.

Challenges MSPs Face as Customers Move to the Cloud

The face of the MSP (managed IT services provider) marketplace is changing rapidly. Not so long ago the keys to success for most MSPs revolved around recommending or selling the newest and best hardware and software products to their customers. But as more and more companies migrate to the cloud, that approach is no longer adequate.

The Cloud’s XaaS Model Changes Everything for MSPs

Perhaps the most important feature of the cloud model is that it allows customers to meet many, if not all, of their IT requirements by making use of pay-as-you-go services offered by cloud providers. This “anything as a service” (XaaS) approach reduces, or in some cases totally eliminates, the necessity of purchasing specific hardware/software solutions. For example, many companies no longer meet their document processing needs by installing Microsoft Office on their computers. Instead they simply subscribe to Office 365 and receive the services they need through the cloud.


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In today’s IT environment customers aren’t looking for products, but for solutions. That means MSPs must now demonstrate that they provide a unique value proposition for customers who can theoretically go directly to a CSP (cloud service provider) to obtain almost any type of IT service they might need.

Yet the good news for MSPs is that customers aren’t really looking for services – they’re looking for solutions to the business issues they face. As IT business coach Mike Schmidtmann puts it, “Cloud is a business conversation, not a price-and-product conversation.”

So, the MSPs that survive and thrive in the age of the cloud will be those who shift away from simply offering specific products, and move toward providing strategic IT solutions that help their customers realize their business objectives.

value-added features

A Good MSP Will Help Customers Develop an IT Strategy Based on Business Goals

Most MSP clients are not interested in IT per se. Their focus is on using IT effectively to enhance their business operations. So, the first service a cloud-savvy MSP can provide to their customers is to help them develop a comprehensive IT strategy that is closely aligned with the company’s business objectives. In effect, the MSP will seek to become an extension of the customer’s own IT staff, providing a depth of expertise and operational capability that would be very difficult for the customer to maintain in-house.

Once armed with a good understanding of the customer’s business goals, an MSP can help them develop a comprehensive IT strategy that will support those objectives. So, the first conversations between MSPs and their customers shouldn’t be about specific solutions, but about the goals and strategy that customer is pursuing for both the present and the future of its business.


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A Good MSP Will Identify Specific Cloud Solutions That Meet Customer Needs

cloud storage as-a-service

A recent CompTIA survey reveals that many companies, especially smaller ones, have a great deal of difficulty in aligning their IT infrastructure with their business strategy. They simply don’t have the in-house technological expertise to do so effectively. John Burgess, president of an MSP in Little Rock, AR, says that such companies are “usually fairly ad hoc and reactionary in how they manage and spend technology.”

Here’s where the added value an MSP partner can provide becomes clearly evident. A good MSP can help identify the specific available cloud services that best fit the customer’s business strategy. In doing so, the MSP will be looking not just at individual services and the CSPs that offer them, but at how those services can be integrated into a unified system that can be effectively managed as a single solution.

A Good MSP Will Manage the Customer’s Cloud Infrastructure

Perhaps the most important service a good MSP can offer is to relieve customers of the burden of having to worry about their IT operations. This involves the capability to initially put the system in place, to monitor its operations on a 24/7/365 basis, and to proactively handle problem resolution and upgrades to system components.

A Good MSP Will Establish Relationships With Expert Partners

Few MSPs have the resources to develop and maintain in-house the kind of comprehensive cloud expertise required to fully support their customers on their own. Most will benefit from having specialized expert partners that can support the MSP in the services they offer to customers.

A good example of such a partner is Zadara Storage. As a storage-as-a-service (STaaS) provider, Zadara offers a high level of expertise in all elements of storage, whether in the public cloud, private clouds, or customers’ on-premises data centers. In fact, Zadara’s VPSA Storage Arrays are already installed in the facilities of major public cloud platforms such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform (GCP), and are available for installation on customer premises as the basis of a private or hybrid cloud solution.

Whether the VPSA Storage Arrays they use are in the cloud, on-premises, or both, Zadara customers never buy storage hardware. Instead, they purchase storage services, paying a monthly fee for only the amount of storage they actually use during that billing period.


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October 4, 2017

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Practical Benefits Of A Hybrid Cloud Strategy

As more and more companies move to the cloud, one of the first questions they have to answer is which cloud model best fits their needs: public, private, or hybrid. Many are choosing the hybrid model as their best option.

The term “hybrid cloud” simply refers to an operational environment that includes both private and public cloud platforms. It has become an attractive model for many enterprises because it allows users to take advantage of the cost and functionality advantages of the public cloud, while also gaining the flexibility and control a private cloud provides.

Let’s take a quick look at some of the unique benefits of a hybrid cloud strategy.

Flexibility to Determine Optimal Placement of Workloads

With a hybrid cloud, administrators can decide where to place each workload to maximize efficiency and minimize costs.

The distinctive characteristic of the public cloud is its ability to provide IT services on demand without requiring up-front capital investments for hardware and infrastructure. With its XaaS (“Whatever you need”-as-a-Service) model, public cloud platforms, such as Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services (AWS), or Google Cloud Platform (GCP), have become excellent vehicles for quickly deploying common applications that many companies depend on.

Whether it’s a CRM (customer relationship management) or ERM (enterprise resource management) application, or perhaps a document management environment such as Office 365, companies can institute such workloads on a public cloud platform quickly and cost-effectively.

Yet many organizations also have workloads that are better served in an on-premises environment than in the public cloud. For example, workloads that require very high levels of I/O responsiveness, such as big data analytics, may be affected by public cloud latency issues that could degrade system performance to unacceptable levels. By housing such workloads in a company’s on-premises private cloud, where storage and servers can be kept in close physical proximity to one another, latency effects can be minimized.

Control of Data and Applications

The public cloud is a multi-tenant environment in which resources are shared among a number of customers. Many companies, concerned about the possibility of their workloads somehow being affected by the activities of other users, prefer to keep their mission-critical applications at home in a private cloud, under their direct control, while offloading less critical workloads to the public cloud.

Data Placement to Meet Security Requirements

Data security keys

Data security is the number one reason for the use of private clouds. Although public cloud platforms can now provide very high levels of data protection, many organizations believe that their most sensitive data is less vulnerable when it is kept at home behind their own firewall. This is particularly true for companies in industries, such as healthcare or banking, that are subject to regulatory compliance mandates that specify how customer information must be kept secure.

On the other hand, less sensitive data that becomes inactive or infrequently used can be moved to public cloud storage to take advantage of lower costs and greater scalability.

Speed of Testing and Deploying New Applications

Many companies use both public and private clouds in the testing and deployment of new applications. The design parameters of new apps can be shaped, refined, and thoroughly tested using a public cloud PaaS (Platform-as-a-Service) offering. Because PaaS resources are virtualized, developers can call them in as needed without having to spend capital funds to purchase hardware. Then, once development and testing are complete, the application can be deployed to a public or private cloud for production.

Spillover of Non-Critical Data to the Public Cloud

keyboard in clouds

Many hybrid cloud implementations are specifically designed to allow seamless failover to the public cloud should the operations of an organization’s private cloud be disrupted for any reason. This is especially true in the area of data backup/restore and disaster recovery. Once the emergency has passed, operations can be returned to the private cloud environment, often without users ever being aware that the failure occurred.

This is also the idea behind “cloud bursting,” which is instituted when surges in demand outpace the capacity of a private cloud. Whether it’s pre-planned, perhaps in anticipation of seasonal spikes in traffic, or is the entirely unexpected result of some news event that suddenly drives increased traffic to a company’s website, non-sensitive data can be temporarily spilled over into the public cloud so that operations can continue without disruption.

The Zadara Hybrid Cloud Storage Solution

The Zadara Storage Cloud has proven to be a highly effective storage solution for hybrid cloud implementations. Zadara VPSA Storage Arrays are connected to major cloud providers like AWS, Azure, and GCP. They can also be housed on customer premises as the storage component of a private cloud. With their remote replication and mirroring capabilities, these devices can transparently transfer stored data between clouds to facilitate failover, spillover, backup/restore, and disaster recovery.

Zadara VPSA Storage Arrays are provided on a storage-as-a-service (STaaS) basis. No matter how many may be installed on site, customers pay only a monthly fee for just the amount of storage they actually use during the billing period.

If you’d like to explore how Zadara Storage can assist your company in developing a cost-effective hybrid cloud implementation, please download the ‘Zadara Storage Cloud’ whitepaper.

September 26, 2017

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How a Multi-Cloud Strategy Can Benefit MSPs

Businesses of all sizes are moving to the cloud in ever-increasing numbers. MSPs (Managed IT Services Providers) are recognizing that if they don’t want to be left behind, they’ve got to lead the way. That’s why most successful MSPs today are committed to providing their customers with a comprehensive array of services delivered through the cloud.

But for an MSP to provide the highest levels of cloud-based services, it’s not enough to develop expertise with any particular cloud platform. All the major cloud service providers (CSPs), such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform (GCP), offer a common set of basic features. Yet, they also differ from one another significantly in the types of services each is best suited to provide. That’s why deriving the maximum benefit from the cloud model requires the ability to take advantage of the best that each individual cloud platform has to offer.

In other words, to get the most out of the cloud, you need a multi-cloud strategy.

The multi-cloud approach provides some important advantages to MSPs, both in the services they can offer their customers, and in terms of their own operations. Let’s take a look at some of these benefits.


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Benefits to MSP Customers

multi cloud puzzle pieces

Match Workloads To the Most Suitable Platforms

All the major clouds provide similar suites of basic services. Yet each is optimized for different types of workloads. For example, if your customer is running Windows client apps, Microsoft Azure is a natural fit. If they are doing big data analytics, GCP might be a better choice. Part of your job as a multi-cloud MSP is to help your customers determine the best cloud platform for each of their workloads.

Avoid Vendor Lock-In

A good MSP will work with clients to ensure that their workloads are portable between platforms. That way, if a client becomes dissatisfied with a particular platform for any reason, their options won’t be limited by the prospect of a costly and time-consuming migration to another cloud.

Reduce Costs

Each CSP provides different service plans, at different price points, for each set of features it offers. Part of what a cloud-savvy MSP can offer clients is the ability to distribute specific workloads among the various cloud platforms to not only take advantage of what each cloud does best but also, to get the best pricing for exactly the services the client needs.


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Enhance Data Security

By replicating data (and even virtual servers) among different clouds, MSPs can offer a high level of backup/recovery and disaster recovery services to clients. A disruption at one location can immediately trigger failover to either another zone or to an entirely different cloud platform.

Benefits to the MSP Itself

choosing multi cloud

Increase Your Ability to Meet SLA Requirements

MSPs are usually bound by a Service Level Agreement (SLA) that provides a specific up-time guarantee. A multi-cloud strategy helps MSPs meet SLA up-time requirements by allowing operations to be quickly and transparently shifted from a CSP that is experiencing an outage to a different platform.

Keep Up With Technological Advances

The major cloud platforms are quite competitive with one another. Each works hard to introduce new or improved features that are not available through its competitors. But multi-cloud MSPs are able to tap into innovations introduced by any of the CSPs with whom they work.

Extend Your Expertise

A multi-cloud approach can substantially reduce the degree to which an MSP is required to be a technical jack of all trades. Instead of maintaining in-house experts for a wide range of solutions, MSPs can leverage the expertise of the various CSPs to offer platform-specific services to clients.

How Zadara Can Help With a Multi-cloud Strategy

The Zadara Storage Cloud is ideal as part of a multi-cloud solution. With Zadara VPSA Storage Arrays installed both on customer premises and connected to the major cloud providers such as AWS, Azure, and GCP, data can be seamlessly and transparently replicated among various public and private cloud platforms. Download White Paper: Getting Great Performance in the Cloud.


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September 21, 2017

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Why Companies Adopt Both Public and Private Clouds

More and more companies are basing significant portions of their IT infrastructure in the cloud. According to the RightScale 2017 State of the Cloud Survey of IT professionals, a full 95 percent of respondents said that their companies have adopted the cloud as an integral part of their IT operations. For some of those companies, the focus is on the public cloud; for others it’s on an in-house private cloud. The majority make use of both public and private clouds.

What is it about public and private clouds that causes so many companies to be drawn to them? Let’s take a look at the benefits each of these cloud models offer to businesses today.

The Benefits of the Cloud

It was not that long ago that the standard approach to IT in most companies was to build and maintain their own in-house datacenters. But the cloud computing model has brought about a fundamental shift in the way businesses seek to meet their IT needs. No longer must companies devote scarce capital (CapEx) funds to the purchase of their own servers, storage, and networking hardware. Instead, the cloud model encourages them to purchase IT services on a pay-as-you-go basis for a monthly fee.

Customers pay only for the services that they actually use. The cloud platform provider is responsible to acquire, support, and upgrade the required hardware and software as necessary, and to ensure that a sufficient amount of these resources is always available to allow on-demand provisioning and scaling. The result is that the cloud model offers companies lower overall costs, greater flexibility and agility, rapid deployment of applications, and a substantial reduction in the amount of expert staff required to manage the organization’s IT infrastructure.

How Public and Private Clouds Differ From One Another

public and private clouds cross streets

Public cloud platforms, such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform (GCP) are, as the name implies, open to everyone. They operate on a multi-tenancy model in which hardware and software resources are shared among a number of different customers. This allows the public cloud to realize economies of scale that drive down costs for all users.

Private clouds, on the other hand, are built on a single-tenancy model. That means they are devoted exclusively to one customer, and there is no sharing of resources. Private clouds can be implemented either in a company’s on-premises datacenter using its own hardware, in an external facility run by a trusted partner such as a managed services provider (MSP), or even, in some cases, with dedicated resources in the facilities of a public cloud provider. The key is that a private cloud is isolated to a single customer, and there is no intermingling of that customer’s hardware/software resources or data with those of other customers.

Advantages of the Public Cloud

Because of its large multi-tenant user base, a public cloud platform can normally provide IT services at a lower cost than a private cloud could achieve. Costs are also reduced by the fact that customers have no responsibility for purchasing, housing, supporting, or managing hardware. The result is that workloads can be deployed on a public cloud platform more quickly and inexpensively than would be the case with a private cloud.

Advantages of a Private Cloud

cloud in chains protected for data protection

The main driver in the decision of many companies to make use of a private cloud is the desire to retain maximum control over business-critical data. Although public clouds now provide the highest levels of data protection, the multi-tenant nature of such platforms, and the fact that they are designed to allow access by users around the world, presents a level of perceived vulnerability that many companies are not comfortable with. Plus, businesses in certain industries face strict regulatory compliance obligations, such as those imposed by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). With a private cloud, all of a company’s data can remain safely hidden behind the organization’s own firewall, totally inaccessible to outsiders.

The ability to tailor a private cloud to the exact requirements of a company’s specific workloads may also provide performance advantages over what could be achieved with a public cloud platform.

The Zadara Storage Solution Spans Both Public and Private Cloud Platforms

The Zadara Storage Cloud provides a common storage solution for both public and private clouds. Its VPSA Storage Arrays support each of the major public cloud platforms such as AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud Platform (GCP). They also form the basis of many private cloud implementations. The Zadara Storage architecture also provides resource isolation, so users gain the benefits of multi-tenant public clouds, but with the security and predictable performance of a private cloud. Whether they use the public cloud, a private cloud, or a hybrid combination of the two, Zadara customers receive all the benefits of the cloud model, including paying a monthly fee for just the amount of storage they actually use. And Zadara takes on the responsibility to monitor and support the customer’s storage, whether on-site or in the public cloud.

If you would like to know more about how Zadara can help you develop a comprehensive cloud solution for your company, please download the ‘Zadara Storage Cloud’ whitepaper.

September 13, 2017

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How to Decide Whether a Hybrid Cloud Is a Good Option for Your Company

How to Decide Whether a Hybrid Cloud Is a Good Option for Your Company

Is your company considering moving some or all of your IT operation to the cloud? If so, you’ll need to decide which approach to the cloud best fits your needs: the public cloud, a private cloud, or that mixture of the two that’s come to be known as the hybrid cloud?

The most popular cloud model today, used by 75 percent of companies, is the hybrid cloud. In this approach a company puts some, often a majority, of its workloads in the public cloud, while keeping other parts at home in a private cloud. Is this the best option for your company? Here are some questions to consider as you make that decision.

1. Do You Have Data Security and Privacy Concerns?

Is your company concerned that its data may be vulnerable in the multi-tenant environment of the public cloud? Or perhaps it must meet legal or regulatory requirements, such as those imposed by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), to ensure the security of personal information. Many organizations faced with such mandates feel compelled to include a private cloud along with the public cloud in their solution mix so that they can keep their most sensitive data behind their own firewalls.

2. Do You Have High Performance Workloads That Would Be Impacted by Cloud Latency?

Data stored in the public cloud can sometimes be physically located half a world away from the servers that use it. When such long distances are involved, some level of data access delay, or latency, is unavoidable.

Applications that require high levels of I/O performance, such as big data analytics or online database systems for which users demand almost instantaneous response times, are usually best suited to a private cloud implemented in your own data center where storage and the servers that access it may be separated only by feet or inches.

3. Do You Have Resources To Implement a Private Cloud?

hand writing private cloud

With the public cloud, you purchase only IT services, not hardware. So there are no direct costs for equipment, data center space, electrical power, cooling, etc. That’s all handled by the cloud provider.

In contrast, with a private cloud you are often responsible for the hardware and software required to run it. If you have an existing data center, those resources may already be available. Or you may choose to house your private cloud in the facilities of a third party, such as a managed IT services provider (MSP). In any case, the private cloud element of your hybrid solution will require additional resources beyond those needed for the public cloud.

4. Do Your Workloads Require a High Degree of Scalability?

In today’s world, your IT system’s “customers” (whether actual paying customers or in-house users), have little tolerance for system slowdowns. Even when demand temporarily expands far beyond the averages your IT infrastructure was designed to accommodate, your system must be able to maintain its responsiveness. In other words, it must be able to scale instantly and without limitation.

In an on-site data center, that can become extremely expensive because you must keep extra storage and server capacity on hand to handle surges in demand. But most of the time that excess capacity will sit idle, eating up capital while performing no service.

The public cloud, on the other hand, is specifically designed for unlimited and instantaneous scalability. By configuring your data center workloads to spill over into the public cloud when necessary (a process called “cloud bursting”), you can achieve a high level of scalability without having to maintain extra hardware in reserve.

5. Do You Have a “Cloud-Savvy” IT Staff?

Carl Brooks, an analyst at 451 Research, speaks of the “humongous complexity” of the hybrid cloud. That’s perhaps a bit pessimistic, but historically creating a unified, coherent system that encompasses public and private clouds and, in some cases, an on-premises data center, was a technically non-trivial task. That’s especially true if you have legacy applications that may require extensive updating in order to make them cloud-compatible.

A number of companies are now offering relatively easy-to-use tools for managing a complex multi-cloud environment (which is what a hybrid cloud is). Still, any organization seeking to implement a hybrid cloud should be aware be aware of the issues and choose a partner that can simplify the process and eliminate the complexity.

Zadara Storage: A Great Partner for Your Hybrid Cloud Implementation

A good example of a partner that brings to the table a high level of expertise with respect to public, private, and hybrid cloud platforms is Zadara Storage. Zadara already has its VPSA Storage Arrays installed in the facilities of major cloud providers, including Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform (GCP). It also installs the same technology in customer data centers as the basis for private or hybrid cloud implementations. In both instances, Zadara remotely operates, monitors, maintains, and upgrades its storage hardware and software as needed, relieving the customer of the necessity of having expertise in such tasks.

If you’d like to explore how Zadara can assist your company in its implementation of a hybrid cloud, please download the ‘Zadara Storage Cloud’ whitepaper.

September 6, 2017

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How MSPs Can Help Their Customers Migrate to the Cloud

Businesses are moving to the cloud at an accelerating pace. A recent report from 451 Research indicates that by 2018, 60 percent of all enterprise workloads are expected to be based in the cloud. Yet many companies are still hesitating – not because they doubt the value of the cloud to their businesses, but because they recognize that moving their existing workloads to an entirely new platform is not a trivial task.

That trepidation represents an opportunity for managed services providers. A recent study on enterprise digital transformation conducted by 451 Research found that 49 percent of respondents say their organizations plan to call upon the assistance of an IT services partner as they evolve their IT operations. Many MSPs have built strong relationships with their customers by providing sound strategic guidance and operational excellence in implementing, managing, and supporting the customer’s IT infrastructure in a datacenter environment. Now, as customers face the need to move into the cloud, it would be natural for them to continue to rely on the partner on whom they already depend if that MSP has the requisite skills.

What Customers Need From Their MSPs

According to Chad Bockius, CEO of CopperEgg, “The biggest issue for organizations moving to the cloud is fear of the unknown.”

The first thing many customers will need from their MSP partner is proactive assistance in developing a roadmap for the transformation of the customer’s IT infrastructure from its datacenter-bound past to a cloud-centered future.

working together at desk

MSPs will need to be able to provide services such as the following:

  • Identify how migration to the cloud fits into the customer’s strategic business plan.
  • Analyze the benefits and costs (both operational and financial) of moving to the cloud.
  • Audit current IT operations to determine which workloads and applications are good candidates for migration to the cloud, and which should, at least in the beginning, remain on site. Some workloads should not be migrated for data security, regulatory compliance, or performance reasons. Some legacy applications might need to be extensively rewritten to make them suitable for implementation in a cloud environment. The audit should surface such issues and make recommendations concerning how each should be handled.
  • Identify the cloud-based SaaS (Software-as-a-Service), STaaS (Storage-as-a-Service), or IaaS (Infrastructure-as-a-Service) offerings that are available to fulfill the requirements of current and future customer workloads.
  • Determine the mix of public and private cloud platforms that can best serve the customer’s specific needs.
  • Lay out a detailed migration plan that ensures minimal downtime and maximum data security.

How MSPs Can Position Themselves to Provide Cloud Migration Services

For many traditional MSPs, the list of services they’ll be called on to provide in helping customers migrate to the cloud can seem overwhelming. In fact, that fear of the unknown Chad Bockius speaks of often applies as much to MSPs as to their customers. Managed service providers usually have a good understanding of their customers’ current operations, but may lack in-depth experience with the various cloud platforms.

For such MSPs an attempt to develop, on their own, the levels of the experience and expertise required to successfully navigate the complexities of cloud migration and implementation would probably be a losing proposition. But the good news is that it’s not necessary. For every facet of a cloud migration and implementation project, capable third party providers are available who will gladly add their specialized expertise to the effort. The most important contribution of an MSP may not be as the direct implementer of every part of the cloud strategy, but as an integrator the customer can trust to reliably orchestrate the efforts of a team of partners.

 

chalkboard writing about partner

A good example of an expert partner is STaaS provider Zadara Storage. Its VPSA Storage Array technology is already installed in the facilities of major cloud platforms, such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform (GCP), and more. When these devices are also installed in customer data centers, the usually complex and time-consuming process of migrating applications and data to the cloud can be made seamless and non-disruptive.

If you would like to know more about how partnering with Zadara can help you develop and implement a comprehensive plan for migrating your customers to the cloud, please download the ‘Zadara Storage Cloud’ whitepaper.

August 30, 2017

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How MSPs Can Offer Managed Private Clouds To Customers

MSPs have built their businesses on offering a suite of standard IT services to their customers. But now many of those customers have begun migrating to the cloud, and taking advantage of the unique services the cloud model offers. That should be a warning flag for traditional MSPs. With much of their customer base moving to the cloud, those MSPs that don’t offer their own set of cloud-based services in a managed private cloud risk being left behind.

Still, although companies are moving to the cloud in large numbers, many are not yet ready to totally commit their applications and data to public cloud platforms. Some are concerned about the security of their data in a multi-tenant environment. Others have performance requirements that, due to inherent latency effects, the public cloud has difficulty meeting. Whatever the cause may be, these companies desire to keep at least a portion of their workloads under their direct control.

Yet, the benefits of the cloud model are too compelling to forego. That’s what is leading a growing number of companies to implement private clouds, which can provide most of the benefits of the cloud model in an exclusive, single-tenant environment.

However, managing a sophisticated cloud platform is not a trivial task. Doing so requires a level of expertise that many companies lack. And that’s where opportunity lies for forward-looking MSPs.

Most companies contemplating use of a private cloud simply lack the internal resources necessary to set up, manage, and support an in-house cloud environment. MSPs that can supply that kind of expertise and take the cloud management load off their customers’ backs can carve out an important and secure role for themselves. In other words, MSPs that offer their customers managed private clouds can keep themselves on track to survive and even thrive as the corporate IT environment becomes more and more cloud-centric.

What Is a Managed Private Cloud?

A managed private cloud is, first of all, a private cloud – that is, a fully functional cloud platform that is implemented in a completely private environment with a single tenant rather than the multiple tenants that characterize the public cloud. Although they are entirely dedicated to a single customer, these clouds are managed by third parties, and their physical resources, such as servers, storage, and networking devices, may reside either on the customer’s premises, or in the facilities of the cloud manager.

How MSPs Can Implement Managed Private Clouds

A cloud is really just a wide array of computing services delivered to customers through internet connections. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) defines it this way:

Cloud computing is a model for enabling ubiquitous, convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (e.g., networks, servers, storage, applications, and services) that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction.

Cloud services are made available through what is called a “stack,” which is simply a broad range of resources that are conceptually built on top of one another.

managed private cloud data storage

The capabilities of a cloud platform are defined by its stack. In fact, a cloud’s stack is often referred to as its operating system. That’s the way the OpenStack Foundation views its own free offering, which is probably the stack most widely used to implement private clouds today:

“OpenStack is a cloud operating system that controls large pools of compute, storage, and networking resources throughout a datacenter, all managed through a dashboard that gives administrators control while empowering their users to provision resources through a web interface.”

OpenStack is one of several open source products available to MSPs for building managed private clouds for their customers. Others include CloudStack, Eucalyptus, and OpenNebula. In addition, some of the major public clouds are beginning to make their proprietary stacks available to private cloud builders. For example, Microsoft is offering its Azure Stack, providing access to the same APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) and tool sets that characterize the Azure public cloud.

Because these stacks and their APIs are well documented, MSPs that desire to do so should be able to develop in-depth familiarity with one or more of these offerings. By combining that expertise with their traditional strengths in areas such as 24/7/365 monitoring and support, and enterprise-level backup/restore/disaster recovery, MSPs will be well positioned to provide critically important services for customers who need a managed private cloud.

MSPs Should Work With Knowledgeable Partners

chalkboard writing about partner

One way for an MSP to reduce the level of cloud-specific knowledge required of its own staff is to work with partners that already possess that kind of expertise. For example, Zadara Storage is well familiar with the intricacies of both public and private clouds. Its VPSA Storage Arrays are already installed in the facilities of major public cloud providers such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform (GCP), among others. The same technology is available for use with on-premises private clouds at customer sites.

When its VPSA Storage Arrays are used in private clouds, Zadara takes on the responsibility to remotely operate, monitor, maintain, and upgrade storage hardware and software as necessary. By working with a partner such as Zadara, an MSP can substantially reduce the amount of time and dedicated expert staff required to support its customers, while still providing the highest levels of service.

If you’d like to know more about how Zadara can help you provide managed private clouds to your customers, please download the ‘Zadara Storage Cloud’ whitepaper.

August 22, 2017

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Developing Your Multi-Cloud Strategy

 

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If your company is like most, sooner or later you are going to be involved with multi-cloud computing. The RightScale 2017 State of the Cloud Survey reveals that 85 percent of enterprises already have a multi-cloud strategy, and the percentage is increasing every year. According to Bernard Golden, CEO of Navica, the future of corporate IT is clear: “All enterprises will use multiple cloud providers, and they must plan for how they will operate in a multi-cloud environment.”

If your business doesn’t yet have a thoroughly thought out multi-cloud strategy, it’s time to start developing one.

Why You Need a Multi-cloud Strategy

Although all the major public cloud platforms, such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform (GCP), offer a full range of cloud services, they still differ from one another in significant ways. As Navica’s Bernard Golden puts it, “Each cloud provider implements core computing functionality quite differently, and each offers quite different services within each category.” For example, Microsoft’s Azure is a natural for deploying Windows client apps, while when it comes to data storage, AWS offers a breadth of services the other platforms don’t yet match.

Guiding Principles for a Good Multi-Cloud Strategy

writing in clouds principles

Perhaps the most vital principle for managing a multi-cloud environment is that the entire system must be managed as a single entity. Although each cloud platform has its own native management console, users should never be required to use different procedures for each cloud – and they certainly shouldn’t be expected to log into different clouds depending on the application they may be running. Administrators should be able to manage the functionality of the system through a “single pane of glass” interface that doesn’t change depending on which cloud platform is providing a particular set of services or applications.

Assess Your Environment

The core of a good multi-cloud strategy is matching workloads with the platforms best able to run them efficiently and cost effectively. That means having a good understanding of the operational characteristics of the workloads you currently run. So, in developing your multi-cloud strategy, you’ll want to start by doing a comprehensive assessment of your current environment, taking note of factors such as data protection needs, performance demands, and the particular services required by each workload.

Prepare Your Organization

In developing your multi-cloud strategy, you’ll need to assess not just your workloads, but your IT organization as well. Although users may not need to be aware of which cloud is actually servicing their applications, your IT staff will need to know. In fact, they’ll need to have the platform-specific expertise required to develop, install and manage workloads in each cloud. As Mary McCoy, Demand Generation Programs Manager at Continuum puts it, “IT organizations need to develop deep skills in each of the cloud providers they will use.”

That means your multi-cloud strategy should include provisions for either training your own staff, or for partnering with a third party services provider that can provide the required expertise.

Develop Your Data Protection Strategy

data protection in the cloud

One of the most vital components of your multi-cloud strategy will be defining how data protection will be enacted across clouds and for the system as a whole. While each cloud platform may have its own approach to data protection, it is absolutely critical that your organization’s data access, backup/restore, security, and regulatory compliance policies be uniformly applied across the system. Take extreme care that in attempting to mesh the security approaches of different clouds you don’t open unforeseen holes that aggressive intruders can take advantage of.

Develop Policies

A major foundation for implementing a viable multi-cloud approach is the use of software-defined storage. Only with SDS can the environment be managed through software from a single point of control. The SDS software, in turn, is guided by a set of policy directives developed by administrators that define how the system as a whole, as well as each individual component, should function. Your multi-cloud plan should specify the overall guidelines that will be applied when your policies are developed in detail.

Simplify Your Multi-Cloud Environment

The key to a successful multi-cloud implementation is being able to manage a complex system encompassing different cloud platforms, each with its own distinct characteristics, as a single entity. That can only be accomplished by instituting a software-defined environment that is guided by well thought out policy directives.

The Zadara Storage Cloud is a good example of an SDS solution that facilitates that kind of unified control. With Zadara VPSA Storage Arrays installed both at customer sites and in the facilities of major cloud providers like AWS, Azure, and GCP, intercommunication and data transfer between clouds can be managed automatically and transparently through software. Functions such as remote replication, mirroring, and application failover between clouds can be applied system-wide without users having to be concerned with the specific protocols of each platform.

If you’d like to know more about how the multi-cloud capabilities of the Zadara Storage Cloud can work for you, please download our Getting Great Performance in the Cloud white paper.

August 16, 2017

Posted In: Industry Insights

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Does Your Company Need a Managed Private Cloud?

Does Your Company Need a Managed Private Cloud?

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Cloud computing offers benefits that more and more companies are moving to take advantage of. These include lower costs, greater flexibility, and enhanced ease of use. But in many instances, corporations also have compelling reasons for keeping at least part of their IT infrastructure in house and behind their own firewalls. For some, it’s a need to ensure maximum security for their sensitive data or to meet regulatory compliance requirements. Others choose to stay at home because of performance constraints that require their data storage and compute resources to be in close physical proximity to each other.

Although these organizations might want to take advantage of the benefits of cloud computing, it may seem that running a private cloud operation under their own roofs is a bigger task than they are prepared to take on. For many, the best option may well be a managed private cloud.

What Is a Managed Private Cloud?

A “cloud,” whether public or private, is really nothing more than a set of services that can be easily accessed by users. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) defines cloud computing this way:

“Cloud computing is a model for enabling ubiquitous, convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (e.g., networks, servers, storage, applications, and services) that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction.”

A key element of this definition is that it applies to any kind of cloud. It may be a multi-tenant public cloud run by one of the behemoths of the cloud computing world, such as Amazon Web Services (AWS). It could be an in-house private cloud operated by a single company exclusively for its own use. Or, as is becoming more and more common today, it could be a private cloud managed by a third-party provider who specializes in offering individual customers a complete suite of cloud services on a single-tenancy basis. This latter model is what’s called a managed private cloud.

Clouds Are Built on Stacks

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The set of capabilities available with a particular cloud offering is embodied in its “stack,” a broad range of services layered on top of one another. In setting up a private cloud there are several stack offerings to choose from.

The most popular stack platform is OpenStack, which is an open source package managed by the OpenStack Foundation, and supported by a wide range of cloud providers. There are also several other open source offerings, such as CloudStack, Eucalyptus, and OpenNebula. Microsoft is entering the private cloud marketplace with Azure Stack. According to Network World, “Azure Stack is basically the same APIs, tools and processes that power Azure, but it’s intended to be hosted on-premises in private cloud scenarios.” Oracle, too, has joined the fray with its Oracle Cloud at Customer offering.

Building a private cloud will mean adopting one of the available stack platforms and fully understanding its intricacies. Rather than devoting internal staff resources to that task, many companies are choosing to outsource the responsibility of implementing and managing their private cloud stack to a partner that has specialized expertise in this area.

Benefits of a Managed Private Cloud

A good managed cloud services provider will set up, operate, and upgrade as necessary your company’s private cloud infrastructure. This may be on-premises at your site, or in the provider’s facility. They will optimize the environment for greatest efficiency with your particular workloads, while also implementing top-flight data security, backup/restore, and disaster recovery capabilities. The provider will monitor the operations of your cloud on an ongoing basis, and will proactively identify and fix problems as they occur.

Being able to offload such functions to a specialist is what makes the managed private cloud an especially attractive option for many companies today.

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A key feature that should be part of your managed private cloud is interoperability with the public cloud. The most popular cloud computing approach today, by far, is the hybrid model in which companies make full use of both private and public clouds. Because of the public cloud’s multi-tenancy model, it can achieve economies of scale that make it more cost effective than a private cloud for some services. A well run managed private cloud will be able to call on the public cloud when it provides the best fit for particular workloads, or when surges in demand temporarily require more resources than the private cloud can provide.

How Zadara Can Make Your Managed Private Cloud an Even Better Solution

The Zadara Storage Cloud can make interoperability between private and public clouds much easier than traditional approaches to data storage. The company has its VPSA Storage Array technology already installed in the facilities of major public cloud providers, including AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud Platform (GCP). VPSA Storage Arrays can also be installed on site as the storage component of your private cloud implementation. Because these devices can be set up to automatically mirror and replicate data between themselves, sharing data (including server images) between clouds can be accomplished transparently, non-disruptively, and in real time.

If you’d like to explore how a managed private cloud can work for your organization, please download the ‘Zadara Storage Cloud’ whitepaper.

August 8, 2017

Posted In: Tech Corner

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Why the Hybrid Cloud Is Gaining Momentum

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Today, cloud computing has become the standard operating mode for businesses of all sizes. According to RightScale’s 2017 State of the Cloud Report, fully 95 percent of the respondents to their survey are now making use of the cloud in one form or another.

Companies that are using cloud computing have a choice of three approaches: the public cloud, a private cloud, or the hybrid cloud, which seeks to combine the advantages of both the public and private cloud models. With a hybrid cloud, companies divide their IT workloads between an on-premises private cloud and the public cloud. According to the State of the Cloud Report, “hybrid clouds have become the preferred strategy at 85 percent of enterprises,” up from 82 percent the previous year.

Why has the hybrid cloud gained such favor among so many organizations? Let’s take a quick look at some of its advantages.

Data Security

Probably the number one consideration that leads companies to use a hybrid cloud is the need to keep their most sensitive data secure. Many IT administrators still have doubts that the public cloud, with its multi-tenancy model and universal accessibility via the internet, can provide the level of data protection they require. That’s especially true for organizations in industries like finance or healthcare, that are subject to regulatory compliance requirements concerning the way personal information is handled.

By using a hybrid cloud, companies can keep their most sensitive or mission-critical information safely at home, on their own premises and behind their own firewalls, while still having access to the benefits of the public cloud for data that is less sensitive.

Flexibility

flexibility

From a purely operational perspective, perhaps the biggest advantage of the hybrid cloud is the level of flexibility it offers. In contrast with the public cloud, companies have complete control over the on-premises portion of their hybrid cloud solution. They can customize hardware and software to exactly fit the needs of their workloads, thus maximizing the efficient use of their on-site resources. At the same time, they can move workloads or data into the public cloud as needed or permitted by data security or regulatory concerns. For example, many hybrid cloud installations make use of a technique called “cloud bursting,” in which applications running in-house can spill over to the public cloud to accommodate sudden surges in the demand for compute or storage resources.

Backup/Restore and Disaster Recovery

A very important consequence of the ability to move both data storage and compute resources between a private, on-premises environment and the public cloud is that business continuity and disaster recovery regimes can be cost-effectively optimized. For example, the use of software-defined storage (SDS) provides access to advanced data protection features such as remote replication, mirroring, compression, deduplication, and snapshotting. With these, an organization of whatever size can implement enterprise-level backup/restore and disaster recovery capabilities across its entire IT infrastructure, both on-premises and in the cloud, from a single point of control.

A good example of how a unified data protection scheme can span both private and public clouds is the Zadara Storage Cloud. Zadara installs VPSA Storage Arrays at customer locations for use in on-site private cloud implementations. In addition, VPSA Storage Arrays are already installed in the facilities of major cloud providers, including Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform (GCP), and others. Under software control, data can be automatically and transparently mirrored between VPSA Storage Arrays both from on-site to a cloud service, or from cloud to cloud.

Performance

One of the inherent difficulties of the public cloud is that when data is physically housed in locations that are geographically distant from users, latency effects can put a cap on performance. With a hybrid solution, performance-intensive workloads can be housed on-site, with data storage and servers in close proximity to one another, while less demanding applications can run in the cloud.

Cost Effectiveness

cost effectiveness

A hybrid cloud can provide cost advantages in a number of ways. For example, workloads that are already successfully running on existing hardware in a company’s data center can stay where they are rather than having to undergo the often complex and disruptive exercise of being adapted to run in the cloud. In this way, an organization’s investment in legacy hardware need not be lost.

On the other hand, by making use of the compute and storage services available in the public cloud, companies can avoid capital expense (CapEx) spending to acquire or replace on-premises hardware. Instead, they can take advantage of the cloud’s as-a-service model to obtain the storage and computational resources they need on an operating expense (OpEx) basis. Zadara, for example, provides storage services for a monthly fee. Customers pay only for the amount of storage they actually use in any given billing period, no matter how many VPSA Storage Arrays may be installed at their site.

Is The Hybrid Cloud a Good Option For Your Company?

The move toward cloud computing continues to gather steam. In many cases, enterprises will eventually move the majority of their workloads to the public cloud. But for those companies with I/O performance or data security concerns, the hybrid cloud will continue its reign as the enterprise computing environment of choice for some time to come.

If you’d like to explore how a hybrid cloud could work for your company, please download the ‘Zadara Storage Cloud’ whitepaper.

August 2, 2017

Posted In: Industry Insights

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