A Look into the Cloud

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1 A Look into the Cloud An Allstream White Paper 1

2 Table of contents Why is everybody talking about the cloud? 1 Trends driving the move to the cloud 1 What actually is the cloud? 2 Private and public clouds 2 The importance of networks 2 Infrastructure as a Service 3 Converged Infrastructure 3 Benefits of Infrastructure as a Service 3 Allstream Cloud Compute 4 Conclusion 5

3 Why is everybody talking about the cloud? It s hard these days to look through an IT magazine, attend a professional seminar or even open your inbox in the morning without being immediately urged to read something about THE CLOUD. Why so much excitement? After all, the cloud as a telecom notion and staple diagram icon has been around for quite a long time. It normally represents a functional entity we connect to and derive IT benefits from without being particularly concerned about how that entity is internally organized. Over time though, things have evolved. Fueled by continuous technology advances, the scope of the benefits that can be gained from a cloud structure have expanded dramatically. Not only connectivity, but software applications, computing platforms and operating systems can now be accommodated within the cloud. That approach can lead to increased productivity, lower costs and a simpler way to manage enterprise IT resources. Interest in the cloud is skyrocketing and we are witnessing the emergence of a new and revolutionary business model for deploying IT infrastructure and operations. Trends driving the move to the cloud The growing popularity of the cloud concept occurs on a background of significant business and technological trends in the IT world. Business Trends The drive to reduce cost Prompted by the economic turbulence that began in 2008 and largely continues today, enterprises that are struggling to survive or drive growth are searching through every aspect of their business for cost savings and productivity enhancements. In that context, adopting a cloud computing model for IT operations appears to be a very attractive solution. The need for collaboration At the same time, enterprises place an increased value on collaboration processes. Vital business applications need to be accessed by many workers at the same time and data needs to be quickly disseminated to many users and locations. A centralized infrastructure, like the cloud, is better able to serve rising collaboration needs. Consumers drive technology innovations In an earlier era, high tech innovations used to appear first in the business or military market and then work their way down into the consumer market. The computer evolution story from the massive mainframe to the personal desktop or laptop PC is one example of that. Today we often see the opposite pattern. Many innovations developed by Internet companies are transferred in the enterprise market where customers demand the same sophistication and convenience. The penetration of sophisticated mobile devices into the corporate world clearly illustrates this trend. Corporate users want to access data and software from a central location in a way that emulates their excellent experience as private users. The cloud model promises to satisfy that need. Technology developments The maturing and increased availability of a number of IT related technologies have made cloud computing a realistic and attractive approach for organizing IT operations. Here are just a few technology highlights: Virtualization - By making it possible to deploy multiple applications on one physical server and by making applications portable between platforms and operating systems, the virtualization technology significantly reduces the cost of setting up, configuring and operating IT cloud infrastructures. IP Connectivity Building on the popularity of the Internet, IP connectivity has become so ubiquitous and sophisticated that now large amounts of data can be transferred quickly, reliably and securely supporting the most demanding applications. In particular, advanced IP communications relying on MPLS or Fiber Optics networks are ideally suited to act as a conduit between the enterprise and cloud based resources. 1

4 Storage Technology advances Storage is vitally important to cloud computing. The Cloud becomes economical only when large amounts of data can be efficiently stored, processed and retrieved. Recent decreases in storage costs and footprint, together with advances in specialized networks like SAN (Storage Area Network) and NAS (Network Attached Storage) have made it practical to store significant volumes of data in a centrally located cloud. What actually is the cloud? As interest in the cloud grows, so do the number of available definitions of what the cloud really is. One of the most widely accepted definitions describes cloud computing as the delivery of computing functions as a service that does not necessarily require the user organization to own the computing infrastructure or to manage its operation. The functionality delivered by the cloud may include software applications, processing power, servers, storage, operating systems or any subset of those. Delivery models An organization subscribing to any cloud service connects to the IT resources via a private or public network. There are three best known models for delivering cloud services: Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) This is the most basic model and delivers only raw computing infrastructure (servers, storage, processing power, etc.). Organizations that subscribe to the service use that infrastructure to create their own development environment and build their own applications. Platform as a Service (PaaS) This model delivers a ready to use development environment (database, development tools, etc.) on which the users will build their own applications. Software as a Service (SaaS) In this model the provider supplies specific applications that the client organization can directly access through the network. Private and public clouds As the definition suggests, an enterprise using the cloud model does not need to own computer infrastructure. Cloud services can be delivered by a provider in the same manner as a utility company provides its services. A cloud infrastructure owned by a provider that delivers services to several client organizations is called a Public Cloud. A Private Cloud is a centralized computer infrastructure that is used by a single organization. In many instances it is owned by the same organization, essentially a structured way of dealing with internal resources. Sometimes an enterprise chooses to place IT assets in both a private and a public cloud. Such an arrangement is called a Hybrid Cloud. The following sections of this document focus only on the IaaS model used to deliver services from a public Cloud. The importance of networks To benefit from cloud computing, an enterprise, first and foremost needs to connect to it. The quality of the network that connects an organization to the cloud is an essential factor in the successful deployment of IaaS solutions. In a world of complex and demanding applications the network is no longer a passive transport medium but an active entity that needs to constantly react and adjust to the type of application traffic that is being transported. A network truly ready to support IaaS deployments needs to be: Resilient provide alternative communication paths when one link fails ensuring continuous access to IaaS service Secure - provide comprehensive security at all layers of communication within the cloud infrastructure QoS enabled - offer different classes of service for different cloud applications Highly Scalable grows and shrinks based on current demands of the cloud infrastructure VM aware essentially able to identify virtual machines and reconfigure accordingly when virtual machines move from one physical machine to the other 2

5 Infrastructure as a Service An IaaS service provider can help an enterprise out-task all major elements of computer infrastructure including data center functionality, hardware systems, virtual machines, operating systems, security, monitoring, maintenance and many others. Managed IaaS solutions add value by managing the computing resources in the cloud and by providing expert advice to the client enterprise. Most providers back up IaaS services by Service Level Agreements (SLAs) that ensure high availability and resilience for the provided infrastructure. All services, with an operational view, can be monitored in real-time using a web portal. Converged Infrastructure Cloud computing providers are using a variety of technology advances in order to package together multiple infrastructure elements that optimize performance, automate deployment, simplify management and ensure easy scalability. The infrastructure created through those processes is called converged infrastructure and is the basis of all the benefits delivered by IaaS services. Describing in detail the enabling technologies of the converged infrastructure is outside the scope of this document. Nevertheless two of them are worth noting here: Virtual Machines As mentioned in a previous paragraph, Computing Virtualization is a technology that allows running multiple virtual machines (computers) on a single physical machine (computer). Each virtual machine can be running its own applications while using its own operating system. This is achieved by inserting a software layer called hypervisor inbetween the resources of the physical machine and the virtual machines that are running on it. The hypervisor allocates resources dynamically. Virtual machines are not even aware that they are sharing the physical machine with others. The benefits of virtualization are immediate. Several applications can run on just one server leading to significant reduction in the overall quantity of servers, storage and power required. As a result, the environmental footprint of a virtualized installation is lighter. Virtual applications are also portable being easy to move from one physical system to another. This increases the flexibility of IT provisioning and simplifies management, upgrade and migration tasks. Integrated Stacks Building a massive computing infrastructure able to support multiple IaaS clients is a complex task. To make it simpler, equipment vendors offer preconfigured, pretested, infrastructure modular blocks called Integrated Stacks. Each block may include storage, computing power, hypervisors, networking and management elements. The modularity of the blocks fastens provisioning operations, allows for more effective vendor support and makes cloud environments more robust. The two most recognized integrated stack architectures are Vblock and FlexPod. Both incorporate solutions from leading computing equipment vendors such as VMware, Cisco, EMC, NetApp and others. Given their effectiveness in accelerating the transition to the cloud, the popularity of integrated stacks will continue to grow in the future. Benefits of Infrastructure as a Service IaaS services bring many benefits to the enterprise. These include: Simplification of the IT spending model With most capital expenses incurred by the IaaS provider, the customer is able to transfer IT costs from CapEx to OpEx. This approach provides better control over expenses and reduces the complexity of the financial processes required in the management of IT operations. Cost savings An organization benefits financially from IaaS not only by moving expenses between CapEx and OpEx. Adopting a cloud computing solution brings real dollar savings. Large IaaS providers, by virtue of the size of their operations, purchase their resources at significantly discounted costs. Some studies indicate that they have a 5x advantage over medium size enterprises when buying storage or computing 3

6 power. Powering systems are often overlooked in determining the real costs of servicing a compute environment. By placing their wholesale locations in carefully selected sites providers also benefit from reduced power costs. In addition, they enjoy lower connectivity costs, lower administration and overhead cost and are able to share the user costs among a considerably large number of users. These advantages can often lead to cost savings for their customers. Increased business agility IaaS service brings an enterprise a high degree of flexibility in adjusting IT operations to changes in business conditions. The IaaS environment is easily scalable; the number of end users, locations, the amount of bandwidth and the necessary computing power can be ramped up or down in short time and with little administrative complexity. The IaaS service performs like a resources tap that can be turned on or off as required. This type of agility can make a big difference in a competitive business environment. Increased productivity across the organization IaaS makes it possible for an enterprise to deploy advanced applications that enable their teams to better collaborate and exchange information around the clock. Because of the centralized nature of the IT infrastructure, those applications can be easily installed and updated when necessary. Access to applications is consistent across various departments and geographical divides creating conditions for increased productivity and better business results. Better regulatory compliance Many enterprises are working hard to achieve and maintain compliance with government and industry regulatory requirements like SSAE16 (formerly SAS 70), PCI-DSS and HIPAA and others. Organizing IT operations around an IaaS model can help in those efforts. In a centralized computing environment like IaaS, the rules and provisions demanded for compliance are easier to apply consistently and propagate effectively to all elements of IT infrastructure. In many instances, IaaS providers offer resources that have already been certified with several existing standards. Subscribing to IaaS from such a provider makes it easier to achieve regulatory objectives. Simplifying management and freeing of IT resources Managed IaaS solutions transfer the responsibility for most management operations to the service provider. IaaS providers use sophisticated cloud management techniques that allow for dynamic and automatic computing resource allocation. That simplifies the scope of internal IT management operations. The in-house experts are no longer responsible for management of the underlying IT infrastructure and the routine updates, patches, troubleshooting, integration testing, configuration changes, etc. As a result, internal IT resources are free to focus on core business and strategic activities. Rapid deployment IaaS environments make heavy use of virtualization technology to achieve a rapid initial deployment of services and fast provisioning of any subsequent changes. Providers can supply clients with custom virtual machine templates for most applications. Using the templates, applications in the form of VM images can be installed within minutes in accordance with business demands. In addition to extensively using automation to speed up deployment, providers also offer customers APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) through which customers can interact with the provisioning process and optimize it even further. Allstream Cloud Compute Allstream Cloud Compute service is an IaaS solution offering Canadian businesses a secure, Vblock-based computing infrastructure that is highly scalable, built to support the strictest regulatory standards and backed by the most stringent SLAs in the industry. The service can be accessed through Allstream s Business Internet, DWDM (Dense Wave Division Multiplexing) links or the Allstream Business IP VPN service that is MPLS based and offers six distinct classes of service. Allstream Cloud Compute is a managed service supported by infrastructure that is located entirely on Canadian territory. 4

7 Conclusion Even though IaaS is in its early stages, the potential business benefits promised by the cloud model are significant and clearly compelling for many businesses. Organizations are keen to adopt IaaS in their continuous effort to defend or build competitive advantage. With more and more businesses implementing such services and tailoring them for their specific needs, the Cloud is poised to soon become the dominant model of IT deployment for the enterprise. About Allstream Allstream is the only national communications provider working exclusively with business customers. Our focus is helping you simplify IT operations to improve productivity, maximize performance and manage costs. Our IP solutions are delivered on a fully managed, fully secure national network and backed by our industry-leading commitment to customer service: The Allstream Service Guarantee. Driven by the expertise of our 2,500 employees across Canada, we operate a 30,000 km fibre-optic network combining advanced IP connectivity, digital switching, Ethernetfeatured services, and the latest security technologies. Our portfolio includes the highest-capacity voice, data and Internet connections, unified communications, and managed services, all flexibly designed for the needs of large, mid-market and small businesses. We can help you compete more profitably by converging voice and data over a single, reliable, end-to-end infrastructure that delivers exceptional quality of service between metropolitan centres. To learn more about Allstream please visit 5

8 Allstream 200 Wellington Street West Toronto, Ontario M5V 3G2 Call, visit or follow us at: blog.allstream.com WP_22230 V2 11/14 Allstream Inc.

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