Monday, 29 October 2012

UC4 Releases "Holy Grail" of IT Deployments

What is the worst nightmare for IT services when deploying new versions of software? A system crash. That's why operators of datacentres of all sizes are constantly creating backups that take up valuable storage space on the rack. Even worse, if datacentre technicians forget to do backups immediately before a new deployment, a crash could result in the need to use a backup that is far too old.

All of that may now be history thanks to UC4's release of Application Release Automation Version 3 (ARA 3.0). The new version of their software includes built-in rollback capabilities that eliminate the need for constant software backups. With automatic rollback ARA 3.0 reverts to the last working version of a software package should a crash occurred during deployment.

“Automatic rollback has been the holy grail of deployment automation for a long time,” said UC4 VP of ARA Technologies Wesley Pullen. "Our built-in rollback capability eliminates the need for customers to back-up their existing applications as part of a deployment.”

What's more, the software eliminates the need for techs to back-up and restore artefacts in the event of a rollback. ARA 3.0 makes the whole deployment process very stable by monitoring and looking for problems proactively. In many cases it can respond to those problems before they cause an unrecoverable failure. It works so well users are often not aware that anything has happened in the background.

Two of the best features of UC4 ARA 3.0 include:

  • Configuration Snapshots - The software takes configuration snapshots that keep track of all the changes occurring from one deployment to the next. Even when a rollback is necessary configuration settings are not lost.
  • Multiple Tenancy - Software as a Service (SaaS) providers, as well as other large-scale operations, can host multiple clients on a single, scalable server with full automation.
Software Management Just Got Tons Easier

Data centre providers offering collocation and web hosting have been looking for this sort of software for quite a long time. It's too early to say if it's a definitive game changer, but things are pointing in that direction. Having rollback capability completely changes the software management paradigm because, if it delivers as advertised, it should drastically reduce the potential for downtime whether software deployments are happening in the cloud or under traditional web hosting.

We know how important that is given some recent outages suffered by major retail organizations. Not too long ago a simple software upgrade knocked out large portions of one organization's website that were hosted on cloud servers on America's East Coast. If automatic roll-back had been deployed there would not have been so much as a glitch.

ARA 3.0 might be just what some datacentre operators need to convince clients to switch to the cloud. According to surveys done late last year fears of security issues and software crashes were the top two things preventing widespread cloud migration. With UC4 ARA 3.0, at least one of those concerns seems to have been adequately addressed.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

CoreSite Connects to Germany's DE-CIX

American datacentre and collocation provider CoreSite has reached an agreement with Germany's DE-CIX Internet exchange to provide direct access to the DE-CIX peer exchange from U.S. sites. In doing so CoreSite opens a greater European access to its American clients through peer connections with other DE-CIX partners.

Earlier this year the company reached a similar deal with Amsterdam's Internet Exchange. That agreement opened up hundreds of peer connections in more than 52 countries in Central and Eastern Europe. The advantage of such connections is that they allow CoreSite datacentres to immediately expand connectivity without having to work out individual deals with hundreds of ISPs.

The deal with DE-CIX is important in so much as the exchange handles more than 12 petabyte of data every single day. All of the German networks handling the data can now be freely accessed by CoreSite datacentres without any need for further partnerships. Furthermore, data transfer speeds between CoreSite and DE-CIX customers are that much quicker because neither is relying on third-party upstream providers. All connections are run directly through DE-CIX.

The company's Open Internet Exchange Hub also gets a boost by providing CoreSite customers easy access to one of Europe's biggest exchanges. The resulting interconnectivity will boost data traffic worldwide across a broad spectrum of industries. It makes the world a smaller place at least from the perspective of data exchange.

From the standpoint of DE-CIX, the partnership gives them new access to American markets as well. The more than 480 European ISPs part of the exchange will now have greater connectivity options to increase data flow across the Atlantic. The link essentially brings together most of Europe and North America with seamless data communications.

Greater Connectivity Means Better Business

It goes without saying that Internet exchanges are the engine that makes robust international data transfer possible. Without the connectivity they provide, data centres would not been nearly as productive as they are today. When a deal like this takes place it breeds greater connectivity, which in turn means better business.

The question is: can CoreSite customers take full advantage of European connectivity by maximizing peer connections? Can DE-CIX customers do the same? The enemy of international data communications has always been latency; a problem that doesn't go away simply because one company enters an agreement with an Internet exchange. Coresite's next task is to make sure its infrastructure is up to the challenge if the new partnership is to reach its full potential.

We don't have any reason to suspect CoreSite won't succeed here. Their 12 data centres across the U.S. support some 700 customers with flexible and scalable interconnection. Prior to the DE-CIX agreement the company already had access to more than 275 U.S. partners and the Any2 Internet peer exchange. Their success in the U.S. market demonstrates they are ready to meet the challenges in Europe.

Monday, 22 October 2012

NHS Taps Sudlows for Datacentre Expansion

The UK's National Health Service (NHS) recently announced the awarding of several contracts to Sudlows for the expansion of a datacentre facility used by the Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust. Lancashire Care, as part of the UK health system, provides health services for approximately 1.5 million people. The expansion of their data centre is vital in helping them provide services that include community nursing and several different types of therapy.

Sudlows was chosen by the NHS based on recently completed work which demonstrated they have a real grasp of the facility's needs and what they're trying to accomplish. According to Trust officials they were looking for someone who could expand the datacentre in a way that optimizes it for the healthcare field, requiring a company with a good understanding of the NHS and how it works.

When complete the expanded datacentre will include upgraded power and cooling capabilities, new server cabinets, and N+1 redundancy for increased reliability. Sudlows will be implementing the expansion in a partnership with Softcat, an IT solutions provider they've done business with before.

Sudlows Global Director Andy Hirst was noted as saying the datacentre expansion is just one of several projects they've been engaged in on behalf of the NHS. Hirst told reporters his company is well-suited to design and build the systems needed for the expansion because they have extensive knowledge of the healthcare sector. They can also provide comprehensive datacentre training for any new hires brought on as a result of the expansion.

It's not clear whether or not Sudlows will be involved in facility management once the expansion is complete. More than likely, they will provide any necessary training before moving on to other projects. But it's likely the company will continue doing work for the NHS as long as they continue getting the job done.

NHS a Big Datacentre Customer

The NHS contracts are certainly a boon for Sudlows and Softcat, but also for the entire datacentre sector. Some industries may come and go over the course of the next several decades, but healthcare is obviously here to stay. Companies like Sudlows are only doing themselves a favour by becoming intimately familiar with the needs of healthcare in order to continue to service NHS contracts.

The question is, can just one or two companies like Sudlows keep up with increased demand from the NHS in the future? As Europe pushes as hard as it can into the era of cloud computing it looks unlikely to be the case. More tech companies are going to have to step up and get involved in the datacentre environment in order to support what's coming.

NHS will need a lot more in terms of datacentre expansion, managed services, and even collocation. They will need private-sector help in developing facilities that are energy efficient despite increased power and cooling needs. For tech companies, that means a bright future should be in store for them if they get on board.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Competing for European Data Centre Business

Sovereign Business Integration Group (Sovereign), CEO, Richard Barker recently wrote about creating customer focused data centres in a blog posted on the website. It was a brilliantly written piece articulating the need for datacentre developers to keep in mind what their customer base is and what their needs might be.

According to Barker there are a lot of business organisations now investing money in datacentres, web hosting, and managed services. So much so that he references a 25% increase in such investments so far in 2012. That's quite an impressive number when you consider technologyinvestment across the board is barely that high.

Yet despite the high rate of investment there is one specific problem: investors with no datacentre knowledge and no real vision of how to maximize their returns. As Barker correctly pointed out, many of these investors are re-purposing old buildings because it's significantly cheaperthan building new ones. And while there's nothing wrong with that strategy, a new data centre needs to be designed around meeting the specific needs of its customers.

For example, BMW recently moved a handful of critical business applications to a new data centre in Iceland. The appeal of that data centre was the fact that power and cooling needs are being met by 100% sustainable resources. That keeps BMW's costs fairly low in exchange for a robust infrastructure that assures the applications will always be up and running.

If an investor in a new data centre is focused on collocation, that's one thing. If the focus of the centre will be on managed services, then that's completely different. The idea is to plan ahead in deciding what types of customers are going to be pursued so that construction and design of both building and technology infrastructure is up to the task.

Don't Forget the Human Element

Another point to Barker makes -- and the one I think is more important -- has to do with the human element. It's great to promote a new data centre as having the latest hardware or a friendly environmental footprint. But to sell a service based on hardware and infrastructure really isn't a smart idea. At the end of the day those things are just tools to beused by IT staff in their support of customers.

The most important aspect of any data centre is the team that operates it. That's something investors need to look at very carefully before they begin selling services. Data centre recruitment is ofutmost importance to ensure the best talent is located and hired. And that holds true regardless of whether you're talking about web hosting, collocation, managed services, or cloud computing.

BMWs experience in Iceland should be watched closely by other European companies looking to get into the datacentre business. Officials in Iceland spent many years working on their model; hopefully they got it right. The rest of us would do well to wait, watch, and learn one way or the other.

Monday, 15 October 2012

Green Data Centres Catching On

There is little argument that Europe is leading the way in terms of green energy initiatives around the world. Yet why is it that there are more green data centres and environmentally friendly web hosting companies in the U.S.? Well, he won't discuss the reasons here. But we will say that things are rapidly changing in Europe.

A case in point is the effort undertaken by the government of Iceland some five years ago. That effort began with the construction of several new state-of-the-art data centres that handle both power and cooling using renewable energy sources. Officials began offering incentives to companies willing to move their collocation or cloud hosting requirements, reasoning that a company with a strong brand and complex data needs could benefit greatly.

Though response has been slow, their Keflavik facility might be on the verge of changing that. The data centre there is run by Vern Global on a 100% renewable energy. They have landed a new customer in the BMW group, who will move a handful of power-hungry applications and data to the facility. Among other things, Keflavik will be the home of BMWs CAD engineering, aerodynamic calculations, and crash simulation operations.

According to officials from BMW, this is no small undertaking. All of the applications they intend to move are considered business-critical; they are applications that must maintain their integrity and be up and running at all times if the company is to continue upward growth. If the Keflavik facility isn't up to the task BMW will go elsewhere.

Verne Global CEO Jeff Monroe is not concerned. In a recent interview he said that "by moving its applications to Verne Global, BMW is showing there are alternatives available today that address the unpredictable and fluctuating power prices found throughout the world and simultaneously reduce their carbon footprint in a very meaningful way.”

Green Is the Way to Go

Though one could arguably make the case that renewable energy can't possibly fuel the whole world as well as petroleum does, it can't be argued that it has a great future in the technology sector. Data centre recruitment, in terms of bringing new clients into the fold, is demonstrating that by focusing on the financial savings companies can realize by moving to facilities like the one in Keflavik.

Furthermore, if the infrastructure and architecture exists to meet the demanding power needs of cloud computing and the Internet through renewable means, why not embrace it? Leave the petroleum for things like fuelling cars and air planes, heating homes, and powering industrial manufacturing. The technology sector can get along just fine by going green.

It seems only fitting that green data centres are leading the charge in the technology sector. After all, it is the Internet age that has fuelled most of the technological advances of the last 20 years. The Internet is business; business is money; and green data centres save both energy and money. Here's hoping Iceland's efforts are profitable enough to spur similar projects around Europe.