Virtual Data Centre Decisions - A SearchVirtualDataCentre blog

Virtual Data Centre Decisions:

 

A SearchVirtualDataCentre blog


The right approach to secure file-sharing

Platforms such as Dropbox are rapidly gaining in popularity. Users love having a simple way to store and share files with a group of people across multiple locations, using any computer or mobile device.

However, this type of application has not had the security, control, flexibility or pricing structure in place to make them a safe and cost-effective option for businesses. How can IT provide access to file sharing that is secure, but still manage how these work files are actually shared? What is the right balance between letting users access the tools that they want and IT retaining control? And is it one that can be achieved?

Whatever your business, this will be a challenge for the future. One way for IT to solve this problem is to implement a private cloud solution, which can make doing business quicker, easier and more secure.

Dropbox for business?

The Dropbox file-sharing concept allows users to collaborate with customers, suppliers and colleagues, wherever they are. What is more, it is easy for someone to revise your file and send the latest version to everyone in the group.

But there are drawbacks for a business using Dropbox.

Lack of security and an uncertain audit trail should concern any business using a file storage and sharing application, while there are also issues to consider about where data is stored and bandwidth consumption. For those that want control over how and where their information is stored, Dropbox may not be really right for them. But there is an even more urgent question to be answered first: is Dropbox already in use within your organisation?

It is important to find out if employees at your organisation are using Dropbox or a similar application in their day-to-day work.

This will help you comply with audit policies and commercial agreements that require you to encrypt your data before you share it.

With Dropbox alone, IT cannot control and enforce requirements for encryption. With web-based file-sharing, sensitive data can be transferred to diverse uncontrolled devices in any location - leading to severe security risk. Another thing to remember is that in case of small enterprises, they may not have the bandwidth to cope with the frequent flow of data to and from Dropbox accounts and will see their  other web-based services may suffer as a result.

One approach to discovering how widespread Dropbox use is within your business would be to conduct an informal survey - ask users if they have installed it. For a more in-depth look at what is actually happening, an IT survey tool will give visibility into your client infrastructure and help you decide whether or not to implement a storage and file-sharing platform as a business tool.

Solving the challenges of business file-sharing

If Dropbox is widely installed in your organisation, it is essential that you find an alternative solution to meet the needs for which it is being used, and at the same time address the key business issues of security and control.

Some businesses use shared network drives instead of web-based services such as Dropbox. These are fine for storage but poor for collaborative work as they don’t have mobile device access or the ability to share data externally. Other companies opt for document management systems but these are costly to run. They also lack the flexibility many businesses need to stay ahead in their industries.

Private cloud approaches build on the file sharing and storage principles established by services such as Dropbox, but add vital internal security and control functionality. Business data can be made available to anyone, at any location, on any mobile device with an internet connection. Improved productivity and free read-only access to your data for suppliers and customers helps you do business more quickly, easily and securely.

With a private cloud under your control and, crucially, local data encryption for compliance and security, you can make the rules. There are already a number of products either entering the market or due to launch that aim to meet this need. Examples of available products include RES Software’s HyperDrive and Sharefile from Citrix, while VMware has its Project Octopus in Beta stage too.

Whatever product you choose, it should include support for your current storage infrastructure and the ability to remotely wipe data on lost devices. This not only makes sure that it is simple to integrate with your current IT, but that it also allows you to ensure that data is protected in the event of a device going astray.

Versatility is another key benefit that companies can deliver to their users, as these tools all should have compatibility with Android, Windows, BlackBerry and Apple’s iOS devices out of the box. As users want to bring in their own smartphones, tablets and laptops, secure file sharing can make it easier to support BYOD.

For users, the main aim of using Dropbox is convenience. For the IT team, replicating this level of user friendliness while still keeping control over where data actually resides is therefore essential. By using private cloud-based approaches, rather than relying on public cloud services, IT can have its cake and let users eat it too.

– By Steve Denby

Denby is Sales Director at LETN.

IT considering BYOD to bring flexibility must not forget mobile device management

Without a doubt, Bring your Own Device (BYOD) has become the IT industry’s hot topic this summer. End users are embracing it, vendors are trying to market it and IT admins are wary of it.  Read more »

Give your data centre cooling strategy a new spin to maximise its performance

Businesses can save costs, improve systems’ performance and achieve environmental efficiency by taking simple measures such as using cloud computing, virtualisation and novel cooling techniques and also by running data centres at slightly higher temperatures.

Amid tightening budgets, rise in energy prices and stricter carbon emissions regulation in the EU, IT pros want to improve data centre energy strategies.

Gartner analysts have predicted that hardware spending on data centres will increase to $106bn (£66bn) this year, rising beyond $126bn (£78.6bn) by 2015. Experts also predicted that eventually the majority of small and medium-size data centres will be consolidated into these large or very large (mega) data centres. 

These consolidated facilities can cover 100,000s of square feet of floor space and can significantly increase power and cooling requirements.

IT pros can use virtualisation as an option for data centre optimisation. Virtualisation, although initially reduces demand for power and cooling, will ultimately put an extra burden on data centres as server hardware becomes more powerful and more densely packed within the confines of the building.  

Power and cooling requirements for a fully loaded, but virtualised, data centre will be higher than for lower density environments. This is because more powerful equipment is packed in.

Densely packed physical servers that host many virtual servers tend to be stored in ways that can create localised ‘hot spots’ due to a lack of airflow causing systems to overheat.

So what can IT pros, looking to optimise data centre power consumption, do?  One simple solution is that they can migrate to a cloud-based hosting provider. 

The UK government has already embraced this idea for their G-Cloud services to help achieve the efficiencies of data centre consolidation.

Another solution is allowing IT equipment to run at higher temperatures.  Computer systems can be run in a stable configuration at considerably higher temperatures, reducing the need to maintain temperatures lower than 20 degrees Celsius. 

One such example is eBay and its Phoenix (Arizona) data centre. The facility runs servers at up to 48 degrees Celsius at full load and uses a hot water cooling system which delivers much greater cooling efficiencies than standard air conditioning units.

The key thing here, for data centre managers, is to strategically and specifically select server hardware which they know can tolerate higher temperatures. They must also remember that this may not be suitable for co-located environments with many different hardware vendors.

Remembering the following simple steps will help IT pros reduce data centre power and cooling costs:
1.       Migrating to a cloud-based infrastructure - let someone else take the strain;
2.       Allowing IT equipment to run at higher temperatures where possible;
3.       Using novel cooling means such as hot water systems, rather than traditional air conditioning;
4.       Making more efficient use of rack space to ensure adequate airflow including hot and cold aisles;
5.       Virtualising servers where possible to reduce the number of physical servers in the data centre.

- By Steven Turner
Turner is vice president of IT optimisation at Intergence and a contributor to SearchVirtualDataCentre.co.UK. He specialises in network optimisation and has helped private and public sector companies in their optimisation projects. Turner is Cisco CCNA and CCNA security certified. Steve has gained a BSc (Hons) in Computer Science from the University of Warwick, and an MSc in Network Systems from the University of Sunderland. He has also completed a PhD using genetic algorithms in conjunction with parallel processing to produce a multi-utility network optimisation tool.

IT priorities haven’t kept up with trends and emerging technologies

 IT professionals have not yet moved beyond the traditional view of their technology infrastructure and risk overlooking the impact of new technologies and trends affecting businesses.

Professionals continue their focus on the IT concerns of the past, despite calls for aligning IT to changing business strategies and a need to reinvent IT amid the economic crisis, a TechTarget study on professionals’ IT priorities for 2012 has found.

IT administrators listed server virtualisation, data centre consolidation, cloud computing (particularly private cloud) and compliance as their main initiatives for 2012. But their views and concerns around these technologies including cloud haven’t changed much.

For most respondents, security continues to be a primary concern about cloud followed by reliability and data protection. While these are important concerns, IT professionals are overlooking other aspects of the cloud which are important in developing a holistic cloud strategy. Only a minority are concerned about other issues such as vendor lock-in,  lack of management tools, and lack of demonstrated savings.

Vendor lock-in becomes a problem when the cloud service provider prevents the customer from taking their data back, according to Nigel Fortlage, from a customs brokerage firm in the US.

When it comes to security initiatives for 2012, the study showed that IT professionals are still pre-occupied with traditional security-oriented projects such as data protection (43%) and network-based security (40%). Virtualisation security and identity and access management (IAM) were listed low in the priorities list despite experts insisting that IAM in the cloud is a “multi-faceted challenge.”

According to experts, poorly controlled IAM processes could result in regulatory non-compliance because when undergoing audits, businesses will not be able to prove that their data is not at risk of misuse.

Separately, more than half of respondents (58.5%) said that the external cloud service they plan to use in 2012 is Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) followed by business continuity and Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) both at 30% and Storage-as-a-Service at 28%.

SaaS has been an increasingly prevalent delivery model since 2006 and it is time IT pros look beyond it. However, only a minority of respondents are looking at cloud for services such as Datacentre-as-a-Service (DCaaS), or Security-as-a-Service or for collaboration.

Another telling factor was that, among the desktop initiatives, IT professionals prioritised migrating to Windows 7 (61%) over other strategic desktop initiatives such as implementing application virtualisation (17%) or adopting online productivity apps such as Microsoft Office 365 (10%).

And lastly, among the mobility initiatives outlined by businesses for 2012, adoption of smartphones and tablet PCs ranked highest at 29% and 30% respectively whereas other initiatives such as mobile virtualisation took low priority at 5%.

All these factors demonstrate that businesses and their IT teams are still reactive to technologies that are now mainstream and are still playing catch up.

Do you agree? Please let us know by writing to avenkatraman@techtarget.com.

Businesses have ambitious data centre plans but lack strategy

 UK and European businesses are looking to use outsourced data centres and cloud services in the short term, while planning longer term to build their own in-house data centre facilities to deal with growing data volumes, findings from Oracle’s Next Generation Data Centre Index study showed.

This “buy” capacity for now and “build” capacity for later policy may be a quick-fix response to address Big Data challenges but this strategy could fall short in the light of other findings of the study.

For one, the study showed that virtualisation of IT hardware in the data centre is patchy where only 12% of respondents said they have virtualised more than 70% of their IT estate. 38% admitted to have virtualised less than 30%. This lack of virtualisation and server consolidation could lead to data centre inefficiencies as well as under-utilisation of IT systems and will not help businesses reap all the benefits of virtualisation.

Another finding was that more than a third (36%) of data centre managers do not have visibility of energy usage, with 10% of respondents doubting that anyone else sees a copy of the bill for data centre energy usage. Amid stricter carbon emissions regulations in the EU, an organisation that does not have a good grip of its data centre’s power usage will risk facing hefty penalties or will find its cooling costs spiralling out of control.

Another worrying finding from the study was that 39% professionals said they second-guess future workload requirements. If data centre managers are not aware of their potential workload, scaling a data centre and making it future-proof will not be possible.

In addition to these issues, experts added that many organisations do not have a clear exit strategy in terms of using cloud services.

All these above factors combined will limit UK and European enterprises’ ambitious data centre plans and may restrict them from evolving their data centre into a private cloud.

If you would like to share your thoughts, please email us at avenkatraman@techtarget.com.

Gartner: Data centre energy costs will rise sharply

Energy costs are already a big challenge for data centre managers, and more bad news is on the way.

In the next couple of years, energy costs in data centres will rise massively, said Rakesh Kumar, vice president, Gartner Research, today at the Gartner Data Centre and IT Operations Summit 2011.

In 2010, energy alone accounted for 12% of the cost of running a data centre, third after people (29%) and software (22%). But, this is going to change in the next few years. While hardware (servers and storage devices) costs will go down, energy costs will go up to 20% from the current 12%.

This means energy costs will account for a fifth of the cost of running a data centre.

The reasons for this increase are higher power costs plus more equipment within a data centre.

While energy costs will become a big headache for data centre managers, there are many things users can do to address this issue, Kumar said:

•     Use free-air cooling. Here’s how you can use free-air or natural cooling in the data centre.

•     Reuse heating

•     Scale vertically first, then scale horizontally [Scaling vertically means adding more resources such as memory or CPUs to a single server while scaling horizontally means running an app across multiple servers so that even when a single server fails, the app isn’t affected).

•     Build density zones

•     Consider multi-tiered designs

•     Build/rebuild pods

Specifically, Kumar urged European IT pros to look more strategically at free-air cooling. “Free-air cooling is very important and help enterprises save on energy bills considerably, especially in the UK and other northern countries where temperatures are 16 degrees or below for a majority of the year,” he said.

He also advised users to “play the refresh game more often” because newer servers are more energy efficient.

VMware charges ahead with cloud and mobile virtualisation, but what about VDI?

 At VMworld Europe 2011 we heard a lot about vSphere, the Cloud Foundry platform as a service (PaaS), Horizon Mobile, and virtualisation management tools, but next to nothing about desktop virtualisation.

Does this sparse talk about desktop virtualisation signify that VMware is shifting away from VDI and looking to a future of mobile and social enterprise?

In his keynote, VMware chief executive Paul Maritz outlined the company’s key investment areas including efforts in cloud and mobile virtualisation.

VMware’s initiative in the cloud space includes its partnerships in community cloud in the healthcare and financial services space as well as its work with cloud service providers such as Colt, CSC, SingTel and Verizon among others.

Maritz also spoke about Cloud Foundry - which he described as the “Linux for the cloud era”, insisting that cloud should not be based on highly proprietary systems or limited to a single vendor. “Cloud should facilitate applications portability in a cross-cloud, multi-cloud world,” he said.

Separately, VMware announced its strategic partnership with telecommunications company Telefónica to deliver VMware Horizon Mobile and allow users to access a virtual (Android-based) enterprise phone on their personal Android smartphone.

The virtual work phone will be controlled by the enterprise. “A user installing a hacked version of a game on their personal phone will not affect the security of the work phone,” Maritz said.

“We need to go beyond desktop virtualisation in a post-pc multi device world,” he said. “We are going to make investment in a new set of tools as users are no longer tethered behind their desks or using heavy-weight desk based machines.” He also explained the role of its Horizon App Manager.

The Hands-on Labs space at the event, which Maritz described as the “heart of the conference”, also focused on VMware’s cloud initiatives, server virtualisation, email collaboration tools, management suites, and mobile virtualisation.

In short, at VMworld Europe 2011, VMware highlighted every aspect of its portfolio except VDI. Was this just coincidence - or does it signal a deeper trend? Please share your thoughts.

Checkout our VMworld Europe 2011 conference coverage here.

Archana Venkatraman is the Site Editor for SearchVirtualDataCentre.co.UK

Attending VMworld Europe 2011? Learn how to make the most of it

If your company gave you a (reluctant) nod to attend the upcoming VMworld Europe 2011 in Copenhagen, you feel the pressure to justify your time. Here are some tips on how to make the most of the show.

Prepare: Doing your homework will help you sail through more strategically. Come with an understanding of the main problems your IT environment is facing. Is it compatibility? Is it ageing hardware? Is it full to capacity? Is backup a nightmare? Identifying this up front will help you make the best use of your time.

Make an agenda and stick to it: Go through the programme beforehand and plan out your agenda. There are general sessions where VMware chiefs outline their roadmaps and super sessions on niche topics such as “securing the cloud”, “transitioning to ESXi” and “mobile virtualisation”. Build your own schedule here 

Don’t miss the one-on-one opportunities: Several VMWare “knowledge experts” will be available for one-on-one meetings to answer your technical questions.  You can schedule a 15-minute session with any three of these VMware knowledge experts for specific advice on compliance, security, and performance and capacity management as well as on specific VMware topics such as Zimbra, VMware View, vSphere, Cloud Foundry and others. Remember this is available only to end-user attendees, so make use of it.

Learn new technologies: Develop your skills and knowledge about emerging technologies and keep up with newer trends around cloud security, mobile virtualisation et al. Do not hesitate to ask questions - no matter how basic they are. Make sure you know how exactly a certain product will help solve your enterprise’s IT problem, and its cost, compatibility, security etc.

Get hands on experience: You won’t know unless you try it. Give the products a go at the Hands-on Labs. Lab sessions are categorised by VMware solutions and are aimed at providing users some best practice tips. 

There are also track-specific sessions to help you develop in-depth technical skills. Topics include: “SRM 5.0 - what’s new and recommendations for success”; “VMware Data Recovery - Everything you need to know”; or “Getting started with vSphere Design” among others.

Collaborate: Impromptu interactions with IT pros from other companies can be very insightful. Collaborate with a wide range of IT pros experiencing similar issues as you - tighter budgets, stricter UK data regulations and tougher EU carbon emission rules. Learn how they deal with these pain-points for inspiration.

Take notes: Never trust your memory. Write down names and versions of products that interest you, tips and advice, upcoming products and vendor promises.

Use social networking: Yes Twitter is prone to banter but don’t scoff it off yet. Follow the right people and follow the right conversation to get insights and sometimes, inside scoops.

Evaluate: Once you get back, evaluate what you learnt and check if you have any unanswered questions. Don’t forget to stay in touch and follow up on points you feel the need for.

See you then!

Find our VMworld Europe 2011 conference coverage here.

Archana Venkatraman is the Site Editor for SearchVirtualDataCentre.co.UK

Sick of bad news? Look at IT!

Bogged by the dark, grim and uncertain realities of the outside world? Maybe you can seek some solace in the world of technology.

Here are a few pieces of good IT news to help take your mind off the London riots and faltering economy:

•      Oracle is starting a huge recruitment drive in EMEA, looking for 1,700 new employees with varied skills and experience across all divisions of its business. 

•       Intel plans to invest $30 million (£18.5 million) over five years on cloud computing research — the starting point for product development that could spur future growth.

•       Insurance industry CIOs are optimistic about increasing IT investment in private cloud services, recent research has shown.

•      And VMware took customer feedback to heart and changed its vSphere 5 licensing in an effort to reduce customers’ costs. 

If that is not enough to cheer you up, just turn to Twitter and take in some of the peer-to-peer learning and networking. When data centre professionals share tips and trends, they demonstrate perfect solidarity and reflect the maturity in their industry.

Wish we could say the same about the outside world.

Archana Venkatraman is the Site Editor for SearchVirtualDataCentre.co.UK

Day one at BriForum London: Reporter’s log

Kayleigh Bateman This week I was at BriForum London at Chelsea Football Club. Packed with virtual desktop devotees, the show proved engaging. I even helped hand out free “God Save the Geeks” T-shirts and BriForum rucksacks.

Desktop models. The first session, “Desktop Virtualisation Models and PC Capabilities: What’s the Best Fit for Your Users?” was presented by Ian Pratt and Brian O’Reagan and it was packed. We ran out of seats, so some attendees needed to stand for the 75 minutes. They didn’t seem to mind and were quite an interactive crowd, asking questions about managing virtual machines (VMs), watching demos, and listening to why a Type 1 hypervisor can help improve performance and management. I even had trouble handing the mic over to attendees quickly enough.

VDI and cost. The “Outgunning VDI for a Fraction of the Cost” session was presented by Tom Reed and Jesus Garcia from Intel. Attendees wanted to know how to take a golden image on the road. Reed explained that he “lives on a plane” and needs to access his desktop anytime so he can still build PowerPoint presentations. Attendees in the room generally agreed that this is a growing problem, with businesses implementing more devices and some employees owning the technology.

Remoting Protocols. The popular session” RDP, RemoteFX, ICA/HDX, EOP, and PCoIP VDI: Remoting Protocols Turned Inside Out” was presented by Benny Tritsch and Shawn Bass. The room was brimming with attendees wanting to learn about high latency and how to encode and decode videos. Benny discussed decoding information to send down the wire so it is decoded when it reaches the other end.

The presenters also demoed Flash and SilverLight. They argued that even though the technologies seem very different, they’re actually quite similar. With SilverLight RDP and remote FX, on the local area network (LAN), the protocols did a fairly good job with good compression. They introduced less bandwidth with a higher latency, and the technology started to struggle. With Flash they did a demo on the LAN, again, with RDP and remote FX - they altered the latency and bandwidth again until the technology started to struggle. Remote FX appeared to be doing much better than RDP in terms of video quality. The conclusion from the speakers: Does RDP suck over the LAN? Apparently not, it just depends on the settings you’re using apparently. If you adjust your latency you’ll get a much better user experience, so have a play around with the settings. Congratulations if you managed to get a seat in that session - it was 75 minutes long and some people resorted to sitting on the floor.

Future of Desktops. “The Future Desktop: What Should It Do and What Should It Look Like?” session with Brian Madden and Harry Labana attracted a big crowd and was probably the busiest of the first day. Madden explained that the session came out of a drunken conversation between the two of them. The session covered the management side of virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) and how to look after several devices at once. Madden posed the question: “How do I look after 1,000 users that have five devices each? Do you think your boss is going to give you five extra staff to manage them all?  No.” Brian and Harry were suggesting how VDI can help with this management, but highlighted that it is not cost-effective to predict how many devices staff plan to use. They advised that you plan to give your user what he want, and learn how to manage that, or consider outsourcing management.

All of this took place on just day one. Overall, the majority of attendees I spoke to said they enjoyed the sessions and the speakers. Shame about the severe lack of rubbish bins around the venue though….

Kayleigh Bateman is the site editor and UK managing editor for SearchVirtualDataCentre.co.UK and TechTarget International.