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Three Essential Questions on Making the Switch to Hybrid IT

Posted By Jamie Tyler, director, solutions engineering, CenturyLink, 03 March 2016

1.       Why should companies look at investing in hybrid IT? What advantages can they gain from it?

JT: Some organisations come to us and just want a transactional service and that’s fine. We’re cool with that ‒ if they want 15 CPUs and x amount of RAM and some storage capabilities, we can provide it. 

Others want much more.  They want to divulge some of their responsibilities; usually starting with those which are not central to the business. The CIOs don’t want or need to run a big IT department, which ultimately has a high cost associated with it. They also realise that specialists can quite often do the job better – keeping data more secure, providing a more robust cloud environment or simply a newer, faster, more agile way of doing things – than they could do themselves.

 

2.       What are the hidden costs of running an in-house IT system?

JT: There is a big investment of time and money in regards to running in-house IT systems. Beyond the infrastructure itself, there are added costs of powering, maintaining and staffing the IT system.  In addition to that, adding the application on top of the IT system adds another layer of complexity  and expense.

If businesses want to remain competitive from a technology standpoint, they must also be prepared to make regular investments in updating their in-house IT infrastructure as well as ongoing training and development for their staff. 

This is why many organisations work with a managed services provider to run these some or all of these processes. Choosing which systems to outsource and which to keep in-house is the essence of Hybrid IT; organisations can benefit from a fully-managed, integrated and comprehensive IT ecosytem that offers the flexibility needed to customise and build optimised cloud processes to support the business as needed.

 

3.       How much will companies typically spend per month on hybrid IT services?

JT: In reality, if you know how much you want to spend each month, the likelihood of the cloud being a great fit isn’t real. You may as well go back to a traditional hosting environment where you look for the safety and security of predictable usage patterns and can drive economies of scale by knowing when and where you are going to need computing or storage facilities. 

But of course, that doesn’t give you the flexibility of cloud. With cloud services, you pay for what you use; so the more you use, the more you pay. 

What cloud does give you is clarity and flexibility. Customers will be able to predict their costs based on their data usage. You can be as granular over the processes involved in cloud computing – or not; customers can have the visibility and the control over the system, or not, depending on their preferences. 

For us, it is about providing the level of control and visibility that actually a good business wants to have to ensure they can afford what they are playing with. Making the investment in a hybrid IT ecosystem is essential to transforming IT from a cost centre to a business driver.

Tags:  cloud  essential  hybrid  IT 

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Building a Hybrid Cloud Network

Posted By Jamie Tyler, Director of Solutions Engineering EMEA, CenturyLink, 26 February 2016

Building a hybrid IT platform is like setting off a flywheel – it needs a little bit of a nudge to get going but once it is up and running, it gains a momentum of its own. There’s a culture in the team that starts to become its own virtuous circle; it doesn't come from one individual or key developer, the platform has started to become its own entity. 

From a leadership standpoint, this kind of momentum and pace provides a lot of confidence that development is going to grow and grow. Building a hybrid IT platform really is an experience that takes you on a steep learning curve. 

From a hosting perspective, developing a platform really means taking control of the value you produce. Service providers can generally run applications in their data centre; implement it for their customers; and run and operate the datacentre on their behalf.

But actually producing their own technology, developing and implementing a hybrid cloud platform, provides flexibility and abstracts unique services that can be layered on top of the existing product portfolio. 

The winners in the cloud are those that have an automated service platform that supports their primary business. The origins of AWS came from a primary business as it needed a more flexible infrastructure platform. The Microsoft Platform didn’t really take off until it started driving its primary business on to that platform.

As a service provider, the primary business is about delivering hybrid IT solutions to your customers. You need a platform that supports that vision and services but it has to be architected flexibly enough so anybody can come in and use it for whatever purpose they want. 

So how can service providers drive this kind of innovation, drawing on the supportive ecosystem of partners and suppliers that most organisations spend years cultivating? 

Four Initiatives to Drive Hybrid Cloud

 

To start with, an ecosystem is not just a list of customers or partners. An ecosystem is a collection of people or partners who link up without permission, or where software partners and customers discover each other organically. Drawing upon this ecosystem can add real value to partners – and in turn, customers – and based on these possibilities, there are a number of initiatives which partners must consider and develop if they are to be truly compelling and competitive in 2016. Here are four such initiatives to keep top of mind:

 

1.       The network exchange:

All of the major cloud providers have some kind of direct network connect product, either Amazon Direct Connect or Azure Express Route ‒ and all major colocation providers have some sort of presence in that marketplace. This connects internal networks to major cloud providers, bypassing ISPs and effectively creating ‘private’ networks.

 

But network providers can build their own ‘killer’ network exchange. Whether cosmetic or real, users can find and cross connect with other people in the data centre. Service providers need an automated network connection marketplace that allows users to build their SDN layer into their platform. That can roll out to the whole ecosystem, which in turn can reach out to other owners of interesting network content and pull them in to build content together.

 

This could be the beginning of a SaaS model, where one provider starts using their network and carving that up into virtualised slices. That, in turn, could be advertised to a private network of users or a private extranet constituency – something similar to a healthcare network.

 

In that way, providers can build a series of ISPs that do specialised healthcare work on a healthcare extranet in a particular geographic area for example. All of the automation cross connects it, including who gets permissions and access rights.

 

2.       Anywhere services

Some providers need to deliver managed services anywhere; that means they can’t rely on their own datacentres or platforms alone. Hybrid IT needs to be on a broader platform plane with other providers such as Amazon or Microsoft.

 

Service providers should also offer managed operating systems, managed back-up, managed security services that are layered in to common systems.

 

3.       Resource isolation

Resource isolation is used to limit how ‘greedy’ services can be in a system and set the resources that they can consume; this improves both the accuracy of overall resource allocation on a server and the availability of the services on the server.

 

Providers should look at the levels of isolation required on the platform and turn that into an automated provisioning characteristic. For example, do you want (and do customers require you) to provision on a bare metal device or do you want an isolated pool of resources only for you?

 

The anywhere services which we talked about previously and resource isolation can also be combined. This allows providers to start provisioning against more things than just virtual machine on industry standard servers. Clearly this is an exaggeration, but the point stands – and it is a clear benefit for customers when they can receive this level of integration from their hybrid IT provider.

 

4.       VoIP, SMS and video

It is vitally important for hybrid IT providers to build the full range of communication services, such as VoIP, SMS and video, into their core platform to ensure customers get them at an extremely competitive rate, and stay connected according to their increasing needs.

 

We have seen services like Twilio provide highly effective APIs to provision voice, video and SMS services and in 2016, it is important that service providers adopt likeminded APIs to complete this jigsaw at scale.

It is unlikely that all of these will be tackled at once – or even in sequential order – but service providers should seriously consider pushing these initiatives to the top of the list if they are to stay innovative and offer powerful bespoke services to their customers. 

Tags:  cloud  hybrid 

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Why roll over? Migrating data centres might be hard work, but the benefits are worth it

Posted By Ian Bryant, VP of Advanced Services at CenturyLink EMEA, 25 June 2015
Updated: 25 June 2015

How often do you get a letter from your car insurance company reminding you that your policy is up for renewal, and rather than shop around you just let it roll over? We’ve all been guilty of this at one time or another, even when the premium is higher, so it’s no wonder that when it comes to renewing a data centre contract, people just continue with their existing supplier. 

And there’s no getting around the fact that many CIOs and infrastructure directors are either reluctant, or not in a position, to migrate to the cloud. Indeed a global study of 1,600 ICT decision makers recently claimed that 41% of respondents said migrating complex apps to the cloud is “more trouble than it’s worth”.

Part of the reason for this is that many cloud vendors don’t provide a clearly defined journey to the cloud. We all know that almost everything will be hosted in the cloud eventually, but not all applications are cloud-ready, and many are quite expensive to migrate. The cloud-only vendors make light of this, but our take – as a provider of cloud, colo and managed services – is to provide plenty of options, all under one data centre roof.

If you’re in a situation where you’re thinking, “I want to keep my data and applications in a physical environment, but need to cut costs, shorten my contract length and benefit from better availability,” then migrating your data centre is definitely worth investigating. This is especially the case if you have your eye on public or private cloud hosting in the future. 

The flexibility aspect is an interesting one. The cloud business model has influenced people’s expectations of data centre contracts. In the old days contracts were three, five and even seven years long. Those days are over – 12 to 24 months is more common for a data centre contract, and six to 12 months isn’t out of the question. 

It means that data centre migration needs to be less of a big deal from the customers’ perspective. It also presents commercial challenges to data centre providers as they can’t be certain of longer term revenues. 

They have old, big annuity based contracts, allowing them to reinvest that five year income into other services. All of a sudden there’s a utility based model with no guaranteed income stream.

Companies like ours, which were originally based on a data centre business already, have the infrastructure in place and we’re always building more because we know that demand is constantly increasing. We’re opening new data centres all over the world and expanding those we have every year.

Where do businesses typically go wrong with a data centre migration?

A data centre migration goes wrong when there’s not enough planning. 

The term “lift and shift” is used within the industry, but that’s a bit of a misnomer and under-sells the size of the task. Luckily this is our bread and butter. One example: we recently migrated a customer that involved more than a thousand devices, over a series of physical moves. We couldn’t have done this without planning every phase thoroughly.

As part of our methodology, we consider a multitude of things, such as looking closely at the business model, how IT affects the business, the applications that are run, and whether there is any resilience built into the application.

We review the technology underneath it all and ask lots of questions. Is it all up to date? (It’s not uncommon for the answer here to be “no”) What about support contracts? What about your escalation process and the skills and the staff?

In any migration the discovery phase is the most important.

When migrating a data centre you need to understand every piece of hardware and every part of the network connectivity. You also need to understand every dependency between platforms and those between applications. 

Because it’s worth it

As the colocation market continues to become more competitive and businesses expect the flexibility they can see in public cloud contracts, we’ll see more and more data centre migrations. For businesses that are looking at a bimodal IT strategy, it also makes sense to migrate. This way legacy applications can be migrated to colo and new applications can be run on the cloud – all with one provider and all managed from one dashboard. It’s when companies have achieved this that they look back at the hard work in the planning phase and see that it’s all worthwhile. 

Tags:  cloud  data  data centre  decision makers  ICT  migration 

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Healthcare and The Cloud

Posted By Ravneet Nagra, Six Degrees Group, 28 May 2015

Cloud computing can be a daunting prospect for the healthcare sector as such vast quantities of highly sensitive data is at risk. However, we discuss how thinking of “The Cloud” as one single entity is to misinterpret it; it is essentially using the server capacity of your provider. Knowing the difference between types of cloud provider is key, and understanding which cloud best works for your organisation can help transform how you manage your IT.

Click here to read the full article.

Birmingham_datacentre_six_degrees_group_cloud_pod

Tags:  cloud 

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Do you speak IT?

Posted By Campbell Williams, Six Degrees Group, 21 April 2015

The digitalisation of business is transforming the way the IT and Marketing departments work.

The expansion of social media, ‘mobile-everything’ and the cloud mean businesses digital activity is becoming a powerful revenue stream.

Campbell Williams asks how this will ultimately affect the IT and Marketing budgets, whether the Chief Digital Officer will place the traditional Chief Marketing Office and Chief Information Officer roles and what this will mean for marketers in the future...?

Click here to read more.

Tags:  cloud  digital marketing 

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Do you know your IaaS from your SaaS?

Posted By Ravneet Nagra, Six Degrees Group, 14 April 2015

In today’s working world we are surrounded by acronyms and abbreviations. A survey we carried out found that IT professionals use more jargon than lawyers, politicians and bankers! And for many users from the outside looking in, the terms used may not make any sense at all.

So our team have designed a Jargon Buster to help break down the mystery behind many cloud computing terms. This guide can be used to provide a helping hand to our customers and also for other industry workers.

So what do they mean?

Infrastructure as a Service

The first few layers of the hosting value chain whereby cloud-based infrastructure (e.g. compute and storage) is provided as a Service for a time-based rental model (per minute, hour, day, week, month, etc).

Software as a Service

In a SaaS model, the cloud service provider is responsible for all technical elements from infrastructure, through platform, to the application itself. The customer will typically pay on a “per user, per month” model, e.g. if they wish to rent Microsoft Exchange mailboxes, this is delivery by the provider from their multi-tenant platform.

Click here to discover more terms with our Jargon Buster!

 

Tags:  cloud  jargon  technology 

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Just because it’s called cloud computing, it doesn’t mean there’s no room for Unified Comms

Posted By Campbell Williams, Six Degrees Group, 26 March 2015
Updated: 26 March 2015

It should come as no surprise that so many businesses across the world are starting to embrace cloud computing. Why wouldn’t they, when the benefits of off-premise hosting are not only numerous but compelling: reduced IT costs, flexibility, scalability, economies of scale, business continuity and disaster recovery are to name but a few. Given the advantages it provides, why are these same technology adopters not reaping the rewards that cloud hosting can offer their Unified Comms (UC) opertations?

While businesses are busy moving their IT to the cloud, few have realised the benefits of moving their telecoms and communications there too. This just goes to show that far too many people still think of technology as IT rather than ICT. It may be called cloud computing but it isn’t only IT applications such as email and CRM that can be virtualized; these days it is perfectly possible to have a virtual instance of your IP telephony call control hosted on an off-premise cloud next to your production IT estate.

UK businesses need to bear this in mind because, at the moment, many of them are missing a trick by failing to recognise the business benefits of moving telephony to the cloud. This has been highlighted by a recent survey of UK businesses conducted for Six Degrees Group (6DG) which found more than half of those using cloud for IT hosting had not considered using it for their telephony and UC.

The survey revealed that even when businesses were using cloud for their telephony, they were mark-edly cautious about doing so, with only a small proportion willing to host more than three-quarters of their telephone systems in the cloud.

Of the 52% of businesses that were not using cloud for their telephony, 44% said control was the main reason for keeping systems on-premise, and just over a quarter had concerns over quality and redundan-cy compared to traditional telephony systems. In what could be seen as a scathing indictment of the fail-ure of the cloud computing sector to inform customers of the technology’s potential, a remarkable fifth of businesses were not even aware that telephony could be hosted in the cloud.

Given the benefits that IP telephony can provide, ignorance in this case is most definitely not bliss. Cloud-based telephony can deliver speed, flexibility and scalability to a company’s communications and provides a more tailored solution. Just as with IT in the cloud, a hosted telephony service removes the need for large, upfront capital investments and upgrades.

Despite concerns over control, quality and redundancy, telephony in the cloud is just as resilient and se-cure as on-premise systems. The service also provides the flexibility for businesses to access voice, video and collaboration tools on virtually any device while enjoying the OPEX benefits that are only achievable with cloud. Cloud-based telephony services can deliver a new path to greater business agility for compa-nies while providing them with the flexibility of a pay-as-you-grow environment.

The time has come for companies benefiting from cloud for IT to recognise they have the opportunity to do the same with telecoms and UC. At the moment, many businesses are not taking full advantage of the benefits of cloud computing, and even those using hosted IP telephony aren’t using it to its full potential. In some cases, it doesn’t help that services providers have failed to explain that it makes sense to stream-line operations and put telephony in the cloud too.

Businesses anxious about moving telephony to the cloud should look for a converged services provider that can address their quality and control requirement, by using a fully-featured single-instance virtu-alised IP-PBX that’s fully resilient. It’s perfectly possible for businesses to get the best of on-premise in-frastructure with the business benefits of the cloud. All they have to do is call.

Click here to read more.

Tags:  cloud  infrastructure  telecommunications 

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