Monday, June 27, 2011

The Role of the Platform in Cloud Service Delivery

The Service Provider Challenge
To differentiate their cloud services and attract customers service providers need to offer service-level agreements (SLAs) to their enterprise customers for whom performance, security, and availability are paramount. To do this they need a converged infrastructure platform that allows them to address the concerns and challenges of their enterprise customers who might be reluctant to move their data center operations and applications to the cloud.

The Cloud Service Opportunity

The emergence of the cloud delivery model has created an opportunity for service providers to develop new services that meet the changing needs of their customers for consuming applications that support their business processes. To succeed in this evolving marketplace, service providers must offer added value when competing with established Over-the-Top (OTT) providers. The key to delivering a compelling service is to build it on a converged compute platform that is optimized for the cloud and uses its capabilities to offer SLAs that meet the needs of potential customers for assurances of application performance and availability. These SLAs can reassure customers that their applications are hosted on optimized platforms and delivered from reliable data centers, so that they will be consistently available, which is a motivator to enter in to longer-term contracts for organizations that are considering moving to the cloud-computing environment.

The Need for Service Assurance

In today’s business environment, service assurance has become more than a luxury for organizations that want to migrate to the cloud. Service assurance has become the primary differentiator that organizations are looking for when seeking support for delivery of their business-critical applications. With increasing concerns over service interruptions and the availability of workloads, companies might be reluctant to move their business-critical applications to the cloud or to move to Software as a Service (SaaS) applications without the backing of comprehensive SLAs that set high standards for service delivery and hold the service provider accountable for service outages. OTT providers have built their service on commodity platforms using their own set of tools for service creation. Their primary concern has been to keep costs down so that they can serve a broad public market, and quality of service guarantees have been an after though or are not available at all.

Monday, June 6, 2011

The Role of Layer 4-7 Services in Scaling Applications for the Cloud

The Cloud Challenge
Cloud computing is increasing demands on applications and the application-delivery infrastructure must change to meet the challenge. Virtualization does not solve the problems with applications scaling, in fact it adds complexity. Infrastructure alone does not solve the challenge either. You don’t want to oversubscribe or just add capacity on demand. The infrastructure needs to respond to user demand based on business value and maintain a favorable cost structure. This means that you need intelligent load processing to manage scale, especially given the evolution of applications, which now make numerous backend function calls, which create more traffic than at the front end.

The Need for Scale
Cloud-computing applications are characterized by stateful access, with differentiated service levels, charged to the end user using the pay-per-use pricing model. Implicit in this model is the assumption that a cloud application is always on. Scaling the cloud delivery model to an Internet scale (millions of users) is a challenge that next-generation Layer 4–7 infrastructure needs to overcome. Scaling a cloud application involves scaling three mechanisms: location (mobility), replication, and load balancing. Virtualization was an early catalyst for cloud computing because it substantially lowered the cost of replication and mobility of a prepackaged application. It does not, however, solve the load-balancing problem. Load balancing involves scaling the address, name space, transport, session, identity, and business logic of the application. Clustering enables scaling of application business logic but leaves the rest of the problem to a proxy infrastructure.

Getting Beyond Stateless
Traditional data center proxy infrastructure (Layer 4–7) is stateless and focuses on transport-level session and content management. The state management in these proxies is limited to cookies that hold bare-minimum identity of the application server. Further, this state is not shared across a network overlay of proxies to enable an application for multi–data center applications or to distribute the processing to edges. For example, a load balancer does not a play any role in user customization in a data center application such as encryption of private data in the response. Not having this function in the proxy infrastructure means the data center has to incur a higher cost of development of the core application and is not able to use existing proxy infrastructure to deploy this function.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Platform as a Service: The Next Big Opportunity for Service Communications Providers

The Route to PaaS
When cloud computing emerged a few years ago Communications Service Providers (CSPs) saw the opportunity to build the infrastructure layer and offer services on it. CSPs had data center facilities that when combined with their network assets created a cloud service offer with higher service delivery assurance than some alternatives. CSPs are now delivering infrastructure-based cloud services, especially Compute as a Service and Storage as a Service, to the public and to their large Enterprise customers in private cloud offers. As the cloud service model matures, providers who have invested in cloud infrastructure are finding that they are well positioned to evolve their Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) offerings into new service delivery models by leverage their services, systems, and expertise to take on the next great opportunity in cloud services which is Platform as a Service.

The Value of PaaS
PaaS is an integral component to development and delivery of cloud-based applications delivered as Software as a Service—or SaaS. Developing a PaaS offer gives CSPs the opportunity to take advantage of the huge and growing SaaS market and help to accelerate the development of SaaS offers. CSP’s can take an active role by leveraging their assets and developing their capabilities, via a PaaS offer, rather than just hosting and transporting SaaS services. The capability they can provide is to enable development and then deploy applications that are created using tools that they support on to their cloud infrastructure. PaaS enables CSPs to carve out a new and essential role in SaaS development and delivery, situated between software developers and end users, for both business and consumers.

Routes to Market
The route to market for PaaS is complex and to reduce complexity and maximize success the CSP needs to play a major role in providing the platforms and services as well as hosting and delivery capabilities that are needed. They can facilitate SaaS development as a cloud platform provider by offering capabilities for development, enablement, and delivery of SaaS services including the components for development, billing, customer and vendor management, and customer self-servicing tools. They can also act as a SaaS aggregator by hosting a suite of SaaS applications and as a market place provider where multiple SaaS providers utilized their back-end and customer facing portals and tools to enable service delivery.