Tag Archives: AWS

Amazon Cloud Outage Hits Dozen Of Sites, But Not Amazon

The outage in Amazon Web Services (AWS) popular storage service S3 a couple of days ago was severe. Over 50 businesses who entrusted their websites, photos, videos and documents in S3 buckets found themselves unreachable for around 4 hours. Among those were high profile names such as Disney, Target and Nike. And it’s not the first one either. This time, again, the outage took place at Amazon’s veteran Northern Virginia (US-EAST-1) region.

Amazon’s own websites, however, were not affected by the outage. According to Business Insider the reason is that

They have designed their sites to spread themselves across multiple Amazon geographic zones, so if a problem crops up in one zone, it doesn’t hurt them.

Put simply: Amazon designed its websites the right way – with high availability and disaster recovery plan (DRP) in mind.

If you want your website to sustain such outages – follow Amazon’s example! Here’s a piece of advice I wrote a few years ago after another major AWS outage:

AWS Outage – Thoughts on Disaster Recovery Policies

For more best practices on resilient cloud-based architecture check this out:

Retrospect on recent AWS Outage and Resilient Cloud-Based Architecture

And if policies, regulations or your own paranoia level prohibit putting all your eggs in Amazon’s bucket, then you may be interested in this:

AWS Outage: Moving from Multi-Availability-Zone to Multi-Cloud

So Keep Calm – there is Disaster Recovery!

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Oracle Launches Bare Metal Cloud Services, Challenges Amazon AWS

Oracle threw some big announcement back in September at Oracle OpenWorld conference about its plan to add Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) to its Oracle Cloud Solutions. And now the first piece of that IaaS is announced: Oracle Bare Metal Cloud Services. Oracle’s service offers integrated network block storage, object storage, identity and access management, VPN connectivity, and a software-defined Virtual Cloud Network (VCN) – their implementation of Software Defined Networking (SDN). The new service is launched in Oracle’s new Phoenix Region (Arizona, USA), with the promise of growing to additional regions. The Phoenix region has 3 Availability Domains (similar to Availability Zones in Amazon Web Services).

oracle-iaas-logoOracle has been exploring cloud for a while and has made several startup acquisitions in that direction. With this move Oracle is going jumping heads-on to the ruthless cloud IaaS wars. In fact, it seems Oracle lured in some cloud experts from Amazon, Microsoft and Google to build its new IaaS.

One amazing thing that Oracle did with its IaaS, is that it designed its entire data center, up to the hardware stack, on its own! Oracle learned well the lesson from Amazon, Google et al. Thank to that design it claims to provide competitive pricing that will challenge the legendary AWS pricing.

For more information on Oracle Bare Metal Cloud Services see here.

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Amazon and VMware: Strange Allies In The Game Of Clouds

Before cloud there was datacenter virtualization. The king of virtualization was VMware, who had ruled enterprise datacenters for decades uninterruptedly. Then a new force arose – Public Cloud – ruled by the reincarnated online retailer Amazon, which swiftly won the hearts of startups and web apps alike. As enterprises started exploring the cloud, VMware adapted its offering in the form of Private Cloud in attempt to keep the lucrative enterprises under its dominion, while Amazon has been fighting to convert them to its public cloud, with relentless price cuts and innovative services. War was fierce.

But in the Game of Clouds strange alliances are formed…

Now VMware is striking an alliance with Amazon. The new strategic partnership announced this month brings forth a hybrid child: VMware Cloud on AWS, which promises to let enterprises have their cake and eat it too – keeping them working in their good-old VMware vSphere environment while letting VMware operate it for them as a managed service on the Amazon Web Services (AWS) bare metal infrastructure. The new service is currently in Technology Preview, with general availability expected mid-2017.

vmware-aws

What could bring together these bitter rivals? In the land of private cloud VMware has been suffering fierce competition from OpenStack open source community, so fierce that ultimately VMware jumped on the OpenStack bandwagon. Flanked by OpenStack from private cloud and by Amazon from public cloud, VMware came to realize what HP, Verizon and others learned the hard way – that hybrid cloud can be the alternative. A similar strategy change brought the got Rackspace acquired a couple of months ago.

And what’s Amazon’s angle with WMware you ask? Amazon has been eyeing the lucrative enterprises for a long time, but has largely failed to convert them to the public cloud. Microsoft, Amazon’s public cloud competitor, identified that and launched Azure Stack (currently in Technical Preview 2), a flavor of its Azure public cloud that can extends to the enterprise’s datacenter. Amazon so far has been dogmatic in its public cloud vision, preaching full migration to the public cloud and refusing to provide variants for private cloud. But market forces are stronger, and Amazon’s way off the proverbial tree was found in the form of VMware. With Microsoft’s Azure Stack expected in general availability mid-2017, Amazon had to prepare its counter move towards the same mark.

In the Game of Clouds great forces are at play. With private and public clouds, open source communities and vendor-locked solutions, incumbents and startups all at play. And everyone’s eyeing the holy grail of enterprises.

Who will win the Cloud Throne?

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Can Hybrid Cloud Present An Alternative To Amazon, Microsoft, Google?

It’s not easy to be a public cloud vendor these days. The public cloud world has been undergoing serious consolidation in the past few years. Amazon, the pioneer of the cloud, has been keeping a clear lead, while Microsoft and Google have been pulling in, utilizing their accumulated experience, global data centers and software platforms, and positioned themselves as next in line. Together this trio serve the vast majority of the workloads running on public cloud.

This consolidation drove out many vendors, including some big incumbent names such as HP that shut down its cloud late last year and Verizon that did the same a couple of months ago.

hphelion2

So what’s their answer? I’d say it’s threefold:

  1. Multi-cloud model: If you can’t beat them, join them. Support Amazon, Microsoft, Google public clouds. If done via a good generic platform, it can help avoid vendor lock-in.
  2. Hybrid model: mix the public cloud support with support for private cloud and bare-metal to offer public-private-hosted hybrid approach.
  3. Private model: concentrate on strictly private cloud. The popular open-source project OpenStack is a leading candidate for this strategy. This approach is useful for the customers insisting to run things on their own premises.

HP (now HPE), after shutting down its public cloud, moved to a hybrid cloud strategy with a series of acquisitions and by endorsing OpenStack private cloud open source project.  Verizon went for the private cloud approach.

An interesting case is Rackspace, which eased off on its own cloud and managed services, and started offering third-party support for the public clouds of Amazon and Microsoft, leveraging its Fanatical Support brand. Also, in parallel to supporting leading public cloud vendors, Rackspace keeps its longstanding support of private cloud deployments based on OpenStack, the popular open-source platform which it co-founded.

rackspace-multi-cloud-offering

Rackspace’s strategy seems to have hit well. quarterly results published this week show quarterly revenue $518 million, up 7.9% from the year-ago-quarter. Executives noted Rackspace’s success was buoyed particularly by a growing number of Fanatical Support customers for its Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services (AWS) offerings as well as customers on its OpenStack private cloud.

Hybrid cloud strategies gain traction with enterprises. While Amazon, Microsoft and Google try to convince enterprises to go all-in on the public cloud, it’s too big a change to swallow for most. Even Microsoft realized that hurdle and tried bringing its Azure cloud to the enterprise’s datacenter. Hybrid cloud seems to have demand, and may also be the focus of those who failed to take the lead in the public cloud.

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Will Banks Soon Run In The Cloud?

Cloud computing has become prevalent in many industries. A glimpse at the figures Amazon and Microsoft, the two biggest public cloud providers, reveals a multi-billion dollar market which grows rapidly. Starting with online startups, the public cloud has grown to become mainstream within enterprises. And now they’re having their eyes on the financial jackpot – the banks.

Amazon is pitching its cloud-computing service to big U.S. banks, hoping to break into one of the last major strongholds of old-line technology companies. According to a new article by The Wall Street Journal, the public cloud giant has approached Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase and others to show the value of its Amazon Web Services (AWS).

In fact, Amazon already got an early adopter on board: Capital One. Last October at Amazon’s re:Invent conference the bank’s CIO Rob Alexander gave an enthusiastic keynote, describing how they started experimenting with AWS back in 2014 in different areas such as online banking and stream data processing and with use cases such as cloud bursting during Black Friday shopping, and late 2015 launched its new mobile banking app in production on AWS. By “outsourcing” its IT to Amazon’s cloud, the bank aims to reduce its datacenter footprint from 8 to 3 by 2018.

Amazon is not alone in this quest: Microsoft and Google, Amazon’s leading competitors in the public cloud, are also looking to penetrate this challenging niche. According to WSJ, JP Morgan has been examining Google’s cloud platform in addition to Amazon’s. Yet still missing such high-profile early adopter reference.

While the operational benefits are great, public cloud vendors need to address the bank’s strict security needs: concerns such as compliance, regulation, access control and encryption need to be met at the highest standards. According to Capital One’s CIO, the bank has been working closely with Amazon’s team to develop the security model. Alexander went as much as saying it now operates “more securely in the public cloud than we can on our own data centers“. Amazon’s CIA reference also serves it well in proving its security case.

This sort of close collaboration with the industry and regulatory bodies will ultimately bring public cloud infrastructure to the levels of the banks’ data centers, and pave the banks’ path to the cloud.

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HP Quits Public Cloud Race, Focusing On Hybrid Cloud For Enterprises

If you don’t see how the IT world is changing, just follow the recent tectonic shifts: while some tectonic plates merge (see Dell & EMC), others split (see HP split). The big players are assessing their play in this new world of IT where people and companies consume services rather than products, and where businesses run entire operations without owning “stuff” (think about the biggest taxi company not owning a single vehicle…). In this world, the game shifts from selling boxes and licenses to cloud-based services and open-source software and standards. And that’s a shift the big guys are now facing.

In its recent evaluation of the company’s future, HP (soon to be HP Enterprise) realized it cannot compete in the public cloud global arena, and decided to shut down its HP Helion Public Cloud offering on January 31, 2016. This arena is heavily dominated by Amazon, followed by Google and Microsoft, it requires a lot of upfront investment to gain significant global coverage, and it has a fierce war on price and performance.

hphelion

Instead, HP will focus on hybrid cloud, helping their traditional enterprise customers combine their on-premise data center with different public cloud vendors. This way HP actually plans to partner with the big public cloud vendors. In its recent blog post, Bill Hilf, SVP and GM, HP Cloud, stated that:

To support this new model, we will continue to aggressively grow our partner ecosystem and integrate different public cloud environments.

HP’s strategic choice to focus on hybrid cloud should come as no surprise. With the agenda of bringing hybrid cloud to enterprises  HP acquired Stackato 3 months ago from ActiveState. Also, late last year HP acquired open-source software Eucalyptus to “accelerate hybrid cloud adoption in the enterprise“, which paved HP’s way to offering compatibility with Amazon’s AWS cloud. On the Microsoft front HP has been working to support Azure cloud and Office 365 SaaS offering. This may compete with Microsoft’s own hybrid cloud offering announced earlier this year. And Amazon is debating its position on hybrid cloud as well. so these partnerships will be interesting. If formed well, they could lead HP to a true multi-cloud offering.

hphelion

The big players are all eyeing how to bring hybrid model for the enterprises, where the big money lies, and where complex environments, systems and constraints mandate such hybrid models and enterprise-grade tooling. We’ll also be seeing more use of open-source, such as HP’s adoption of Eucalyptus, CloudFoundry (for PaaS), and OpenStack. In fact, today started the OpenStack Summit in Tokyo, it’d be interesting to hear what HP executives elaborate on the recent and expected moves for Helion.

You can read more on HP’s recent moves around cloud, containers, open-source, HP company split and more on this post.

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A Tale of Two Outages Featuring Amazon, Microsoft And An Un-Smart Home

Update: Following the subsequent official announcements of Amazon and Microsoft I updated the post with more information on the outages and relevant links

Here it is again. A major outage in Amazon’s AWS data center in North Virginia takes down the cloud service in Amazon’s biggest region, and with it, taking down a multitude of cloud-based services such as Netflix, Tinder, AirBnB and Wink. This is not the first time it happens, and not even the worst. At least this time it didn’t last for days. This time it was their DynamoDB that went down and took down a host of other services, as Amazon describes in a lengthy blog post.

And Amazon is not alone in that. Microsoft today also suffered a major outage in its Skype service, which rendered the popular VoIP service unusable. In their update Skype reported the root cause was a bad configuration change:

We released a larger-than-usual configuration change, which some versions of Skype were unable to process correctly therefore disconnecting users from the network. When these users tried to reconnect, heavy traffic was created and some of you were unable to use Skype’s free services …

This time it was Microsoft’s Skype service, but we already saw how Microsoft’s Azure cloud can also suffer major outage, all on account of a configuration update.

One interesting effect was exposed due to this recent outage that is worth noting: up till now the impact was limited to online cloud services such as our movie or dating service. But now, with the penetration of the Internet of Things (IoT) to our homes, the effects of such cloud outage reach far beyond, and into our own homes and daily utilities, as nicely narrated by David Gewirtz’ piece on ZDnet, who tried voice-commanding its Amazon Echo (nicknamed “Alexa”) to turn on the lights and perform other home tasks and was left unanswered during the outage. The loss of faith in Alexas (they have 2 of them) which David described goes beyond technology realm and into psychological effects which extend beyond my field of expertise.

One conclusion could be that cloud computing is bad and should not be used. That would of course be the wrong conclusion, certainly when compared to outages in data centers. As I highlighted in the past, following simple guidelines can significantly reduce the impact of your cloud service to such infrastructure outages. If you are running a mission-critical system you may find that relying on a single cloud provider is not enough and may wish to use multi-cloud strategy to spread the risk and use disaster recovery policies between them. This will become increasingly important as the Internet of Things becomes ubiquitous in our homes and businesses, as heavily promoted by Amazon, Google, Samsung and the likes which combine IoT with their own cloud services.

One thing is for sure: if you connect your door locks to a cloud-based service – make sure you keep a copy of the good-old hard-copy key.

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