Cloud Posts

January 29, 2016

Cloud, Interrupted: The Official SoftLayer Podcast, Episode 3

You’re never going to believe this. You already know the second episode of Cloud, Interrupted—the one, the only, the official SoftLayer podcast—hit the streets in December. And now, coming in hot, we’re bringing you the long-awaited third episode of Cloud, Interrupted—only a month after the last one! Contain your excitement. We’re getting good at this.

In the third episode of our authoritative, esteemed podcast, we discuss why our first podcasts were recorded in wind tunnels, we pat ourselves on the back for being doers and not scholars, and we reveal the humble, testosterone-fueled origins of the iconic Server Challenge.

Join Kevin Hazard, director of digital content, Phil Jackson, lead technology evangelist, and Teddy Vandenberg, manager of network provisioning, as they wreak havoc interrupting the world of cloud. Yet again.

You skipped that fluff-filled intro, didn’t you? We’ll reward your impatience with the CliffsNotes:

Cloud, Interrupted, Episode 3: In the end, you’ve gotta start somewhere.

  • [00:00:01] Yo yo yo, it’s the new and improved bleep bloops!
  • [00:00:25] We've finally stopped recording Cloud, Interrupted from our pillow forts. Now we just follow the mountains and valleys.
  • [00:04:23] So you want to host your own podcast? Cool. Take it from us on the ultimate, definitive, pretty-much-only guide to success: gear, software, and magical editing.
  • [00:06:24] Teddy takes us on a boring tangent about startups that’s not really a tangent at all. (You decide if it’s boring.)
  • [00:07:25] Ha ha, Kevin totally used to trick out his MySpace page.
  • [00:09:16] GOOD JOB, PHIL!
  • [00:09:26] Phil was THE most popular kid in school. That's how he started programming.
  • [00:13:40] There are two types of technical people: those that do and those that read the docs. Teddy doesn't read the docs. Ask him about YUM.
  • [00:17:59] C'mon, Kevin. No one wants to build a server at a conference for fun. What a dumb idea!

Oh Phil, Phil, Phil. Little did you know very how wrong you were. (Must’ve been the ponytail.)

- Fayza

December 28, 2015

Semantics: "Public," "Private," and "Hybrid" in Cloud Computing, Part II

Welcome back! In the second post in this two-part series, we’ll look at the third definition of “public” and “private,” and we’ll have that broader discussion about “hybrid”—and we’ll figure out where we go after the dust has cleared on the semantics. If you missed the first part of our series, take a moment to get up to speed here before you dive in.

Definition 3—Control: Bare Metal v. Virtual

A third school of thought in the “public v. private” conversation is actually an extension of Definition 2, but with an important distinction. In order for infrastructure to be “private,” no one else (not even the infrastructure provider) can have access to a given hardware node.

In Definition 2, a hardware node provisioned for single-tenancy would be considered private. That single-tenant environment could provide customers with control of the server at the bare metal level—or it could provide control at the operating system level on top of a provider-managed hypervisor. In Definition 3, the latter example would not be considered “private” because the infrastructure provider has some level of control over the server in the form of the virtualization hypervisor.

Under Definition 3, infrastructure provisioned with full control over bare metal hardware is “private,” while any provider-virtualized or shared environment would be considered “public.” With complete, uninterrupted control down to the bare metal, a user can monitor all access and activity on the infrastructure and secure it from any third-party usage.

Defining “public cloud” and “private cloud” using the bare metal versus virtual delineation is easy. If a user orders infrastructure resources from a provider, and those resources are delivered from a shared, virtualized environment, that infrastructure would be considered public cloud. If the user orders a number of bare metal servers and chooses to install and maintain his or her own virtualization layer across those bare metal servers, that environment would be a private cloud.

“Hybrid”

Mix and Match

Now that we see the different meanings “public” and “private” can have in cloud computing, the idea of a “hybrid” environment is a lot less confusing. In actuality, it really only has one definition: A hybrid environment is a combination of any variation of public and private infrastructure.

Using bare metal servers for your database and virtual servers for your Web tier? That’s a hybrid approach. Using your own data centers for some of your applications and scaling out into another provider’s data centers when needed? That’s hybrid, too. As soon as you start using multiple types of infrastructure, by definition, you’ve created a hybrid environment.

And Throw in the Kitchen Sink

Taking our simple definition of “hybrid” one step further, we find a few other variations of that term’s usage. Because the cloud stack is made up of several levels of services—Infrastructure as a Service, Platform as a Service, Software as a Service, Business Process as a Service—“hybrid” may be defined by incorporating various “aaS” offerings into a single environment.

Perhaps you need bare metal infrastructure to build an off-prem private cloud at the IaaS level—and you also want to incorporate a managed analytics service at the BPaaS level. Or maybe you want to keep all of your production data on-prem and do your sandbox development in a PaaS environment like Bluemix. At the end of the day, what you’re really doing is leveraging a “hybrid” model.

Where do we go from here?

Once we can agree that this underlying semantic problem exists, we should be able to start having better conversations:

  • Them: We’re considering a hybrid approach to hosting our next application.
  • You: Oh yeah? What platforms or tools are we going to use in that approach?
  • Them: We want to try and incorporate public and private cloud infrastructure.
  • You: That’s interesting. I know that there are a few different definitions of public and private when it comes to infrastructure…which do you mean?
  • Them: That’s a profound observation! Since we have our own data centers, we consider the infrastructure there to be our private cloud, and we’re going to use bare metal servers from SoftLayer as our public cloud.
  • You: Brilliant! Especially the fact that we’re using SoftLayer.

Your mileage may vary, but that’s the kind of discussion we can get behind.

And if your conversation partner balks at either of your questions, send them over to this blog post series.

-@khazard

December 18, 2015

Semantics: "Public, "Private," and "Hybrid" in Cloud Computing, Part I

What does the word “gift” mean to you? In English, it most often refers to a present or something given voluntarily. In German, it has a completely different meaning: “poison.” If a box marked “gift” is placed in front of an English-speaker, it’s safe to assume that he or she would interact with it very differently than a German-speaker would.

In the same way, simple words like “public,” “private,” and “hybrid” in cloud computing can mean very different things to different audiences. But unlike our “gift” example above (which would normally have some language or cultural context), it’s much more difficult for cloud computing audiences to decipher meaning when terms like “public cloud,” “private cloud,” and “hybrid cloud” are used.

We, as an industry, need to focus on semantics.

In this two-part series, we’ll look at three different definitions of “public” and “private” to set the stage for a broader discussion about “hybrid.”

“Public” v. “Private”

Definition 1—Location: On-premises v. Off-premises

For some audiences (and the enterprise market), whether an infrastructure is public or private is largely a question of location. Does a business own and maintain the data centers, servers, and networking gear it uses for its IT needs, or does the business use gear that’s owned and maintained by another party?

This definition of “public v. private” makes sense for an audience that happens to own and operate its own data centers. If a business has exclusive physical access to and ownership of its gear, the business considers that gear “private.” If another provider handles the physical access and ownership of the gear, the business considers that gear “public.”

We can extend this definition a step further to understand what this audience would consider to be a “private cloud.” Using this definition of “private,” a private cloud is an environment with an abstracted “cloud” management layer (a la OpenStack or CloudStack or VMWare) that runs in a company’s own data center. In contrast, this audience would consider a “public cloud” to be a similar environment that’s owned and maintained by another provider.

Enterprises are often more likely to use this definition because they’re often the only ones that can afford to build and run their own data centers. They use “public” and “private” to distinguish between their own facilities or outside facilities. This definition does not make sense for businesses that don’t have their own data center facilities.

Definition 2—Population: Single-tenant v. Multi-tenant

Businesses that don’t own their own data center facilities would not use Definition 1 to distinguish “public” and “private” infrastructure. If the infrastructure they use is wholly owned and physically maintained by another provider, these businesses are most interested in whether hardware resources are shared with any other customers: Do any other customers have data on or access to a given server’s hardware? If so, the infrastructure is public. If not, the infrastructure is private.

Using this definition, public and private infrastructure could be served from the same third-party-owned data center, and the infrastructure could even be in the same server rack. “Public” infrastructure just happens to provide multiple users with resources and access to a single hardware node. Note: Even though the hardware node is shared, each user can only access his or her own data and allotted resources.

On the flip side, if a user has exclusive access to a hardware node, a business using Definition 2 would consider the node to be private.

Using this definition of “public” and “private,” multiple users share resources at the server level in a “public cloud” environment—and only one user has access to resources at the server level in a “private cloud” environment. Depending on the environment configuration, a “private cloud” user may or may not have full control over the individual servers he or she is using.

This definition echoes back to Definition 1, but it is more granular. Businesses using Definition 2 believe that infrastructure is public or private based on single-tenancy or multi-tenancy at the hardware level, whereas businesses using Definition 1 consider infrastructure to be public or private based on whether the data center itself is single-tenant or multi-tenant.

Have we blown your minds yet? Stay tuned for Part II, where we’ll tackle bare metal servers, virtual servers, and control. We’ll also show you how clear hybrid environments really are, and we’ll figure out where the heck we go from here now that we’ve figured it all out.

-@khazard

December 2, 2015

Cloud, Interrupted: The Official SoftLayer Podcast, Episode 2

Remember that one time we put three chatty cloud guys in a tiny room without windows (where no one can hear you scream) to talk cloud way back in September? Yeah, we do, too. Those were the days. In the second episode of our official, esteemed podcast—Cloud, Interrupted, "Cloud security and Daylight Saving Time drive us insane." for those of you following along at home—we have reasons! Reasons why this is only our second episode! Reasons that make sense! Because we owe it to you, our most loyal listeners. Join Kevin Hazard, director of digital content, Phil Jackson, lead technology evangelist, and Teddy Vandenberg, manager of network provisioning, as they wreak havoc interrupting the world of cloud. Again.

If you TL;DR-ed that intro, here’s the meat and potatoes of our latest podcast. Dig in:

  • [00:00:01] WE NOW HAVE THE BLEEP BLOOPS.
  • [00:01:21] The real reason our second podcast is fashionably late.
  • [00:03:16] It’s not that we’re insane when it comes to Internet security; it’s that no one understands us.
  • [00:06:14] Stay out of our bowels, Kevin!
  • [00:07:19] When you move to the cloud, you’re making all the same security mistakes you always make—multiplied by 10.
  • [00:10:30] What are cloud providers obligated to do in terms of security for their customers?
  • [00:13:00] Yes, we interrupted our cloud conversation (insert groan here). We now hate ourselves for it.
  • [00:13:23] Phil attended a tech conference on a ranch in Ireland (Web Summit), where he experienced Segway-less Segway envy and encountered zombies with attached earlobes. (Learn more about Artomatix: Artomatix Customer Story)
  • [00:20:08] You’re the bleep bloop master, Phil.
  • [00:20:48] Teddy rants (and rants) about Daylight Saving Time while we cower in the corner.
  • [00:24:07] If we do Daylight Saving Time in Unix, are we not taking Teddy seriously?
  • [00:25:27] Conclusion: Teddy hates time. (Yes, still ranting.)
  • [00:25:59] It’s over for everyone—not just Kevin.
  • [00:27:01] Oh, and one more thing, Teddy…

And that’s all she wrote, folks. -Fayza

November 4, 2015

Shared, scalable, and resilient storage without SAN

Storage area networks (SAN) are used most often in the enterprise world. In many enterprises, you will see racks filled with these large storage arrays. They are mainly used to provide a centralized storage platform with limited scalability. They require special training to operate, are expensive to purchase, support, or expand, and if those devices fail, there is big trouble.

Some people might say SAN devices are a necessary evil. But are they really necessary? Aren’t there alternatives?

Most startups nowadays are running their services on commodity hardware, with smart software to distribute their content across server farms globally. Current, well established, and successful companies that run websites or apps like Whatsapp, Facebook, or LinkedIn continue to operate pretty much the same way they started. They need the ability to scale and perform at unpredictable rates all around the world, so they use commodity hardware combined with smart software. These types of companies need the features that SAN storage offers them—but with more scalable, global resiliency, and without being centralized or having to buy expensive hardware. But how do they provide server access to the same data, and how do they avoid data loss?

The answer is actually quite simple, although its technology is quite sophisticated: distributed storage.

In a world where virtualization has become a standard for most companies, where even applications and networking are being virtualized, virtualization giant VMware answers this question with Virtual SAN. It effectively eliminates the need for SAN hardware in a VMware environment (and it will also be available for purchase from SoftLayer before the end of the year). Other similar distributed products are GlusterFS (also offered in our QuantaStor solution), Ceph, Microsoft Windows DFS, Hadoop HDFS, document-oriented databases like MongoDB, and many more.

Many solutions, however, vary in maturity. Object storage is a great example of a new type of storage that has come to market, which doesn’t require SAN devices. With SoftLayer, you can and may run them all.

When you have bare metal servers set up as hypervisors or application servers, it’s likely you have a lot of drive bays within those servers, mostly unused. Stuffing them with hard drives and allowing the software to distribute your data across multiple servers in multiple locations with two or three replicas will result in a big, safe, fast, and distributed storage platform. For such a platform, scaling it would be just adding more bare metal servers with even more hard drives and letting the software handle the rest.

Nowadays we are seeing more and more hardware solutions like SAN—or even networking—being replaced with smarter software on simpler and more affordable hardware. At SoftLayer, we offer month-to-month and hourly bare metal servers with up to 36 drive bays, potentially providing a lot of room for storage. With 10Gbps global connectivity options, we offer fast, low latency networking for syncing between servers and delivering data to the customer.

-Mathijs

October 28, 2015

Ongoing Actions to Eliminate Spam Hosting

We are announcing a new policy, effective today, as part of our regular efforts to reduce the ability for spam to be sent from the SoftLayer network.

Starting October 28, 2015 bare metal servers and virtual servers provisioned on new accounts will not have the ability to send email directly via outbound connections through TCP port 25 (SMTP). Port 25 can be used as a conduit for distributing unsolicited bulk email.

In a follow-up phase, we will roll out this network policy change to customers who established accounts before October 28. (A separate communications will be sent with timeline and implementation guidance to those customers.)

You can read the technical details on KnowledgeLayer.

SendGrid Services Available to Send and Track Emails

We have partnered with SendGrid™ since 2011 to provide email delivery services. We have arranged for SendGrid to provide SoftLayer customers with an account allowing sending of up to 25,000 emails per month at no charge, which can be activated via the SoftLayer customer portal.

SendGrid allows you to use a SmartHost to relay your outbound mail services while generating metrics, including tracking lists and bounce rates, open rates, and click-through rates. It also assists with newsletters and provides authentication. All of these services are designed to provide stronger email analytics for you to optimize your communications and eNurture programs. Full details on our SendGrid service, including free options, can be found here.

Use Your Email Service Through a Custom Email Port

You are welcome to use your own email service on a custom port following the API or SMTP guidelines provided by your mail provider to configure your servers to an email port other than TCP port 25. This is common practice for most mail providers and should not be an inhibitor to you sending and measuring your communications.

Need an Exception?

If you are a new client and need the ability to send outbound SMTP email via TCP port 25, please open a support ticket in the customer portal, and provide details about why you require an exception to this policy. Be sure to explain why the SendGrid email relaying solution does not fit your system or application needs. Our team is specialized to assist with most email relaying and blacklisting issues for recognized and reputable real-time blackhole lists (RBLs) and can evaluate your situation.

Dedicated to Your Success

We continuously work with established monitoring authorities and groups to eliminate fraudulent spammers and to block the usage of port 25 for email communications.

As we all know, spam is unsolicited bulk email. Our network architecture isolates devices so customers cannot see or share traffic across accounts. We follow ISO 27001. And for federal accounts, we are aligned to NIST 800-53 framework and maintain SOC 2 Type II reporting compliance for all data centers. We integrate three distinct network topologies for each physical or virtual server and offer security solutions for systems, applications, and data as well.

Thank you again to your commitment to SoftLayer as we continue to work hard to ensure a secure environment for you.

-Dani

September 3, 2015

Cloud, Interrupted: The Official SoftLayer Podcast

Have you ever wondered what happens when you put three cloud guys in a room to talk cloud? Our curiosity was insatiable, so doggone it, we went and did it. We hereby officially present to you our brand new podcast: Cloud, Interrupted.

Join Kevin Hazard, director of digital content, Phil Jackson, lead technology evangelist, and Teddy Vandenberg, manager of network provisioning, as they wreak havoc interrupting the world of cloud.

In case you’re a skimmer, here’s the highlight reel:

  • [00:00:05] Phil isn't a Stanley, but he is a germophobe.
  • [00:01:44] Are we interrupted by the cloud or are we interrupting the cloud?
  • [00:03:22] We have goals with this podcast, we swear.
  • [00:04:34] Teddy drops the bass.
  • [00:05:58] What's a better word for "cloud" than "cloud"?
  • [00:08:12] Where social interaction influences the real world: Meet "passive computing" and the trifecta.
  • [00:10:44] Who cares what Phil has to say?
  • [00:11:51] Phil reminisces about that time he explained web hosting to the Harris County Tax Office.
  • [00:16:02] Then Teddy's analogy was used against Phil.
  • [00:19:21] IBM to the rescue!
  • [00:20:45] Oops. He had to do it again.
  • [00:23:11] New and old technologies get lost in translation. "To the cloud!"
  • [00:25:54] You exist in the cloud more and you will start to understand the cloud more.
  • [00:30:31] Now this is a podcast about Costco.
  • [00:31:03] Wait a second. Who's Kevin? And why isn't SoftLayer on Snapchat?
  • [00:32:56] Teddy's relationship with IBM is complicated, but the cat is fine.
  • [00:33:45] Hot tip: Unplug both ends of your telephone cable and reverse it.

We hope you dig it.

-Fayza

August 19, 2015

Selling Cloud in the Cloud

Conventionally, the sales department’s style consists of men and women dressed to the nines—tailored suits and expensive Italian shoes. Appearance is a key factor to success, and most follow and master S.C.O.T.S.M.A.N., a forecasting and qualification system that stands for scope, competition, originality, time, size, money, authority, and need (we’ll get to this later).

Once a prospective client is qualified, they are placed in the sales funnel, and that’s when the fun begins. Deals are made over fancy dinners or a round of golf. Factors like location and size determine the time it takes to close the deal. Sometimes it takes days. Sometimes it takes months.

But in the cloud industry, where “on-demand” is the name of the game, following the conventional sales process can be a bottleneck in and of itself. Cloud, by its very nature, allows for spontaneity—such that by the time conventional salesmen arrange a wine-and-dine meeting, the new breed of cloud salesmen have already closed the deal and happy customers are accessing their deployed servers.

In the cloud, there’s no time for face-to-face with the customer, so most opt for comfortable t-shirts and jeans over tailored suits and fine Italian leather shoes. And in the absence of these things, products and services provide the wow factor that lure customers.

SoftLayer offers a variety of wow factors. Depending on how the customer will be using servers based on their business, any of the points below (or combination of them) could serve as a wow factor:

  • Free incoming and server-to-server data transfer, as well as bandwidth pooling
  • Auto Scale and rapid deployment (virtual servers in as little as five to 10 minutes and bare metal in as little as one to four hours)
  • Free, premium, round-the-clock technical, billing, and sales support
  • Complete control and flexibility
  • Dedicated basic server resources, including CPU, RAM and storage, on all server types
  • No long-term contracts
  • Seamless connectivity between virtual and bare metal platforms

Although the cloud marketplace today looks saturated, the providers offering genuine cloud services are few and far between, and the disparity between the services they offer are abundant, laying waste to the theory that cloud is a commodity. Today, there are ads boasting price advantages and overtly dramatized high-pitch marketing punch lines promising unrealistic offerings. Remember the old adage, “The bitterness of low quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten.”

Given the control and flexibility inherent in the SoftLayer platform with no contract to tie you down, the SoftLayer sales process cuts through the clutter and seeks to satisfy the last three elements of the S.C.O.T.S.M.A.N. system:

  • Is there a need for a new cloud environment? Are you looking to host a new application or are you looking to move an existing application from another hosting provider or from an in-house environment? If existing, what are your primary reasons for wanting to move?
  • Do you have a budget for a new cloud environment?
  • Do you have the authority to place an order on behalf of your organization? (To make it easy, it will cost $0.00 for the first month with a no-strings attached cancellation if you’re not satisfied.)

Some cloud consumers I have spoken to confess to choosing their hosting provider based on convenience rather than value offering. Cloud providers who are household names try as much as they can to blur the differences between offerings and propagate the doctrine of cloud being a commodity. As the cloud marketplace matures, the success of this strategy has an expiration date—soon!

- Valentine Che, Global Sales, AMS01

Categories: 
June 29, 2015

Opening Up the Cloud

This guest blog post is written by Alexia Emmanoulopoulou, marketing manager at Canonical.

With OpenStack, cloud computing becomes easily accessible to everyone. It tears down financial barriers to cloud deployments and tackles the fear of lock-in. One of the main benefits of OpenStack is the fact that it is open source and supported by a wide ecosystem, with contributions from more than 200 companies, including Canonical and IBM. Users can change service providers and hardware at any time, and compared to other clouds using virtualization technology, OpenStack can double server utilization to as much as 85 percent. This means that an OpenStack cloud is economical and delivers more flexibility, scalability, and agility to businesses. The challenge however lies in recruiting and retaining OpenStack experts, who are in high demand, making it hard for companies to deploy OpenStack on time and on budget. But BootStack, Canonical’s managed cloud product solved that problem by offering all the benefits of a private cloud without any of the pain of day-to-day infrastructure management.

Addressing the Challenge of Finding OpenStack Experts

Resourcing an OpenStack six-strong team to work 24x7 would cost between $900,000 and $1.5 million and can take months of headhunting. Thus the savings that OpenStack should bring companies are eroded so Canonical created BootStack, short for Build, Operate, and Optionally Transfer. It’s a new service for setting up and operating an OpenStack cloud, in both on-premises and hosted environments, and it gives users the option of taking over the management of your cloud in the future.

After working with each customer to define their requirements and specify the right cloud infrastructure for their business, Canonical’s experienced engineering and support team builds and manages the entire cloud infrastructure of the customer, including Ubuntu OpenStack, the underlying hypervisor, and deployment onto hosted or on-premises hardware. As a result, users get all the benefits of a private cloud without any of the pain of day-to-day infrastructure management. For added protection, BootStack is backed by a clear SLA that covers cloud availability at the user’s desired scale as well as uptime and responsiveness metrics.

Choosing Between On-premises and Hosted Cloud

Some companies prefer to host on-premises because they feel more secure knowing their cloud is running on their own site. However, when things go wrong, some companies find they don’t have the expertise on-hand to quickly recover. Furthermore, on-site hosting is at least three times as expensive as it is to outsource to a hosting specialist.

With the hosted option for BootStack, your OpenStack cloud will be hosted on Ubuntu-certified hardware in SoftLayer data centers. SoftLayer provides customizable bare metal and virtual servers run on the highest performing cloud infrastructure available. Users can seamlessly move data between servers at no cost and benefit from secure, fast, and low-latency communications between data centers. 24x7 expert staff in each data center can troubleshoot any rare issues that can’t be directly resolved through their self-service management portal. Canonical and SoftLayer also take care of patches and upgrades to both the operating system and OpenStack, hardware and software failure prevention and fix, proactive health monitoring of the cloud and hardware, and resolution of any other problems.

No Lock-In and Predictable Cost

The two features that set BootStack apart from other managed cloud products are the predictable cost structure and the lack of lock-in. With BootStack, users can access every tool and every machine, any time. A company can choose to take over the management of its cloud at any time, at which point it will receive training and support from Canonical to ensure a smooth transition. BootStack customers can then choose to either bring their cloud in-house or continue hosting with SoftLayer.

In terms of costs, BootStack cloud is priced at $15 per day per server, plus the cost of the hosting. SoftLayer offers a number of bare metal servers that exceed the OpenStack recommended configuration, starting at $699 per month. You pay as you go, and can scale as your business needs change.

All-in-all, it’s a flexible managed cloud at a predictable cost with expert staff to manage it until you’re ready to take over!

For more information about BootStack, SoftLayer, and OpenStack, download our free white paper: The Easiest Way to Build and Manage an OpenStack Cloud.

-Alexia

February 2, 2015

#SLCloudLove: Growing an e-Commerce Business On The Cloud

Editor’s Note: Each month in 2015, we’ll be celebrating the cornucopia of reasons why the cloud reigns supreme — from customer tales to cloud insights and everything in between. During February, the notorious month of love, we’re showing you exactly why we heart the cloud. Follow all the fun on your favorite social networks by keeping tabs on #SLCloudLove.

Clicking Add to Cart—that’s how I like to shop these days. Brick and mortar shopping might be retail therapy, but the convenience and online discounts at my fingertips appeases my inherently lazy human tendencies.

With more and more online e-stores cropping up, physical retail outlets can no longer ignore not having an online presence, including a mobile-friendly website and ordering system. The numbers say it all:

  • e-Commerce sales are expected to be more than $1.7 trillion with mobile commerce accounting for nearly $300 billion in sales. Read more here.
  • In India, the e-commerce market is expected to reach $6 billion in 2015—a 70 percent increase over 2014. Read more here.
  • The Chinese government is allowing foreign-owned e-commerce companies to operate in the Shanghai Free Trade Zone as part of a pilot program; the market is expected to see a lot of inflow despite tough competition from local giants like JD.com and Alibaba. Read more here.
  • The six largest Southeast Asian countries (Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam) reached $7 billion in total revenues in 2013 and will grow at a CAGR of 37.6 percent to reach $34.5 billion by 2018. Read more here.

So when I recently attended the iMedia Online Retail Summit, I jumped at the chance to discuss with the audience the benefits of moving their e-Commerce business to the cloud as well as discussing some very interesting stories about e-commerce platforms based in Asia.

Here is a quick overview of the presentation:

e-Commerce on Cloud
There is no denying the high reliance on IT. e-Commerce portals need to handle a rising number of Internet users, provide a secure and convenient online payment system, and support lucrative offers by e-tailors. The problem is that the utilization is unpredictable (except holiday season when it is predictably unpredictable!). If your site slows or freezes, especially during a sale, it can be compared to shutting your store on Black Friday. Customers will abandon their carts, and the social media sites will erupt with negative remarks—recall the recent headliner, Flipkart faces social media backlash over ‘crashes’, ‘misleading’ pricing.

The dilemma: Over-allocate and over-pay for unused resources just to manage sudden shopping spurts, or under-allocate resources and suffer the wrath of the new-age shopper. Cloud resources seems like a natural solution when you don’t want to be stuck in the either-or situation. But, not just any cloud solution will do. If a provider has a lock-in period or contract (even if it’s short-term)—well that's not really cloud, now is it?

Similarly the cloud solution is not justifying your investments if it is going to charge you every time you, as an internal user, try to move your virtual servers across your operating geos to get closer to customers. For example: your next online sale is targeted at holiday shoppers in Singapore or you want to carry out test runs for your Amsterdam customer base, but your core virtual server originally resides in Melbourne.

Solving e-Commerce Challenges with SoftLayer
I like using this image as it gives a great view into how SoftLayer can help e-commerce and e-tail customers manage day-to-day scenarios. From seasonal site traffic spikes to needing backup solutions for business continuity, SoftLayer has a solution for it. Plus SoftLayer brings advantages gleaned from working with e-commerce giants over the past decade.

Walking the Talk—Businesses that are Leveraging Cloud . . . Successfully!
In October 2014, Natali Ardianto, Tiket.com's CTO, gave a keynote address at Cloud Expo Asia about building one of Indonesia’s largest online travel and entertainment portals. When it first launched a few years ago, Tiket.com faced TCP, DoS, and DDoS attacks while hosting unsuccessfully on two different IaaS providers. The company needed a highly stable infrastructure delivering consistent performance and reliable support to ensure site uptime and a smooth end-user experience. Tiket.com chose SoftLayer to support its site. Running on SoftLayer bare metal servers, Tiket.com systems are now able to handle more than 300 API requests per minute and has experienced a 75 percent cost savings. Watch Natali's video where he discusses his cloud experience, or read the detailed case study.

HotelsCombined.com is an impressive collection of over 5 million real-time international hotel deals, a database of more than 800,000 properties and an affiliate base of over 20,000 companies. The company uses a combination of SoftLayer bare metal and virtual servers, load balancers, and redundant iSCSI storage. This provides the company with several thousand cores of processing power and enables it to remain lean and move quickly. The company also uses the SoftLayer infrastructure to provide real-time predictive models to the website and to support its business intelligence tools. Read the detailed case study.


Photo credits @iMediaSummit

While at the conference, I met up with a great bunch of entrepreneurs, startups and giants from across Asia. It was amazing to hear about the journey and growth plans of Rakuten, Life Project, Qoo10, Telunjuk, Seroyamart.com, and many more. Keep your ears open this coming year. The e-commerce landscape is rapidly progressing and these guys are weaving the fabric.

Cheers,

–Namrata (Connect with me on LinkedIn or, Twitter)

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