Posts Tagged 'Migration'

June 28, 2012

Never Break Up with Your Data Again

Wouldn't it be nice if you could keep the parts of a relationship that you like and "move on" from the parts you don't? You'd never have to go through the awkward "getting to know each other" phase where you accidentally order food the other person is allergic to, and you'd never have to experience a break up. As it is, we're faced with a bit of a paradox: Relationships are a lot of work, and "Breaking up is hard to do."

I could tell you story after story about the break ups I experienced in my youth. From the Ghostbuster-jumpsuited boyfriend I had in kindergarten who stole my heart (and my barrettes) to until it was time to take my had-to-have "My Little Pony" thermos lunchbox to another table at lunch after a dramatic recess exchange to the middle school boyfriend who took me to see Titanic in the theater four times (yes, you read that correctly), my early "romantic" relationships didn't pan out in the "happily ever after" way I'd hoped they would. Whether the result of an me unwelcome kiss under the monkey bars or a move to a different school (which might as well have been on Mars), I had to break up with each of the boys.

Why are you reading about my lost loves on the SoftLayer Blog? Simple: Relationships with IT environments — specifically applications and data — are not much different from romantic relationships. You might want to cut ties with a high maintenance piece of equipment that you've been with for years because its behavior is getting erratic, and it doesn't look like it'll survive forever. Maybe you've outgrown what your existing infrastructure can provide for you, and you need to move along. Perhaps you just want some space and need to take a break from a project for six months.

If you feel like telling your infrastructure, "It's not you, it's me," what are your options? Undo all of your hard work, schedule maintenance and stay up in the dead of a weeknight to migrate, backup and restore all of your data locally?

When I talk to SoftLayer customers, I get to be a relationship therapist. Because we've come out with some pretty innovative tools, we can help our customers avoid ever having to break up with their data again. Two of the coolest "infrastructure relationship"-saving releases: Flex Images (currently in public beta) and portable storage volumes for cloud computing instances (CCIs).

With Flex Images, customers using RedHat, CentOS or Windows systems can create and move server images between physical and virtual environments to seamlessly transition from one platform to the other. With about three clicks, a customer-created image is quickly and uniformly delivered to a new dedicated or cloud server. The idea behind Flex Images is to blur the line between physical and virtual environments so that if you feel the need to break up with one of the two, the other is able to take you in.

Portable storage volumes (PSVs) are secondary CCI volumes that can be added onto any public or private CCI. Users can detach a PSV from any CCI and have it persist in the cloud, unattached to any compute resource, for as long as necessary. When that storage volume is needed again, it can be re-attached as secondary storage on any other CCI across all of SoftLayer's facilities. The best relationship parallel would be "baggage," but that's got a negative connotation, so we'll have to come up with something else to call it ... "preparedness."

We want to help you avoid break ups and provide you easy channels to make up with your old infrastructure if you have a change of heart. The result is an infrastructure that's much easier to manage, more fluid and less dramatic.

Now if I can only figure out a way to make Flex Images and portable storage volumes available for real-life relationships .... I'd make millions! :-)

-Arielle

February 1, 2012

Flex Images: Blur the Line Between Cloud and Dedicated

Our customers are not concerned with technology for technology's sake. Information technology should serve a purpose; it should function as an integral means to a desired end. Understandably, our customers are focused, first and foremost, on their application architecture and infrastructure. They want, and need, the freedom and flexibility to design their applications to their specifications.

Many companies leverage the cloud to take advantage of core features that enable robust, agile architectures. Elasticity (ability to quickly increase or decrease compute capacity) and flexibility (choice such as cores, memory and storage) combine to provide solutions that scale to meet the demands of modern applications.

Another widely used feature of cloud computing is image-based provisioning. Rapid provisioning of cloud resources is accomplished, in part, through the use of images. Imaging capability extends beyond the use of base images, allowing users to create customized images that preserve their software installs and configurations. The images persist in an image library, allowing users to launch new cloud instances based their images.

But why should images only be applicable to virtualized cloud resources?

Toward that end, we're excited to introduce SoftLayer Flex Images, a new capability that allows us to capture images of physical and virtual servers, store them all in one library, and rapidly deploy those images on either platform.

SoftLayer Flex Images

Physical servers now share the core features of virtual servers—elasticity and flexibility. With Flex Images, you can move seamlessly between and environments as your needs change.

Let's say you're running into resource limits in a cloud server environment—your data-intensive server is I/O bound—and you want to move the instance to a more powerful dedicated server. Using Flex Images, you can create an image of your cloud server and, extending our I/O bound example, deploy it to a custom dedicated server with SSD drives.

Conversely, a dedicated environment can be quickly replicated on multiple cloud instances if you want the scaling capability of the cloud to meet increased demand. Maybe your web heads run on dedicated servers, but you're starting to see periods of usage that stress your servers. Create a Flex Image from your dedicated server and use it to deploy cloud instances to meet demand.

Flex Image technology blurs the distinctions—and breaks down the walls—between virtual and physical computing environments.

We don't think of Flex Images as new product. Instead—like our network, our portal, our automated platform, and our globe-spanning geographic diversity—Flex Image capability is a free resource for our customers (with the exception of standard nominal costs in storing the Flex Images).

We think Flex Images represents not only great value, but also provides a further example of how SoftLayer innovates continually to bring new capabilities and the highest possible level of customer control to our automated services platform.

To sum up, here are some of the key features and benefits of SoftLayer Flex Images:

  • Universal images that can be used interchangeably on dedicated or cloud systems
  • Unified image library for archiving, managing, sharing, and publishing images
  • Greater flexibility and higher scalability
  • Rapid provisioning of new dedicated and cloud environments
  • Available via SoftLayer's management portal and API

In public beta, Flex Images are available now. We invite you to try them out, and, as always, we want to hear what you think.

-Marc

April 12, 2011

MigrationBox.com: Tech Partner Spotlight

This is a guest blog from Eduardo Fernandez of MigrationBox, a SoftLayer Tech Marketplace Partner specializing in simplifying the process of transferring email and other types of data between services.

Company Website: MigrationBox.com
Tech Partners Marketplace: http://www.softlayer.com/marketplace/migrationbox

Take Control of Your Cloud Data

Online services are great, but moving your data to the cloud and moving it between cloud services is very difficult and time-consuming. Think about all the data that you have online: email, contacts, calendars, documents ... What happens when you want to switch to a different provider? Maybe your company changed names or is acquiring another company or you want to move to a cheaper or better email provider. It's really difficult to move this data, especially when you're talking about hundreds or thousands of accounts.

I first ran into this problem about a year ago. I was doing consulting work for a client, and he asked me to move their company email to Google Apps. I found out that it's really hard to transfer email in bulk. I'm a hacker, so it didn't take me too long to come up with a tool that did a pretty good job at transferring the accounts one-by-one. Then I thought I could just make a product out of this tool so that other people could use it as well.

At that point, I found it wasn't that easy.

Processing email at scale is challenging. You see problems like buggy protocol implementations, unreliable network connections and bandwidth throttling. I had to bring people to the team like our Chief Architect Carlos Cabañero, and it took us several months to come up with an scalable migration platform. The good news is that we made this platform service-agnostic, so it's not only able to transfer email, it also transfers any type of data - we only have to write connectors to deal with various services.

At the moment, we're focusing on email and the Google Apps suite, but we will be expanding our offering to support popular business applications like Microsoft Exchange and SharePoint, and consumer apps like Flickr and Delicious.

Vendor lock-in is a growing concern when companies move to the cloud. Our objective is to give you control of your data, so you are free to move it to another service. With MigrationBox, you are not locked in anymore.

When our customer base started to grow, we ran into scalability problems ourselves. Data migration is a bandwidth-intensive process that requires lots of RAM and computing power. Fortunately, with SoftLayer we have more raw server power and automation capabilities than we'll ever need.

The wave of moving your data online is just getting started. The cloud is popular, but only 5% of enterprises have moved their email into the cloud so far. This is just the beginning, and email is just one service. Everything is moving to the cloud: CRM, storage, document management ... Cloud migration problems are going to grow and grow over the next five years, and MigrationBox will be there to help.

-Eduardo Fernandez, MigrationBox

This guest blog series highlights companies in SoftLayer's Technology Partners Marketplace.
These Partners have built their businesses on the SoftLayer Platform, and we're excited for them to tell their stories. New Partners will be added to the Marketplace each month, so stay tuned for many more come.
March 21, 2011

7 Steps to Server Migration Success

It's been a long journey: Four years ago you paid a premium for your humble domain, and things have changed a lot since then. You want to move to a newer, cheaper, nicer place, but you dread the process of collecting all of your stuff and moving it somewhere else. What's the best way to pack it up? Will it be safe during the move? What can I throw away to make this migration easier? What about your mail? You don't want to miss anything in the midst of your move. Doesn't this sound like the last time you moved to another house? The funny thing is that while all of those questions could be describing a physical move, we're actually talking about migrating web servers.

At some point, you'll have to face moving from one server to another. Hopefully it's in the same "neighborhood" or network since that will make the speed of the move a lot faster and less expensive ... especially if the neighborhood has free private network traffic and incoming bandwidth like ours </plug>! Regardless of where you're moving your data, there are seven key steps to preparing and executing a successful server migration:

1. Prepare Your DNS
When you move your site(s) to a new server, you will likely get new IP addresses. With the advent of DNS caching, once you change your IP, it can take up to seven days before the changes propagate throughout the Internet. To keep this from happening, your first step in preparing for the migration is to change your DNS record TTL (Time To Live). This value designates how long your DNS entries should be cached.

It's best to do this step several days before you plan to move. I suggest you do it at least a week in advance to cover at least 95% to 99% of your traffic. I would also change or remove any SPF records if you have any. Details: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sender_Policy_Framework

2. Set up Your New Server
Make sure your new server has the correct operating system installed and ready and that all hardware meets your applications' specifications. Decide how you wish to provision your site's IP addresses and make note of any differences.

3. Tune Your Server
Check your file system and make sure your partitions are set up as you need them. Set up RAID if required. Most hosts will set up RAID and your partitions for you and even provide you with test results of the hardware ... At least we do </another plug>! This is also the perfect time to implement any security practices within the OS and firewall (if installed). It's important to complete these steps before you get too far because they're much easier to do without content on the server.

4. Install Base Applications
Once you verify your server configuration, set up your operating system and secure your new server, it's time to install the supporting software you plan to us. Examples include webserver, email server and database server software and any application server software. Prepare a sample web page to tests that each of the pieces of software is installed correctly to confirm functionality.

5. Begin Data Migration
Now you're ready to do an initial data migration. Due to the enormous variance in types of data, kinds of servers, amounts of data and applications, how you proceed with this step can vary dramatically. Databases might require a backup and restore process while static data may only require the use of a tool like rsync.

The best way to complete this step is to do it during off-peak times. Understand how long it'll take to move all of your data, and set aside a conservative window to complete the move.

Once the data has been migrated, you should be able to test your website application at its newly assigned IP address.

6. Move from Old to New
Now that you've extensively tested your new server, it's time to set an officical move date and time. By now, your DNS changes have taken hold (assuming you changed them a week ago), and you are ready to throw the switch on your new infrastructure. Depending on the nature and size of your site, you might want to notify users of a maintenance window since service might be temporarily interrupted in this process.

During this window, you'll complete five tasks:

  1. Take down your site on the old server. You might want to put up a maintenance page to let people know about the scheduled work being performed.
  2. Migrate database changes and / or data changes.
  3. Confirm that your site is working properly on new server via the IP address.
  4. Change your DNS records to resolve to your new IP address.
  5. Remove the server maintenance page and redirect traffic from that page to the new server.

Once these steps have been completed, the new server will have up-to-the-minute data, and all new traffic receiving the current DNS information will be sent to your new server. All traffic that has old DNS information will be sent to the old server and redirected to the new server. This allows for all traffic to be delivered to the new server regardless of what may be cached DNS.

7. Enable / Recreate Automated Site Maintenance Jobs
To complete the migration process, you should enable or recreate any automated site maintenance jobs you may have had running on the old server. At this point, you can change your TTL values back to the default, and if you disabled an SPF record, you may restore it after a few days once you are comfortable that the Internet recognizes your new IP address for your domain.

This migration framework should be considered a very high-level recommendation to facilitate most standard server migrations, so if your architecture is more complex or you have additional configuration requirements, it might not cover everything for your migration. Migrations can be daunting, but if you plan for them and take your time, your site will be up and running on a new server in no time at all. If you have problems in the migration process or have questions about how to best handle your specific migration, make sure to have a professional sysadmin on call ... So just keep SoftLayer's number handy </last SoftLayer plug>.

-Harold

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