Posts Tagged 'Virtualization'

July 29, 2013

A Brief History of Cloud Computing

Believe it or not, "cloud computing" concepts date back to the 1950s when large-scale mainframes were made available to schools and corporations. The mainframe's colossal hardware infrastructure was installed in what could literally be called a "server room" (since the room would generally only be able to hold a single mainframe), and multiple users were able to access the mainframe via "dumb terminals" – stations whose sole function was to facilitate access to the mainframes. Due to the cost of buying and maintaining mainframes, an organization wouldn't be able to afford a mainframe for each user, so it became practice to allow multiple users to share access to the same data storage layer and CPU power from any station. By enabling shared mainframe access, an organization would get a better return on its investment in this sophisticated piece of technology.

Mainframe Computer

A couple decades later in the 1970s, IBM released an operating system called VM that allowed admins on their System/370 mainframe systems to have multiple virtual systems, or "Virtual Machines" (VMs) on a single physical node. The VM operating system took the 1950s application of shared access of a mainframe to the next level by allowing multiple distinct compute environments to live in the same physical environment. Most of the basic functions of any virtualization software that you see nowadays can be traced back to this early VM OS: Every VM could run custom operating systems or guest operating systems that had their "own" memory, CPU, and hard drives along with CD-ROMs, keyboards and networking, despite the fact that all of those resources would be shared. "Virtualization" became a technology driver, and it became a huge catalyst for some of the biggest evolutions in communications and computing.

Mainframe Computer

In the 1990s, telecommunications companies that had historically only offered single dedicated point–to-point data connections started offering virtualized private network connections with the same service quality as their dedicated services at a reduced cost. Rather than building out physical infrastructure to allow for more users to have their own connections, telco companies were able to provide users with shared access to the same physical infrastructure. This change allowed the telcos to shift traffic as necessary to allow for better network balance and more control over bandwidth usage. Meanwhile, virtualization for PC-based systems started in earnest, and as the Internet became more accessible, the next logical step was to take virtualization online.

If you were in the market to buy servers ten or twenty years ago, you know that the costs of physical hardware, while not at the same level as the mainframes of the 1950s, were pretty outrageous. As more and more people expressed demand to get online, the costs had to come out of the stratosphere, and one of the ways that was made possible was by ... you guessed it ... virtualization. Servers were virtualized into shared hosting environments, Virtual Private Servers, and Virtual Dedicated Servers using the same types of functionality provided by the VM OS in the 1950s. As an example of what that looked like in practice, let's say your company required 13 physical systems to run your sites and applications. With virtualization, you can take those 13 distinct systems and split them up between two physical nodes. Obviously, this kind of environment saves on infrastructure costs and minimizes the amount of actual hardware you would need to meet your company's needs.

Virtualization

As the costs of server hardware slowly came down, more users were able to purchase their own dedicated servers, and they started running into a different kind of problem: One server isn't enough to provide the resources I need. The market shifted from a belief that "these servers are expensive, let's split them up" to "these servers are cheap, let's figure out how to combine them." Because of that shift, the most basic understanding of "cloud computing" was born online. By installing and configuring a piece of software called a hypervisor across multiple physical nodes, a system would present all of the environment's resources as though those resources were in a single physical node. To help visualize that environment, technologists used terms like "utility computing" and "cloud computing" since the sum of the parts seemed to become a nebulous blob of computing resources that you could then segment out as needed (like telcos did in the 90s). In these cloud computing environments, it became easy add resources to the "cloud": Just add another server to the rack and configure it to become part of the bigger system.

Clouds

As technologies and hypervisors got better at reliably sharing and delivering resources, many enterprising companies decided to start carving up the bigger environment to make the cloud's benefits to users who don't happen to have an abundance of physical servers available to create their own cloud computing infrastructure. Those users could order "cloud computing instances" (also known as "cloud servers") by ordering the resources they need from the larger pool of available cloud resources, and because the servers are already online, the process of "powering up" a new instance or server is almost instantaneous. Because little overhead is involved for the owner of the cloud computing environment when a new instance is ordered or cancelled (since it's all handled by the cloud's software), management of the environment is much easier. Most companies today operate with this idea of "the cloud" as the current definition, but SoftLayer isn't "most companies."

SoftLayer took the idea of a cloud computing environment and pulled it back one more step: Instead of installing software on a cluster of machines to allow for users to grab pieces, we built a platform that could automate all of the manual aspects of bringing a server online without a hypervisor on the server. We call this platform "IMS." What hypervisors and virtualization do for a group of servers, IMS does for an entire data center. As a result, you can order a bare metal server with all of the resources you need and without any unnecessary software installed, and that server will be delivered to you in a matter of hours. Without a hypervisor layer between your operating system and the bare metal hardware, your servers perform better. Because we automate almost everything in our data centers, you're able to spin up load balancers and firewalls and storage devices on demand and turn them off when you're done with them. Other providers have cloud-enabled servers. We have cloud-enabled data centers.

SoftLayer Pod

IBM and SoftLayer are leading the drive toward wider adoption of innovative cloud services, and we have ambitious goals for the future. If you think we've come a long way from the mainframes of the 1950s, you ain't seen nothin' yet.

-James

Categories: 
August 31, 2011

Verecloud: Tech Partner Spotlight

This is a guest blog from Verecloud, a technology partner that makes it easier for small- and medium-sized businesses to shop for, select, purchase, manage and monitor the performance of their cloud services and related spending.

Cloudwrangler from Verecloud

Ubiquitous Internet access and technological advances in virtualization and IT management have caused an explosion in the availability and adoption of cloud services. Just a few years ago, it would take hours – if not days – to activate a new cloud service for a customer. SoftLayer can now perform this feat with servers in minutes, and other providers of email, CRM and accounting solutions have equally fast turn-up times.

The cloud gives small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) access to enterprise grade technology so that they can compete more effectively with little, if any, capital investment, so those SMBs are prime consumers of cloud services. By moving to cloud services, their businesses gains flexibility and affordable scalability to throttle their infrastructure and services up and down as their business grows, changes, moves locations or becomes more mobile.

Even with all of those benefits, adding a little cloud here and a little cloud there ends up making it difficult for these SMBs to manage all of the disparate services. Who is paying for what? Are they accounted for in expense reports? How can you allocate the costs to your sales, marketing, operations or support departments? Is IT aware of all of the cloud services? What happens if someone leaves the company and you need to deactivate their access and reassign all of their data to other employees?

Verecloud's answer to all of these questions is the Cloudwrangler app store for small businesses. Simply put, it is a single source for SMBs to discover, buy, use and manage their cloud services. This platform makes finance happy since they can properly track and manage costs. IT is happy because they are aware of all the services being used in the company and can manage them from a single control panel. HR is happy because they can monitor and regulate employee access when necessary. Everyone is happy.

Verecloud is proud to feature SoftLayer as a key partner and suppler in the Cloudwrangler marketplace (which also happens to be powered by SoftLayer's CloudLayer Computing). In addition to the infrastructure piece, we offer business class email, backup and recovery, and collaboration capabilities that can be incorporated quickly, seamlessly and affordably into any business:

Cloudwrangler Services

We're staying busy building out more features and functionality to the Cloudwrangler marketplace, and we're excited about the partnerships we'll make as we keep the community growing. If you're interested in learning more about Cloudwrangler, visit at Verecloud.com today.

-Russel Wurth, Verecloud

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.
August 3, 2011

CyberlinkASP: Tech Partner Spotlight

This is a guest blog from Chris Lantrip, CEO of CyberlinkASP, an application service provider focused on hosting, upgrading and managing the industry's best software.

The DesktopLayer from CyberlinkASP

Hosted virtual desktops – SoftLayer style.

In early 2006, we were introduced to SoftLayer. In 2007, they brought us StorageLayer, and in 2009, CloudLayer. Each of those solutions met a different kind of need in the Application Service Provider (ASP) world, and by integrating those platforms into our offering, DesktopLayer was born: The on-demand anytime, anywhere virtual desktop hosted on SoftLayer and powered by CyberlinkASP.

CyberlinkASP was originally established to instantly web-enable software applications that were not online in the past. Starting off as a Citrix integration firm in the early days, we were approached by multiple independent software vendors asking us to host, manage and deliver their applications from a centralized database platform to their users across multiple geographic locations. With the robust capabilities of Citrix, we were able to revolutionize application delivery and management for several ISV's.

Over time, more ISV's starting showing up at our doorstep, and application delivery was becoming a bigger and bigger piece of our business. Our ability to provision users on a specific platform in minutes, delete them in minutes, perform updates and maintain hundreds of customers and thousands of users all at one time from a centralized platform was very attractive.

Our users began asking us, "Is it possible to put our payroll app on this platform too?" "What about Exchange and Office?" They loved the convenience of not managing the DBs for individual applications, and they obviously wanted more. Instead of providing one-off solutions for individual applications, we built the DesktopLayer, a hosted environment for virtual desktops.

We deliver a seamless and integrated user experience utilizing SoftLayer, Citrix XenApp and XenDesktop. When our users log in they see the same screen, the same applications and the same performance they received on their local machine. The Citrix experience takes over the entire desktop, and the look and feel is indistinguishable. It's exactly what they are accustomed to.

Our services always include the Microsoft suite (Exchange, Office, Sharepoint) and is available on any device, from your PC to your Mac to your iPad. To meet the needs of our customers, we also integrate all 3rd party apps and non-Microsoft software into the virtual desktop – if our customers are using Peachtree or Quickbooks for accounting and Kronos for HR, they are all seamlessly published to the users who access them, and unavailable to those that do not.

We hang our hat on our unique ability to tie all of a company's applications into one centralized user experience and support it. Our Dallas-based call center is staffed with a team of knowledgeable engineers who are always ready to help troubleshoot and can add/delete and customize new users in minutes. We take care of everything ... When someone needs help setting up a printer or they bought a new scanner, they call our helpdesk and we take it from there. Users can call us directly for support and leave the in-house IT team to focus on other areas, not desktop management.

With the revolution of cloud computing, many enterprises are trending toward the eradication of physical infrastructure in their IT environments. Every day, we see more and more demand from IT managers who want us to assume the day-to-day management of their end user's entire desktop, and over the past few years, the application stack that we deliver to each of our end users has grown significantly.

As Citrix would say "the virtual desktop revolution is here." The days of having to literally touch hundreds of devices at users' workstations are over. Servers in the back closet are gone. End users have become much more unique and mobile ... They want the same access, performance and capabilities regardless of geography. That's what we provide. DesktopLayer, with instant computing resources available from SoftLayer, is the future.

I remember someone telling me in 2006 that it was time for the data center to "grow up". It has. We now have hundreds of SMB clients and thousands of virtual desktops in the field today, and we love having a chance to share a little about how we see the IT landscape evolving. Thanks to our friends at SoftLayer, we get to tell that story and boast a little about what we're up to!

- Chris M. Lantrip, Chief Executive, CyberlinkASP

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.
April 26, 2011

Hybrid Hosting - What Does it Really Mean?

In our first 3 Bars - 3 Questions video interview, SoftLayer CTO Duke Skarda talked about Hybrid Hosting with Kevin, and last week, I tackled the topic in a session the Texas Technology Summit in Houston. If you have a few minutes and want to learn a little more about SoftLayer's take on hybrid computing and hybrid hosting, you can pull up a virtual chair and see my presentation here:

Even though hybrid hosting is relatively young, it has a great deal of potential. Unlike some of the hyped technologies and developments we hear about all the time, hybrid hosting isn't going to replace everything that came before it ... On the contrary, hybrid hosting encompasses everything that came before it, allowing for flexibility and functionality that you can't find in any of the individual component technologies.

We weren't able to record all of the questions and answers at the end of the session, but one of the most surprising themes I noticed was a misunderstanding of what "Cloud Infrastructure" meant. Those questions reminded me of a fantastic BrightTALK Cloud Infrastructure Online Summit that featured several interesting and informative session about how cloud computing is changing the way businesses are thinking about deploying and managing their IT infrastructure. I know it seems like we're preaching to the choir by posting this on the SoftLayer Blog, but take a look at the BrightTALK Summit's webcast topics to see if any would be helpful to you as you talk about this mysterious "cloud" thing.

-@toddmitchell

February 25, 2011

Hosting is Dead. Long Live Hosting!

If you weren't able to join us in Orlando for Parallels Summit 2011, you missed out on a great conference. More than 1,500 peers, partners and industry influencers shared a wealth of knowledge, some great recommendations and a drink or two. SoftLayer got to share in some of the spotlight when we announced Parallels Automation on-Demand, and I was honored to speak in one of the keynote sessions on Wednesday.

Rather than bore you with bullet points about what I shared, I thought it might be easier to bring you into the room so you can hear the whole session yourself:

Thanks for the opportunity, Parallels! We're already looking forward to next year.

-@lavosby

May 4, 2009

Paradigm Shift

From the beginning of my coming of age in the IT industry, It’s been one thing – Windows. As a system administrator in a highly mobile Windows environment, you learn a thing or two to make things tick, and to make them keep ticking. I had become quite proficient with the Active Directory environment, and was able to keep a domain going. While windows is a useful enterprise-grade server solution, it’s certainly not the only solution. Unfortunately when I made my departure from that particular environment, I hadn’t had much exposure to the plethora of options available to an administrator.

Then Along comes SoftLayer, and opens my eyes to an array of new (well, at least to me) operating systems. Now, I had begun my ‘new’ IT life, with exposure to the latest and greatest, to include Windows, as well as virtualization software such as Xen and Virtuozzo, and great open source operating systems such as CentOS, and FreeBSD. With the new exposure to all these high-speed technologies, I felt that maybe it was time for me to let the de-facto home operating system take a break, and kick the tires on a new installation.

I can say that while switching to open source was a bit nerve racking, it ended up being quick and painless, and I’m not looking back. I’ve lost a few hours of sleep here and there trying to dive in and learn a thing or two about the new operating system, as well as making some tweaks to get it just like I like it. The process was certainly a learning experience, and I’ve become much more familiar with an operating system that, at first, can seem rather intimidating. I went through a few different distributions till I settled on one that’s perfect for what I do (like reading the InnerLayer, and finishing the multitude of college papers).

The only problem with always reloading a PC is you have to sit there and watch it. It doesn’t hurt to have a TV and an MP3 player sitting around while you configure everything and get the reload going, but you still have to be around to make sure everything goes as planned. Imagine this… You click a button, and check back in a few. Sound Familiar? Yep, it would have been nice to have an automated reload system much like we have here at SoftLayer. Not to mention, if something goes awry, there’s the assurance that someone will be there to investigate and correct the issue. That way, I can open a cold one, and watch the game, or attend to other matters more important than telling my computer my time zone.

February 19, 2009

Virtualized Datacenters

It shouldn’t be any surprise to people who know SoftLayer that we follow the "Virtual Datacenter" discussions quite closely. In fact, it is awesome to see people discussing what sounds a lot like what SoftLayer already is.

The concept of Virtual Datacenter is that you have all the power of a datacenter at your command without having to worry about the details of actually running a datacenter. Chad Sakac from EMC wrote an excellent post in his personal blog about the transformation to a Virtual Datacenter.

One of the points Chad makes is the abstraction of the physical infrastructure. Quoting Chad:

"Every Layer of the physical infrastructure (CPU, Memory, Network, Storage) need to be transparent. Transparency means 'invisible'. This implies a lot, and implies that the glue in the middle, like a general purpose OS, needs to provide the "API models" for those hardware elements to be transparent. "

I latched on to this point because that is what we have been building at SoftLayer for the last few years. We realize that the abstraction of the physical infrastructure not only means that end-users don’t need to know how to manage the physical infrastructure, but that the abstraction can make more efficient use of resources (= money!).

Let’s talk about the advantages of virtualized infrastructure. Without virtualization, provisioning a web-facing server on the network would involve obtaining rack space, a server, licensing and loading an OS, finding a switch port, physically connecting a cable or three, setting up the switch port (I hope you know IOS), getting IP Addresses (hopefully you don’t have to go get more from ARIN), and adding a firewall and/or load balancer (more procurement, cabling, and configuration). Adding storage could be just as complex – also involving procurement, racking, cabling, and configuration. This doesn’t sound very efficient. In fact, it sounds a lot like creating a “circular device that is capable of rotating on its axis, facilitating movement or transportation whilst supporting a load”. It's been done before and I'll bet it’s been done better by people other than you.

Using virtualized infrastructure you should be able to perform the task with a few clicks of a mouse or a few API calls and have the functionality you need set up in a few minutes instead of days, weeks, or months. No worrying about procurement, physical constraints, or learning the specifics of network and storage devices from different vendors. All you should have to focus on is the running of your particular application. You shouldn’t have to worry about configuring servers, networking, and storage any more than you should have to worry about chillers, HVAC, generators, and UPS batteries.

-@nday91

October 29, 2008

SoftLayer Thinks “Outside the Box”

Now, before a worldwide game of MBA buzz-word bingo breaks out, hear me out. Here at SoftLayer, we really do think “outside the box.” And when I say “box” – I really mean “server.” Since our inception, we have been focused an all things “outside the box.” To say it another way, we have focused on building automation systems that drive the collective datacenter environment that surrounds the server. In its simplest terms – a datacenter operating system. We call it IMS internally – IMS is short for infrastructure management system (yip – techies are ripe with creativity).

For the first couple of years, IMS development has revolved around automating all things in the datacenter including network, inventory, asset tracking, provisioning, monitoring, security, and of course all things directly living on the servers themselves. I mean, if you think about all the capabilities – it’s pretty clear. Add servers on the fly (check), add firewalls on the fly (check), add load balancing on the fly (check), interconnect all servers on the fly (check), interconnect servers in different datacenters (check), add, delete and tag IP addresses on the fly (check), reload, repair, and re-provision servers (check, check and check). We can do anything you can possibly imagine “outside the box” via our control panel or API.

Now, SoftLayer has moved to thinking “Inside the box.” That’s where virtualization is rapidly gaining ground. The entire industry understands the value of virtualization and the paradigm shift it will bring to computing. It’s quickly maturing and it’s rapidly becoming a common standard across the industry. We shifted gears about six months ago and starting incorporating virtualization technologies into Softlayer. To date, we have implemented Hyper-V and Xen with tremendous success. We have Virtuozzo from Parallels slated to go live in a couple weeks, VMWare will be available soon and then of course – our much anticipated cloud computing offering (it’s a secret). All of these technologies are virtualization and automation at the server and storage layer.

So, here at SoftLayer – we are thinking “inside and outside the box.” We are very excited about continuing to integrate virtualization technologies into our highly automated datacenter environment. It’s the perfect storm – the alignment of all technologies into a single unified backplane that can morph on the fly into any type of compute environment one needs. The question I have is – it’s easy to think inside the box – has the industry also been thinking “outside the box?”

-@lavosby

January 28, 2008

Virtualizing Our Childhoods - There's Money to be Made

Here's a couple of my childhood memories for you. Today, they've been virtualized. And monetized.

Shooting Up the Neighborhood
The kids in my neighborhood would get home from school, crank out the homework and household chores, then bail outdoors in all kinds of weather and play some version of battle games, be it "cops and robbers", "cowboys and Indians", "World War II", etc. In addition to politically incorrect game names, we'd use toy guns and plastic knives and swords to pretend-shoot each other and pretend-hack each other to bits -- all in good fun and while using vocabulary that our parents didn't care for. I'm sure the toy makers made a modest profit from our recreation.

Just last night, my son (age 14) approached me and announced that his homework was done, his room was straight, he was ready for his tests, etc., then asked if he could get on his Xbox 360. After I had him help with the dinner dishes, he headed upstairs much like I would head out the front door when I was 14. I went upstairs a little later and he was logged on to Xbox Live with the voice headset running and he pointed out that about 11 of his hockey teammates were also online and playing Call of Duty 4. So instead of pretend-shooting each other outside in the cold January air, they all get together online and do it. Don’t ask him what kind of language gets used either – it’s probably the same as my generation. From what I understand, the toy makers in this case make a lot more money than those of my youth.

Passing Notes at School
In yet another politically incorrect part of my upbringing, somewhere around 5th and 6th grade, somebody thought it would be a good idea to pass ballots around the classroom. They’d write a question at the top of the page along the lines of “Do you like Gary?” and they’d put two columns below. Other kids would sign under the “yes” or “no” columns depending on how they felt that day.

This is basically virtualized with Facebook, Linked In, and Plaxo. We get prompted to accept others as friends and recommend each other with these networking tools. With all the applications, pictures, messaging and so on these go way beyond our childhood note-passing but the concept is the same. Virtualizing this concept has unlocked untold riches. How much? Microsoft’s investment in Facebook extrapolates the value of Facebook to be $15 billion. That’s a nice chunk of change for virtualizing the passing of notes at school.

All This Virtualization Requires Servers – We’ve Got ‘Em
As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not real good at whiteboarding new ideas. Tell you what – you think of something from childhood that can be virtualized into billions in valuation, and SoftLayer will provide the servers and connectivity you need to achieve it.

-Gary

Categories: 
January 25, 2008

Virtualized Virtualization

For the past several months, we have been struggling with how to implement virtualization in a hosting environment. Xen, VMWare, Virtuozzo, Parrallels, and Virtual Iron just to name a few. As many of you know, the software world courts the enterprise and the hosting world is left to shove the square peg into a round hole. Once again, these software packages have been designed for one company with many servers versus one company with many clients with many servers.

The most shocking reality about virtualization is the lack of scalability. Now, before you call quack shack to have my head examined – hear me out. All (and I mean all) of the virtualization products on the market scale extremely well to a couple hundred physical servers (lets call it 200). These technologies were designed to be used in companies that have relatively small subsets of physical servers (yes…I think 200 is small) managed through a centralized console. The idea is – those 200 servers should be utilized more efficiently thereby creating 400 to 2000 virtual machines. This model works great in companies that only have the need for one or two mass “virtual deployments.”

Now, fast forward to SoftLayer where we have already virtualized every aspect of the datacenter and we manage over 12,000 servers. Let’s run through the high points of virtualization - Rapid deployment – we got that. Asset tracking – yip, been there done that. Network management – baked and done. Add services on-the-fly – is there any other way? Complete control – piece of cake. Eliminate inefficiencies – have you seen our offerings? In essence, SoftLayer has abstracted the physical layer from the datacenter and left our customers with a complete virtualized datacenter environment. So, the questions remains – how do we virtualize the virtualized?

-@lavosby

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