Category Archives: Industry Insights

Hi, My Name is ElasticBox and I am a Cloudaholic

Hello! We, at ElasticBox, feel like we are on a rocketship sometimes but we’re very excited about what we’re doing and want to share all the great news with you. Among other things, we’ve just closed our Series A funding round, re-launched our website, and added several new features to our product that will establish collaboration as the new norm for application development and deployment. Developers, we’re doing this all for you!

So What Does ElasticBox Do Again?

To start, let’s talk about a commonly asked question – just what does ElasticBox do? Well, at the core, ElasticBox is pioneering a new way for developers to create, deploy, and manage applications for cloud environments. The way we look at it, the infrastructure is pretty much solved – but the application is still stuck back in the days of bare metal. It’s time to solve the application! We know this doesn’t tell you the whole story, so come to our website to see why Boxes will be your new best friends. What is a Box, you ask? Like we said, come to our website!

 What Has ElasticBox Been Up To?

  • Funding. Boom. Done: As announced last week, ElasticBox has closed a $9M Series A funding round with Nexus Venture Partners and Intel Capital. This funding will give us the fuel we need to keep adding new features to our product and to ensure as many people as possible can benefit from ElasticBox. Read more about it at this link.

  • A Brand New Website that We’re Dying to Show Off: We are extremely excited to introduce you to our newly-minted website at www.elasticbox.com. We’ve designed this site to clearly communicate what ElasticBox does – and we put a rock on there too. You can also sign up for the free developer edition right on the website.  Wanna know who we are? Check out our lovely pictures.

  • New Features that will Seriously Blow Your Mind: Ok, they won’t really blow your mind, but developers, we’ve got three new features that will make your job a lot easier: Workspaces, Collaboration, and Lifecycle Editor.

    • ElasticBox Workspaces helps enterprises organize teams and development resources for faster app development.

    • ElasticBox Collaboration is a real game-changer that lets you add other developers/workspaces to a Box or application to enable ummm… better collaboration.

    • ElasticBox Lifecycle Editor, a feature unique to ElasticBox, allows you to review, configure, and deploy applications, in real time, all in a single view.

Developers, if you haven’t already, try out these new features by signing up for our free Developer Edition at elasticbox.com/signup and become a Cloudaholic.

Enterprise, want to see how ElasticBox can transform your business to focus on innovation? Request a demo by sending an email to info@elasticbox.com.

Thanks again everyone, and stay tuned for several new exciting features by following this blog for updates at elasticbox.com/blog/

Blog. Boom. Done.

ITaaS: The Innovative CIO’s Recipe to Curb Shadow IT

Early this month I was at the CIO Executive Leadership Summit in San Diego, which attracted about 900 people; among them were CIOs from big enterprises, influencers from the press, and portfolio companies sponsored by Intel.

At this popular networking event, I had a chance to meet several C-level executives from enterprises that turn over upwards of a billion dollars in annual revenue. It was great to connect with these folks because you get to hear of challenges from a whole organization’s perspective thanks to their bird’s eye view.

Wary of the Shadow

In our meetings, the CIOs talked about shadow IT problems that affect departments today. Shadow IT happens typically when groups inside your organization quickly start experimenting with or using SaaS and cloud services without waiting around for IT and organizational approval.

Shadow IT problems spring up in large enterprises when IT departments are slow to respond to pressing business demands. IT is often too busy processing a flood of requests related to production, post production, dev, and test. They’re held back from delivering services fast because of workflow processes and the amount of manual setup involved.

Let me give an example. Company A, a publicly traded fortune 500 company, has a policy to not leverage anything from the public cloud because they have sensitive data and want to remain inside a private data center. On the other hand, dev and test groups in the company need virtual machine resources ASAP to code and test their applications. Say a developer requests 50 virtual machines from IT. IT takes a while to get to the request as they have to prioritize, approve, create a ticket, and then provision the machines. In the meantime, the developer is frustrated because they’re slowed down. So dev and the test groups turn to services like AWS, Google Compute, or Rackspace to meet their needs at the swipe of a card.

Although the company’s policy is not to use the public cloud, in reality, at the end of the month the CFO has to foot mounting bills for a cloud provider the company hasn’t even contracted with.

Every CIO is aware of such shadow IT problems. The question in their minds as the CIO is how to drive changes inside the organization to meet these growing demands. How to evolve from a Chief Information Officer to a Chief Innovation Officer.

The ITaaS Vision

Today that shift is slowly but surely underway. Like the Netflix VP of IT Operations Mike Kail says, to be a true engine of innovation, IT has to be delivered as a service (ITaaS).

The internal IT infrastructure team, for example, can use a self-service portal to deliver its infrastructure. Once you request infrastructure through the portal, a preset policy approves machines making them instantly available to you.

Now IT is not just infrastructure, but also services. If developers are prone to using the AWS Oracle service, they’d expect a similar service from IT. At the next level, developers need applications deployed to a specific environment right away. Such demands mean that IT has to deliver not just infrastructure but also services and platforms for businesses to deploy applications. To transform itself to ITaaS, every aspect of IT has to be delivered as a service.

ElasticBox serves as the self-service platform for ITaaS in your enterprise. As an IT admin, you can go in and provision infrastructure from your choice of provider. As an architect, you build application configurations in boxes to spell out exactly how applications should deploy. And then dev, test groups can use the boxes like templates, pick provider services from a catalog of different providers, and finally launch applications in an agile way.

From a CIO’s perspective, ITaaS shrinks the go-to-market time for products or applications. By automating how applications are developed and by deploying them faster, even if you cut short the time for a product to reach the market by 20%, that’s significant cost savings and a competitive advantage.

The Bottom-Up CIO

Some of the innovative CIOs at the summit were talking the ITaaS vision. This is becoming more and more a pervasive reality. My resonating highlight was this question from a CIO, “Do you think my developers would love the solution?”

CIOs today embrace this approach in their thinking. Their decision-making for IT is no longer top-down but bottom-up where developers play an influential role. As a Chief Innovation Officer, the CIO wants to enable the shift to ITaaS in the organization. They’re looking to bring about the transformation at a holistic level with help from both developers and IT. And ElasticBox is ready to help along this journey with developer-centered support.

Follow-Up to VMworld Barcelona: Boost Cloud Usage and Automate Deployments

After a packed week at VMworld Barcelona, it’s time to share some highlights as promised in my earlier post.

All kinds of VMware customers thronged to our ElasticBox booth: People from large enterprises, small companies, service providers, and system integrators. A question that repeatedly came up in conversations was: “How is it possible to manage my applications in the cloud without directly managing the server infrastructure?”

Applications in Enterprise Virtualized Private Networks

Many EU companies manage applications in virtualized networks, on private clouds than on public. The reasons for the slow move to the public cloud are not surprising. Data privacy is a chief concern. Beyond EU government regulations, there are other security needs around availability, scalability, and latency as well.

To illustrate this point, consider how most enterprise applications are built in the private cloud with a certain redundancy in mind. When you deploy to a server, you put a lot of processes in place to guarantee its uptime. You run the server in a cluster with duplicated storage, snapshots and data backups. That’s a lot of complex processes built around server infrastructure just to keep it alive. After investing so much time and money on achieving this state of availability, whether or not you use the server, you don’t want to touch it. Now in such a scenario, you’re really not making use of the cloud.

Take another example. AWS is elastic and provides services on demand. So you ideally use it only as you need to. But if you go create a number of servers on AWS that are always turned on whether or not your applications are using them, then it’s not a cloud. In this case, you’re just using AWS as a hosting provider. You’re simply re-hosting your servers on AWS.

True Usage of the Cloud

To me it’s a cloud when infrastructure is a service that you use only when you need it. The cloud should fulfill your demand for infrastructure in an automated and elastic fashion.

When infrastructure is a service, you don’t want to manage it. You want to consume. Much like renting a car. You rent when you need to ride. You’re not going to pay 100 bucks a day just to rent and park the car in your garage. Also if the rental needs a tune up or an oil change, you shouldn’t be the one doing it. You just want to drive and not worry about anything else. The same goes for managing servers. The thinking is I don’t want to put all that effort into maintaining that server, which is like changing the oil on a rental car. I just want to use the server when I need it. When you rent infrastructure in the cloud, you shouldn’t have to manage the servers. You don’t want to be logging into servers and installing software manually.

At ElasticBox, we give you the tools to manage your infrastructure from the point of view of your applications. We have built in tasks to routinely manage the lifecycle of your applications. Based on the data you provide of the application and how you define the application, we manage the infrastructure with the cloud provider of your choice–public, private, or hybrid.

Automating Deployment Processes

Other interesting deployment scenarios were from system integrators. Their main challenge is they spend a lot of time automating server infrastructure, managing virtual servers, and learning new tools from different providers. They realize they replicate the processes for managing applications across multiple clouds. It makes them focus less on the needs of the applications and more on managing the infrastructure. In a way, it defeats the purpose of why they got on the cloud in the first place!

For example, even with a single cloud provider and the same infrastructure, it’s a challenge to maintain separate environments for dev, test, and production because of the amount of duplicate effort involved. The way ElasticBox looks at it, the difference between the dev, test, and production environments is a matter of different policies. While an application in a production environment has regulatory, reliability, and disaster recovery needs, the same application a dev environment doesn’t have them. The application itself doesn’t inherently change across these different environments. It’s the same application just run in a different way. It’s how it’s run that changes. And if the ‘how’ is automated then it’s truly easy to deploy applications in the cloud.

The New Cloud Mantra

The new paradigm shift in cloud deployments is to manage deployments from an application point of view instead of the infrastructure point of view. The shift has already happened before in the way we moved from managing infrastructure in physical machines to virtual machines.

So instead of defining processes to manage infrastructure across multiple clouds, you just define the way you want your applications to run and let the system take care of managing the server infrastructure for you based on demand and policies. If your infrastructure changes, you don’t have to change the application needs or your policies. What need to be updated are the management tools to leverage the new capabilities. And that’s what ElasticBox does. We provide the service to automate the management processes so that you can focus on the needs of your application and the control the policies that dictate who should use the cloud resources and how much of it.

This is the message that resonates very clearly with the companies that are trying to run applications on infrastructure across multiple cloud providers.

We allow you to focus one level up. Above the infrastructure management tools. What you do is define applications you want to run and then rent the technology that will automate the process of managing the low-level infrastructure to run the applications. To focus on the application level–now that’s the power customers really want.

 

 

How 1+1+1=5 when Developers, Architects, and IT Ops Truly Collaborate!

When it comes to defining and deploying enterprise cloud applications, traditionally, there has been a healthy tension between the developers, architects, and IT Operations. This is largely due to the needs and success measures for these stakeholders being different and not fully aligned with the overall goals of the enterprise.

Developers want to focus on code and develop, test, and deploy their applications faster with unbridled freedom. Key requirements include:

  • An agile development environment that can be created and torn down at will, on demand.
  • Self-service of infrastructure components, such as servers, and services such as runtimes, databases, load balancers, scripts, etc.
  • Ability to replicate QA, production, or customer environment effortlessly

In general, the QA requirements are similar to those of developers, except with a focus on building a QA setup that is identical to a production environment in terms of scale, performance, security, and other capabilities.

The requirements from architects’ perspective are different but equally important to be addressed.

  • Developing and driving standards and best practices
  • Integrating new technology and rapidly developing blueprint for application innovation
  • Avoiding repetitive, tedious tasks

Meanwhile, the IT Operations team is responsible to fulfill the requests from developers, QA, and architects.

  • Ensuring service level agreements (SLAs) are met for the services consumed
  • Balancing tactical needs with longer term projects
  • Positioning IT as an enabler of innovation and eliminating bureaucracy while retaining control to ensure compliance and governance.

Traditional approaches to addressing these problems have yielded sub-optimal, partial, and siloed  solutions tightly coupled to the underlying cloud infrastructure. Consequently, collaboration is inefficient and lower productivity translates into slower innovation of new applications for the enterprise.

ElasticBox dramatically changes the game by fortifying the synergies between the stakeholders and streamlining the develop-test-deploy cycle in a boundary-less manner. Application definition can be completely separated from the details of the underlying cloud infrastructure.

Using ElasticBox, each of the personas can flexibly integrate their knowledge and expertise into the application life cycle. Reusable software components, called Boxes, can be created which include run times, web servers, and middleware. The library of templates so developed can be shared as a self-service catalog throughout the organization. Access based policies for resource allocation and scaling can be assigned based on users and groups to ensure governance.

This is the power of true win/win/win collaboration between developers, architects, and IT Operations. We simply call it the 1+1+1=5 effect.

What is the level of collaboration in your organization between the developers/QA, architects, and IT Operations? Why not build an application lifecycle process that celebrates the healthy tension between these personas while empowering each stakeholder to unleash their potential?

Self-service and IT governance can harmoniously coexist. Who said you cannot have the cake and eat it too!

 

What is an Application?

The other day a colleague and I got into a heated discussion regarding the definition of an enterprise application. He contended that each server hosted 1 or more apps which combined to make an “application stack”. I on the other hand defined an app as all of the components needed to effectively provide a service, regardless of how many servers they were spread across.

It seems like a silly argument I know. You’d be right to say “Who cares as long as it works?” I mean, at the end of the day the only thing that’s important is that the business is getting the service they need right?

Right, and that’s the problem. You see, I realized then that I had the benefit of seeing the world through service assurance tinted lenses. For better or worse I spent 7 years getting more intimate than I wanted to with CMDBs, service models, SLAs, KPIs, etc.. and like the people running the NOC I now viewed the app holistically rather than as a collection of parts. My friend on the other hand hadn’t made this leap and was still thinking in terms of projects, which got me thinking…

Read More