First let’s clarify the type of ‘cloud’ we are referring to. There are four major types of cloud service models: Infrastructure as a Service, Platform as a Service, Software as a Service, and Network as a Service.
Here we are referring to Infrastructure as a Service. IaaS allows companies to outsource their computer infrastructure to a cloud provider. Typically this infrastructure includes the servers that make up the network and run applications. These outsourced servers include all the CPU, RAM, Storage, and network access required to run business applications and processes.
Some of the benefits of IaaS:
Allows IT to Shift Focus – IT Staff can focus on delivering applications and improving the business instead of the traditional focus of installing, upgrading, and maintained core infrastructure components like operating systems, switches, and storage
Hassle Free Service – Each infrastructure component is provided as a service. For example, hardware –as-a -service , server –as-a -service, computing –as-a -service, storage –as-a -service. Clients now have lots of flexibility to choose from a wide menu of services and can order a’ la carte only those services that they need.
Utility Service – IaaS follows a utility service model – pay per use / pay per go subscription based model. IaaS offerings, e.g. servers and storage, are immediately available and can be provisioned at any size within minutes. This is the hallmark of cloud services. Clients use services based on their individual requirements. Services are immediately available ready and can provisioned instanteously. No upfront purchases or installation is required. As an example, BlumeTech has provisioned whole networks with dozens of servers in under an hour.
Dynamic Scaling - Infrastructure services can scale up and down of based on the application usage. There is no need to make costly CapEx purchases upfront in anticipation of future growth. Simply pay for what you need now and seamlessly add more resources when you need it. This again is one of the pillars of cloud computing services. IaaS services can be quickly scaled up in case of upturn in demand and scaled down when there is low demand. This adds enormous flexibility and optimal utilization of resources and money.
Multiple Tenets – Service provisioning includes multiple users accessing the same piece of infrastructure. Using Role Based Access Control, user and IT admin access can be restricted to required resources only.
Investment Cap – Most Small and Medium businesses cannot afford the upfront cost of their IT infrastructure as they want to focus more on their product offering / core business. IaaS is a great choice - with no upfront investment, no maintenance, and pay as you go services.
Reduces Total Cost of Ownership – Using the economies of scale inherent with cloud solutions, total cost of IT is significantly reduced. As an example, one can provision a server with 2x CPU, 600MB of RAM for as little as $.005/HR. That’s half a penny per hour. The IaaS model provides IT services at a fraction of the cost most SMBs get for their in-house IT.
Metered Service – IaaS usage is metered and priced on the basis of units consumed. Pay for what you use. Thus if your usage is low so will be your bill. This is in contrast to in-house infrastructure owned by a firm where there are fixed costs (people, servers, storage, power, etc.) regardless of low or high usage.
Why use Amazon Web Services?
BlumeTech did a thorough evaluation of all the major cloud providers before ultimately choosing Amazon Web Services (AWS). We evaluated Savvis, Terremark, Iland, MS Azure, Rackspace, and Bluelock.
We chose AWS for many reasons:
Biggest Provider – AWS has roughly $2B/year in revenue (2012). Its closest competitor, Rackspace, is one tenth of the size at $200M. Over 1% of all global Internet traffic flows through AWS.
Industry Consolidation - There will be significant consolidation in the cloud market space. With that consolidation we prefer to be with the larger provider and hence be with the acquiring company rather than the one being required.
Huge Infrastructure – 13 Datacenters in North America alone. All of them state of the art with multiple power feeds, multiple Internet lines, UPS, generator power backup, etc. As an example of the uptime provided by these datacenters, BlumeTech had a client down for a week during Hurricane Sandy. If they had been at AWS, their operations would have been unaffected. Another client has had over 800 minutes of downtime in Q1’2013 from electrical work, building maintenance on their datacenter cooling system, and two Internet outages. All of these outages disappear when their IT infrastructure is moved to AWS.
Public Pricing – All AWS pricing is publicly available on their website. There are no multi-year contracts. There is no price negotiations for their services.
Price Cuts – AWS routinely cuts their prices. Those price cuts are immediately passed on to their customers. These cuts apply to both new and existing customers. There is nothing required to realize the price drop. The new price is automatically reflected in the next invoice. As of March 2013, AWS has had over 26 pricing cuts.
Impressive Client List – Netflix, NASDAQ, Disney, Shell, Exxon, NASA, et. al. all use AWS. Netflix has based 99% of its infrastructure on AWS.
Services – AWS has a wide spectrum of services. It has over 23 different cloud services that SMBs can use to outsource their IT infrastructure.
The most used services by our clients are:
Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud - EC2 allows users to rent virtual computers to run their own computer applications. EC2 allows scalable deployment of applications by providing a Web service through which a user can create a virtual machine, which Amazon calls an "instance", containing any software desired. A user can create, launch, and terminate server instances as needed, paying by the hour for active servers, hence the term "elastic". EC2 provides users with control over the geographical location of instances that allows for latency optimization and high levels of redundancy.
Amazon Elastic Block Storage - EBS provides raw block devices that can be attached to Amazon EC2 instances. These block devices can then be used like any raw block device. In a typical use case, this would include formatting the device with a filesystem and mounting said filesystem. In addition EBS supports a number of advanced storage features, including snapshotting and cloning. EBS volumes are built on replicated back end storage, so that the failure of a single component will not cause data loss.
Amazon Glacier – Glacier is a low-cost online storage web service that provides reliable storage for data archiving and backup. Glacier is designed for long-term storage of data that is infrequently accessed and for which retrieval latency times of 3 to 5 hours are acceptable. Storage costs are $0.01 per gigabyte per month.
Amazon CloudFront - CloudFront is a content delivery network (CDN). CloudFront operates on a pay-as-you-go basis. CloudFront has servers located in Europe (United Kingdom, Ireland, The Netherlands, Germany, Spain), Asia (Hong Kong, Singapore and Japan), South America, as well as in several major cities in the United States.
Amazon Relational Database Service – RDS is a distributed relational database service. It is a web service and provides a relational database for use in applications. It is aimed at simplifying the set-up, operation, and scaling a relational database. Complex administration processes like patching the database software, backing up databases and enabling point-in-time recovery are managed automatically.
Amazon Route 53 - Route 53 provides scalable and highly available Domain Name Service (DNS). Route 53's servers are distributed throughout the world.
Amazon Simple Email Service - SES provides AWS users with infrastructure for sending outbound bulk email correspondence.
Amazon S3 (Simple Storage Service) - Amazon S3 provides storage through web services interfaces (REST, SOAP, and BitTorrent). Amazon claims that S3 uses the same scalable storage infrastructure that Amazon.com uses to run its own global e-commerce network. Amazon S3 is reported to store more than a trillion objects as of June 2012.
Amazon Virtual Private Cloud - VPC is a commercial cloud computing service that provides a virtual private cloud, allowing enterprise customers to access the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud over an IPsec based virtual private network.
Why AWS with BlumeTech?
We already have a lot of experience with AWS. BlumeTech’s own servers have been migrated to AWS. In addition, we have 3 other clients already online with AWS. To date we have migrated Exchange E-Mail Systems, Site-to-Site VPNs, File Servers, Tape Based backup all to AWS. The results have all been fantastic for our clients: better services, inherent DR, better uptime, unlimited scale, and lower IT costs.
In addition, we’ve bundled a flexible set of services with our AWS offering. These services add significant value to AWS and have been tailored to the needs of our clients. Like AWS, you only pay for the services that you need. There is no minimum fee. There are no long term contracts to sign. There are not setup or start-up fees. Simply use the services as long as you need them and cancel at anytime without risk.
AWS Service Status Monitoring - Monitoring of the AWS Cloud itself. E-Mail alerts for any service impairments.
AWS Instance Basic Monitoring - Basic monitoring of EC2 Instance status. Includes ping test, status checks of AWS host machine, and status checks of the EC2 instance. E-Mail alerts for any service impairments.
AWS Instance Scheduled Event Monitor and Event Resolution - Monitoring for EC2 instance scheduled events, e.g. termination, reboots, etc. AWS routinely schedules disruptive maintenance events on EC2 instances. These events may be for patching updates, host maintenance, electrical issues, etc. E-Mail alerts for any scheduled events. Includes resolving all AWS scheduled maintenance events.
EC2 Inventory - Full weekly inventory of all EC2 instance and volumes. Maps EC2 instances to volumes and snapshots. Data is saved to an Excel spreadsheet. This map is essentially required in order to rebuild failed resources and instances.
Daily Snapshots - Automated daily disk image backups of EC2 instances. Fully restorable point in time backups of EC2 instances.
Hourly Snapshots - Automated hourly disk image backups of EC2 instances. Fully restorable point in time backups of EC2 instances.
AWS Instance Advanced Monitoring - Detailed in depth monitoring of EC2 instances. See Below.
Managed EC2 Backup - Full application aware backup for all EC2 instances based on Symantec’s BackupExec. Backup Exec 2012 is one integrated product that protects virtual and physical environments, simplifies both backup and disaster recovery, and offers unmatched recovery capabilities. Supports file level restores. Blumetech fully manages all aspects of your AWS backup infrastructure including backup application procurement and licensing, backup server setup, backup job configuration, daily maintenance, job monitoring, routine software updates, etc. Essentially required for Microsoft recommended backup of MS Exchange and MS SQL servers.
Multi-Region Snapshot Copies - Weekly copies of EC2 snapshots to geographically remote location. Provides an additional level of protection against a regional disaster that affects the entire AWS Region in Reston, VA. Includes offsite replication of EC2 Snapshots from AWS Cloud location in Virginia to Northern California.
What’s included with AWS Instance Advanced Monitoring?
Server Health Monitoring - Gain real-time visibility into the availability, performance and configuration of your Windows and Linux servers. Track and trend key metrics like CPU, load averages, memory and disk utilization.
Inventory Management - Quickly discover all of your devices (PCs, Macs, network equipment, etc.). Helps you stay up-to-date with an accurate inventory of your hardware and software. Get rich details on the configuration of each device and audit software too. Gain actionable insights to bring systems into compliance.
Network Tracking - Good network performance is key to day-to-day IT management, no matter how large or small your organization. Build charts and Dashboards to provide a complete network management view.
Alerts - Set up standard or customized alerts to notify you when critical thresholds are met, for example, when critical bottlenecks are forming, when disk space falls below 5 percent or when new software has been installed without IT‘s approval. Understand immediately where attention is needed and why. Receive alert notification by email, IM or SMS.
Patch Management - Continuously monitors all Windows devices to ensure that they are up-to-date. The patch management system directly integrates with Microsoft Windows Server Update Services (WSUS).
Automation - Automate the process of making changes to computers on your networks. Easily add or remove software from multiple machines simultaneously by automating repetitive tasks. BlumeTech provided scripts can be used to distribute software or files, execute remote commands, run batch files, update registry settings and more.
Why use Managed EC2 Backup over EC2 snapshots?
Snaphots work great in the event of a disaster, e.g. a virus infects the machine and deletes all the data, or a user deletes a directory and deletes thousands of file. In those situation a snapshot can get the machine up in running within a few minutes without any lengthy restores.
However snapshots have some limitations:
They are not application aware. That is to say they don’t understand applications like Exchange and SQL. To correctly backup these applications, the backup software must be application aware in order to correctly and consistently backup the application. Without the application aware backup, there is a good chance that the backup will not properly restore the data in the event of a disaster. Microsoft requires application aware backups for Exchange and SQL
Snapshots are image level backups of the entire machine. You can’t easily restore part of a snapshot. A snapshot can’t restore just a single file. (There is a way to mount a snapshot to another machine and restore single files that way. It is a fairly long and involved process)
Why use your Managed EC2 Backup vs other cloud backup offerings?
BlumeTech would like nothing more than to get out of providing BackupExec to our customers. It’s not exciting and not profitable and frankly takes our time away from focusing on the best IT business solutions for our clients.
However the cloud backup offerings have a few very important flaws:
No support for local onsite restores. Here’s a typical scenario: We use a cloud backup solution to backup the Exchange server at 500GB. The Exchange server DB gets corrupted one night and now won’t mount. We need to restore from the cloud backup. But the cloud backup files are far away and hence need to be downloaded. Now we have to wait for the 500GB to download. If the connection speed is 50mbps, you can expect the 500GB download to take 24 hours. That’s a least a full day before the Exchange is backup. With the BlumeTech solution the backup data is local. In the same scenario the 500GB restore would have been done in an hour.
Since the cloud backup solutions are limited by your Internet bandwidth, there is an inherent maximum backup size. A typical Internet connection at 50mbps and backup window of 8 hours, limits the backup set size to about 150GB. In addition, regardless of bandwidth many solutions have a recommended maximum backup set size. For example BackupExec.cloud limits to a recommended value of 500GB
Many cloud based backup solution are not application aware. Instead most cloud based backup solution can only backup files individual and don’t understand how to properly backup applications like Exchange and SQL. See above
Archival times are limited. Many services will only keep your backups for a limited amount of time before they are automatically deleted. For example, BackupExec.cloud will only hold backups for 90 days.