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Burst into the Cloud with InMage’s New Cloud-Optimized Infrastructure

Now that most organizations are starting to consider moving some or all of their applications and data into the cloud, questions as to how the applications and data hosted in the cloud will be controlled and managed are being raised. One of the key concerns that businesses have is how providers of the cloud will handle and respond to spikes in application demands. It is these questions that InMage’s newly announced cloud-optimized infrastructure is designed to answer.

Despite the relative newness of the concept of the cloud, businesses like it a lot. Business managers are less concerned about where their applications and computing resources reside and far more concerned about optimizing how they run while driving down costs.

One IT Business Alignment Manager at a large energy company recently even went so far as to say, “I do not care who provides my infrastructure for my mission critical applications. I just need visibility into the cloud; control of my response time, I/O, throughput, availability, latency and security; and, the flexibility to adjust those resources based upon my business priorities and changing workloads.

The cloud is emerging as the ideal way to deliver on his objectives. The trouble with most cloud infrastructures is that right now they only do a few things well. For instance, they primarily aggregate hardware resources and make it possible for different applications to securely access and share these resources.

However they do not do a good job of answering this IT Manager’s concerns about providing him with visibility into how the resources in the cloud are utilized nor do they give him the flexibility and ability to respond to his changing application needs. As a result, many see the potential benefits of the cloud but are waiting to put mission critical applications and data into the cloud.

For cloud providers to gain the trust they need to succeed, they must introduce technology that dynamically monitors, controls and manages the applications and data that is in the cloud. Specifically, this technology must enable different applications from different companies with various priorities and workloads to effectively respond to spikes in demand from any one of these applications. Without this ability, these spikes may negatively impact a specific application’s performance and even have a ripple effect that affects other applications in the cloud.

This ability to bring up specific application resources within the cloud on demand using virtual server technology is a technique known as cloudbursting. Cloudbursting responds to changes in application demands by enabling cloud providers (private or public) to automate the movement of applications and their data to where there are resources
available to meet their changing demands.

This is what InMage’s cloud-optimized infrastructure delivers. To do so InMage leverages its foundation technologies like continuous data protection (CDP), application snapshot API integration, asynchronous replication, automated application recovery (failover/failback), integrated WAN optimization, storage capacity optimization, and disk-based recovery.
 
But what makes InMage unique in this emerging cloudbursting space is that it adds application migration into the mix, supporting the ability to easily provision application services, not just hardware resources, on demand in the cloud.  Cloud providers leveraging InMage’s cloud optimized infrastructure can now create services around new use cases that definitively differentiate themselves from their competition.  This in turn gives end users new options with cloud based services not previously available.

InMage defines cloud optimized infrastructure along a set of key new features:
 

  • Flexible licensing that supports the very granular expansion and contraction of cloud-based services
  • Minimal server overhead so it is suitable for both physical and virtual environments
  • Scales to accommodate server, storage and infrastructure growth on both the end-user and cloud provider sides
  • Multi-tenancy features so multiple clients can securely share the same cloud infrastructure resources
  • Heterogeneous support for a wide range of application, server and storage resources

A cloud optimized infrastructure is built around the ability to provision storage, network, and virtual server resources and leverages application failover/failback capabilities for simple application service provisioning or recovery.  There are three main use case scenarios that this potentially enables for cloud providers:

  • Recovery. Many organizations are looking to automate DR and implement it in an economical way. InMage gives organizations the opportunity to implement DR plans that not only recover data but can actually recover application services by hosting them in the cloud.  Other interesting “recovery” uses cases revolve around DR testing, something which can now be done without impacting production applications in any way.  
  • Test and development. As an alternative to in-house test beds, organizations may choose to meet all or part of their test and/or development needs using cloud-based services, built around the particular application in question, which are provisioned on demand.  If organizations choose to maintain in-house test harnesses, cloud optimized infrastructure still gives them the opportunity to “burst” into the cloud to handle resource utilization spikes without incurring any capital expenditures.
  • Production Offloads. This is an interesting and emerging use case where organizations can quickly and easily meet seasonal demand spikes in IT resources, again without incurring any capital expenditure.

This use case certainly applies to companies such as First Data (where I used to work) which handles credit and debit card transactions. Credit and debit card processing companies tend to experience huge volumes at certain times of the year (between Thanksgiving and Christmas for instance) so they have to size their environment for those seasonal loads.

For much of the rest of the year, however, a good percentage of the IT infrastructure needed to meet peak demand may be woefully underutilized. But with an ability to increase the performance of key applications by “bursting” into the cloud for a few weeks or months (effectively leveraging a “hybrid” model), an organization can potentially meet peak demand requirements without having to size their infrastructure for it.  

All of these uses cases could potentially be done today but there would be a significant amount of manual involvement provisioning resources and setting up application services.  InMage makes that possible by enabling “push button” application migration and/or recovery.
 
What’s important for cloud providers to realize is that there are both data and application
issues that need to be taken into account to leverage cloudbursting in this way, and InMage is one of the few players in the industry today that has the technology to make that a reality.
As part of the cloud infrastructure foundation, InMage is equally applicable to private, public, and hybrid cloud environments, providing both end user organizations and cloud providers with some new options in leveraging and/or providing cloud-based services.  

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