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SoftLayer Blog

Alistair Slocombe

A guide on how to get to Mount Olympus: The Enterprise journey to the Cloud

by Alistair Slocombe

on 17-Sep-2014 14:02:00

The Cloud has evolved, so now we can all eat Ambrosia.

Bellerophon, the ancient Greek hero, killed the Chimaera in Caria.

He believed the next stage in his evolution was to live with the Gods in the Clouds. (It’s on Wikipedia, so it must be true).

His story was doomed to tragedy, but did he try to do too much too fast?

The journey to the Cloud for Enterprises has been a similar story.


Image by Elliot Brown

To tell this story, we must dispel the myth of Cloud. The name itself is in some ways quite misleading. Cloud is infrastructure. It’s very solid, very costly (boxes, licenses, maintenance, support, power, cooling etc.) and very complex.  It’s exactly what you have in your data-centres today, but the beauty is, someone else manages all that for you. You just focus on your applications, and your business.

It’s well trodden ground, but what does adopting “someone else’s infrastructure” give you?

  • Reduced cost of infrastructure delivery
  • Greener and more economical
  • Flexibility and universal access
  • Latest software versions & a wide choice of applications without the licensing complexities

So why doesn’t every business join Bellerophon on Pegasus and make the journey to Olympus?

Well, a lot of customers I’ve spoken to mention the lack of control. For smaller organisations this isn’t typically an issue, the benefits outweigh the challenges. Application stacks tend to be fairly standard, but as your business grows, so can the complexity. Cost savings can be driven through building your own applications or tailoring them for specific purposes. This is something that is truly wonderful, you can develop software to help your business whatever the goal.

In order to do this, you need access to the Application Programming interface (API), now bear with me! Typically, you don’t get this with your standard “cloud” provider, such as AWS. You are given a template and an OS, which you can configure. This isn’t enough control for some organisations, and so many don’t even try to make the journey to join the Gods.

Of course, the other concern is security. Your information is out there somewhere, being shared in infrastructures with other people, who aren’t necessarily as careful as you are about data control. Typically you are given preconfigured images, which tend to be bloated with “what most people want”. This can lead to security issues (not to mention poorer performance).

And so, intrepid Bellerophon sits astride noble Pegasus, galloping and/or soaring to the clouds. However, if he had considered what was best for him next, would he have thought himself an equal of the Gods? Sure, he killed a Chimera (a lion’s head, a goat’s body and a serpent tail) and that’s more than most men, but he wasn’t ready yet. And this leads us to an important question. Was the cloud ready for larger enterprises to take seriously? Certainly, we’ve been involved in a number of DR and Test/Development cloud deployments for the Enterprise. But a large organisation outsourcing entire infrastructures is something I’m yet to see!

The options for how you can deploy infrastructure in the “cloud” are evolving. And one major change starts to address some of the challenges that I’ve discussed. The ability to deploy bare metal servers.

So what does bare metal mean to you? 

When choosing the size of your machine in the cloud, it is no longer akin to choosing the size of a t-shirt. 

You can be as granular as you want. Size of processor, amount of memory, type of storage, type of networking and version of OS. You own the entire server, and if you want, you install your own hypervisor. This gives you comfort and control. No-one else’s VM’s will be residing on the device clamouring for the same resources. Indeed, in some of the conversations I’ve had recently, this is something that is also alleviating lingering security concerns.

Of course, it’s not just bare metal servers. It’s the ability to deploy in a multitude of different ways; virtual compute instances, bare metal and private cloud. The Enterprise is a patchwork that never really was appropriate to host in small, medium or large sizes. Platforms exist today that enable you to deploy with one provider, in a multitude of different ways, but manage it all through the same management software. This removes much of the complexity of managing a hybrid cloud environment, so you enjoy the benefits of matching the right workloads to the right delivery mechanism.

Increasingly, we are seeing cloud & hosting providers expose their API’s. Through exposing API’s, this gives us as a consumer the same control over the infrastructure as it would if it was hosted in your own data centre. This gives customers the ability to control their environment from their own applications. 

10Gbps WAN that’s unmetered and it’s free!

The most exciting Cloud development I’ve heard recently is the ability to support worldwide footprint at a fraction of the cost. One particular provider; Softlayer (now owned by IBM) have their own 10Gbps WAN backbone across 60 “pods”. (Sounds small, but this involves 4,000 servers per pod, and they have been built all over the world) all connected without the need to traverse the “Internet”, rather just staying in Softlayer’s private network. Yet more fears about security calmed.

Free WAN is incredibly compelling…

That cross-channel disaster recovery strategy has just become 70% cheaper. You could create a resilient worldwide WAN for a fraction of the cost.

This is what Cloud promised us isn’t it? The ability to securely access our data wherever we are, whilst enjoying significant cost savings.

The Greek Gods were notoriously petty, and narcissistic.  Realistically, I’m not sure they would have ever let Bellerophon live on Mount Olympus. Zeus sent a gadfly to bite Pegasus, who kicked his rider off, and he fell to earth, living the rest of his days as a hermit.

The winged horse, Pegasus, made it to Olympus. He had the means to achieve the journey to the clouds. Softlayers’s latest offering, I believe, means that the Cloud may finally be ready for your organisation, whatever the size. Through exposing their API’s (they have in the region of 3000, AWS has 30), this is a platform that is ready for your infrastructure. You have the same granular control, with the ability to host those services that don’t have straight edges. You can do it securely, and you can use these services across the world at a fraction of the cost. Flexible Cloud Infrastructures are now here to support your business.

Welcome to Mount Olympus home of the Gods.

Find out more about SoftLayer HERE


Topics: SoftLayer, bare metal servers, Cloud computing