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Containerisation – Building a Resilient Future

Cloud platforms have forever changed corporate IT. Infinite scalability coupled with a pay-as-you-use billing model allow dev teams to accelerate deployment and deliver improved services faster without significant capital investment.

Now the introduction of containers is set to change the game again. With the  containerisation of business computing workloads being seen as the next step forward in building a highly adaptable digital transformation strategy.

What are containers?

Server virtualisation was a radical data centre evolution, increasing resilience, reducing risk of data loss and helping to generate a greater return on hardware ROI. Virtual servers were also the essential element in early cloud projects.

Also known as cloud-native applications, ‘containers’ take virtualisation a step further. A container is a fully self-contained application that includes everything it needs to run – settings, libraries and dependencies.

Deployed directly onto the cloud platform, containers are managed at runtime using a controller program, like Docker Engine, rather than a VM hypervisor or guest operating system.

Why is containerisation  so exciting?

Traditional virtual servers are relatively heavyweight. Every machine is a fully provisioned system, with a full operating system and applications to run your code. You have to license the OS and software and manage and support the servers just like any other machine in your infrastructure.

For a small deployment this approach is fine. But as you scale, the licensing and management overheads become prohibitive. Containers like Docker and Kubernetes operate on a slightly different principle.

Containing nothing more than the application and its dependencies, you immediately avoid the problem of OS and application licensing.

The next stage in your digital transformation

For the digitally transformed business, speed of operations is a strategic priority. The fact that creating and destroying containers is quick and simple is a step towards that goal.

As demand on applications increase, you can automate the deployment of new containers. And you can do so without having to manage a guest OS. Stripping away layers of software also provides direct access to underlying hardware, allowing you to optimise your resource usage and bring cloud bills back under control.

Containers provide a roadmap for the future of your applications. Defining a standardised container structure built around open APIs will help when choosing where your application will be run. This is particularly important as businesses move towards multi-cloud operations. Done right, you will be able to move platforms and providers with minimal disruption.

Optimisation of resource usage is a hot topic. The on-demand nature of cloud platforms makes it easy to spin up processing resources as required. But when using non-cloud native applications this can be costly and wasteful.

Engineering lightweight, efficient containers helps to reduce overheads and prevent wasteful consumption of cloud processing resources. Adopting a cloud-native approach to future application design will help to control costs and free up budget for investment in other strategic projects.

To learn more about containerisation, its benefits, and how to prepare your cloud applications for the demands of the future, please get in touch.

Useful Links

The Doppler – The State of Container Adoption Challenges and Opportunities

A successful transition to the cloud

What do you need for a successful transition to the cloud?

Maximising value from your cloud strategy is a careful balancing act. A successful transition to the cloud typically relies on three factors – people, technology and culture.

The talent factor

Despite the hype, truly successful cloud migrations are still relatively rare. HPE quote a truly terrifying statistic – 70% of change initiatives fail because the ‘people’ aspect of the project is left out.

Cloud platforms are a completely different model to your existing on-premise architecture – and you will need access to a whole new skill set to make the transition. But retraining and upskilling is only part of the story.

Your technical team needs to understand the cloud strategy and their role in it. This is particularly true of those elements which will have to be retired or replaced.

By encouraging and empowering employees, you can better engage them with the overall goals of the project. Set your performance expectations, allow them to experiment and highlight quick wins to ensure everyone has a share in strategic successes.

And where you need to insource new talent, always be open and honest about how it will affect your team.

The technology factor

The traditional homogenous data centre is unable to keep pace with the constantly changing demands of the digitally-transformed business. This is why the flexibility of cloud platforms is so strategically important.

Building a custom, best-of-breed platform for your business relies on choosing the right combination of platforms, services and locations. As you try and balance these issues, there are several questions to answer:

What are our regulatory and security obligations?

Carefully assess your data and the laws that apply to it. Are there any issues relating to sovereignty or minimal security protections? It may be that some services are unable to meet these obligations. In other cases, compliance rules may mean data is best retained onsite.

Will our systems actually work in the cloud?

Cloud-readiness is particularly important for legacy applications. Will systems need refactoring? Are they best suited to native cloud, hybrid cloud? Can they be moved at all? And how will a partial migration affect application dependencies? This discovery process will help to inform much of your future IT strategy, highlighting those systems which need to be refactored or replaced.

Which factors limit our choices?

As mentioned in the previous section, do you have the right skills to capitalise on the potential of cloud technologies? Skills availability may immediately limit some of your choices, helping to narrow the list of options.

Are we ready as an organisation?

A cloud migration process requires efficient processes and effective governance – does the IT department have sufficient authority to lead change? Selecting the best technologies may mean making rapid changes to operating processes.

The culture factor

A successful transition to the cloud requires a change of mindset and greater alignment between departments to maximise agility. This, in turn, relies on alignment across the entire business, with all efforts focused towards meeting strategic goals.

Ultimately you are working towards creating a culture of continuous improvement. In the IT department, this typically involves adopting DevOps, embedding those principles in every activity.

Initially the focus is on the software you build. Code needs to be tested, inspected and optimised as development progresses to ensure quality is improved as delivery accelerates.

The cloud platforms on which your code is deployed will need similar levels of oversight. Your teams must be empowered to take action where platforms fail to deliver against needs, optimising or even switching services to ensure continuous improvements are possible.

The DevOps concept of a develop-test-deploy-test-improve cycle can (and should) be extended beyond the IT team to help the business towards its goal of continuous improvement.

Finding the right balance

With the correct balance of talent, technology and culture you dramatically improve the outcomes of your cloud projects. If you are unable to achieve the necessary combination you should seek third party advice before continuing; any time-saved now will be lost as you struggle to re-balance a maturing-but-flawed cloud strategy.

To learn more making a successful transition to the cloud or how to put your cloud project on the road to success, please give the WTL team a call.

successful journey to the cloud

7 best practice tips for a successful journey to the cloud

The cloud undoubtedly features in your future IT strategy – but how do you make sure your investments pay off, you realise all available benefits with a successful journey to the cloud ? Here are seven best practice tips to ensure your cloud strategy starts in the best possible way – and continues to deliver value into the future.

1. Establish a cloud philosophy

What does cloud mean to your business? Do you have a very simplistic understanding – all your on-site systems recreated in the cloud? Or a strict commitment to a specific cloud service? If your definition is too loose, you will never realise all available benefits. Cloud computing is an ongoing journey of constant refinement; your stakeholders need to accept this reality – and philosophy – so that you can all move forwards together.

2. Be honest about the cloud

As the cloud began to grow in popularity, a lot of businesses began to adopt ‘cloud first’ strategies. All future development and deployments would be built in the cloud. But the reality is that not all systems are suited to cloud platforms. Real time processing needs to be performed on-site to ensure minimal latency for instance. And you may prefer to keep your most sensitive information in the local data centre. Determine exactly why each system needs to be migrated before moving anything off-site.

3. Ensure the conditions are right

Every IT migration project has major implications for time, finance, resources, culture and business continuity. But you must not proceed with a cloud project until the business is ready. Waiting until you are truly prepared will reduce risk of failure, or costly mistakes that limit or hinder future developments.

4. Create a team to oversee cloud

Effective cloud is more than just a technical issue. Like any business partnership you will need to seek advice from other stakeholders, including senior management, HR, legal, procurement and finance – in addition to IT. Hewlett Packard call this a ‘Cloud Business Office’ (CBO), a ‘central point of decision-making and communication for your cloud program’. You should appoint stakeholders to serve on this multi-disciplinary team who are empowered to steer cloud strategy and ensure that you can cover the non-technical factors too. Your CBO will need to address issues like financial governance, risk and security, compliance, vendor management and project oversight. And the IT team is not usually capable of addressing all of these issues without assistance.

5. Do your sums

You know that the cloud should be good for business – but can you quantify those benefits? Cloud platforms may allow you to switch from capital expenditure (CapEx) to operational expenditure (OpEx) models, but you may not see any dramatic reduction in overall costs. Instead you will need to quantify the other benefits of cloud computing. How much will we save when we don’t have to buy redundant capacity for future growth? How much will we save outsourcing management of hardware, software and networking to a cloud provider? What are the risks and associated costs – and are they shared with our partners? Are we seeing measurable productivity gains? TCO is hard to calculate when dealing with cloud operating models. But you will never properly understand whether you are receiving value for money if you don’t do the sums.

6. Obtain resources

A ‘lift and shift’ cloud migration could probably be completed by your existing IT team. Simply replicating your onsite infrastructure in the cloud will also replicate the problems and issues you are trying to solve, however. Instead you need to re-engineer systems to run in the infrastructure as code model. This will require skills and experience you probably don’t have in house. You will need a partner who can supply the relevant resources to make the migration a success – at speed.

7. Stay informed

Cloud technology continues to evolve at warp speed. We’ve gone from dedicated hosted hardware to virtual servers to containers and infrastructure as code in a matter of years. And the pace of change continues to accelerate. Your CBO will need to stay informed about these developments and how they can be used to help your business reach its strategic goals.

Take your time

As you can see, moving to the cloud is an involved, time-consuming process. These seven best practice tips will help map out the start of your cloud journey, but you must allocate sufficient time and resources to the process; shortcuts will inevitably compromise the success of your project. And don’t forget – the partners you choose to help steer a course through the multitude of options will also be vital. Their knowledge and experience will help you avoid the pitfalls that have caught your competitors in the past. Ready to start your cloud journey? Give the WTL team a call for friendly informal discussion.

Useful Links

Enterprise.nxt: Expert advice to help you get the most out of your cloud transformation

Return to work

The return to the office – a personal view

Who knew we’d be continuing the remote working theme, some 15 weeks after the start! We’re all too aware of how time flies, but the relative ease of our transition to the ‘office at home’ environment, has made the best part of this last four months ‘business as usual’ here in WTL.

For some, the move has been seamless, however for others, it’s been fraught with making the best use of a shared space and probably awkward at best! So whilst all of the above is true, I for one will be looking forward to the return date and all the comforts of the office space that comes with its familiar corners nooks and crannies, to strategically place files, folders and documents, knowing they will still be there, a day, a week or a month after, without the annoying search for them, post an anonymous tidy up!!

Heading towards normality seems painfully slow, but missing the office banter, favourite mug, colleagues on tap for a quick response, are just a few of the benefits that will flood back amongst many others and make it all worthwhile sometime soon.

Fingers tightly crossed for there to be no second spike in the pandemic, is what we’re all hoping for and so we massively acknowledge the fantastic effort and bravery, of the key workers across all sectors of the health services, the vital food supply chain industries and related distribution networks that keep our world moving and thriving – we thank you and many more, without reservation.

There are so many pieces of the ‘jigsaw’ to mention every area, suffice to say that each individual, in every business, has an important part to play in some respect! Every person at WTL has another person relying on his or her function to make ends meet. This is no different whether small, medium, large or enterprise, someone will be relying on someone else, for a result to be a success. Keep up your spirits and morale for everyone’s sake, but looking after yourself, your own well-being and mental health is the first priority.

NetApp all-flash

Optimise Oracle Workloads with NetApp all-flash Solutions

When it comes to choosing infrastructure to support your line-of-business Oracle databases, Oracle hardware seems the logical choice. But faced by evolving computing needs and shrinking IT budgets what are the alternatives. NetApp all-flash solutions provide a more than viable option to Oracle hardware – well worth considering as you plan the next phase of your infrastructure lifecycle.

Best in class performance

The headline benefit of NetApp all-flash technology is its superior performance. Capable of performing up to 1 million IOPS with latency of about 100 microseconds, NetApp systems are the fastest available – up to 20 times faster than traditional storage. With end-to-end flash arrays and NVMe, these scalable all-flash systems are capable of halving application response times. No other database platform – including Oracle – comes close in terms of performance.

Increasing flexibility and growth options

The hybrid infrastructure operating model solves several problems about latency and security – but the integration between on- and off-premise systems could be improved. NetApp brings the power and flexibility of cloud into the local data centre. The ONTAP data management software bundled with NetApp flash arrays allows you to dynamically allocate your database workloads for maximum performance-cost benefits. This includes pushing lower priority data to cheaper cloud storage to maintain local capacity. NetApp solutions also integrate neatly with Oracle management tools, greatly simplifying administration. Application-integrated workflows can be automated; you can provision and prototype with a single mouse-click in as little as eight seconds. NetApp all flash arrays are also ideal for rapid development and prototyping. FlexClone technology makes it possible to clone large data volumes in seconds. A thin provisioning mechanism means that the data records or files aren’t actually cloned until accessed or used, helping to constrain the physical storage requirements for your test applications.

Consistent and stable operations

NetApp all flash arrays have been engineered to deliver consistently high performance for database operations. They are also extremely reliable averaging just 31.5 seconds pause time per year – that’s 99.9999% availability. This reliability is essential for mission-critical Oracle workloads. Oracle database owners also benefit from SnapShot and SnapMirror technologies that automatically replicate data to prevent loss. Further protection is available using FlexClone to transfer databases to an active disaster recovery site – including the cloud. As well as databases operating at the core, data is protected at the core and in the cloud too.

Streamlined operations and cost savings

Customers using NetApp for Oracle report some significant benefits: fewer components, greater return on investment and a lower total cost of ownership. Estimates suggest time and effort savings of up to 90% compared with their existing solutions. By blurring the boundaries between on-premise and cloud, NetApp arrays make it easy to migrate workloads to wherever they are best suited. This helps to overcome issues of local capacity and avoid the need for costly investment in redundant physical storage.

A worthy alternative option

Thanks to its high performance and reliability, NetApp all flash storage is a credible platform for your most critical Oracle database applications. Factor in the integrated suite of ONTAP management apps and it is easy to see why NetApp users are able to realise such significant returns on their investments.

Useful Links

White Paper: Optimise Oracle Workloads with NetApp Solutions


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