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Citrix Summit 2019 from a Citrix Platinum Partner Point of View


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There are very few events throughout the year that get us super thrilled here at Cetus/instrato. Even fewer that we prepare for months before the actual event (aside from IPEXPO, which is a whole other story). But when it comes to Citrix Summit, held every January, we get very excited.

As a Citrix Platinum Partner, we stay on top of what’s going on in the Land of Citrix to make sure that we keep things fresh and up-to-date for our customers. And we’re absolutely blessed with two huge events a year to sink our teeth into; Summit and Synergy. We loved Citrix Synergy last May (and my god, we got some exciting updates on Citrix Workspace) and we’re still going on about it in our office. Of course, leaving the wet and windy UK for three days to fly to the US is a major bonus too!

As always, this year’s Summit is being held in Orlando, Florida, from the 7th to 9th of January- what a way to start the new year! Unlike Synergy, which is for customers as well as partners, Summit is only an event for partners, like Cetus, who promote and sell the Citrix Vision. And as always, we’re sending a little group of top Cetusites to go, explore and bring back the very best of Citrix.

The event is three days of inspiration, information and networking to bring the Citrix game to 100. Crazily, we’re expecting over 300 hours of training and hands-on learning, which we’ll be incorporating into all things Citrix when we get home. The event is a great way to build relationships with the biggest and brightest minds of Citrix experts and business leaders. From the opening keynote, which is always one of our favourite moments, to the breakout sessions, having those nagging questions answered at a Round Table, or just getting immersed in the hottest topics in the world of IT solutions in the Citrix Talks panel discussions, it’s going to be a crazy week. It’s events like Summit that inspire us to look to the future and adopt the latest and greatest ways of working.

One of the best things about being a Citrix Platinum Partner is the ability to really consolidate what we learn at Citrix Summit and Synergy into the huge projects that we work on. Having that foundation on which we can build our expertise is priceless, but a fair portrayal of how much we value Citrix itself as our partner. We know that having the title of Citrix Platinum Partner assures us that we’re in the best of hands, which means that our customers are, too.

When it comes to instrato, we work exclusively with Citrix and Microsoft Azure to get the optimal combination for a cloud deployment, so the fact that Microsoft will be attending makes our little cloud-enthused hearts flutter. In fact, cloud and cloud-based applications features heavily in the session previews, further strengthening its position as the future of IT. No doubt those sessions will be popular, including Citrix Talks to discuss cloud transformation projects.

You can be sure that, once we shake the jet lag, we’ll be incorporating all the latest updates and features into the solutions we design. If you want to hear a bit more about what you can expect from Citrix (and Cetus!) in 2019, have a chat with one of our Citrix Platinum Partner experts, and register for the Summit update events we’ll be hosting when we get back. We’ll see you then!

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Directors-9619Missy Beaudelot – Digital Marketing Executive
With a background in journalism and an interest in all things tech, Missy keeps our social media in check while monitoring our websites and developing our digital presence.

 

Blog, Cetus Solutions, Citrix, Cloud, IT Solutions, Our Upcoming Events, Technology, Uncategorized

Citrix Summit 2019 For Dummies


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There are myriads of reasons to go to different conventions throughout the year. The chance to network with the biggest in the industry and get the first look at the latest innovations and methods can be priceless. In fact, a lot of organisations often insist that they do better after having attending key summits, or that they get their new and existing customers reaching out to them for the inside scoop.

In the world of cloud and IT solutions, the annual Citrix Summit is the event of the year. Held in Orlando Florida (so it could essentially become a mini holiday if you plan ahead), it’s where anyone who is anyone in the industry will show face. Not to be mistaken for Citrix Synergy in May, which is for partners like us as well as customers- but just as exciting as Summit. I’ve written plenty about the Citrix Vision for Citrix Workspace this year already. When it comes to fighting for the revered places, it usually comes down to the same three people who get to go, year in year out, with no questions asked. But this year you’ve been chosen. Why? You’re not quite sure, but let’s not ask any questions (it’s very likely that someone is having an extended Christmas skiing holiday this year). Gulp. That means you need to make sure you’re not on the top of your game and not make a fool out of yourself. What’s the weather like in Florida? Is there a particular dress code? Are we allowed to look vendors in the eye? As Cetus are a Citrix Platinum Partner, we’ve been around the block a few times. That is, if the block is a year, and a few times is exactly ten. So, we’ve rubbed what braincells we have to bring you the ultimate guide to survive those three fabulous days at the beginning of January.

Prepare for everything- even the disasters
It’s always best to prepare well ahead of time to make sure that everything runs smoothly. Make sure you know what airport you’re flying to, and how to get to your accommodation. Don’t leave it to someone else on the team, chances are you’ll all rock up on the day and no one will have a clue- leaving you all potentially driving around the city in a dodgy taxi at midnight, starving and tired. We’ve all been there, and it’s not the best way to start the trip!

A few weeks before Summit, have a quick look on Twitter or Google for the hashtag (bonus tip: it’s #CitrixSummit). Another fabulous hashtag, that isn’t exactly reserved for Summit but will also work in this case, is #CitrixPartnerLove. Go crazy, tweet a bit and get involved in conversations on Twitter, hopefully you’ll get the chance to introduce yourself before you even arrive. That’s one less box to tick! Second bonus tip: pack extra underwear.

One of the most convenient ‘features’ of Citrix Summit, and by far the best advice a seasoned Summit-goer would tell you would be to download the Citrix Summit app. It has everything you could possibly need to survive the event including an interactive timetable.

Get your networking hat on
Networking is the name of the game at Summit. It’s an opportunity to meet with plenty of people in a wide range of roles. To be fair, facing a sea of industry leaders can be a pretty daunting experience, but it’s best not to stick to your little group of comrades. Try to arrive earlier on pre-reg day and ‘happen to run into’ someone with the same lanyard and strike up a conversation- what are they most looking forward to? What do they expect to hear about? Where are the ladies? You get the idea.

Conference with participants going to the same seminars and workshops as you. Keep that social media involved as you go, it’ll be a great way to engage in even more conversations, and also serves as a way to show your boss that you didn’t ditch to go to Disney World. It’s great to talk to people from other organisations with more experience than you as well. As a Citrix Platinum Partner, we’re always having a chat with other UK-based companies. Also, big Citrix leaders will be mingling throughout the Summit, so make sure to keep your eyes peeled and prepare a good opening line to catch their attention. “The colour of that suit absolutely compliments the success you’ve had this year” is my favourite example. And most importantly of all, make sure that you say yes to every opportunity that arises!

Evaluate your daily strategy
The main problem with Citrix Summit is that there’s just so much material being squeezed into only three days. You could spend an entire day just making sure that you make the most of every opportunity. Between keynotes, Learning Labs, workshops and the Certification Centre, there’s a whopping 300+ hours of content, training and hands-on learning to get your teeth into. Before heading over to Florida, prepare a potential schedule for every day. Every morning, re-evaluate what you’ve already learned and what sessions could potentially be a reiteration, giving you more time to book in an extra session, Learning Lab or networking opportunity.

It’s always good to get goals, and it’s no different at Summit. What do you want to achieve from attending? What expert do you want to hear from? Is there an organisation attending that you’ve been looking into lately? Is there a topic that you could just use that extra bit of info on? Make sure to keep these in mind when you’re plodding through the days- it’s important to keep an eye on the bigger picture.

Dealing with post-Summit blues
We absolutely love Citrix Summit. In fact, pretty much anything Citrix-related gets us in a too-excited-to-sleep kind of mood. As a Citrix Platinum Partner, we make sure that we’re on top of what’s new and exciting in the world of Citrix. We want to offer the very best to our customers, both new and existing, keeping them ahead of their competition and helping their growth. That’s why we’re hosting a workshop throughout the country in January to share the knowledge we received at Citrix Summit. Make sure to register today for your spot!

Speak to an expert

Directors-9619Missy Beaudelot – Digital Marketing Executive
With a background in journalism and an interest in all things tech, Missy keeps our social media in check while monitoring our websites and developing our digital presence.

 

Blog, Cloud Hosting, IT Solutions, News, Our Upcoming Events, Technology, Uncategorized, VMware

VMworld 2018 Keynote


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So here we are at VMworld 2018 in Barcelona for VMware’s 20th anniversary and the 10th annual VMworld in Europe. With just under 12,000 attendees, the relevance and importance of the VMware strategy in helping businesses of all sizes grow and transform is clear to see everywhere you go. Pat Gelsinger took to the stage to layout his views and VMware’s strategy highlights for the coming years. For those that have not made it to VMworld before, the main keynote is quite high level and is followed by a number of ‘showcase’ keynotes that focus on the core areas of the VMware portfolio such as Security, Hybrid Cloud and EUC etc.

Pat showed how VMware has constantly driven to help businesses bridge gaps between innovation silos and highlighted three key ‘acts’ in the VMware history:
1. Server virtualisation
2. BYO/EUC
3. Networking
The message that organisations need to deliver both profit, as well as look after its people was clear; a fully engaged workforce will lead to innovation and transformation, which will lead to a more profitable business.

Technology should be a force for good in the world and that is what VMware is driving for in everything it does (The Mercy Ships case study was very powerful). Pat spoke about four tech superpowers in the world today (Cloud, Mobile, AI/ML, and Edge/IoT) and how each of them reinforces and drives the others. VMware sees the application as a network that requires an end-to-end platform to enable it. The VMware vision image below has been consistent across four core strategies for a number of years now;
• Modernise Datacenter
• Integrate Public Cloud
• Empower Digital Workspaces
• Transform Networking and Security
The ability for an organisation to deploy hybrid cloud and digital workspace solutions that are integrated from a single vendor drives simplification and reduces costs.

vmworld 1.jpg

At Cetus our mission is to help our customers deliver on their strategic mission by delivering hybrid cloud and secure digital workspace solutions, we believe that every organisation must embrace technology as a force for change and transformation. The VMware portfolio from vSphere to NSX onto Workspace One and out to Vmware on AWS means we can deliver on our mission from a single integrated technology stack.

There were a wealth of announcements in the keynotes, and while I’m not going to try and cover them all here, I just wanted to pick a few highlights.

Security
Pat talked about how the security solutions we deploy today are broken, as bolt-on options that are chasing a bad situation without a fundamental shift in protection levels. This is shown by record spending on security solutions, and also a record number of breaches.

VMware started to address this with NSX, moving the security enforcement from the North/South boundaries to cover the bulk of East/West traffic, and as such the micro-segmentation market emerged. While this takes security to a new level, it is still based on set policies and known interactions between services within the datacenter. VMware is taking this to the next level with the introduction of vSphere Platinum Edition that integrates the app defence solution into the vSphere licence. The combination of AppDefense and NSX allows VMware to deliver what it has now coined ‘Adaptive Segmentation’, allowing admins to deliver a step change in the security paradigm. The Adaptive Segmentation concept follows three key steps:
• Learn
• Lock
• Adapt

Rather than chasing after threats, AppDefense learns an application’s intended state and behaviour, then monitors for changes to this state that indicates a threat. When a threat is detected, AppDefense can automatically respond. Leveraging this known ‘good state’ allows policy to lock down the datacenter (NSX offering network-level automation) and then adapt as needed to changes in state. This deep integration allows for a shift in the overall security paradigm.

The focus on security across the VMware portfolio is really beginning to shine and deliver real value for customers.

Any Cloud
All businesses are on a journey to a hybrid/multi-cloud world and the need to automate and secure this transformation is key. VMware is innovating in both the datacentre and EUC spaces to ensure this journey is seamless, secure and cost-effective for all.

In the datacenter space, the need for a seamless path to and from cloud/on-premises is the key to allowing an organisation to unlock the power of its investment in infrastructure services. The ability to deploy to either on-premises or cloud and move between them seamlessly as costs and needs evolve ensures IT can meet businesses’ needs at all times. This needs to be enabled via a ruthless drive for automation, which the announcements of VMware Cloud Foundation 3.5 addresses by ensuring that enterprise IT teams can deploy private cloud with the same management and automation as cloud. Cloud Foundation underpins the hybrid cloud, both on-premises and as part of VMware on AWS- truly enabling this seamless hybrid cloud. With new VMware on AWS regions opening over the next 6-9 months, the reach will be truly global. Checkout my follow up blog from the datacenter showcase keynote for more details.

The message was clear that the future of cloud infrastructure will be hybrid and that VMware has delivered a true end-to-end solution. The acquisition and integration of Cloud Health extends this capability by providing a cloud operations platform that allows customers to understand costs and compliance across multiple clouds.

Any App
The Workspace One solution has been the stable leader in the MDM space for many years and over the last couple has evolved into a complete UEM (unified endpoint management) solution that supports mobile, Mac, Windows and Chrome end points. Providing users a simple, consistent and secure access method for all applications and data on any device, while ensuring that IT retain control of the full lifecycle of the devices. One big announcement was a joint partnership with OKTA to extend the Workspace One Identity Management solution and provide full user/device lifecycle management and automation. IT can now truly step away from the job of deploying endpoints, allowing technology to provide a simple user-driven workflow.

Enhancements to the Workspace One solution continues to demonstrate this market-leading position. Look out for my follow up blog from the EUC showcase keynote covering items Like Workspace One Intelligence and what COPE stands for.

So this ran on a bit longer that I expected; lots to talk about in what was actually a rather uneventful keynote by VMware’s standards. Most of this due to them splitting out 6 ‘showcase’ keynotes over the two days that focus deeper into the entire proposition. Stay tuned for follow up posts from more sessions. In the meantime, we’re delighted to announce a free webinar on the key takeaways from VMworld that I’ll be hosting. Register here to get all the highlights from VMware and what to expect in 2019.

Register for the webinar

Blog, Cetus Solutions, Cloud, Cloud Hosting, IT Solutions, Our Upcoming Events, Technology, Uncategorized

Hybrid Cloud Orchestration pt 2: Hyperconvergence


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And we’re back! Who’s ready for Hybrid Cloud Orchestration part two?? If you’re not in the know (hey, we have a handy Twitter that you can follow to keep up to date with all of our blog posts), I was challenged a couple of weeks back to write a blog post on the elusive topic of hybrid cloud orchestration. After some grumbling, hair-pulling and half the day chain smoking in the sunshine, I finally got into the mood*. Surprisingly, orchestration wasn’t something completely made up by one of our alabaster techies who live in the server room**. It is an actual thing, and it’s a cool one too. I got a bit too excited with it and decided that splitting it into two posts would be nicer for everyone involved. So here we go, hybrid cloud orchestration and hyperconvergence. Go grab a coffee/tea, sit back and do try to contain your excitement.

Quick flashback to part one (for those of you who didn’t do your homework- I see you); in a nutshell, hybrid cloud orchestration is the answer to complexity. Too many sheep, not enough fences is the basic idea. Cloud enablement, if you want something more technical. More organisation, less panicking. Your IT team just needs to throw single sign on, MFA, mobility management and automated hybrid cloud provisioning at it and the complexity should all go away. Kind of. I’d recommend having a chat with one of our experts before you go throw anything anywhere though.

So, what’s the story with hyperconvergence? It’s a fairly new trend, combining compute, storage and networking in a software-driven appliance. Like orchestration, its main goal is to reduce complexity, so they’re a match made in heaven, really. It also adds greater levels of automation. The thing with orchestration is that with time it can be moulded into an effective solution. Hyperconvergence is a bit more elegant, providing practical solutions for organisations who want to manage and scale their own hardware from in-house. Don’t get me wrong, hybrid cloud orchestration is amazing. I don’t know why every IT solutions organisation doesn’t employ someone to shout it from the rooftops. However, while it is fantastic, it doesn’t provide the same level of technical infrastructure as hyperconvergence.

When it comes to the private cloud bit of hybrid cloud; hyperconvergence is another way approaching hybrid cloud orchestration. It eliminates the need for local hypervisor maintenance, or thinking about the hardware compatibility by installing on metal. It allows the customer to manage their local resources just like any other cloud resource, while also abolishing the need for disordered orchestration tools that are scattered across your infrastructure. Combining orchestration and hyperconvergence reduces time-intensive deployments for your engineers, removing the issue of virtualisation compatibility between old and new hardware.

If talking cloud and hyperconvergence excites you, you’ll be delighted to know that we’re hosting several cloud events with Citrix and Microsoft Azure in September. You’re more than welcome to join us, the more the merrier- just make sure to register today!

*Grumbling, hair pulling and chain smoking is for comedic effect, I LOVE MY JOB!
**I’m running out of techie stereotypes, sorry.

Directors-9619Missy Beaudelot – Digital Marketing Executive
With a background in journalism and an interest in all things tech, Missy keeps our social media in check while monitoring our websites and developing our digital presence.

Blog, Citrix, Cloud, IT Solutions, Our Upcoming Events, Technology, Uncategorized

The Importance of Analytics


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For a lot of people, analytics can be boring. When you have something like a hybrid cloud solution, you just want it to work and let you get on with what you need to do. Monitoring and responding to security and performance issues are important, but can be tedious. And let’s face it, if something is tedious, chances are you’re just going to put it on the long finger and hope that the last half an hour of the work day will be enough to get it sorted. To help with all this, let me introduce you to Citrix Application Delivery Management.

NetScaler is a highly intuitive piece of software, providing centralised network management, automation, analytics, orchestration (not quite sure about hybrid cloud orchestration? I’ve already written a great blog on the subject)…. All of these tools can help you to support the various applications deployed across your hybrid cloud and containerised infrastructures. You might find yourself asking these questions; is whatever Alan is doing on the network any different from what he would normally be doing? Does a particular workload normally speak to this other workload? Has user experience changed over time? What applications and data are being used the most? These are all questions that, for one reason or another, can be important to ask. With Citrix Cloud Analytics, our clients can ask these important questions (and plenty more). By deploying Application Delivery Management, it is possible to gain a deeper insight into what is happening in your hybrid cloud environment.

The world of business is ever-changing and always innovative. There are new and cool apps appearing every day, promising to not only make your tasks easier, but also keep you customers happy. That’s why it’s so important to embrace digital transformation. This digital transformation is changing the way that applications, much like the ones you use every day, are being developed and deployed. The last thing you want is application downtime, since it will cost you money, and lots of it. One of the biggest innovations in the world of tech? You guessed it; cloud. This wonderful, futuristic phenomenon allows the much more simplistic deployment of applications and data centres. And Citrix Application Delivery Management will help you to embrace all of the possibilities of cloud to make that big job of analytics as easy as possible. Who knows, you might be able to actually go on holiday for once and leave the crucial job of monitoring to your assistant. I swear, it’s possible.

There have been so many changes in recent years in application architectures, which have been prompting the need for changes in application delivery services technology. With increasing demands, applications have become much more complex, which results in more complicated availability and troubleshooting. Add in the cloud, and all of this becomes more difficult. Thankfully, Citrix Application Delivery Management is here to meet the needs of your IT team. We’re all trying to move to transform our IT infrastructures by moving to cloud. And with that, Application Delivery Management  provides much more control and visibility.

Citrix Application Delivery Management allows you to proactively manage user and application security threats, improve application performance and support continuous operations through actionable insights collected across Citrix offerings. It has been enhanced to provide valuable insight into the performance and security of your application delivery infrastructure from an application perspective, defining how they map onto the ADC configuration. This makes it easier for you to determine the state of an application, and therefore use an application-centric approach to easily collaborate with application owners. With its new application health score, Application Delivery Management summarises how well an application is performing based on an industry-standard APDEX scoring. This allows you to investigate instances of user satisfaction as well as other performance metrics and assessments of security threats.

If you’re looking for seamless integration with many leading orchestration platforms that you deploy to automate your data centre infrastructure, NetScaler has it all. More and more data centres are moving towards the cloud, working towards a fully SaaS-based infrastructure model (and I bet yours is too). With that, automating all of those supporting services will become more important. Citrix Application Delivery Management is API-driven, enabling orchestration and analytics across a lot of third-party platforms. It also allows easy management and orchestration of containerised services as well as automating NetScaler lifecycle management and provisioning. That’s a lot of automation that should make your life that much easier. You’re welcome.

Citrix and cloud go hand in hand, and we’re delighted to announce that we’ve teamed up with Citrix and Microsoft Azure as part of our upcoming workshops. Make sure to register today discover how to leverage the cloud to boost your organisation. Only three more weeks to go!

Directors-9619Missy Beaudelot – Digital Marketing Executive
With a background in journalism and an interest in all things tech, Missy keeps our social media in check while monitoring our websites and developing our digital presence.

 

Blog, Cetus Solutions, Cloud, IT Solutions, Our Upcoming Events, Technology, Uncategorized

Hybrid Cloud Orchestration pt 1: How it Works


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What?
You’d be scratching your head with all the fancy terms in the techie world. There are terms for everything you could think of; and plenty more that, quite frankly, you wouldn’t. In today’s episode of ‘Enhancing Your Vocabulary to Look More Knowledgeable in Front of Your Boss’, we’re talking about the fun that is Hybrid Cloud Orchestration. What is it? We’re about to find out. Do you need to know? Probably not, but we may as well discuss it so you can use it as extravagant conversation filler during meetings.

In ‘Explain Like I’m Five’ terms, hybrid cloud orchestration is cloud enablement. Imagine a hill, on which there is a flock of sheep. They’re all wandering about like the happy fluffy things they are. One will die, another will wander over for the greener grass from another hill and join the flock. To anyone wandering around the countryside on a nice Sunday walk, they won’t see anything wrong. Sheep, check. Hill, check. Everything’s hunky-dory. To the shepherd though, it’s all panic systems go. The sheep are everywhere, they’re dying off, new ones are joining the flock and none of them are tagged. It’s a disaster. What the shepherd needs is a field, a couple of fences. Something small, contained and organised. In this story, in case you haven’t figured it out, the sheep are applications like Office 365, the hill walkers are the user and the poor, panicked shepherd is the IT department.

Essentially, cloud orchestration is organising all of your applications and data- whether they’re on premises, in Azure, in a separate Salesforce application or Office 365 cloud by themselves- and make them easier to manage. End users won’t notice any difference, but IT departments will basically spend the rest of their careers on an in-office holiday. Hooray! That being said, it doesn’t mean that your IT department will become defunct. While it is estimated that by 2020 the typical SMB organisation will have deployed over 75% of their business applications to SaaS, in-house IT will need to evolve to cope with a largely SaaS-based application estate. At the moment, your organisation is working on an average of 17 SaaS applications, but by 2020 you’re going to be looking at 20. That’s 20 SaaS applications that need to be set up, protected from unauthorised access and use, along with all the other day-to-day administration bits that go along with them. Sounds like a handful, doesn’t it? But with cloud orchestration, poof, and the problem disappears. Your IT department can resume discussing their theories on reprogramming people and how much they hate sunlight. Sorted.

Yes, but how does it work?
Good question, because who would take my word on the ability to just eliminate work like magic? We’re big fans of Citrix here at Cetus and instrato, and we’re even bigger fans of their industry-leading NetScaler ADC that we use to make cloud orchestration possible. It doesn’t matter what kind of mess you’ve made of your hybrid cloud architecture; with this deployment and our amazing team of solution architects, we can create a simple Software Defined Network (SDN) architecture that sorts it all out.
Single sign on. Simple, effective and what end users dream about. No need to faff about with forty different passwords that all go out of date at different times of the month; just one easy-to-remember sign on and now half the day isn’t wasted by everyone involved by constantly requesting new passwords.

MFA. I hate acronyms, but I like this one. Multi-factor authentication. No, it’s not the same as single sign on. It’s close enough, just with few more steps; something you know (i.e. your password), something you have (your smartphone, one-time passcode etc.) and something you are (your fingerprint, retina scan or voice recognition- how futuristic is that? Imagine starting your day like you’re in Minority Report).

Mobility management is essentially the behind-the-scenes of ‘mobile workspaces’. It’s the glue that connects the mobile end user to the in-house IT team, helping to get the right balance between actual mobility and freedom, and the security to allow that freedom. Users expect to be able to work from anywhere on any device, but this can be a real headache for the IT department, especially if there’s a BYOD culture in the office. Mobility management solutions help to reduce the amount of administration that’s required, along with improving security without needing to go through each and every device that the user intends to work with.

Automated hybrid cloud provisioning sounds way too complicated for something so simple. It’s basically an automation that manages the cost effectiveness of the cloud deployment. Imagine a workload on Azure. The automated hybrid cloud provisioning can intelligently monitor the workload, and automatically move it on-prem if it can see that it would be cheaper or faster. See, simples.

As this took far longer than I thought, and there’s just so much more to say about hybrid cloud orchestration, be on the lookout for a part two, where I’ll fill you in on orchestration and hyperconvergence. Does that not sound like the best fun?

Expect to hear more of hybrid cloud orchestration, it’s definitely going to become a big thing. The challenges associated with it don’t negate the usefulness of orchestration, and if you’re looking at- or already have- cloud it’s something you should seriously consider to help ease your organisation’s automation. Luckily, we’re experts when it comes to all things cloud, so these challenges are minor blips.

If you want to learn more, come to our Citrix and Microsoft Azure workshop this September to see how it can help you conquer the power of hybrid cloud.

Directors-9619Missy Beaudelot – Digital Marketing Executive
With a background in journalism and an interest in all things tech, Missy keeps our social media in check while monitoring our websites and developing our digital presence.

Blog, Cloud Hosting, IT Solutions, Microsoft, Our Upcoming Events, Uncategorized

A Brief History of Azure


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You’d be hard pressed to imagine a modern world without Microsoft Azure. Since 2010, it has graced many a cloud strategy, promising to deliver an ever-expanding set of cloud services to help meet organisations’ business challenges. It’s safe to say that it provides full freedom to build, manage and deploy applications on a large scale, using plenty of tools and frameworks to achieve it. The inner workings of Azure were already in the planning stages in 2005. Hoping to bring disruption to internet services, Ray Ozzy, Chief Technical Officer and Chief Software Architect at Microsoft, insisted that Azure would bring “the effectiveness of a new delivery and adoption model” that would also create “the demand for compelling, integrated user experiences that ‘just work’.” 13 years later, and eight years after being released into the public domain, Azure has done just that.

When it comes to cloud computing, Microsoft offers all of the main categories that interest organisations; Software as a Service (SaaS), Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) and Platform as a Service (PaaS). Microsoft, being Microsoft, has had every opportunity to innovate, diversify and establish Azure as a top-level fixture in the industry. Announced in October 2008 with codename ‘Project Red Dog’, it wasn’t always one of the Big Players in the world of cloud. Microsoft intended on launching a total of five key categories of cloud services, with Azure in the hot seat for compute, storage and networking; while incorporating Microsoft SQL Services for databases; .NET Services for developers, Live Services for filesharing and Microsoft SharePoint Services and Microsoft Dynamics CRM Services for SaaS offerings.

Take yourself back to 2010. It was the year that brought so many highs and lows for the country; Lady Gaga’s Bad Romance, the engagement announcement of Prince William and Kate Middleton, and the brutal loss for England to host the 2018 World Cup (which evidently went to Russia). Originally called Windows Azure, it provided a service platform for SQL Services, .Net services and Live Services. Back then, the ‘cloud’ was a semi-obscure idea that some couldn’t really get their heads around. Honestly, the internet was a wacky idea in the 90s but in 2010 we’d largely accepted it as a fundamental human right, so being able to store data and access apps online wasn’t much of a stretch. But anyway. Because of that slight doubt, Azure didn’t know it, but it was on the cusp of a technological revolution- and it was at the right place at the right time to reap the rewards.

Unfortunately, in 2011 Azure had a slight hiccup. Still in its infancy, the documentation describing Azure services and capabilities was deemed incomprehensible, and its web-based interface was difficult to use. Thankfully, in May 2011 Scott Guthrie, former Corporate Vice President of the .Net platform at Microsoft, took over the Azure Application Platform team in order to shake things up a little and make some improvements. And he did! The user interface that was formerly a Silverlight application was changed to a HTML5 web portal, which improved things drastically and made the whole platform feel more like a systematised set of services. Adding support for quite a wide variety of programming languages, frameworks and operating systems (including, surprisingly, Linux) propelled Azure into a new, more innovative age. By 2014, Azure had made significant leaps in user experience. Becoming a cloud platform known for being robust and comprehensive for IaaS and PaaS cloud computing models. By continuing to expand its cloud capabilities, it has increased its support for open source software, making Azure the first choice for organisations that don’t even run Windows. In the years that followed, Azure has gone from strength to strength, developing significantly since 2008. The platform has seen only a few major outages in its history, creating an impressive reputation of reliability in a world where even five minutes of downtime can mean hundreds of thousands in loss of profits for organisations.

Back to 2018; Microsoft Azure enjoys a very mature, stable and reliable reputation as a secure public cloud provider, holding the title of second-largest IaaS and PaaS provider (behind Amazon Web Services) in the world. We are proud to work with Microsoft, obviously a huge name in the world of IT in its own right, but also with Azure. We regularly incorporate the platform as part of a business challenge solution as its flexibility and dependability are second to none. We hope this blog post has piqued your interest in the opportunities that Azure can open. Luckily, we are hosting a series of cloud workshops as part of instrato, where our experts will discuss how to leverage the power of cloud to get you on your cloud journey.

Register today to see how Citrix and Microsoft Azure can help you
on your cloud journey

Directors-9619Missy Beaudelot – Digital Marketing Executive
With a background in journalism and an interest in all things tech, Missy keeps our social media in check while monitoring our websites and developing our digital presence.

Blog, Cetus Solutions, Check Point, Cloud, IT Solutions, Our Upcoming Events, Security, VMware

WannaCry: What We’ve Learned One Year On


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It felt like the world was held to ransom. All over the globe – an astounding 150 countries in fact -, little red boxes popped up on computer screens, causing dread and havoc. ‘Ooops, your files have been encrypted!’ they read, asking for between $300 and $600 (£230 to £470) in bitcoin for the safe release of the files. On Friday May 12th 2017 nations of the world collectively gasped as these faced the most devastating and widespread cyber security incident at that time. Over 200,000 machines were affected, with the perpetrators scamming over $112,000.

In Britain, the NHS was hit the hardest. The little red WannaCry pop-up appeared at 1pm on the screens of only four trusts, demanding the ransom. By 4pm, when the ‘kill switch’ was accidentally found, it had spread to 16 trusts. The cyber-attack threat was officially ‘stepped down’ by NHS England a week later, but not before the affected reached a staggering 80 out of 236 hospital trusts as well as 603 primary care and affiliate NHS organisations. Public health in the UK was seriously affected, since the ransomware attack resulted in thousands of cancelled appointments, infected systems and the diversion of A&E patients to other hospitals.

In hindsight, and a little bit of digging, it was a disaster waiting to happen. The NHS had been warned as far back as 2014 that their level of cyber security just wouldn’t cut it. With a failure to undertake the most basic of IT security procedures, which included patching and updating software, as well as not putting a strategy in place to properly deal with a cyber security incident, it’s a miracle that it didn’t happen sooner. But it was a huge wake-up call, not only to the NHS but to businesses globally. No longer would cyber security rest on the hopes of a flimsy firewall that hadn’t been updated in several years – this is a real risk, with significant consequences. So, in the year since WannaCry, what exactly have we learned?

It’s horrifying to think that WannaCry was a Gen-V cyber threat, while according to Check Point’s Cyber Security Generations Survey from March 2018, only 10% of IT security professionals are at Gen-IV and, worse still, only 3% are at Gen-V.

According to a recent report by cyber security firm Tanium, most organisations would still be unprepared should another incident like WannaCry happen again. The survey of 500 frontline IT security workers in the UK is shocking; 40% admit that their organisation is even more exposed than last year. Only 31% confessed that their organisation had invested in new security systems since WannaCry. As I stated already slightly higher up, it was basic IT security procedures that were the gateway for WannaCry, yet a staggering 66% of the IT security workers admitted that they still hadn’t improved their patch management process.

The results are definitive; it’s time to start safeguarding against further, potentially more devastating, cyber-attacks.

It’s all about the patching
WannaCry sneaked through a Windows weakness where there was a lack of security. Shockingly, it had been discovered and there had been a patch for the offending loophole two months before the attack. I know having to update is a major pain, but guys, it just needs to be done. WannaCry was a Microsoft Windows ransomware, a software that locked the files by encrypting them. This particular ransomware was particularly nasty because it was network enabled, which allowed it to essentially spread like a virus throughout not only the local network, but the internet as well. What your organisation needs right now is a patch management solution in place to patch for known vulnerabilities as soon as they arise, so that no little malware buggers can infiltrate your systems.

Backup, backup again, and verify
Had your organisation been hit with the WannaCry malware and you’d had all of your data backed up, you’d have been laughing – for the most part. Regardless of encrypting malware potentially hitting you, backups are critical for all things disaster recovery and business continuity. Whether it be tape or cloud (like Cetus Continuum), all of your data needs to be replicated somewhere safe. Regardless of where you store it (and we really do suggest cloud), it should all be encrypted. Security is, after all of this, a priority.

Use all of the threat intelligence and prevention
If you haven’t heard, micro-segmentation is really in right now. Which is really great in the face of cyber security. Life may be like a box of chocolates, but your data centre needs to be more like a hotel and protect itself from east/west traffic. This next point is important; invest in some good threat intelligence and threat security. At the moment, we’re working with Check Point and VMware to highlight how merging Infinity and NSX can create the ideal security solution to protect you.

Figure out where you stand with a security posture review
There are hundreds of ways to fall foul of a cyber-attack in this day and age. With work no longer confined to the office, mobile workspaces have become all the rage – and for good reasons. Being able to work while on the field instead of having to wait to get back to the office, being able to work from home, or just simply being able to sort out an urgent matter when on holiday is revolutionary. And everyone’s trying to get into it. However, using some random Wi-Fi is always a risk. Honestly, you’ve not lived until you stand outside an O2 store trying to rob a second of Wi-Fi to send an email. In the rain. But how secure is that? A security posture review is essential to identify where your security has slipped. And it just so happens that we offer complimentary security posture reviews, where we analyse network traffic to detect a variety of security threats, evaluate end-point security, assess any threats that lurk in your infrastructure as well as other crucial little things. Have a chat with our experts to see where the danger can find a way in.

One thing is for definite; cyber security has never been so important, and making sure that your IT reflects that is the way to protect yourself as much as possible from an attack. It’s important to be proactive in your cyber security, or you’ll be reacting to a security breach instead.

Speak to an expert

Directors-9619Missy Beaudelot – Digital Marketing Executive
With a background in journalism and an interest in all things tech, Missy keeps our social media in check while monitoring our websites and developing our digital presence.

Blog, Cetus Solutions, Cloud, IT Solutions, Our Upcoming Events, Technology, Uncategorized

Minimising That Pesky Cloud Sprawl


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It’s one of the biggest challenges facing organisations when it comes to virtualisation; cloud sprawl. Unfriendly work portals and slow loading of documents would easily lead a whole department to seek an easier, faster way of sharing files and getting work done. And it’s a nightmare.

Picture this; you’ve just installed a new IT solution to connect the whole company. Now your employees can work from home, from a café, and sort out an urgent matter while on holiday. It’s simple to share large documents between each other. Everything is safe and secure, stored on company servers where you have full control over what data you have, who can access it, and where it goes. Except the whole system is a shambles. It’s not user friendly, employees have to spend minutes waiting to load simple documents, and everyone is just sick of it.

It’s easy for your employees to get caught up in the hype of cloud; once you start thinking about it, why wouldn’t the future be cloud-first? The result; they start storing sensitive files in free ‘cloud systems’; Google Drive, Dropbox and anything else that takes their fancy. It’s a GDPR nightmare.

We are talking about unregulated and unapproved cloud solutions that are used; from CRM to email to marketing automation to document storage. The consequence of these poorly managed, end-user cloud solutions and deployments results in redundant, fractured and inefficient cloud systems – and your IT department has no control over them. It’s an issue, and one that needs attention as soon as possible. So how do you go about minimising that pesky cloud sprawl?

Survey your applications
First of all, it’s crucial that you survey all of the applications and resources that your employees use to do their jobs. There are a lot, from Office 365 to Sharefile to SalesForce, and every other application under the sun. It’s important that these systems are accounted for. Administration access is another factor that needs to be refined. Often, too many employees have administrative access to your applications, making changes without the knowledge or consent of those who manage the whole lot – your IT department. Only a handful of employees should have access, and work closely with IT to approve changes following formal requests for new cloud resources.

Define your administrative role to virtual and cloud resources
Too many administrators are a big issue when it comes to virtual machines and cloud sprawl. Passwords, administration access, big ideas; when there are too many people trying to have their say and work semi-independently on a project, it’s easy to start getting confused. Assign a cloud sprawl manager to keep everything in check by managing the cloud that you have created. We’re talking no more of that crazy clutter that was taking up space in your physical data centre and the costs associated with it will be monitored, too. It’s just that easy.

Just as important is your actual cloud solution. Regardless of whether you’re considering public, private or hybrid, the trick is to avoid pre-packaged, one-size-fits-all cloud solutions. Your business is unique. It’s definitely worth your while to get an IT solution designed on the number of employees in your company and what you actually need out of your cloud solution. At Cetus Solutions, designing, building and supporting secure application and delivery platforms to fit your needs is our speciality.

Speak to one of our experts today to see how we can help you make the most of cloud.

Directors-9619Missy Beaudelot – Digital Marketing Executive
With a background in journalism and an interest in all things tech, Missy keeps our social media in check while monitoring our websites and developing our digital presence.

Blog, Cetus Solutions, IT Solutions, Our Upcoming Events, Security, Uncategorized, VMware

When ‘Traditional’ Approaches to Security Are No Longer Enough…


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Security attacks are without doubt increasing in sophistication and frequency. With the average time to detect a breach over 200 days(!) the damage an attack could cause is frightening… Simultaneously, for many organisations their IT infrastructure and networks are becoming increasingly complex – with 83% of businesses believing the complexity of their organisational structures and IT infrastructure is putting their companies at even greater risk for security breaches.

In recent years, the number of high-profile data breaches compromising sensitive information has continued to rise. Although breaches were achieved in different ways, the majority exposed the fundamental weakness of the perimeter-centric network security model: after all, once the perimeter is breached, it is difficult to stop threats from moving laterally (east-west) throughout the data centre. These attacks have proven that investing in perimeter firewalls is insufficient and that more investment is needed to secure east-west (server-to-server) traffic.

One solution is virtualisation. Virtualisation abstracts the underlying infrastructure from the applications running on top of it, giving IT departments full visibility into the data path. Abstracting applications from the infrastructure provides the ideal enforcement point to compartmentalise applications through micro-segmentation of the network. This allows simplified security-policy creation and management. It also helps reduce the overall application infrastructure attack surface and provides the ability to effectively prevent threats from breaching the data centre. Leveraging abstraction in the data centre also protects the infrastructure from any compromise.

In our attempt to help more organisations improve their security posture, we are proud to announce that last year Cetus Solutions earned VMware’s highly sought-after specialist competency in Network Virtualisation. VMware, who pioneered the term software-defined data center (SDDC), awarded Cetus with the accolade after demonstrating technical competency, experience and expertise in delivering NSX solutions.

VMware NSX is the network virtualization and security platform for the software-defined data center. VMware NSX brings security inside the data center with fine grained policies tied to the virtual machine they protect. Essentially, with NSX, IT departments can programmatically create, snapshot, store, move, delete, and restore entire networks with the same point-and-click simplicity and speed of a virtual machine—delivering a level of security, agility, and availability never before feasible with hardware-centric or traditional operational approaches.

Our Managing Director, Mike English, had a few words on the achievement;

“We are delighted to have secured the Network Virtualisation competency from VMware. In the last twelve months, we have seen an uplift in conversations centred around data center security and particularly micro-segmentation. VMware NSX’s capabilities makes this level of protection economically and operationally feasible for the first time for a lot of customers. By gaining this competency, it shows our commitment to helping customers define, deliver and manage their security strategy in line with their business requirements.”

With the threat landscape increasing ‘traditional’ security approaches are failing to effectively secure a modern organisation. Now is the time to revaluate your approach to security. Our free-of-charge security posture review will provide you an opportunity to discuss your endpoint security challenges, as well as your wider cyber security posture with regards to perimeter, data centre and cloud components.

Speak to an expert