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Navigate Hybrid Cloud Complexity With VMware NSX


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Chances are, if you’ve been thinking about cloud, or you’ve started on your cloud journey, you’ve heard about hybrid cloud. It’s becoming the future of not only the IT departments that run the organisations, but the very culture and fabric of the organisation itself. Employees can no longer afford to be sitting in an office all day; the very definition of a lot of roles requires the flexibility and fluidity of working remotely. With that, organisations are having to modify and modernise along with this new wave of thinking. IT has had to move away from centralised data centres to a model where applications and data are mobile and easily distributed. In the race to stay relevant and dynamic, many organisations have taken the leap from managing a single data centre to adopting cloud- which usually involves more than one. But the trick with all of this digital transformation is meeting the needs of users without jeopardising security. Having so many clouds can be tricky. We’ve already discussed the issue of cloud sprawl storing data all over the place, which makes it somewhat of a challenge to identify it all and ensure that it remains secure.

Cloud promises so much. Remote working, secure storage, content collaboration, scalability, flexibility…. Plenty of yummy buzzwords that organisations want to achieve. Though, they have quickly realised that it’s not as easy as it looks, especially when it comes to incorporating and managing multiple clouds. And it’s not that they’re foolish or unprepared; deploying cloud can be a significant nightmare, full of terrors and bumps in the road, and sometimes it’s just not possible to foresee the need for something until you’re too far gone. In the haste to join the Cool Cloud group (who wouldn’t, there are badges), many organisations just didn’t have the time to address the divergent expectations and demands on IT and the business, leading to misalignment and a lot of frustration.

VMware solves the issue of the multi-cloud with their NSX solution. VMware has been a leader in the IT industry for decades, and is known for providing the modern network virtualisation solution that aligns business and IT around the same objectives, which is pretty important when IT is what drives your business. It’s comprised of several solutions that work together to create a well-rounded solution. NSX Data Centre reproduces your entire network model in software, making it easy for you to create and provision any network topology in seconds, whether they’re simple or complex multi-tier networks. It creates a common operating environment for all of your applications, either on-premises or off. A streamlined workflow is enabled by automation, meaning that you’ll be able to get more work done faster, with security that’s built-in and tied to your apps and data. NSX Cloud provides consistent networking and security for applications that run natively in public clouds, while delivering enterprise-class capabilities- just like micro-segmentation, to enable easy control over your east-west traffic. It results in precise control over your cloud networking and increases network visibility and analytics. NXS Hybrid Connect delivers secure, seamless application mobility and infrastructure hybridity on-premises and in the cloud. This provides high-performance, highly secure and optimised multi-site interconnects.

That all sounds fab, but what does it actually mean for you? What VMware NSX delivers is a unified platform, which is exactly what you want when you’re dealing with complex cloud environments. Since it’s a common operating environment, it provides a single point of control to break down silos and give you more freedom. It delivers high operational efficiency, eliminating manual network configuration and reconfiguration with its super smooth automation, which allows you to quickly grow or shrink applications across environments. With high workload mobility, NSX enables a fast, low-touch migration process that allows you to realise secure, seamless app mobility across all of your sites and clouds. And finally, with NSX technology, you can easily improve standardisation, by provisioning and managing networks and security services within a single management interface, for consistency and scale across all of your environments.

VMware is a leader in virtualisation, that buzzword you’ve been hearing about a lot but figured you’d look into it at another time. It has been a leader in enabling organisations to navigate multi-cloud complexity in this digital era. With the cloud freedom that it delivers, your IT and your organisation can become partners in innovating across clouds, without adding to cost and complexity. Here at Cetus, we love VMware, and we think that NSX is the bees knees (last year we earned VMware’s specialist competency in Network Virtualisation for our experience and expertise in delivering NSX)  If you want a bit of cloud freedom for yourself, make sure to have a chat with our experts, who love a good multi-cloud challenge.

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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, 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 keep up-to-date with what’s going on with Citrix, make sure to keep an eye on our events page where we regularly share workshops and webinars to keep you in the know!

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, Technology, Uncategorized

Busted! Top Cloud Security Myths


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In the lead-up panic to GDPR enforcement on the 25th of May, I thought I’d go ahead and clear up a few of the cloud security myths that have been knocking around lately. As it is, according to Steve Morgan in the Cybersecurity Business Report, malware is projected to cost the world a whopping six trillion dollars a year- and that’s by 2021. And with cloud hosting getting more popular by the day, it’s nice to know where your priorities should lie while you’re trying to sort out your GDPR compliance. So, here we go! I’m counting again (if you missed that disaster on reasons to move to cloud in 2018), so we’ll see how it goes.

1. The cloud is still a new concept, and is therefore insecure.
It’s been over fifty years since the idea of cloud became an actual thing. And it was around then that the distrust started surrounding the concept. It’s an understandable worry- data in your control is far safer; you know exactly where your data is, how it got there and who has access (in theory- but we’ll save that for a further point). The point is, the cloud isn’t new. Neither is encryption or the risk of malicious people hacking in to cause chaos. As issues surrounding these breaches have come up, cloud providers have kept up and ahead, upgrading and designing new cloud solutions to ensure continuous improvement of cloud.

One of the advantages to cloud hosting is the investment cloud providers make into security. Since your data is being stored with a cloud provider, it’s up to them to update all its firmware and configuration changes. I don’t know about you, but I’m not very reliable when it comes to updating my malware or firewall. It’s so easy to ignore that annoying notification that pops up on the bottom right-hand corner of your screen when you boot up your laptop first thing in the morning. Cloud providers have much greater expertise in the area of data hosting, and they have the technical staff to deal with any issues that arise. Isn’t that one less headache to worry about?

2. On-premise hosting is best.
You gently brush your fingers down the server casing, cool to the touch, like a whisper shared only between the two of you. You know your server, it knows you. Stored in this piece of tin is not only data, but years of intimacy between you, an intimacy that you have been relying on for so long.

Except you can’t actually rely on it.

There’s a weird concept that when your data is stored on-premise it’s safer. I understand how, in our current GDPR-focused reality, being able to see exactly where your precious data is being housed can help quell fears. But in reality, on-prem hosting brings with it a whole other host of issues- issues that are your responsibility to deal with.

Take, for example, the destruction of your building. Fire, flood, paranormal activity- you get the idea. Everything goes, and it stays goes- er, gone. Then you have the possibility of questionable back-up processes, that aren’t questionable until you actually need to rely on them and realise that they haven’t been done in the last month. Oops. Then you have to ask yourself if the security measures that you’ve put in place are up to a high enough standard to protect all of your data.

And while you’re so worried about protecting yourself from the threats of the outside, what about that troublesome employee that you’ve finally gotten rid of after years of problems? Or an accidental or negligent security breach? These are far more common than getting hacked, but they could have the same disastrous consequences for your business.

3. All cloud systems provide the same levels of security.
There is a difference between a personal ‘data cloud’ and a cloud business system. One would understandably have to have far more stringent levels of security; I’m sure you can guess which. At the same time, you can’t assume that all cloud business solutions employ the same levels of security, and it’s important to make sure that you have a checklist for the kind of security measures that are required.

A ‘best in class’ cloud provider would normally have a top-quality data centre architecture that would be geographically apart (see ‘fire, flood, paranormal activity’ of the above point). Access is a big one; a good cloud provider would ensure plenty of application security that would comprise the industry standard SSL encryption. Restricted user access; does this person work for your company, and if so, are they allowed access to the data that they’re looking for? On your checklist should also be a dedicated security team who would identify and deal with any suspicious activity. And, of course, look out for ‘best in class’ security certifications to make sure that you’re in the right hands.

So that’s the myths of cloud covered. Now, imagine this; it’s gorgeous outside, you don’t fancy sitting in your grey office for the day, and your boss agrees to let you get your work done from home. Except you don’t. You find the nearest Costa/Starbucks/Café Nero with free wifi and big bay windows to let the sun in, and you plonk yourself there for the day. With your tiny laptop, you have all the power that you’d have if you were sitting in your office building. You’re able to connect to your company desktop through Citrix, and you’re able to write and edit the documents you were working on back at the office, thanks to Office 365.

Still not sure what exactly you should be worried about? Come speak to one of our experts about our free-of-charge security posture review. It 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.

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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, Cloud, Cloud Hosting, IT Solutions, Technology, Uncategorized

Seven Reasons to Move to Cloud


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You might think that the whole hype around storing your data in the cloud will die out in 2018- especially with GDPR enforcement just around the corner. You’d be wrong.
The truth is, cloud hosting is only going to get bigger, and you’d better start getting on board! Not quite sure exactly why cloud hosting is revolutionary (and here to stay)? These are the seven reasons why you need to move your data to the cloud in 2018;

1. Flexible monthly costs.
For most organisations, an IT department- or just a room for data storage if you’re not in need of an entire department-, is one of those niggly necessities that come with running a business.. For starters, there isn’t a need to invest in a pricy mini data centre that you need to find a spare closet for (and don’t forget that you’ll need a great aircon system too- that’s an expensive closet). Installing in-house servers, data centres, additional desktop software, back-up servers…. It all adds up. Fast. But with cloud hosting, that’s an issue from days gone by. One of the biggest benefits of cloud is the reassurance of flexible monthly costs; instead of having to spend a big chunk of money on the cloud in one go, it’s easier on everyone to set up a handy monthly payment plan. So you pay for what you need, not for extra storage that won’t get filled up for a time.

2. Easy management.
Yes, easy management. Since you’re paying for a provider, all of the nightmarish installation and maintenance that comes with a roomful of tetchy technology fall onto them. You’ll never have to toss and turn all night over an IT problem, because it will all be magically fixed by morning (in theory). Regardless, with all the competition of new technologies and plenty of solutions to choose from, cloud vendors work far harder to ensure that your experience runs smoothly and that your data remains secure.

3. Flexible scalability.
Your business is fluid. We get that. One day it’s the end of the month with all of the reports to write and file away safely, the next it’s the week before Christmas and everyone is too busy chatting around the box of Roses to do much work. Maybe you’re growing as a business and need that extra bit of space? You’ll love the cloud so. Just scale up or down depending on your needs, it doesn’t matter. Cloud hosting provides the flexibility for you to access and add new features without the need to buy more hardware. What’s not to love?

4. Automatic updates.
Yep, automatic. We know that a reminder to restart your laptop for an update at 9:30am when you’ve just gotten into the office is a nuisance. Since the cloud is outsourced to a provider, any updates won’t affect you, ever. Which means that you just have to focus on what you do and let us work on the rest.

5. Affordable redundancy.
This could technically go under ‘costs’, but I can’t count to seven* and this is cool enough to have its own little paragraph. So, where does your resilience cost lie? How many back up servers do you have, and are they separated by 25 miles, nice and safe in the case of a flood or fire? All of these clever back up solutions can cost £12 million to buy, cable up and run. Which are acceptable costs for big organisations, but not so much for smaller ones. With a public cloud provider, instead of renting a big chunk of server all for yourself, you can share it with other small businesses to split the cost. Since you’re just renting a space in the cloud to store your data, unless there is a disaster it’s not actually running through to your desktop. Sharing is caring, and saving you money.

6. Disaster recovery.
Technology is finicky. Printers misbehave for fun, computers freeze for the craic, servers decide to give up on you out of the blue. You can never be quite sure about the physical box of cables sitting in front of you, and the smallest disaster could wipe all of your data in a second. Everything just gone. Which is why cloud hosting is business continuity made easy. Should disaster strike, the cloud makes it even faster to get back up and running- if you even notice it at all. The beauty of cloud is all the backup that runs seamlessly in the background. If something were to occur, provided your backup solution calls for it, your data stream would simply switch over to another bandwidth and you’d be none the wiser. That peace of mind really is priceless, isn’t it?

7. The beauty of mobile workspace.
We’re always talking about it, but it really is something. In this day and age, to be able to look out at the snow, make yourself a big mug of coffee and ring your boss to tell him that you’ll work from home today is a miracle. In fact, aside from not needing to get out of your sweatpants for the day, you may as well be in your office; you can easily access your custom applications in the cloud and crack on. And if your job needs you to be out in the field with clients, you can bring your entire desk with you in just a smartphone or tablet. That is great customer service and chances are your sales will increase. If you’re looking for a boost in productivity and revenue, then the cloud is definitely for you.

It doesn’t get more concise than that, and if you’re still not convinced of the benefits of cloud, there’s always the option of hybrid cloud. Whichever you’re thinking about, or even if you want to start your journey to cloud, Cetus Solutions is here to help transform your IT challenges into solutions.

*I can absolutely count to seven.

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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, Citrix, Cloud Hosting, IT Solutions, News, Technology, Uncategorized

Citrix Summit Tech Series – Smart Deployments


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It has been two months since I attended Citrix Summit and the amount of cloud conversations that we are having with our customers has rocketed. The majority of which are hybrid cloud / multi cloud conversations; or customers that have started the journey and are now looking to increase performance or management. 

Citrix Cloud is really resonating with our customers – both large and small. I will pen a blog specifically on this subject later in the month, but today I want to touch on two features of the Citrix portfolio and show how they are enabling our customers to make the transition to cloud hosted desktop and application delivery.

The first element of the Citrix solution that I wanted to cover is Smart Scale. Smart Scale is a component of the Smart Tools set that comes as part of Citrix Cloud. It allows the Citrix administrators to intelligently control the power state of the virtual desktop estate based on the required usage.

Let’s consider it in the context of a 500 concurrent user deployment for a typical 9am – 5:30pm company in the UK who wants to move to Azure. Without Smart Scale (or a lot of static manual work) they would need to pay Azure costs for 500 virtual machines for the full 744 hours a month, on the presumption the month has 31 days. Now think about how many hours are those desktops actually providing user services? Consider 2am in the morning, or perhaps on a Saturday afternoon whilst the match is on…! Using Smart Scale we can power down (and therefore not pay for) desktops that are not in use, and power them back on as needed to meet demand.

 Let’s talk through the math…
No Smart Scale:
500 virtual machines x 744 hours per month = 372,000 hours of cost per month
With Smart Scale:
The requirement is only 136,200 hours of cost per month!
That is with 10% of the desktops on 24×7 (37,200 hours) and 90% of desktops on 10 hours a working day with assumed 22 days per month average (99,000 hours)

As you can see, the power of Smart Scale to save costs – over 60% – when hosting desktops in the cloud is a very powerful enabler.

Now let’s couple this with the second element of the Citrix Portfolio that I wanted to talk about – Citrix Workspace Environment Management or WEM (yes another acronym sorry!) WEM is based on a late 2016 acquisition from Citrix of a company called NorSkale. 

I will write a review on WEM as whole at some point, however for now I wanted to focus on one key area – resource optimisation. WEM provides the ability to reduce RAM and CPU usage within a virtualised desktop environment by up to 70%. If we consider this reduction again in terms of costs when hosting desktops in the cloud (or on premise) we can get more users on that Azure instance type and further reduce costs.

If we combine these two technologies with the rest of the Citrix portfolio then we can start to significantly reduce costs and help our customers make that move to the cloud a reality, while maintaining end user performance and business security at the same time.

Want to hear more about this, Citrix Cloud and all the announcements from Summit? Speak to one of our cloud experts today.

robRob Sims – Senior Solution Architect
Rob helps customers to understand their business challenges, and guides them to leverage technology as a mechanism for change.