The cloud is a very popular option for many enterprises, and most are diving into the cloud at some level. However, on-premises systems still dominate, and are still the preferred choice for most applications, says a recent survey of over 2,000 executives across the globe.

Conducted by 451 Research and released by Microsoft, the survey finds more than 45 percent of organizations consider themselves to be beyond the pilot phase, with 32 percent with a formal cloud computing plan as part of their overall IT and business strategy. At least 24 percent consider their enterprises to be “heavy” cloud users at this time.

That leaves a majority of enterprises on the fence to adopting the cloud. Many CIOs see their datacenter infrastructure as a sunk cost and want to get the ROI the sales rep in the shiny suit promised them.  They want to utilize the cloud more as 44 percent of executives admitted that there are a lot of off-budget purchases or implementations of cloud taking place within their enterprises. A lot of these purchases are going towards new applications but what does IT do with their huge datacenter investment? Here are some of the challenges IT faces today:

  • Large sunk cost in datacenter
  • Growing demand of application
  • Large delta between peak and off-peak (why build out for peak?)

The only way to keep your existing datacenter and extend out into the cloud is by taking a “hybrid cloud approach”. This gives IT the best of both worlds as they keep using their existing datacenters but no longer need to build out for the 8-10 hours of peak traffic per day. Instead, they can leverage technologies like Realtime’s Dynamic Cloud Manager (DCM) to manage their datacenter and extend out to the cloud on demand. DCM is the only real-time cloud manager that can manage both your on-premise and extend continuity into the cloud based on your business Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).

The most common scenarios IT is faced with today are:

Scenario #1 – Datacenter (virtual servers) extend to Cloud. In this scenario DCM can be used to manage the VMs in your datacenter. As demand increases DCM will monitor KPIs and additional VMs will be created to manage demand. Once the datacenter capacity threshold is met, DCM will start creating additional VMs into the external cloud. DCM will continue to monitor both environments and properly allocate VMs as needed. The benefits of this scenario include:

  1. Lower costs by keeping datacenter for off peak capacity and using cloud elasticity during peak demand
  2. Automate the process for faster response and removing human error
  3. Disaster Recovery – should datacenter go down DCM can divert to the cloud and vice versa.
  4. Lower electricity cost in datacenter
  5. Share a pool of VM licenses among multiple business units to lower license costs

Scenario #2 – Datacenter (physical servers) extend to Cloud. In this scenario DCM can be used to monitor KPIs of the applications running in the datacenter. Once DCM determines the datacenter capacity threshold is met, DCM will start creating VMs in the external cloud environment. DCM will continue to monitor both environments and properly allocate VMs as needed. The benefits of this scenario include:

  1. Lower costs by keeping datacenter for off peak capacity and using cloud elasticity only when datacenter capacity threshold is met
  2. Automate the process for faster response and removing human error
  3. Disaster Recovery – should datacenter go down DCM can divert to the cloud.

In summary, the tools and technology exist to bridge the gap between your current infrastructure and leveraging the highly scalable and highly available low cost cloud. There is no reason to build your datacenter to handle infrequent peaks nor does it make sense for everyone to be deployed fully in the cloud. DCM is the perfect bridge to maximize your existing infrastructure while providing the benefits of the cloud. To learn more about DCM, feel free to reach out to me and my team of cloud experts here.

Posted by: Vala Shahabi | May 5, 2014

Build Your Own Cloud…As Easy as 1,2,3

We can argue what the cloud is and when it was actually created but this guy does a good job giving a quick history of cloud computing. In summary, in 2002 Amazon started their web services offering with just storage and computation. It wasn’t until 2006 when they launched their elastic compute cloud and revolutionized the way everything works on the Internet today. To me, cloud means a subscription based service that has unlimited scalability.

Since 2006, a lot of others have been trying to compete with Amazon and bring a competitive cloud offering to market. Some have been successful and some have failed but to this date Amazon is by far the leader in this space. Many enterprises and even government is starting to slowly adapt the cloud while others want complete control of their environment and are trying to build a private cloud.MissingPuzzlePiece

Regardless if you’re trying to build a public, private, or hybrid cloud, there are 3 key components needed to make this happen:

1)   Hypervisor or Virtual Machine. This component takes care of bootstrapping the virtual servers. Examples are Xen, KVM, VMWare and Hyper-V used in Amazon, Cloudstack, Openstack, and VMWare.

2)   Configuration Management tool. This component takes care of configuring the newly bootstrapped virtual server to make sure all the required software is properly installed and configured to play nicely with the other existing virtual servers of the same cluster. If you have a complex configuration you can use Chef or Puppet to ensure it is properly loaded.

3)   Auto-scale tool. This component monitors the SLA through metrics (or KPIs) like the CPU usage, memory usage, overall service latency, etc and decides when to launch a new virtual server using the hypervisor and then configures it according to the instructions in the configuration manager.  This tool is more of an orchestrator of the two previous components, similar to the role of a maestro.

Sounds pretty straightforward right? Why is this such a challenge to all those competing with Amazon? The challenge is the auto-scale component. Using something that is intelligent enough to know when to scale up and down virtual instances is the key feature of a viable cloud offering.   Most of the auto scaling tools on the market are looking at indicators such as CPU and Memory usage which don’t paint the entire picture of what the end user is experiencing.

Anyone providing a Something as a Service (SaaS, PaaS, IaaS, etc) needs to meet high availability Service Level Agreements (SLA) that are often tied to their business Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). This could be an availability or performance SLA. For example, when the engineers at Realtime.co were tasked to build a highly scalable Pub/Sub messaging platform offering the lowest latency across the globe, they took a look at all the auto scaling tools on the market but couldn’t find one that was customizable to their specific KPIs such as latency, number of concurrent users, and number of messages.  So they decided to build their own auto-scaling tool and this is when Dynamic Cloud Manager (DCM) was born.

DCM is the only real-time dynamic cloud manager that can scale your application infrastructure based on the KPIs that are important to your business. DCM is the missing piece to build a truly scalable Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) cloud offering that could compete with the best of them.

To learn more about DCM, feel free to reach out to me and my team of cloud experts. Email me here.

Posted by: Vala Shahabi | January 30, 2014

Give the Web Mouth-to-Mouth

In 2010 Wired magazine claimed the Web is Dead.  This is the same year smartphone sales in the United States started surpassing those of traditional computers.  Truth is, neither the Web or PCs are dead, however they are slowly dying.  Globally, 2014 will be the year mobile will triumph the desktop. The desktop web can’t breath so this is how we give it mouth-to-mouth.

Global Mobile vs Desktop users

Global Mobile vs Desktop users

If you think about it, you can pretty much do the same thing on your little smartphone than you can on your computer so why would anyone bother firing up their computer to checkout a website? This is exactly where the problem is. The desktop web has become so boring that you can get the same experience, if not better, on a mobile device. We don’t prefer to watch TV on our small screen. TVs just get bigger and bigger. I used to have a 37” TV but now I have a 60” TV.  The problem is the lack of significant innovation on the web since AJAX was born in 2005.  We’re still stuck on Web 2.0 with the same technologies of nine years ago.  In the last nine years website have gotten smarter, faster, and more advanced but the experience has remained the same: boring.

Desktop vs Mobile

Desktop vs Mobile

It’s time for innovation.  It’s time for a new way we interact with websites based on a completely personal experience. The underlying technology to support this exists today in Websockets.  Websockets are unique because it creates a direct, full duplex (send and receive on a single connection) connection between the web browser and the web server.  The Websocket protocol makes possible more interaction between the browser and web site, creating the ability to provide a unique experience for every visitor. Some of these possibilities include:

  • Pushing specific content to user (audio, video, images, text).  Imagine providing a VIP experience to a specific user based on their behavior on your site
  • Creating a text, video, or voice chat engagement with the user
  • Providing content based on mouse position (no clicks). Imagine an online shopping experience based on just moving your mouse around without having to click or drag.
  • Direct user-to-user interaction in real time (chat, group chat, live polls, live comments, etc).
  • Engaging real time dashboards and SaaS applications

The possibilities are endless to create a Web 3.0 experience. Although it’s still early, we’re starting to see some momentum in this field with publishers such as the NY Times and Huffingtonpost. All we need are some brilliant ideas of what to do with these capabilities and some smart developers to make it happen. The goal is to make a more engaging web experience that requires a larger screen to consume. I am currently seeking out such people to help bring the web back to life and change the way we interact with the web.

Disclosure: I have recently left Akamai to work at Realtime. Realtime has built a highly scalable platform based on websockets to deliver messages and data in realtime, which I believe is the future of the internet.

Posted by: Vala Shahabi | December 10, 2013

$200 Later, it’s Like a Brand New Laptop!

They say once a laptop is 3-4 years old it is basically considered obsolete. I disagree with that statement. Manufactures may want to awe you with new features so they can sell more laptops but I don’t think the laptop has made any significant technological advancement in the last 3-4 years the way smartphones and tablets have. The only thing that has changed in the last 3 years is we access more applications through web browsers than before so the processing power has shifted from the PC to the “cloud” and thus our browsers have become memory hungry and less processor dependent. In this blog I will show you how to add new life to your 3-5 year old laptops instead of shelling out hundreds or thousands of dollars for a new one.

I purchased my 13” MacBook Pro on September 2009. It is now over 4 years old but I love this laptop. It still runs great and does everything I need it to do.  This laptop is equipped as follows:

CPU: 2.53 Ghz Inter Core 2 Duo
Memory: 4 GB 1067 Mhz DDR3
Hard Drive: 250 GB

Macbook Pro 13 - 2009

Macbook Pro 13 – 2009

The only two complaints I have is that I am running out of hard drive space and I sometimes see the “beach ball” due to memory intensive applications. The newest MacBook Pros are offered with a 2.5 Ghz Intel i5 CPU with 4GB of 1600 Mhz memory and 500 GB hard drive for $1,200. They offer slightly faster CPU and memory, but no significant changes from my laptop. It’s a fact the slowest component of a computer is the hard drive. Reading and writing to disk is much slower than memory or CPU.  In the last couple of years the pricing of Solid State Drives (SSD) have decreased significantly however they are still considerably more expensive than traditional drives.  Swapping out your traditional drive with an SSD will improve the performance of your computer noticeably. As a result you will experience faster boot times, faster loading of applications, searching for emails, content, etc.  Also, increasing your memory from 4GB to 8GB is a must these days when we simultaneously have multiple applications, browsers, tabs, and windows open.

I wanted to increase my storage to 1 TB so I can have all my photos, music, and (some) video on my laptop and not rely on my external storage.   While SSD is available in 960GB, it is very expensive ($500) and to me it’s not worth dumping that much money into a 4-year-old laptop. Instead, Seagate makes a hybrid drive that is part SSD and part disk. At $100 for a TB this is the better choice. Secondly, I purchased 8 GB of memory from Crucial and used their system scanner to make sure I’m buying the correct part for my computer.

P1000970

Installing these parts is very easy and there are a lot of DIY guides on the internet showing you step by step instructions. I highly recommend while you have your laptop open to clean out any dust that has built up over the years, especially around the CPU and the fans. This will help keep your system cool and improve battery life. Also, if you battery life is shot because of the old battery than this would be a good time to replace your battery. Also, spend some time cleaning your laptop, the keys, screen, and outer case. It’s not gonna feel new if the keys are still sticky :)

I used a program called Carbon Copy Cloner to clone my old hard drive to the new Seagate drive by placing it in this USB enclosure I bought on Amazon for $9.

P1000968 P1000969

After the upgrade my specs are as follows:

CPU: 2.53 Ghz Inter Core 2 Duo
Memory: 8 GB 1067 Mhz DDR3
Hard Drive: 1000 GB

Conclusion:
This was the best $200 spent. My computer now feels like new. It boots much faster than before, applications load faster, and I’m able to keep lots of applications open at the same time. I now have 750 GB of space free so I’m worried about running out of space anytime soon.  I can easily keep this laptop around for another 3-4 years.

Bonus:
If you’re on a Mac, you can upgrade to OSX Maverick for free which has made my computer faster all around.

Posted by: Vala Shahabi | June 24, 2013

Little TrendSetter – Latest Fashion for Kids

I’ve always blogged about cool technologies out there and today I’d like to blog about the launch of my fiancee’s new business – Little Trendsetter. They used some really cool technology to get their business off the ground so quickly, more on that later.  Her and her partners have a great eye for fashion and have put together a collection of nice clothing at reasonable prices for moms and dads to buy their little ones. Not everyone cares about how cute their kids looks but I’ve noticed a lot of parents pay a lot of attention to the details of their kid’s clothing so I think they’re onto something.

LIttle Trendsetter

LIttle Trendsetter

If I had a kid and after recently watching Man of Steel – I would definitely get him this Superman shirt.

Man of Steel

Superman

If I had a little girl I can see her showing off in this leopard dress.

Leopard Dress

I once bought some shoes for my friends kids and they were too expensive for such tiny things. Little Trendsetter has some really cute shoes at a very good price!

Every kid needs this for the summer:

The Gardner

The Tech part: They were able to launch their business within 2 months. Majority of the time was spent on finding the best inventory. They were able to leverage Shopify’s ecommerce platform (SaaS) to quickly bring their business online. They bought a pretty cool theme and did most of the work themselves and I pitched in here and there. I’m very impressed with how easy Shopify makes it.  This is the perfect example of using the Cloud or SaaS to bring a business from zero to launch in a very short time. Now all they have to do is drive people to their site to buy stuff :). This is where you come in…hint…hint :)

Shopify has a very robust platform. You can quickly and easily add new modules or Apps. For  example last night I was copying and pasting javascript code to install their Yotpo review app. Having reviews online is an absolute must. This app goes even further to automatically email the buyer to remind them to review the product!

Anyways, check out the site and help support her business by blogging about it, sharing it on facebook, twitter, instagram, etc. Much love! http://www.littletrendsetter.com

Posted by: Vala Shahabi | June 3, 2013

Samsung Galaxy S4 – First look from an iPhone user

I’m a technology enthusiast and I get excited by cool tech things. The cell phone has evolved into the most important gadget you own so it’s important to be extremely picky with the phone you keep within an arms reach as 90% of people do. For me, I need to own the most advanced phone on the market. When I purchased the iPhone 3s and 4s, they were hands down the best phone on the market at the time of their release. When the iPhone 5 was released, it was no longer the undisputed king. Since my 4s, the Droid phones have come along away, specifically Samsung Galaxy. When I went on my phone hunt in May 2013 I considered the HTC One and the Samsun Galaxy S4. Impressed with the Galaxy S3, I knew the S4 would be awesome and after playing with both HTC One and S4 the At&t store, I chose the S4.

Image

First Impression: The screen is just awesome, the colors are vibrant. It is the perfect size for a mobile phone. It’s not a mini ipad like the Note and I don’t think the iPhone 5’s screen is big enough. The phone is fast, it has a lot of memory, you can run many apps simutaonsly without noticing any lag, games like Real Racing 3 and Dead Trigger are so much fun to play. The LTE is a game changer compared to the “4G” on my iPhone 4s.

Hiccups: Switching from iOS to Android isn’t exactly easy. The Android OS is far more configurable so there definitely is a learning curve.  When setting up my new phone I immediately had some major issues. 1) My wifi connection at home kept disconnecting and 2) Samsung’s Kies application (wanna be iTunes) wouldn’t recognize my phone on my mac. After a long call into Samsung’s support I learn that the phone has wifi issues to some routers and that Android phones don’t play well with the  Mac. This was a big slap in the face. One thing about Apple you know everything will work. The experience of getting a new phone and setting it up is so easy and effortless. Well not so much for Samsung. The S4 is still very new so hopefully there will be a firmware update soon to fix these issues. Until then I have turned wifi off and just use LTE which is just as fast and I haven’t put much music on my phone yet. The 3) issue was Yahoo Mail. It doesn’t work with the built in mail client. You have to download Yahoo’s own email app. This was very strange to me but I guess Google doesn’t want you using the competitor’s mail program. Again these are issues you would never see on Apple.

Review: After owning the phone for 3 weeks and using it, here are my thoughts on the phone and comparisons it with my iPhone 4s.

  • Size is great. The larger screen makes the web experience much better. While larger, the phone is a lot thinner than my 4s and so fits nicely in my pocket.
  • Email – After setting up our company’s exchange certificate, the phone quickly synced and I had access to my email, contacts, and calendar. I think it handles exchange better than iOS. Using Swift keyboard has much better autocorrect than the iphone which makes typing much easier.
  • Camera – The camera is really good. Can it be better? of course. I think the smartphones still struggle in low light situations but this camera is much better than the the camera on my iPhone.
  • Cool features – this phone is packed with a ton of cool features and sensors. You’ve probably seen the commercials. While cool by design, most of them aren’t practical to always leave on.
  • OS – I’m still getting used to the Android OS but I like the widgets I can put on my home screen so I can quickly google, see scores, weather, stocks, etc. For my locked screen It shows me a different city every 3 hours so I’m tempted to travel again.
  • Battery Life – so far so good, it lasts about a day and half under normal use. This phone has a removable battery so I could buy extra and live forever…
  • Phone – sound quality is great. can easily hear people and people can hear me loud and clear. Using the Smart to dial is the fastest way to dial since my Blackberry which you could just start typing their name. With Smart dial you go to to phone keypad and dial the letters of the name and the contacts name comes up, avoiding the long list of contacts we have due to facebook and gmail integration.

I found this link very helpful 50 tips and tricks: http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?t=2251491

Overall I’m happy with my decision. Although I have the unlimited data plan, I hope they fix the wifi issue soon. Kinda funny how I went from a 4S (iPhone) to a S4(Galaxy). There is still a lot I’m learning about this phone and I have yet to do my first S-beam.

Posted by: Vala Shahabi | March 14, 2012

Help! My Video went Viral and Crashed my Website!

Last week a new startup, DollarShaveClub.com,  launched with a hilarious video done by the co-founder who has stand up comedy experience. You can see the video here:

Great Video but big problem – their website become unresponsive. My browser kept turning its wheels trying to load the page but it was unable to grab any content from the site. The site wasn’t down, it was just overwhelmed with the thousands of requests coming in all at once causing it to become unresponsive.  I was so interested to see their site I logged back in at 1:30 am Pacific time and was finally able to see most of the the site, although it was painfully slow.

The other video that launched last week that went super duper viral, breaking all kinds of records was the Kony 2012 video:

Their site also went down and was acting funny. It was obvious they were hosted on Amazon because you could see the direct s3 domain name in the hostname instead of the invisible children.com hostname.

As mentioned, the problem here is you have this one server (or multiple) trying to serve content to thousands and 10s of thousands of users at the same time. As we noticed, these servers were simply overwhelmed with the amount of users trying to access them at the same time. This requires a distributed massive server infrastructure (2 or more locations) to properly serve all of the requests. The issue with this is that it is a complete waste of money to build out this huge infrastructure for just a launch or a spike in traffic that may occur once in a while.  The real solution is to put a serious Content Delivery Network (CDN) in front of your server to cache your website’s content close to the end users and serve the content without ever going back to your server – providing you with offload, scalability, availability, and performance.

So next time you make or intend to make a viral video, make sure your there is a reputable CDN sitting infront of your website.

Posted by: Vala Shahabi | February 22, 2012

Less Expensive: Build it yourself vs Cloud?

Charlie Oppenheimer recently published a blog titled Which is less expensive: Amazone or Self-hosted? This very well written and thought out blog has been getting a lot of attention so I thought I would share it here on my blog and of course, add my 2 cents.

1. Labor costs – He leaves them out in this comparison for simplicity sake. While I agree this is a fixed cost, I want to point out that this cost is definitely not even on both sides so it’s very difficult to omit this from both sides of the comparison.  Trying to compute this cost is extremely difficult as there are so many factors involved. Make an assumption that the fixed cost could me much higher on the self hosting side.

2. Spiky Traffic – Charlie mentions how this comparison is for a company that is further along and traffic is predictable. If you’re a startup you should be using the cloud since it’s less expensive (with labor) and can much better accomodiate spiky traffic. If your traffic is very spiky, you should seriously consider putting a CDN infront of this to cut down on the traffic served from your origin and allow you to be more scalable.

My Recommendations:

New Startups – Start in the cloud, Amazon or Rackspace is a great starting point. Put a free CDN like CloudFlare in front of it to handle basic caching and basic security.

Growing Startups – Stay in the cloud but bring in a CDN that can handle a bigger load and delivery your dynamic pages, I would recommend Edgecast or Akamai.

Established companies – Your traffic is for the most part predictable and at this point you prob have a full time IT staff so moving to a hybrid model is ideal. What I mean by hybrid is be self hosted but use a cloud player like Akamai to help deliver your content and sites very fast locally and globally. Akamai can provide some serious offload to your infrastructure and allow you to scale for traffic spikes. Akamai can also provide security against DDoS and web application attacks.

Posted by: Vala Shahabi | February 17, 2012

UI Standard for the Cloud?

I recently came across a blog by Derek Singleton, It’s time for a Cloud UI Standard and thought it was so interesting that I wanted to comment on it in my blog. When I first read the title, I thought he meant creating a standardized UI for back-end cloud applications, those used by IT folks to manage their cloud infrastructure (which sparked another idea which I will also talk about). After reading his post, he means a standard UI for web based SaaS applications.

If you develop a Windows or Mac application, you can leverage the OS’s UI to quickly build your application. For example, no need to recreate the print icon, the standardized UI provides that for you. I agree with Derek, why shouldn’t there be a standard for web based applications? It would make it so much easier to design and develop a site if there is a standard UI.   As Derek also mentioned, end users will also appreciate this as all web based applications will have a similar look and feel.

While we’re talking about cloud standardization, I’m sure many IT organizations would appreciate a standardized API to manage their cloud services. This may already exist?

I love startups. I love the new ideas and new angles a startup brings to the marketplace. I recently stumbled upon CloudFlare, which I was told will change the game in the CDN market. Working for the best CDN out there, I’m always interested to see what our new competitors can offer. In short, CloudFlare is a CDN and web application security offering rolled into one very easy to use and implement solution. Their Marketing and web design team gets an A for putting together such a slick interface. It really takes just a few minutes to get started and the best part is their offering is FREE!

I was able to talk my friend who runs Los Angele’s hottest Hair and Beauty Blog, L.A. Hair, to give CloudFlare a try.  I told him we can setup 3rd party performance tests prior to activating CloudFlare so we can measure how much performance improves.  Since CloudFlare injects at the NameServer level, it is not possible to run concurrent tests like other CDNs. We setup two performance tests, one in US only and one Global. The test would request www.losangeles-hair.com/home every hour from over 50 agents globally distributed.

Men Lie, Women Lie, Numbers Don’t. Let’s take a look at the results:

Without CloudFlare -

Red – Global Average:8.99s

Blue  – US Average: 4.38s

With Cloud Flare:

Red – Global Average: 7.28s

Blue  – US Average: 3.80s

Looking at the two charts, we can see that with CloudFlare in the picture, we are getting a more reliable and flatter results, which is key for giving users the same experience every time they visit the site.  Looking at the numbers, CloudFare improved the blog 13.2% in the US and 19% Globally. I would hardly call these results “Supercharge” of my website as they claim, but you get what you pay for and in the case he didn’t pay a penny and got some ok results.

Where did CloudFlare improve and where did they not improve.

Most Improved areas:
Ottawa, Canada (5.57s reduced to 3.02s)
Seoul, Korea (8.53s reduced to 5.39s)
London (7.16s reduced to 5.37s)
Munich (7.33s reduced to 3.99s)
San Jose, Costa Rica (11.36s reduced to 2.74s)

Areas with little to no improvement:
China
Hong Kong
Seattle
Sao Paulo
Palo Alto
Vancouver
Sydney (actually got slower)
Auckland
New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta

While I would say these results are sub-par for CloudFlare to compete with any legit CDN, my friend is happy for L.A Hair and will keep the free service on. I think this is a great service for anyone to add to any website that doesn’t currently have a CDN or doesn’t generate revenue. If your site generates revenue I would used something a little more powerful because Google ranks based on page load speed.

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