DevOps and Cloud Computing: Interview With Ian Moyse-Cloud Servers

Cloud computing experts are often extremely conversational, and can’t wait to tell you about how the cloud is going to help YOU. Ian Moyse, a renowned cloud expert caught our eye a few months ago for his involvement in many large IT events held in the UK. He’s also a keynote speaker, and many of Ian’s presentations can be found online. We were interested in the changes in cloud computing Ian has observed in the last decade; and rightly so. Ian has been a part of the cloud transition and seen it from various perspectives, including email spam security. “Stopping spam is easy, ensuring you don’t stop any of the good mail as well, that’s the tricky part.” Here’s our full interview with Ian Moyse:

How are you utilizing the cloud?

“Personally I use the cloud for a mix of reasons. I utilize mobile access to data and files using a mix of, Dropbox and Microsoft Skydrive. Why not, I get a lot more free storage and no inconvenience; as it’s all simple and widely accessible, I use cloud email and access it from multiple devices, I have a home private cloud storage using Pogoplug and I use Google Apps to share personal documents when needed. Often, in fact, I find I am using a system or application without realizing it’s cloud, or caring until I stop and think how they are doing that. It’s becoming second nature to just use what works and makes your daily life easier, and with so many software as a service offerings being immediately accessible through an entry level freemium model. I think we shall see an increase in this just do it thought pattern as this type of offering becomes more predominant. In business we of course use our own cloud CRM Workbooks, our email is hosted Exchange and we utilize Google Apps and on a daily basis. It has allowed us to grow rapidly and focus on the job at hand, and not on running infrastructure for our own business and ending up in break/fix mode. We run much more efficiently than I have seen in other non-clouded businesses, and we certainly have more availability and an easier life when mobile.”

What is your opinion of the major cloud providers? I.e. Amazon’s AWS, Windows Azure, others.

“The fact that we have such major vendors promoting and providing open cloud platforms for all to utilize, and investing so heavily in these demonstrates where the market is, and is going. Amazon has led the way and Microsoft is following. As one reduces pricing, we see the other react. This is good for customers building on these platforms, and the customers they are delivering cloud service onto, as this will drive more affordable solutions and innovation in our industry, which in turn stimulates activity, purchase, revenue, and thus, employment and other benefits. We shall continue to see more innovation and new startups appearing offering solutions off of the back of these more affordable and quicker-to-market platforms. Those looking for solutions need to also consider that there are also other localized providers available who can be engaged effectively and not limit their choice to only the big cloud names. We have also seen the bigger names having some issues along the way with Microsoft Azure having outages, several of which caused by expired security certificates at Microsoft. What the big names are doing is setting the scene and building awareness, driving market acceptance and opportunity for more than just themselves.”

How has cloud computing changed the enterprise security landscape?

“Cloud has changed the battlefront for many aspects of security. It has enabled the defenders to have far greater power and security intelligence at hand and in real time to battle against the increased volume and speed of threats coming from the internet. It has enabled new methods of malware detection to be borne as seen from the approaches of FireEye and Webroot and it has bought new vendors to the forefront. With a massive increase in mobile devices and consumerisation, the need to protect anywhere, anytime, any device has been enabled by cloud solutions and with the beauty of cloud comes the fact that many of these cloud security solutions can be utilized and afforded by the mid-market and smaller business, enabling them to take benefit of the same protection levels as the enterprise client, after all they are under attack by the same threats. Previously, many security based products were by the definition of their cost too expensive and complex to deploy for the average business so these smaller companies (of which make up most of the market) were left with less than adequate protection. Now they can afford and utilize easy to switch on, highly accurate, and protective cloud based security to protect their business assets and employees.”

Any specific recommendations when it comes to security and server monitoring in a Cloud environment like Windows Azure? (Aside from reminding Microsoft to renew its SSL certs on time… )

“I think here it’s for the vendors to realize that delivering a cloud service has far higher expectations than individuals on network solutions, customer expectations are higher, SLA’s need to be higher as one of the value propositions of the cloud and the capability to deliver to these demands that you ensure a robust, accurate and responsive monitoring system. Get it wrong in the cloud and the effect is far quicker and widespread than on network. Get it right and the availability, resilience, security and flexibility is far greater.”

Storage and server requirements may grow exponentially as companies begin aggregating data. How are server monitoring tools keeping up with these demands?

Of course as cloud server deployments grow so does the industry around them for new tools and approaches. There are a wealth of server monitoring tools available with a growth marketspace driving more function and resilience for less price. Whereas historically we would have expected a turn to the CA’s, BMC, NetIQ’s of this world there are now a wider choice of newer names to consider. Appdynamics, for example and Nimsoft (now under CA ownership), Hiperic from VMware and solutions such as Abiquo who deliver, not just the management tools.”

Can you tell us about the most interesting web scalability project you’ve been a part of? (Number of servers, data/traffic being handled, etc.)

“I guess the most interesting and challenging space of cloud for unpredictability was email security. Stopping that dreaded spam, Denial of Service attacks and unpredictable mass mailing in and out of customers. In the early 2000’s I was involved at Blackspider, a pioneering technology firm (now the foundation of the Websense hosted security platforms) who built one of the early Software as a Service email filtering solutions. We had to handle masses of mail volume with unpredictable volumes and spikes in a cost effective and highly accurate way. Stopping spam is easy, ensuring you don’t stop any of the good mail as well, that’s the tricky part. Customers demanded not only the blocking of spam, phishing emails and the like, but consistency of getting the good stuff through accurately. The pressure was always on in that to switch cloud Email filtering services is easy requiring only a switch of MX records so customers could truly move relatively quickly and easily should a provider fail to keep high standards. The malicious email market in those days was also pioneering for the attackers so we saw far more changes in their behavior and were developing new detection approaches as the market matured. Today email security in the cloud is pretty standard with many players in the market having been acquired into larger vendors such as Messagelabs into Symantec, Blackspider into Websense and more recently Isheriff into Total Defense and Maildistiller into Proofpoint. We also see the hosted email providers including it as a standard service (Google using their acquired Postini and Microsoft their acquired Frontbridge services).”

Any projects you’d like to plug, or trends you’re particularly excited about?

“Cloud is driving incredible opportunity for innovators and whilst there are some big brand names dominating in the relevant markets such as platforms, security, email and CRM for example there remains a massive opportunity for other players. Take CRM for example where Salesforce and Microsoft are two big brands with offerings, they are not right for everyone and often are too complex and expensive for the small to mid market company. At Workbooks we have innovated and are seeing a lot of customers choosing us over these systems and moving to us from them, finding we have delivered something they have not at a far reduced cost. Cloud enables more leveled competition to play and will drive increased choice for customers and a reduction in cost empowering smaller businesses in themselves to utilize more effective computing power to enable them to compete more effectively in their own given markets.”

How does your team monitor servers to ensure that you are delivering a reliable service to your customers?

“We have remote server monitoring to all components of our service across multiple datacentres, allowing us to identify faults before they effect customers and to respond rapidly where required to any hardware failures that can happen to anyone, even a cloud provider. The key being that we have the resilience and hardening in the system that most customers could not afford to build themselves, and should any component fail it fails over to another device allowing us the time to respond and replace without clients being effected. This is how we have consistently delivered over 99.9% availability, and in fact for a good long period have delivered 100% to clients a feat few can boast of with on network CRM and contact managements solutions. We have picked up many clients recently who have moved from these legacy systems such as Goldmine and ACT having experienced outages of hardware and local failures, one having been out for over a week whilst their provider replaced hardware and re-configured their system to get it back up and live.”

What are the challenges you face when scaling a few cloud servers to hundreds of servers? What are your thoughts on these challenges?

“If you have laid the foundations well and planned to scale from the start,. as any experienced and good cloud provider will have done, then this is no issue. Unfortunately in the cloud space there are many who have undertaken the building of their 1st hosted solution and ‘do not know what they don’t know’ and may find themselves having to re-architect or re-engineer down the line which gets really difficult once you have reached a certain scale. There are many who are already in this situation as larger cloud providers and have to keep bolting onto their foundation, finding a re-start too complex, costly and long a project. This is the 3rd cloud system our founders have successfully built going back over 14 years. Finding a cloud provider who has the inherent experience at their core is a great asset to the choice customers can make for the longevity.”

Ian Moyse, Sales Director at a Cloud CRM vendor, has over 25 years of experience in the IT Sector, he sits on the board of Eurocloud UK and the Governance Board of the Cloud Industry Forum (CIF), was listed in top 25 of the worldwide SMB Nation 150 Channel Influencers list in both 2012 and 2013 and named by TalkinCloud as one of the global top 200 cloud channel experts in 2011.


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