CSG Spring 2014 – Cloud Campfire Stories

Stories from: Stanford, Notre Dame, Duke, UW, Columbia, Cornell, Harvard

Bruce Vincent – Stanford

Broad use of SaaS, lots of times came in through the back door. Some significant PaaS usage (Force, Acquia, Beanstalk), emerging IaaS deployments. 

Everybody’s a player – all you need is an email address and a credit card.SaaS for all vs. all for SaaS. IT provides some SaaS services for campus use. There are some products which are more niche, for a small population. Should we get involved? How they go about deploying and engaging the vendor is where we can help, if we don’t take too long or act overly bureaucratic. 

Not everyone wants to be a player – Vendor management, gnarly policy issues, system engineering complexities (opportunity to refactor what you’ve been doing before), integration complexities. 

AWS deployments – The scale of MOOCs make IaaS a no-brainer. OpEx is starting to ramp up on the cloud side. Research groups using AWS. Deployed the Stanford emergency web site on AWS. Used Amazon Beanstalk to run a WordPress instance. Main Stanford home page moving to Amazon after commencement. Those kinds of moves lead to discussions with the distributed IT community, stirs up interest. 45 technical staff have taken three day “Architecting for AWS” course. 15 more in June. This has brought distributed interests out of the shadows/silos.  Challenges: Consolidation of accounts from people who are already using the service – can’t get lists of who’s using it within the enterprise. Data classification, compliance, and FUD – good people trying to protect the institution, but it can go to a level where the standard that’s put out there is so much higher than where the bar is for existing services makes you question the reasons.

Direct Connect – gives you a dedicated pipe into one of their availability zones. Implementation is pretty complicated, but Amazon is good at turning it around. Get cheaper egress rates – no tiered billing. Also allows you to segment your address space across campus and AWS. Every AWS master account translates to a VLAN and BGP pairing, which gets messy. 

Google Compute: Shiny but rough, lots of interest in/from research computing, Google willing to talk leveraging existing peering and SDN with us. 

Other IaaS and the “virtual datacenter”

Before doing more vendor specific work, it’s time for an abstraction layer. Consider all the process and expertise IT provides to deliver on datacenter services… much of that translates. 

More of everything – not fewere on campus computing instances,more service administration, seeing benefits of consolidation, automation, and virtualization; integration to infrastructure; integration between SaaS to ____

Sharif Nijim – Notre Dame

Moved campus web site to AWS. Brought in an external agitator to stir up selection of a preferred infrastructure provider. How to scale?

4 stages – 4 projects

#1 Conductor – custom engineered CMS, runs 400 sites on campus. Cut that over to Amazon – much better performance. 50% improvement over Rackspace, with a 50% reduction in cost. 

#2 Mobile ND – Kurogu framework running on AWS.

#3 – AuthN/Z – Using Box, Google, Sakai (hosted off-campus). How to authenticate if campus network is down? By end of month going live on AWS.

#4 – Backup – can backups be solved for less than the maintenance on existing equipment? Local devices do dedupe and compression, cloud becomes authoritative store of the backup. Looking at Panzura. Proof of concept in June. Amazon claiming 11 9s of reliability in S3. Starting with 300 TB. Company in Chicago put in 115 TB and saw 15 TB stored in AWS after global dedupe and compression. 

Cloud Fluency, Automation Fluency, DevOps. Organizational Tension – sysadmins need to work more closely with developers. 

Culture Change – How do you get people to the “oh my goodness” moment? One approach is to lead them through it – identify specific people to embed. Transparency – encourage people to be transparent about what they’re working on. Their Amazon architect is very responsive on Twitter. 

The Future –  Will embark this summer on reflection and strategy assessment about data center in the next five years. What does the future hold for the two data center facilities?


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