The Centurylink Technology Solutions Blog - Trends in IT Infrastructure

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cybersecurity.jpgWhen talking to enterprise and government customers, security of their hosted applications is never far from the top of the list of priorities. It doesn't make sense to run a workload in a hosted or cloud model if you can't trust the service provider to reliably mitigate risk.

 

Many customers face regulatory requirements that tie their operational models to one or more compliance standards, such as Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) or the Federal Information Processing Standards (FIPS). However, as any chief security officer would point out - there is more to security than a standardized checklist, and there is more to risk management than industry-wide consistency. Each application possesses a different risk profile, and the manner in which risks are mitigated may depend on a wide range of variables. Of paramount importance in any information security architecture is the quality of information, the depth of control, and the ability to respond to changes in the environment.

 

It is possible to be "compliant" while not necessarily being "secure." The reason for this is that threats and risks are continually changing, and any interval-based compliance regime has an ambient level of bureaucracy that can only respond so quickly. There is an emerging debate across the ICT landscape, especially when focused on critical industries such as government, finance and energy, around whether regulatory standards are the best answer for mitigating risk.

 

On one side is the desire for clarity and "industry standards," which give all players a sense of order and consistency. Procedural discipline, documentation and knowledge of the standards all become vitally important. On the other hand, where rapidly emerging threats require supreme adaptability, the most important currency is information. Knowing where attacks are coming from, as they say, is half the battle.

 

In some respects, this is a false debate - enterprise-class organizations require equal measures of discipline and agility to successfully negotiate the risk landscape. However, when considering broad cybersecurity legislation, politicians and regulators tend to rely more on the former than the latter.

 

This debate was highlighted during the March 7 House Committee on Energy & Commerce's Communications and Technology Hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. CenturyLink senior leaders were vital contributors to the discourse, highlighting the need for government to not simply pass down bureaucratic regulation, but also partner with key stakeholders in the industry to pass along threat intelligence in an organized and actionable format. Our chief security officer, David Mahon, testified that while the global cybersecurity threat is "real and serious," integrated communications providers like Savvis and CenturyLink play an important role in the cybersecurity ecosystem.

 

Mr. Mahon's opening statement can be viewed here:

 

 

It's interesting to think about how traditional telecommunications companies are well-positioned to address both sides of the aforementioned debate. We have the operational discipline to address compliance obligations, while we have end-to-end visibility of network traffic that allows us to act on late-breaking information before it reaches a data center or network endpoint.

 

David Shacochis is vice president, global public sector, at Savvis. 

Mobile Solutions

The most enriching customer relationships we have at Savvis are the ones where we get invited to participate in our client's long-term technology planning. As a trusted IT infrastructure partner, we oftentimes get asked to help plan our customer's IT infrastructure roadmap years out into the future.

 

One of the IT strategy topics our customers can't stop talking about is their need for a mobility plan. Mobile-form end user devices are becoming so powerful, convenient and ubiquitous that IT managers are forced to evaluate whether they have the right data center strategies to match their rapidly emerging mobility scenarios around marketing, desktop and web development.

 

On Jan. 26, I had a chance to attend the Future Of Mobility event, presented by Bisnow Media. This session broke out the mobility topic into two main panel discussions: Federal Government Mobility and Private Sector Entrepreneurs. Many of the trends discussed at this event echo those of our current customers in the Interactive Marketing and Public Sector verticals. A few highlights:

 

Cell Phone Soldiers - Greg Youst, mobility lead for the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA), discussed how smartphones and tablets are emerging as common warfighter tools, changing the way the military operates in many scenarios. One interesting trend emerging is the use of remote, in-theater base stations like the ones offered by Oceus Networks. CEO Doug Smith talked about how his products could be deployed to a remote area, which may have only intermittent backhaul connectivity, but still enable 4G LTE wireless connectivity to a widely dispersed fighting force. Some of the more advanced mobile base stations of this type even include blade-form server hardware, which can support application servers and databases running highly classified, secure communications over encrypted channels via 4G.

 

Citizen Expectations - Gwynne Kostin from the GSA Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technology talked about how citizen expectations of their government are changing - but not in the way you might expect. She observed how use cases and user experiences that we expect out of technology are expanding to scenarios we didn't even think possible a few years ago. Think about how children are being raised to swipe screens and control tablets via gestures. Think about how lunch hour "downtime" gets replaced by having a movie theater in your pocket. The methods and models for IT end user interfaces are entering a period of rapid innovation, and therefore IT leaders will need to be ready for how these influence our infrastructure strategies.

 

Budget Optimization - From both the Civilian and Defense agency perspective, significant savings are envisioned through an embrace of mobility. Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD) programs, mobile hypervisors, and tablet-based virtual desktops all lead to a visionary future where government agencies can drastically reduce the number of desktops required for mission support. The challenge is of course security and complexity, as devices are released faster than government agencies can publish security standards and mobile-device-management (MDM) platforms proliferate.

 

SoLoMo! - No, it's not an Italian tenor warming up, it's the latest venture capital buzzword focusing on the intersection between social networks, local search, and mobile devices. It is at the confluence of these trends where much of the innovation is occurring in the IT marketplace. One thing to remember, suggested WhosHere CEO Stephen Smith, is that the key to succeeding at this crossroads is reducing friction. Mobile use cases often don't allow for lengthy sign-up procedures or obstacles to value. One way to innovate is through tighter innovation with your existing sources of data - rather than asking users to re-enter their information, why not let them start using the service and then see if you already have their information on file while they're getting value? However, the most important friction reducer is the ability to tie to a payment network, observed mPortal CEO DP Venkatesh. This is one of the reasons why he gives Amazon a leg up on Google in the mobile space.

 

Don't Build Apps, Build Experiences - The most common error observed by the panel of mobile entrepreneurs is the stampede of enterprise decision makers to "launch something" in a mobile form factor without fully understanding how it supports their business strategy. Pat Sheridan from Modus Create observed that without understanding how a mobile application will be used, how customers will truly benefit, and how it will be uniquely positioned amongst the noise of the various app stores, many mobile launches are doomed to fail. Understanding how to create a vital user experience using facets of "SoLoMo" is vital. Sean Lane from BTS and Alan Snyder from BoxTone both pointed out that companies often over-inflate their expected revenue from download fees and mobile advertising because they fail to gain critical mass.

 

It Still All Comes Back To The Data Center - I left the Future of Mobility event thinking how much all this change and innovation still comes back to the data center, and how busy this will keep us at Savvis and CenturyLink. Many times during the event, it was stressed that despite all the focus on app stores and "native" development, a context aware website is still often the most efficient route to market for many applications. Being able to serve "dumb" phones, smartphones, tablets and desktops all from one context aware infrastructure takes effective infrastructure management and high-performance IP networking.

 

Savvis has some exciting developments planned in 2012 in the mobile solutions space, and we look forward to talking about these trends further with our customers.

 

David Shacochis is vice president, global public sector, at Savvis.

The Savvis blog officially relaunched exactly one year ago today. We wiped the slate clean and leaned on some of the brightest minds in the industry to share their thoughts on everything from cloud to colocation to horseless carriages (true story; click here if you don't believe me).

 

In honor of the one-year anniversary, it felt appropriate to highlight the posts that have been read the most over the past 12 months. If you've been following the blog since the start, you may want to revisit these highlights. If you're a newcomer, there are some gems here that are worth a read.

 

Thank you for reading. We look forward to continuing to serve as a source of industry news on key topics and critical issues in 2012. If you have any suggestions for topics, comments, etc., send an email to cloud@savvis.com or contact us through Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/Savvis.

 

And now (drumroll please), here are the top 10 posts of the past year, listed in chronological order:

 

Cloud computing in Singapore set to expand alongside Asia economic growth

Feb. 8, 2011

By Mark Smith, managing director, Asia

 

Public sector IT and the winter at Valley Forge

March 1, 2011

By David Shacochis, vice president, global public sector

 

Balancing latency vs. cost

April 19, 2011

Guest post by David Kelly, chief technology officer, enterprise, at Thomson Reuters

 

What is your company's mobile strategy?

May 10, 2011

By Kevin Conway, global director, consumer brands

 

Beyond the data centre SLA: The end-user view of Web applications

June 2, 2011

By Steve Falkus, product marketing director, hosting and cloud services

 

Five security questions to ask your cloud provider

June 29, 2011

By Ed Moyle, senior security strategist

 

What to look for in a SaaS infrastructure services provider

July 21, 2011

By Larry Steele, technical vice president, Software-as-a-Service

 

Big data: Information security downsides (and upsides too!)

Aug. 3, 2011

By Ed Moyle, senior security strategist

 

5 critical assessments your organizations must complete before moving to cloud

Oct. 3, 2011

By Steve Garrou, vice president, outsourcing and cloud services

 

5 free security tools every cloud user should know about

Dec. 19, 2011

By Ed Moyle, senior security strategist

four t's clipart.jpg

Over a three-month span earlier this year, I had the opportunity to play a leadership role in the TechAmerica Foundation's Commission on the Leadership Opportunity in U.S. Deployment of the Cloud (CLOUD2). This industry panel, organized at the request of the Obama administration, on July 26 published our titled "Cloud First, Cloud Fast: Recommendations for Innovation, Leadership and Job Creation." Our leadership team recently had the opportunity to share this report with multiple committees on Capitol Hill.

 

This report, specifically encouraged by the Federal CIO and the Department of Commerce, is focused on the future of cloud services in the American economy. Our report establishes a forward-looking roadmap of maturity measures that will enable the United States economy to maintain its leadership position in the cloud services marketplace worldwide.

 

One of the things that inspires me every day is the fact that our industry plays such a key role in the stability and recovery of the American economy. Technology sector leaders are sought out as key political supporters by both the left and the right. Technology sector job creation is one of the few bright indicators in the current landscape. Many view government IT reform as a critical step in achieving increased government productivity and budget control.

 

Our recently-released report issues 14 recommendations across four categories. These categories I like to call the "Four T's Of Cloud":

 

  1. Trust - We recommend participation in international certification frameworks, investment in identity management ecosystems, standardization of national breach law, and further academic cloud research.
  2. Transnational Data Flow - Our commission recognizes the need for digital due process that allows cloud providers and cloud customers to clearly understand their obligations and protections under the law. The report also recommends that the U.S. align with international privacy frameworks, and show leadership by allowing appropriate government workloads to operate in transnational cloud environments.
  3. Transparency - With the cloud market clearly concerned about vendor lock-in and interoperability, the report calls for cloud providers to develop disclosure frameworks around the operational status of their environments, and to offer data portability tools that enable public and private customers to access their data freely.
  4. Transformation - Recognizing that cloud computing is in many ways a business model as opposed to a new technology, government procurement experts on our commission made specific recommendations around federal budgeting, regulations and incentives, which could spur market adoption and maturity. We also call for continued investment in broadband infrastructure and ICT education, to ensure the supply of key materials this industry requires.

 

As we developed these recommendations for maintaining leadership in the cloud market, many members of our CLOUD2 commission drew positive and negative comparisons to other technical markets such as the financial services industry and the Internet protocol backbone. Many look for parallels to these modern technical markets for examples of what works and what doesn't when trying to show leadership in a global market.

 

The primary contrast that jumps out at me is the method for evaluating services. Older, more mature, technical markets tend to be evaluated by simpler criteria. An investment vehicle is given a risk rating and is either profitable or not profitable. An Internet link is given a quality-of-service, and it is either up or down. When evaluating the cloud services market, the criteria for a "successful" offering is far more subjective and diverse. Buyer criteria ranges widely across service plans, computing models, operating systems, application support, provisioning time, automation capabilities, security tools, transparency measures, portability factors - the list goes on and on.

 

These "Four T's of Cloud" and their corresponding recommendations serve to highlight just how complex our cloud services market can be. The cloud market is as challenging to regulate as the Telecommunications Industry or the Financial Services industry, and is further complicated by the rate of technological change inherent in the industry. New software, hardware, and business models can all change the face of our entire industry in a matter of months, making it hard to set any type of long-lasting regulatory policy.

 

These globally aware, progressive recommendations made by the CLOUD2 report are a good set of guidelines against which cloud services can be developed and improved. Here at Savvis, everything we do in our cloud services roadmap will be examined against the Four T's, and evaluated, in part, by how well we are advancing their objectives in the years to come.

 

David Shacochis is vice president, global public sector, at Savvis.

I am very pleased to share exciting details with you about today's announcement that CenturyLink, Inc. has finalized its acquisition of Savvis. A news release and other materials pertaining to the CenturyLink acquisition can be found at http://centurylinksavvis.transactionannouncement.com.

 

The third largest telecommunications company in the United States, CenturyLink offers broadband, voice and wireless services to consumers and businesses across the United States as well as broadband and voice services to parts of Europe and Asia.

 

You will soon start hearing from Savvis about exciting and transformative new opportunities that will arise from the strategic combination of CenturyLink and Savvis.

 

Our vision is to become the leading provider of infrastructure and IT solutions, supported by a culture of innovation and a passion for delivering value to our clients. We understand that business requirements evolve rapidly and our clients need a partner with scale and the capacity to make forward-thinking investments in solutions to current and future challenges.

 

You will also see the key components of a truly global, cloud-oriented platform evolve as we combine the world's leading hosting provider with one of the world's most capable networks.

 

Bill Fathers is president of Savvis.