Tag Archives: iaas

Cloud vendor ProfitBricks Follow-Up – Support is very attentive

Last night I wrote about my experience trying to sign up for an Iaas / Cloud computing vendor called ProfitBricks ( https://jonathanfrappier.wordpress.com/2013/01/15/profitbricks-interesting-offering-needs-a-bit-more-automation/ ).  I hit a wall being able to deploy my datacenter due to a manual approval process but have to say the support thus far has been fantastic.  I emailed support and received a response in less than 20 minutes.  Sales then followed up via email less than 40 minutes later and received a call this morning to see if I needed any assistance using their Data Center Designer (DCD) tool.

So while I couldn’t setup my server last night, the support they provide certainly makes up for it.  I will try and deploy my data center tonight and follow-up with a post on how it went.

ProfitBricks – Interesting offering, needs a bit more automation

Disclaimer:  I had interviewed with ProfitBricks and think they are a very interesting company with a unique offering and very smart and passionate people, everyone I met passed the “Lunch Test”.  This post is not meant to be either positive or negative or as any type of incentive, it is simply the first impression of their service as an end user/customer.

ProfitBricks is a start up in the Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) / cloud provider market – competing head to head with AWS, Rackspace and the like.  Their key differentiators (based soley on their website) for me is InfiniBand and live upscaling for CPU cores and RAM for your VMs – the only provider in the industry to offer this.  They claim to have the first graphical design tool, but I think that award goes to GoGrid who offered a graphical tool as far back as 2006/2007 (but that is neither here nor their).  The ProfitBricks Data Center Designer (DCD) is very polished and easy to use, as it should be as it is also the crux of their offering as this is the tool you use to build out your virtual data center.

My use case for tonight was simple, a single web server configuration but could also see potential for DR scenarios since I can live scale my CPU cores and RAM, assuming I can install my hypervisor of choice as a VM within their DCD and use some replication technology to get my VMs replicating on a regular basis to my storage devices, but that article will be for a later date – tonight its boring old single web server.

Note:  I emailed their support email address at 8:01PM EST because of the errors I was receiving using the DCD and received a response 17 minutes later.  I have a feeling Amazon might struggle to provide that type of response time.

The DCD, however, is where I ran into my first problem.  I signed up for an account and immediately received my account verification email – par for the course in 2013 but they came through as expected.  Once I clicked the link to verify my account, I headed over to the DCD to build my data center.

activated

Now based on the email above, I figured I was good to go.  The DCD was very intuitive to use, though I did have a little bit of a head start as I got to see it demoed by an SE during my interview.  One item I would have missed in my haste to get it setup was actually linking the components together (internet to server, server to storage) as you can see in the image below (not connected in the first image).

nolinks

linked

Once you see it done it makes all the sense in the world, at least it did to me.  Now my needs are pretty simple right now as I just need a server capable of hosting multiple websites and could have just as easily went to GoDaddy and upgrade my $3 a month account but that doesn’t seem nearly as fun.  Once I finished my single server design I clicked saved and then tried to provision my data center – this is where I received my first error.

provisionerror

Now, as we saw earlier in the article, I had successfully activated my account.  Figured it was a glitch, I was logged in when I activated it so maybe the DCD just needed a refresh so I logged off and back on, same error.  I emailed support (see troubleshooting 101) to find out what I was doing wrong.  I did get a response in 17 minutes, impressive to say the least.  The problem – my account isn’t really activated until someone in sales activates it…. okay – I guess?  I can certainly see wanting an SE or sales person to get in touch with customers to make sure they are using the platform properly, but they are the very definition of “cloud” – I want it now, not in 12 hours, not even in 2 or 3 hours – now.   Cloud = instant, on-demand.  So for now I can’t tell you any more about my experience, other than if I was a person in a garage coding the next great web-app I would have probably moved on to another hosting provider by now if I was told I had to wait 12 hours for sales.  Also, in fairness there is a phone number listed on the error so I might be able to call and have my account activated now but I am sticking to original expectation that this should be automated and available on-demand.

And William if you are reading this, I might suggest making the account activation message more clear that my account isn’t really activated.  Maybe say your account has been verified, your personal contact will be in touch within N hours to finish activating your account.  Well, actually what I suggest is to make this truly on demand.

Update 8:46PM – Sales activated my account.  45 minutes is not to bad, I had to wait about 15-20 minutes for my vCloud Beta account to be ready.  I wonder if the support person who quoted my 12 hours was mis-informed for someone recognized my name!

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Service Level Agreements (SLAs) – A silent victim in the Consumerization of IT

Last week I was having a discussion with an Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) provider and one of the questions I left with was how can I integrate your service with my existing internal infrastructure.  My thought was I could build a private-hyrbrid cloud (if that’s not a term yet I own it – my definition of a private-hybrid cloud is being able to provide on demand resources between an internal/traditional company owned data center and an external service provider who can dedicate private resources) between my internal infrastructure and and this vendor to provide on demand infrastructure, scaling and high availability.  This got me to thinking of how I might be able to meet the sometimes unreasonable SLA’s asked of technology groups from the business and further started to wonder why the SLA’s have kept increasing even though IT budgets are being slashed.

I started to think back to meetings between non-technology business leaders (e.g. sales, marketing, finance, etc…) and myself as we discussed what they wanted from IT.  Typically when I am architecting a system or network design one of my first questions is to those business leaders to explain what their expectations are.  On many occasions the answer has been “100% up-time.”  We all know in IT that’s not really reasonable which is why we add-in scenarios about maintenance and vendor bugs not counting against that SLA.  Now, if I am an IT person and my CEO and CFO say they want 100% up-time – well great I can certainly design you a very resilient, high performance infrastructure that can even overcome poor software code to recover from application or system crashes.  One problem typically comes up however – the desire to have 100% up-time does not typically equate to the budget to build that type of infrastructure.  When we are reviewing the design and budget to try and reach that 100% up-time requirement the comment I hear quite often is something along the lines of “Why does it cost so much, Facebook/LinkedIn/other consumer based website never goes down and  I use that for free” or “Why do we have to spend so much on storage?  I can upload all the pictures I want to Facebook  and I use that for free.”  Once you explain that those services you are consuming from Facebook or LinkedIn is not actually their business, their business is big-data, business intelligence and advertising I am typically able to re-focus the meetings on the real needs of the business and not a false expectation based on the perceived up-time of consumer based services and determine a real SLA for various systems and applications.

So while we typically think of the consumerization of IT in terms of BYOD and related needs such as security and monitoring or enterprise social networking, it reaches all the way through the network and infrastructure right into policies, procedures and service level agreements.  Have you had a similar experience when working on your projects or budgets?