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Eirik Engvik

Virtual Data Center – a simpler way to the Cloud

Many IT managers want to move to “the Cloud”. They are attracted by the possibilities for innovation and a higher level of development, as well as the potential for streamlining, standardizing and automating IT operations. But fear is also holding companies back, and gives two usual ways of approaching the Cloud, as described below.

Here we will explain the reason why neither of these two ways work really well, and then tell about an entirely new solution which will let you introduce Cloud solutions in your own company in an entirely new way.

The trends are clear, the Cloud is the future. Cloud services are growing with more than 20% annually (according to Gartner), and one third of all IT costs in the Nordic countries will be Cloud related within 2022.

But there are many questions, and some fear. Among other things, many IT managers are worried about security, laws and regulations, as well as the costs connected to the project of taking the organization to the Cloud. This means that companies risk postponing the transfer to the Cloud. This is negative in general, especially if competitors already are on the move.

Two usual approaches

The scepticism forward of a Cloud journey often drives two usual approaches to the forefront.

1. Adhoc solutions

A normal way of approaching the Cloud is to find Adhoc solutions. You “dip your toes in the water and try”, then you do another project, and often several more.

But this is done without anchoring to the IT department. This means that those in charge of security, and who know how to adhere to this, are not included.

It can seem really simple and flexible, but there are also a series of problems arising:

  • No overall big picture when it comes to control
  • Lack of automation
  • Difficult to secure support and maintenance in general
  • If the developers are handling security, this might not happen at all

2. IT drives the implementation

An alternative way is for IT to drive the introduction of Cloud services. In such situations, it often becomes a large and centrally run project which should suit everyone.

With this approach, the right people are handling security and compliance, but there are also different drawbacks.

On the one hand, the environment will become extremely “locked” and closed, and as such you will have to sacrifice the agility you wanted to achieve. If you create a “more relaxed” environment, you risk developers putting things where they want, and where it suits them for their project. We have seen instances where, for example, sensitive data were placed outside the firewall.

The best of two worlds

So neither of the two solutions really work well. IT managers would rather have a combination of the positive from the two approaches. You want flexibility and agility, but at the same time with the security and control the business demands.

Several companies have started with the first approach and then try to solve security and control afterwards. It is possible, but you are at the risk of having large and extensive projects.
So what do you need to do instead?

You need a different approach. And this is something we at Innofactor have worked on the last few years.

A Virtual Data Center (VDC)

What we have done, is to combine the old with the new. We have looked at what works well in physical data centers. And the reason for that is there being a lot of good stuff in how classical data centers are built and operated, for example, clarity in routines, cost distribution and security control.

But a drawback is that each time you wish to increase capacity, you will have to build a new data center. Another one is that you sometimes will have to build it in a specific geographical location to ensure performance.

So what you want is security and control - but in the Cloud.

And that is why we built Innofactor Virtual Data Center. It is based on the principles of the physical data center, but is implemented in Microsoft’s Cloud environment, where we followed all the best experiences from Microsoft.

What is Innofactor Virtual Data Center?

Innofactor’s Virtual Data Center consists of several parts. Here is an overview of the three main sections.

1. Architecture

The first part is the technical solution and architecture, which, among others:

  • Includes traffic analysis which helps and identifies attempts of intrusion.
  • Sets up Security Center which uses machine learning to identify different attacks in the environment.
  • Uses what we call “Infrastructure as code.” There is a standardizing in different modules that can be combined or customized. This includes, for example, a pre-defined naming standard as well as a library of modules used for distribution of resources in Microsoft Azure.

The advantage of this is that you will get a good structure in everything from naming standards and control & security, which the developers and operators of the data center use.

2. Virtual Data Center services

The second part is the Virtual Data Center service in itself. This is your uniquely implemented version of architecture, routines and work methods related to point 1.

In the service, we include technical documentation which describes the Virtual Data Center and documentation for control. This means a manual for how you run the data center.

3. Management and reporting

The third part consists of configuration control, monitoring and reporting, as well as logging. This includes, for example:

  • Oversight logging
  • Monitoring the back up of all databases, virtual machines and storage accounts
  • Access to graphic dashboards
  • Control of costs, budgeting and prognoses for each cost center

This means that you can pay attention to the costs, and distribute them to the respective service they belong to.

Agility and control

To sum up, we have built a solution which balances flexibility and control.

You have control over security requirements and legal requirements. You have a set network core where we control all traffic input and output. This is balanced with flexibility by distributing services as dedicated subscriptions.

There are less restrictions than in a large, centralized environment. But we can limit how much anyone is allowed to use, and which resources they can use. This makes the solution optimal for agile development and DevOps.

This is how we introduce Innofactor’s VDC with new customers:

  1. First we assess the present situation. We look at what you have, and give you a recommendation on whether to transfer it to the Cloud. And if it should be moved, we can suggest the best way to handle the transfer. Will this stay a virtual machine, or should we transform to a Cloud Native service on the platform?
  2. Then we activate and build your Virtual Data Center. This is done in our own environment, to ensure that it will be an optimal environment for you during production. Then we implement the Virtual Data Center in your sharp environment.
  3. We build test environments in your VDC, so that we, together, can test some selected services with your IT staff.
  4. We document the environment, and build it. We migrate your services and then start the transmission to your employees; the IT department and security staff. They will receive training, where our consultants work with your employees, in order for them to start using the Virtual Data Center.
  5. The Virtual Data Center is now a so-called “landing zone” for the migrations planned in the original recommendation. New services will be implemented in the Virtual Data Center, and put to use.

Continuous development through automation

The VDC is a subscription service, and includes what you need for your organization to use it. This includes manuals, routines and training of your employees.

The service also includes continuous upgrades of routines and methods.

We keep a close dialogue with the Development team in Azure. As such we have an overview of future development and the best way of working with Azure today and in the future. We build this knowledge into the technical Azure solution when it comes to architecture, routines and manuals. And this will be available for you and your organization.

This will allow you, as IT manager, to keep your organization updated without having to run this development yourself. They will receive a blueprint we know works, and which ensures that you do things the right way from the start.

Solution of the future

We at Innofactor are, of course, very proud of our unique VDC solution and consider it the future of cloud based IT.

To sum up, the VDC is a solution which will give control of security, legal requirements, and control - and which at the same time will give the flexibility and agility connected with cloud based IT.

Other benefits include:

  • Faster implementation at a lower price.
  • Diverse cost through subscription.
  • The right solution from the start by following best practices.
  • Large flexibility to decide whether you want to run the data center yourself, or through an external supplier.
  • Control by ensuring that your employees have full insight in the environment.

Learn more about VDC and and how it facilitates the deployment of cloud services by watching our on-demand webinar!