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The Evolution of Technology in the Data Center

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By: Co-Founder & CTO of Stateless, Inc. Eric Keller

The business model of data center operators, including colocation providers and cloud-managed service providers (MSPs), requires that they provide compelling products and services for their tenant end-users while also being incredibly efficient from an operational perspective to maintain margins. 

A key step in improving operational efficiency has been the emergence of the software-defined data center, which emphasizes automated, agile provisioning, and management of compute, storage, and networking resources for tenants. Perhaps most impactful on creating a truly efficient data center has been the evolution of software-defined networking capabilities over the past decade.

With the advent of software-defined networking and fast following technologies like software-defined WAN and the newly introduced software-defined interconnect, data center providers have the ability to rapidly and efficiently build networking products within and beyond the data center like never before. 

The first introduction of software control in data center networks came from the introduction of software-defined networking (SDN) in the late 2000s. The name is a play on software-defined radio, and the technology itself introduced programmable software control over network switches in a more standardized manner.  

While SDN is a broad term that has been oversubscribed today, it most commonly refers to an approach that has the control plane separated from the data plane for centralized, programmable control. As a switching technology, this included the OpenFlow standard which opened up the underlying hardware through open APIs to allow software to directly program the tables on switches (as opposed to legacy switches configured through command-line interfaces). SDN also includes software switching made popular as a means to programmatically control connectivity between virtual machines in a virtualized environment.

Nicera, now VMware NSX, was the first to introduce SDN into the data center. Since this initial deployment, many other commercial players have brought this technology to market including Cisco, Juniper, Ciena and many more. 

In deploying SDN, data center operators are able to more efficiently provision, manage and control networks within their facilities. Providers can use SDN to make storage and compute resources available to tenants more quickly and as a key component of tenant self-service portals. But, most in the industry see the technology as a building block for creating a truly software-defined data center as opposed to a standalone technology. 

One of the key building blocks SDN has created is software-defined wide area networks, frequently referred to as SD-WAN. SD-WAN extends software-defined networking concepts beyond the data center to the wide-area network (WAN) links. The value proposition of SD-WAN was that it provided a more cost-effective and agile way to control the WAN than commercially leased lines or MPLS. 

This covers approaches taken by Google (with B4) and Microsoft (with SWAN) to optimize through software-defined control over their wide-area backbone network interconnecting their data centers. This also covers technology which helps create secure network overlays on top of the public Internet, enabling branch offices to connect to each other in a much simpler manner.

Like SDN, SD-WAN decoupled control and data planes while also providing centralized control providing more rapid and efficient provisioning and management.  Unlike SDN, SD-WAN allows users all over the world to connect into the software-defined network. 

For colocation providers and cloud MSP, SD-WAN is a key tool in providing tenants with a cost-effective and efficient way to connect core data center footprints to edge sites or branch offices and was the first venture in extending software-defined control beyond intra-data center networking. 

Another key innovation in the software-defined data center using SDN as a building block is software-defined interconnect or SD-IX. SD-IX enables programmatic control and automated management of security and routing infrastructure at infrastructure hubs like colocation data centers, Internet exchange points (IXPs), or cloud MSP nodes that interconnect multiple networks and local end-points. SD-IX abstracts these hubs to provide visibility and control to allow programmatic and automated management over the entire interconnected infrastructure.

The decentralization of enterprise workloads has created a market need for the dynamic provisioning and management of networks beyond the four walls of the data center. These networks can include, for example, direct connect links to hyperscaler cloud providers or transit links from network providers. End-points can include, for example, gateways within a colocation cage or a private cloud compute end-point.  

In deploying SD-IX, colocation providers have the ability to build new networking products while improving operational efficiency across core network capabilities that monitor, secure, and optimize network traffic. They also provide cost-efficiency for their tenants that have to undertake cumbersome deployments that connect endpoints not covered by SD-WAN footprints. 

In a recently published white paper by Stateless, details are provided on how the organization’s SD-IX technology enables colocation providers and Cloud MSPs to create a software-defined interconnect fabric that connects tenants to portfolio data centers and hyperscale clouds such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Cloud Platform (GCP) and Microsoft Azure — all of which offer Layer 3 functionality. This new capability gives providers the power to monetize and easily deliver new services and expand their business to be more competitive and profitable.

Datacenter operators are adopting software-defined networking capabilities to completely reshape their business model and how they deliver services to their tenants. We are only at the forefront of this evolution and many more are certain to come as enterprises undertake further digital transformation efforts creating the need for more sophisticated products from their data center partners.  

About the Author

Eric Keller is co-founder and CTO for Stateless, Inc. in Boulder, Colorado. Prior to Stateless, his work was focused on the redesign of network connectivity through research at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Shortly after completing the research, Keller co-founded Stateless and has been growing a team to tackle networking challenges that others deem impossible.

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Cybersecurity Challenges Facing Small and Medium Enterprises (and How to Overcome Them)

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Media coverage of cybersecurity breaches naturally focuses mainly on big players such as Equifax, Marriott, Sony and Target. However, this only looks at the tip of the iceberg. Below the surface, SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises) are also in the line of fire with hackers who often choose to attack the less well-known organizations.

This article looks at the specific challenges that SMEs face in securing their networks from cybercriminals and will also explore several security models smaller businesses could adopt to overcome obstacles.

SMEs are in the Line of Fire in the Cybersecurity War

The first fact that SMEs need to get used to is that cybercriminals are more interested in attacking their organizations than they may think. In fact, hackers often prefer to target SMEs rather than going after the bigger fish. There are several reasons for this:

First, small businesses are seen as low-hanging fruit that is ripe for the picking. SMEs’ limited budgets mean they tend to lack the in-house expertise to properly secure their networks. SMEs are also less able and/or willing to invest in the leading (and most expensive) cybersecurity solutions, which means their systems tend to be far easier to hack into using the dark web equivalent of off-the-shelf technology. Once within the perimeter, attackers can then more easily move horizontally through different systems without triggering intrusion detection or prevention devices.

SMEs are also less likely to have robust training in place to prevent human error, which is still the most common factor associated with a successful cyberattack or data breach. These enterprises often cut costs by relying on remote freelance workers and using commodity-grade cloud software products like Dropbox or Salesforce. They are also more likely to allow employees to use their personal devices to connect to the internet — a high-risk activity that is at the root of many successful hacks and can lead to the spread of so-called ‘shadow IT.’

Mobile employees often connect to numerous networks during the course of their working day, mainly through wireless channels like public WiFi, 4G and even Bluetooth. With each new network connection comes another potential channel for a cyberattack.

Without a clear ‘bring your own device’ (BYOD) policy in place, mobile devices could be used to download unofficial apps or to access a public WiFi hotspot. Both of these practices can lead to the devices being hacked or their messages intercepted. Enabling mobile access to sensitive data may even be against some compliance rules, putting companies at risk of incurring hefty fines.

Despite their size, SMEs can still have access to large volumes of sensitive data and may be run by high net worth individuals. Ransomware designed to steal, expose or lock away data can therefore be an effective tactic to extort payments from small businesses, particularly when data breaches could lead to staggering fines that could send a small or medium business under in a heartbeat.

Leading SMEs tend to leverage innovation and unique tactics to achieve success, which means that cybercriminals could threaten an SME’s competitive edge by stealing intellectual property. The insecure networks operated by small businesses are also often treated as a ‘watering hole’ from which hackers can infiltrate the networks of larger clients.

This is exactly what happened to Target. Hackers managed to break into the systems of a smaller air con provider and then used privileged access to hack into Target’s network and steal credit card details.

It’s no secret that SMEs face a considerable challenge when it comes to securing their networks. Not only are they required to provide the same cast-iron protection around sensitive customer data as larger enterprises do, but SMEs also have to do it with a much smaller budget. If they don’t, catastrophic losses could ensue.

Coopetition and Cloud Computing: Pooling Resources

So, what can an SME do to bolster its defenses against hacktivists and data thieves?

The two best strategies are coopetition and cloud computing, both of which enable businesses to pool resources, but in very different ways.

Coopetition: Serving Shared Interests

Coopetition is the strategy of cooperating with competitors in order to achieve shared goals. For coopetition to work, the businesses involved have to carefully balance shared gains against private gains. All parties need to understand how they can work together to increase the size of the pie with the understanding that they will ultimately be competing for the largest slice of that same pie.

When it comes to cybersecurity coopetition, pooling resources to invest in the best tools and bring in advanced technical professionals can benefit all businesses involved. As long as each company’s data is kept separate and one company doesn’t have elevated privileges, this arrangement can overcome the financial limitations that SMEs typically struggle with.

SMEs are in a far better position than their larger cousins to engage in coopetition. Their processes tend to be less constrained and their hierarchies less defined, enabling them to change strategies quickly.

Leveraging Distributed Computing in the Cloud

The ultimate way to pool compute resources is by adopting cloud computing. Again, this is often quicker and easier for SMEs to implement than larger companies because they don’t have to deal with the hassle of decades-old legacy hardware consisting of multiple dependencies.

Keep in mind, though, that migrating to the cloud doesn’t guarantee security by itself. Although the public cloud providers are responsible for securing data within their networks, businesses still need to choose and configure security products or services correctly in order to protect data on their side of the public cloud gateway. However, cloud-based security products are cheaper, more scalable and easier to maintain than standard hardware devices. They are often provided as managed ‘pay as you go’ services with skilled technicians employed to monitor for security events.

Of course, moving into the cloud requires careful planning. For starters, there are several competing public cloud solutions on the market. To help you decide between Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Cloud Platform (GCP) or Microsoft Azure, consulting with a cloud specialist is highly recommended (e.g. telecom RFP consultants). These specialists can also help you weigh up the costs and benefits of various deployment options, including a cloud direct connect, which is a more secure connection to your cloud services that by-passes the ‘wild west’ of the internet.

Creating a Security-First Culture

While coopetition and cloud computing can provide the additional resources needed to shore up network defenses, this is no substitute for employees who are security-aware. In fact, even the most powerful enterprise-grade security services can be neutralized quite easily via misconfiguration or weak security policies.

Despite decades of high-profile data breaches, many businesses still bolt cybersecurity onto their in-house literature almost as an afterthought. To protect themselves from hackers, business owners need to revisit their strategies and rework them to put security at their heart.

Cybersecurity training would play an important role in ensuring that both new and existing staff members are on the same page when it comes to security best practices. Topics to be covered in full should include phishing, password hygiene, message encryption, compliance, BYOD policy, software update management and  suspected cyberattack response.

To reinforce the message, regular refresh trainings should be scheduled, with outcomes tied into appraisals.

By combining pooled resources, effective training and a security-first culture, there is no reason why an SME’s network can’t be as secure (or even more secure) than that of a big, multinational corporation. Security is a big challenge for those on limited budgets, but it is a challenge that must be — and can be — overcome with the right resources in place.

About the Author

The Evolution of Technology in the Data Center 4Ben Ferguson is the Vice President and Senior Network Architect for Shamrock Consulting Group, an industry leader in digital transformation solutions. Since his departure from Biochemical research in 2004, Ben has built core competencies around cloud direct connects and cloud cost reduction, SD WAN providers, enterprise wide area network architecture, high density data center deployments, cybersecurity and VOIP telephony. Ben has designed hundreds of complex networks for some of the largest companies in the world and he’s helped Shamrock become a top partner of the 3 largest public cloud platforms for AWS, Azure and GCP consulting. When he takes the occasional break from designing networks, he enjoys surfing, golf, working out, trying new restaurants and spending time with his wife, Linsey, his son, Weston and his dog, Hamilton.

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Druva Unveils Multi-Tier Intelligent Data Storage in the Cloud

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Cloud data protection & management company Druva has launched its storage tiering system with support across all layers of AWS cloud storage, including S3, Glacier and Glacier Deep Archive.

The original source for ths post is Druva Unveils Multi-Tier Intelligent Data Storage in the Cloud on Website Hosting Review.

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Splunk Acquires Cloud Monitoring Provider SignalFx For More than $1 Billion

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Splunk has announced a definitive agreement to acquire SignalFx – a SaaS leader in real-time monitoring and metrics for cloud infrastructure, microservices and applications.

The original source for ths post is Splunk Acquires Cloud Monitoring Provider SignalFx For More than $1 Billion on Website Hosting Review.

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Eataly Selects New York-based ColoGuard to Deliver Managed Private Cloud Solutions

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Italian retail & dining company Eataly, a company operating five locations with approximately 2,700 employees across North America has selected data center services company ColoGuard Private Cloud to deliver its ColoGuard Managed Private Cloud solution.

The original source for ths post is Eataly Selects New York-based ColoGuard to Deliver Managed Private Cloud Solutions on Website Hosting Review.

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DigitalOcean Introduces Managed Databases for MySQL and Redis

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Cloud provider DigitalOcean has introduced Managed Databases for the popular open-source relational and in-memory databases, MySQL and Redis.

The original source for ths post is DigitalOcean Introduces Managed Databases for MySQL and Redis on Website Hosting Review.

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NTT DATA Recognized as a Microsoft Azure Expert MSP

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Global technology services provider NTT DATA Services has been recognized as a Microsoft Azure Expert Managed Services Provider (MSP).

The original source for ths post is NTT DATA Recognized as a Microsoft Azure Expert MSP on Website Hosting Review.

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Latest Release Rubrik Addresses Cloud Governance, DR and Data Protection

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Rubrik’s latest, Andes 5.1 brings new solutions for data classification, automated DR orchestration, and continuous data protection across Rubrik Cloud Data Management (RCDM) and Rubrik Polaris SaaS platform.

The original source for ths post is Latest Release Rubrik Addresses Cloud Governance, DR and Data Protection on Website Hosting Review.

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Multi-GPU Cloud Platform Cirrascale Now Powered by AMD EPYC 7002

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Cirrascale Cloud Services, a provider of public and private dedicated, multi-GPU cloud solutions enabling deep learning, is now offering AMD EPYC 7002 Series Processors as part of its dedicated, multi-GPU cloud platform.

The original source for ths post is Multi-GPU Cloud Platform Cirrascale Now Powered by AMD EPYC 7002 on Website Hosting Review.

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AWS Announces Opening of Middle East (Bahrain) Region

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With the launch of a new cloud region in the Middle East, in Bahrain, AWS now spans 69 Availability Zones within 22 geographic regions around the world. The hyperscaler has announced plans for nine more Availability Zones across three more AWS Regions in Indonesia, Italy, and South Africa. (video)

The original source for ths post is AWS Announces Opening of Middle East (Bahrain) Region on Website Hosting Review.