Blog

Scale All of the Things! Go In, Out, Up, Down in the CenturyLink Cloud

Are you getting the full benefit of the cloud if you don’t take advantage of its elasticity? To be sure, there are many ways that cloud environments—running dynamic OR static workloads—can positively impact your business agility. But cloud computing fundamentally changes the relationship between infrastructure and workloads that run upon it; you can constantly right-size by adding and removing capacity on demand instead of being stuck with over-sized or under-powered environments. To do this effectively, you need flexible options for automatically and manually adjusting your infrastructure resources. In this post, I outline five different application scenarios, and which CenturyLink Cloud scaling capability delivers the optimal elasticity solution.

1. Modern web application with variable usage? Horizontal Autoscale!

Horizontal AutoscaleAre most of your internal or external facing web applications in constant, heavy use? If so, I’d be surprised! The applications that your employees rely on may be busy during predictable periods, or, experience load whenever random business conditions occur. Public web applications may spike in usage when marketing campaigns are in flight, or when an avalanche of traffic follows a social mention.

Instead of standing up gobs of (costly) infrastructure that only add value during random usage spikes, consider services like CenturyLink Cloud Horizontal Autoscale. Our Horizontal Autoscale service is a great fit for web applications that cleanly scale by adding or removing virtual servers from a defined pool. Simply park powered off servers in a CenturyLink Cloud Server Group and define an Autoscale policy that outlines criteria for scaling out and in. When that policy is applied to a Server Group and tied to our Load Balancing service, the platform quickly powers servers on and off in response to changes in utilization.

What does it cost to "park" a server? Customers only pay for storage and operating system licensing when a server is powered off. For example, if your mobile web application can satisfy its regular load with three servers (Ubuntu 12.04, 2 CPUs, 6 GB of RAM, 20GB of storage each), it only costs just $15 per month to keep five servers powered off in reserve to handle occasional spikes. That uptime peace of mind will cost you less than lunch for two in a moderately priced Chinese restaurant.

2. Relational database under load? Vertical Autoscale!

2014-07-29scale-02Let’s be honest, not EVERY application is designed to scale horizontally by adding more servers to share the load. Rather, many applications benefit by adding horsepower to the existing servers. For instance, relational databases work in multi-server configurations, but each server typically has a lot of resources allocated. In that case, adding more CPU/memory/storage to a given server is a perfectly viable way to handle new demand.

The CenturyLink Cloud is one of the few providers that offer an automated vertical scaling function. Our Vertical Autoscale service adds CPU capacity to running servers without requiring a reboot, increasing capacity based on utilization criteria that you specify. When the usage spike is over, the Vertical Autoscale service will remove CPU capacity and reboot the server during the window that you select. If you need to add storage or RAM to a server on the fly, you can also manually update servers, also typically without a need to reboot. This is a powerful way to take advantage of cloud elasticity without rebuilding your existing applications for horizontal scale.

3. Worker nodes that are falling behind? Horizontal Autoscale!

In loosely coupled, distributed systems, you’ll often find services that work asynchronously in the background. These services may take product orders from your website and update the transaction system, perform financial calculations, render complex animation sequences, and much more. For example, consider a website where people can register for a new, paid service. That system has to perform a fraud check, authenticate a payment method, and create a container for the new user. A "new user signup" message is dropped to a queue, and a set of servers are all tasked with reading data from the queue and processing the request. If the number of signups spikes, these worker nodes can get overwhelmed and the new customers are stuck waiting for their signup confirmation.

In a case like this, it makes a lot of sense to scale the worker nodes horizontally. CenturyLink Cloud Horizontal Autoscale can respond to CPU or memory spikes by powering on (and off!) servers that can instantly help relieve the backlog of queued up requests. Cloud users don’t have to choose a load balancer to associate with an Autoscale policy, so in that case, the Server Group just expands and contracts the number of running servers without worrying about routing traffic to them. A strategy like this can reduce the risk of a poor user experience and encourage customers to trust your application, even during busy periods.

4. Web application with predictable bursts in usage? Schedule-based Scaling!

2014-07-29scale-04We’re probably all familiar with this back-office scenario: at the end of the month, the financial accounting system is overwhelmed by closing activities and invoice generation. To combat these predictable spikes, many companies either (a) deploy systems like this on pricey hardware that always has enough headroom to deal with the spike, or (b) resign themselves to delivering a subpar, slow application during these bursty windows.

There’s a better way! The CenturyLink Cloud is built with automation and management in mind. Apply a "scheduled task" to a server so that it powers on at a specific point each day/week/month to increase application capacity. Create a second scheduled task that powers that server back down when the predictable spike is over. This sort of elasticity is exactly what the cloud is good at, and helps you deliver an optimized application that delights users, keeps costs down, and helps you arrive at business conclusions faster.

5. Cache cluster that needs controlled resizing? Manually scale up/out!

You may love automation as much as we do, but sometimes a scale event requires careful planning and manual resizing because of complexity with the target application. You may not want an automated service resizing your NoSQL database, cache cluster, or mission critical line of business system whenever it detects a heavy load.

In cases like this, you can choose from the full catalog of elasticity options that the cloud provides. Experiencing I/O contention and want to add more servers and spread the intense demand? Clone a running server or quickly build a new one from scratch. Need to add storage to a server that’s rapidly running out of room? Add more space to an existing volume to add a new volume to the running server. Looking to add CPU or memory to a server and then update the application to recognize the new capacity? Immediately add resources and run a script against all the resized servers.

CenturyLink Cloud Scaling Tools Deliver Elasticity

Elasticity is a hallmark of the public cloud. It helps you maintain a dynamic resource pool that expands and contracts to meet business demand. The CenturyLink Cloud offers a leading set of services to help you automatically and manually adjust capacity for one server, or a fleet of servers.

As you migrate applications to the cloud—or design entirely new cloud-native ones—do it with scalability and elasticity in mind!

CenturyLink Cloud Expands Canadian Presence

New cloud node in Toronto gives customers more choice and flexibility for Canadian-based cloud services

The CenturyLink Cloud global footprint expansion continues.

Today, we’re excited to give customers a new public cloud deployment option in Canada. Effective immediately, customers can deploy and manage virtual resources in our “CA3” cloud node in our CenturyLink Toronto “TR1” facility.

For businesses based in Canada, and those that do business in Canada – this new CenturyLink Cloud node offers several benefits: data sovereignty (for compliance), performance (host your apps close to your users) and the best aspects of having the CenturyLink Cloud available in a CenturyLink facility:

  • Scale.  The CA3 node is built to handle the pent-up demand for cloud services in Canada.
  • Advanced connectivity. CenturyLink customers who already deploy resources in our TR1 location can now connect existing infrastructure to our public cloud offering. Customers using nearby TR3, our new Toronto data center opening later this year, will also be able to take advantage of this capability.
  • Self-service access to a robust set of cloud services.Users have Lots of options to build and manage enterprise cloud environments, including Hyperscale instances with 100% flash storage for Hadoop and NoSQL workloads.

Have additional questions?  We’ve got answers!

What cloud services are available in this location?

Our new CA3 facility boasts the full CenturyLink Cloud product catalog, including:

  • Compute.  Deploy servers with custom CPU and RAM dimensions.  Recent benchmarking results by third parties show how powerful our servers are – see for yourself here.
  • Storage.   Block storage for app data.  Customers can opt for our premium storage option that auto-replicates data from our Toronto facility to our Vancouver location.  This provides geo-redundancy and preserves data sovereignty for mission-critical workloads.  Object storage is not available in this facility, but it is available in Canada.
  • Networking. Create and manage complex network topologies all via self-service - load balancers, VPNs, and firewalls.

I’m a CenturyLink customer with deployments in Toronto.  What capabilities does this new node offer?

Good news – you can now extend these environments to CenturyLink Cloud via direct connect and IPSEC VPNs in some cases. This configuration delivers better performance (via ultra-low latency connections), robust security (new security add-ons are available), and lower cost (since the public Internet is bypassed, thereby lowering bandwidth fees).

Are cloud-based managed services available in this location on CenturyLink Cloud?

Today managed services on CenturyLink Cloud are available in Santa Clara and Sterling. Look for them in Canada in coming months.

A Watershed Event for Cloud:  Managed Services On Demand

We are in the business of solving real problems. That’s what our customers expect.  And today, we are announcing a new managed service that does just that.  Today we are introducing a cloud-based managed services offering that will help corporate managers minimize costs, complexity and risk while increasing agility and freeing budget for capabilities that transform the business and create competitive differentiation.  At CenturyLink, we believe that one of the most significant measures of problem solving is doing what we do best – managing the infrastructure that underpins the critical business initiatives of our clients and infusing that management with the automation and economics of our cloud platform.  Combined, those two elements deliver a value that no other provider can compete with today.  Infrastructure and people to run that infrastructure on-demand, paid for by the hour. Simply put, we are making cloud easier to manage for our customers.

We all know that Cloud is crossing a threshold into a new level of enterprise adoption possibilities. Enterprises now consider the cloud to be a basic necessity; a core element of their IT portfolios.  The challenge, however, is that most cloud platforms still operate on the do-it-yourself basis as cloud providers have mostly catered to early innovators. If your business outsourced your infrastructure to the cloud, you saved on hardware and facilities but you still had to piece together a set of people and services to manage the stack.  The simple management approach to cloud services has been missing.

Building the ecosystem that delivers both infrastructure and management on demand is a significant investment for any provider.  Perhaps that is why we are alone among our peers with this capability.  But it’s the right thing to do for our business clients and one of the most substantial developments I have seen in the market when it comes to realizing value from the cloud. I am proud to be part of CenturyLink’s transformation of enterprise cloud computing with an optimized experience that brings cloud together with expert managed services. It’s a game changer for the cloud, our business and our customers.

Cloud-based managed services represent a natural evolution of our cloud hosting business.  CenturyLink has offered managed hosting for years to some of the biggest companies in the world. With this service, we’re extending that heritage to offer managed applications in an on-demand model on our flagship platform, CenturyLink Cloud. Our industry-leading managed services are now married with our innovative cloud platform to create a self-service user experience that is consumed on an hourly basis. 

One-click access to managed services delivers our expert management resources in a new way, providing our customers with extraordinary flexibility. When you request a virtual machine (VM) with an operating system (OS) and apps, you’re getting substantially more than an OS image on a VM. You’re getting the full support of the CenturyLink organization. You just check a box when you’re setting up a VM and we’ll manage it for you - patch management, licensing, 24/7 active support or configuration.  Businesses can now choose to consume managed OS and applications – web servers, middleware, directory services and database applications – with the ease of a cloud utility and pay-by-the hour billing.

One of the great things about being part of an organization as large and capable as CenturyLink is the opportunity to craft a plan and then have the resources to follow it through to execution. We’ve been able to infuse our self-service/innovator roots from the Tier 3 acquisition with the “white glove” service standard of the previously named Savvis business unit. It’s an incredible match. We understand that there isn’t exactly a shortage of cloud providers in the market today. Yet, few can deliver fully managed Windows and Linux stacks in a public cloud as well as a hybrid cloud delivery model, which includes a mix of both virtualized and non-virtualized infrastructure. CenturyLink offer this breadth of capability along with the network to transport application workloads via an application-aware network.

This is a watershed moment for both the cloud as an industry and for CenturyLink as a company. It’s an exciting moment to be involved with taking cloud services to the next level. Free your people resources, expedite your capabilities and let CenturyLink do the heavy lifting on managing the infrastructure that you use every day to achieve the vision and promise of your organization. Visit our Managed Services page to see how CenturyLink can help your business become more agile in the cloud. 

 

8 Managed Services, Remastered for Public Cloud

Today, we announce a new way to consume managed services - a cloud-friendly way.

This is exciting news for us, given CenturyLink’s expertise in both cloud and managed services.  Our CTO Jared Wray posted his thoughts here on what this news means for our company and the industry.

Let’s look into the details of these powerful new cloud-based managed services.  The heart of our value proposition to customers is two-fold:

  • Automation, front-and-center.  We’ve automated best practices for the configuration, monitoring, and ongoing administration of 8 managed services.  The provisioning of each service is also automated, via our Blueprints orchestration engine.
  • Humans, when you need them.  Of course, humans play a key role in uptime and performance of managed environments.  But our managed services involve them intelligently, with proactive notifications.  These alerts indicate that a decision, or perhaps a manual action, is required.  That means our team is engaged, and hands-on with your environment whenever it’s needed, 24x7.

Both of these principles are hallmarks of public clouds – automation to the Nth degree, with humans jumping in only when needed.  This approach yields self-service, hourly billing, and scale.  All three are big wins for customers.

Here’s what is available on CenturyLink Cloud, effective June 30.  8 managed services: 2 operating systems and 6 applications, including:

  1. Microsoft Windows Server, both 2008 and 2012
  2. Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6.5
  3. Active Directory
  4. Apache HTTP Server
  5. Microsoft IIS
  6. MS SQL
  7. MySQL
  8. Tomcat

The new services will be available in our Santa Clara and Sterling data centers, with additional sites online in the coming months.

Here’s what customers get

CenturyLink has set an “enterprise-class” standard for services rendered, and that tradition continues in cloud.  These offerings allow customers to run websites, database apps, and identity management systems in the CenturyLink Cloud – with peak uptime and increased security.

Our automation (and engineers) will perform:

  • Licensing
  • Installation
  • Configuration
  • Administration
  • Monitoring
  • Maintenance (patching, hotfixes, change management)
  • 24x7 Support

Further, managed services are a “first-class citizen” in the platform. Users can interact with managed environments just like any other instance in CenturyLink Cloud.  Managed and unmanaged servers can be on the same network.  Users can provision managed services on Hyperscale, apply autoscale policies, and run Blueprints.

This initial breadth of services – and the depth of management performed for each one – offers customers substantial flexibility when it comes to allocating their internal human capital.  Increasingly, we see enterprises looking to outside experts to keep their critical “run the business” systems online.  This set of services is just that, married up with the best elements of the cloud model.

As we say a lot here – we’re just getting started with managed services in cloud.  Look for more updates from us in the coming months.  In the meantime, contact us so we can discuss your managed services needs.

 

June Software Update Brings Bandwidth Price Drop and More

Last month CenturyLink Cloud announced some major pricing changes that took effect instantly for many customers. The adjustment to public  bandwidth pricing –  from a 95/5 billing model to $0.05 per GB transferred outbound – took effect on June 1st and gives our customers one of the lowest entry-level bandwidth prices in the cloud. 

Our latest monthly platform release reflects this bandwidth change in a few places. Bandwidth graphFirst, the bandwidth graph on the CenturyLink Cloud dashboard now shows you how much data has been transferred over public IPs. And because we’ve moved to a simpler bandwidth calculation, your real-time consumption is now rolled into our ever-present cost widget. This helps customers see their costs as they happen versus waiting until invoice time to see how the bandwidth charges were calculated for the month. Customers will also see their bandwidth consumption clearly called out on the monthly invoice. Pricing and consumption transparency is key as you assess your spend and make on the fly adjustments based on forecast usage. For more on our bandwidth update, take a look at the FAQ in our Knowledge Base.

We also introduced some major changes to the “create server” process in the CenturyLink Cloud. The new experience is fast, clean, and powerful. Let’s look at the major components.

      Create Server Page    
         
  1. Cost. Transparency matters! Even though virtually no other cloud provider lets you see cost estimates at the time of server creation, we think it’s important to show this. As you choose Operating System and your server specifications, we dynamically update the projected monthly cost so that you can make informed decisions.
  2.      
  3. Group Designation. How can you manage cloud resources at scale if you’re stuck scrolling through a flat list of servers? An enterprise cloud portfolio is made up of diverse departments, projects, and teams, and we’ve made it easy to choose which Group to put your new server into.
  4.      
  5. Resource Allocation. Not every workload is a fit for fixed server instance sizes, and our customers like being able to build machines with any amount of CPU, memory, and persistent storage. Additionally, users can attach a CPU Autoscale policy to a new server.
  6.      
  7. Storage Backup Level. Not only does CenturyLink Cloud provide persistent volumes by default, but we also bake in image-level backups for each virtual machine. In the previous “create server” experience, users had a choice between “standard” or “premium” storage, but it wasn’t obvious what those choices meant. In this new interface, we identify “standard” and “premium” as the backup level and clearly describe what’s included in each choice.
  8.      
  9. Time to Live. Server sprawl is a security, management, and billing nightmare. Servers are easy to set up, but easy to forget. The CenturyLink Cloud “create server” actively tries to combat this by asking the user whether they’d like us to delete their server at a future date.
  10.      

For even more on all the features in this release, check out our latest Release Notes.