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CenturyLink Makes Massive Private Cloud Massively Easy - Deploy in Over 55 Locations in 7 Countries

Public cloud is an important part of enterprise IT.  Why?  Self-service.  APIs.  Automation.  Access to new features regularly.  Global reach. Outsourcing of infrastructure management.  OpEx consumption.

But it’s not the be-all, end-all.

Enterprise apps will always require a range of infrastructure options – Hybrid IT – including bare metal, traditional hosting…and private cloud.

The private cloud market is relatively immature (more on this in a forthcoming blog post next week).  The more we looked at this segment, the more we saw an opportunity to offer customers a unique value proposition.

“You got chocolate in my peanut butter…”

With CenturyLink Private Cloud, we’ve combined our approach to public cloud with the most important elements of a private cloud.

Public cloud-style agility, scale, and automation – running on dedicated hardware with physical isolation.  Available in over 55 data centers worldwide.  That’s CenturyLink Private Cloud.

We spare customers from the drudgery of infrastructure management, while offering more control over what truly matters: everything that happens from the platform up.

For example, administrators dictate who has access to the pod and what they can do on it – while wielding complete authority to govern how the node is used day-to-day.  If an instance in the public cloud is an apartment in a large building, CenturyLink Private Cloud makes you the landlord, where you handpick the tenants as you see fit.

Most importantly, the product offers this enhanced control without compromising self-service, scale, and automation.

Ten Ways CenturyLink Simplifies Private Cloud

Let’s step through ten important CenturyLink Private Cloud product attributes, and how they make life easier:

  1. Dedicated hardware & physical isolation. Compute, storage, and network are all dedicated to you, physically isolated from other deployments.  Table stakes for a private cloud.
  2. We’ll Deploy Where You Want.  Place your node close to employees, users, or partners, in over 55 of our state-of-the-art data centers.  You get unparalleled geographic flexibility and support for advanced networking and geographic flexibility.  Plus, this helps us offer the best SLAs possible, compared to customer premises models.
  3. Administrative control of your users and their deployments, with an enterprise permissions model. IT already has a way they want segment access across a global employee base.  We help you do that with point-and-click ease at a granular level.
  4. Easy oversight and day-to-day management of deployed apps.  Our management interface – the Control Portal – is a breakthrough experience for managing cloud environments at scale.  In way less time that you thought possible.
  5. Self-service access.  This is why employees turned to public cloud in the first place – servers in minutes, so they can get on with their jobs.  CenturyLink Private Cloud offers self-service to users via our Control Portal and with an API.
  6. Chargebacks, governance & detailed internal usage tracking. As IT aligns closer with the business, chargebacks and showbacks become crucial to embracing cloud.  Our built-in account hierarchies and granular invoices combine to offer you unprecedented detail to your employees about their usage.
  7. 99.99% SLAs & CenturyLink Cloud management of infrastructure.  The point of cloud is to get out of the infrastructure management, remember?  Private cloud doesn’t change that.  We have deep expertise in running cloud at scale, and that expertise goes to work for you here.
  8. Elastic compute, storage, and network.  Sure, capacity is fixed within the physical environment.  But you can ratchet resources up and down for each app that’s hosted there.  And our Service Engineering team will help you capacity plan as you go.
  9. Regular access to new features and innovation.  Our private cloud is updated with new features every 21 business days, just like our public cloud.  And because of our DevOps expertise, the downtime for your apps is negligible.  So when we add new features (like Group-based autoscaling), private cloud customers have them at the same time.  The update schedule for most other public clouds – let alone the other private cloud vendors – is not nearly as aggressive as what CenturyLink offers.
  10. OpEx model consumption.  CenturyLink Private Cloud is a pure operational expense, offering flexibility and freedom when compared to capital-intensive alternatives.

One other element of why we think this approach works so well – CenturyLink Private Cloud is federated into our public cloud network.  That means that hybrid configurations become dramatically simpler.  Deploy apps across our public nodes and your private nodes, just like you would any other multi-data center configuration (even using Blueprints if you want!).  Create firewall rules to govern access between public and private.

Hybrid IT has been a big focus for CenturyLink in the recent past, and it’s intensifying.

CenturyLink Private Cloud is a product will appeal to those enterprises that want a “transformational private cloud” (using Forrester’s excellent private cloud framework), where the goal is control and agility.

Want to know more?  Check out the product page, or reach out to our private cloud sales team.  We are looking forward to helping you advance your cloud strategy!

Deploying Docker Containers on CenturyLink Cloud

If you’ve been reading cloud-related news lately or you follow any developers or system admins on Twitter, then you’ve undoubtedly seen the words “container”, “Docker”, and “CoreOS” written a few thousand times over the past year or so. Chatter has particularly picked up in the last few months with Docker 1.0 being released in June and CoreOS announcing their first stable release within the past few weeks. CoreOS also received an 8 million dollar investment just a couple of months ago, and Docker just got another $40 million in funding a few days ago. And just yesterday, CenturyLink joined the container party and announced the release of the open-source Docker management platform, Panamax. Developed by the recognized thought-leaders at CenturyLink Labs, Panamax was described by RedMonk principal analyst James Governor as “Docker management for humans. It dramatically simplifies multi-container app deployment.”

This is bleeding edge technology we’re talking about here, so if you haven’t heard about any of it yet, there’s no time like the present. Docker is one of the fastest-growing open-source projects ever, with more than 550 contributors and 7 million downloads in just over a year since its release. The power of Docker lies in its ability to build and deploy applications in containers, which are extremely efficient and more portable than traditional virtual machines. This is because they abstract only the operating system kernel rather than an entire device. Of course, there are plenty of places to read up and find out more information on what all the fuss is about, and none are better than our very own CenturyLink Labs blog, where the Labs team has been pumping out exceptional content about all things Docker and CoreOS for months.

But if you’re like me, you’ll never be satisfied just reading about anything – you want to try it already! If so, I’ve got good news for you. Whether you’re looking to just get your feet wet and experiment with containers or you’re feeling ready to jump right into the deep-end and start deploying applications with them, CenturyLink Cloud has got you covered. There are at least three ways you can get Docker up and running on CenturyLink Cloud right now: install Docker on a CentOS server, provision a CoreOS server running Docker, or take advantage of Panamax and make it even easier to use Docker. Whichever route you choose, all you need is a CenturyLink Cloud account to get started.

Option #1 – Installing Docker on CentOS

You might not be too familiar with CoreOS, so if you want to get started using Docker on a more familiar Linux distribution, you can easily use our Docker blueprint to install it on any CentOS server running on CenturyLink Cloud. You’ll even get the option to deploy a Hello World container so you can see a simple example of how Docker containers work and get started building your own.

CentOS Blueprint Docker CentOS Blueprint

 

Option #2 – Installing CoreOS

Interested in CoreOS? This lightweight Linux distribution is optimized for massive server deployments and it comes with Docker preinstalled because it’s designed specifically to run applications as containers. You can follow our step-by-step instructions or watch our how-to video for using blueprints to build a CoreOS server cluster on CenturyLink Cloud and start deploying your applications on Docker in minutes.

Option #3 – Installing Panamax on CoreOS

Maybe you like the idea of Docker and CoreOS, but you’re not a Linux expert and you’re a little afraid of getting too into the weeds on the command line. If so, CenturyLink Labs has developed just the answer for you: Panamax. Panamax is a single management platform for creating, sharing, and deploying Docker-containerized applications. By following similar steps to our CoreOS deployment above and selecting the “with Panamax” version of the blueprint, you can have a CoreOS server up and running with Panamax installed in no time, and there’s no easier way to get started with Docker.

Docker Instructions

Not only can you use Panamax to deploy images from Docker’s repository, you can also deploy complex multi-container Dockerized apps from Panamax’s Open-Source Application Template Library. Think of these templates as collections of Docker images that work together to form the complete architecture of an application, with separate containers for the database vs. web tiers, for example.

Docker Management

CentOS Docker Management

 

If you’re looking to deploy one of the available template options like Wordpress or Drupal, you’ll have it working with a single click in seconds flat. However, you can also choose to define your own custom templates to use and even add custom repositories to search as the Panamax community grows. There’s no easier or faster way to start using Docker containers than with Panamax, and it’s built to leverage the power and scale of CoreOS.

Panamax & Docker Portal

CentOS Server

Wordpress & Drupal On Docker

Have a server already? Install Docker! Curious about CoreOS? Provision it! Feeling overwhelmed? Try Panamax. With CenturyLink Cloud, you’ve got lots of ways to get started using Docker right now, so no more excuses! Sign up for a CenturyLink Cloud account today and add containers to your repertoire of application deployment options today and start enjoying their power, performance, and portability.

Related Resources: Cloud Server, Private Cloud, Object Storage, Cloud Orchestration

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.

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.

Why Reliable Cloud Performance Matters

People are right to be wary of any vendor claiming to be the “top performing!” or “fastest!” cloud provider. Most folks know that ANYTHING can look spectacular – or unspectacular for that matter – if you stack the deck just right. But at the same time, cloud shoppers have a deep hunger for legitimate information on realistic performance expectations. Cloud performance has a direct impact on what you spend on compute resources, how you decide the right host for your workload, and how you choose to scale when the need arises. In this blog post, we’ll summarize some recent findings and put them in context.

With the launch of our new Hyperscale instances, we approached an independent analytics company, CloudHarmony, and asked them to conduct an extended performance test that compared CenturyLink Cloud Hyperscale servers to the very best equivalent servers offered by AWS and Rackspace. CloudHarmony is a well-respected shop that collects data from dozens of benchmarks and shares the results publicly for anyone to dissect.  After running a variety of benchmarks over a long period of time (to ensure that the test gave an accurate look over an extended window), they shared their findings with the world.  See the report

The results were positive – as we’ll talk through below – but how do reliable performance metrics help you in your cloud journey?

More Bang for the Buck

In an ideal world, you want reliable performance at a fair market price and no hidden charges. In the CloudHarmony results, we saw that our Hyperscale SSD storage provided excellent disk read performance and strong disk write performance through a variety of tests. In the results below – run against AWS c3 servers and Rackspace Performance servers – you can see that Hyperscale has a fantastic IO profile for large block sizes.

Disk Read Performance

Disk Read Performance

Why does this matter? Consider databases running on Microsoft SQL Server that often works with 64k blocks. By running this workload on Hyperscale, you get persistent storage, high performance, and no charges for IO requests or provisioned IOPS. This results in predictable costs and fewer resources needed to achieve optimal performance.

Simplified Decision Making

Choice is great, but is also a paradox. When you’re faced with dozens of server types to choose from, you find yourself selecting a “best fit” that may compromise in one area (“too much RAM!”) in order to get another (“need 8 CPUs”). In CenturyLink Cloud, we have two classes of servers (Standard and Hyperscale) and both have shown to have reliable performance. Pick whatever amount of CPU or memory that makes sense – which is of course how traditional servers have always been purchased.

Choose Your Own VM Size

If built-in data redundancy doesn’t matter, but reliable, high performance does, choose Hyperscale. Need strong, consistent performance but want daily storage snapshots and a SAN backbone? Use Standard servers. Straightforward choices means that you spend less time navigating a gauntlet of server types and more time deploying killer applications.

Predictable Performance & Scaling

Valid performance testing results can help you understand how best to scale an application. Should I add more capacity to this VM, or does it make sense to add more VMs to the environment? That’s a hard question to answer without understanding how the platform reacts to capacity changes,. The CloudHarmony results not only showed that the CenturyLink Cloud Hyperscale CPU performed better than the others in the “Performance Summary Metric” that compared cloud servers to a bare metal reference system, but also showed that performance improved as CPU cores were added. That’s obviously not shocking, but it’s good to see that performance change was relatively linear.

CPU Performance

How does this information help you maximize your cloud portfolio? If you know that you can add resources to a running VM *before* scaling out to new hardware, that can simplify your infrastructure and lower your costs. Scaling out is fantastic cloud pattern, but it doesn’t always have to be the first response. You can trust that Hyperscale scales out *and* up well, and you can plan your scaling events accordingly.

Summary

Performance metrics are only a snapshot in time. The individual results may change from month to month or year to year, but a reliable performance profile means that you can minimize costs, make decisions faster, and make predictable choices.

Want to read this CloudHarmony report in full? Simply get it here and see all the details about this thorough analysis. Price out a Hyperscale server for yourself, and sign up to take the platform for a spin!