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Highly-Available, Region-Specific, Elastic Storage – “Out of the Box”

We generate massive amounts of data every day. Research firm IDC estimates that 90% of the world’s data was created in the last two years, and the volume of data worldwide doubles every two years. Enterprises are a key contributor to this data explosion as we produce and share digital media, create global systems that collect and generate data, and retain an increasing number of backup and archive data sets. This rapid storage growth puts pressure on IT budgets and staff who have to constantly find and allocate more usable space. CenturyLink Cloud wants to help make that easier and just launched a new Object Storage service to provide you a secure, scalable destination for business data.

What is Object Storage from CenturyLink Cloud? It’s a geo-redundant, elastic storage system for public and private digital data. Based on the innovative Riak CS Enterprise platform, Object Storage infrastructure is being deployed across three global regions: Canada, United States, and Europe. Each region consists of a pair of CenturyLink Cloud data centers that run Riak CS Enterprise on powerful, bare-metal servers. The Object Storage nodes are deployed in a “ring” configuration where data is evenly distributed across the nodes, thus assuring that your data is available even if multiple nodes go offline. When objects are loaded into one data center, they are instantly replicated to the in-country peer data center. This means that an entire data center can go offline, and you STILL will have uninterrupted access to all of your latest enterprise data.

CenturyLink Cloud Object Storage

Before diving into this new service, let’s define a few terms:

     
  • Object. An “object” is any digital asset that is less than 5 GB in size. This could be a video that you display on your public website, a PDF file that you are sharing with a business partner, or a database backup file. If the object is larger than 5 GB, then you can do a multi-part upload!
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  • Bucket. Objects are stored in buckets. A bucket is a logical container that can hold an unlimited number of objects, but not other buckets.
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  • Region. CenturyLink Cloud has architected Object Storage with unique clusters in three different geographies. Each geographic region has a pair of data centers that hold all of the data uploaded into that region.
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  • User. An Object Storage user is different from a CenturyLink Cloud platform user and is created separately. While you may create an Object Storage user to represent an individual person, you may also choose to create users that correspond to an application. For example, you may define a user leveraged by your public website that retrieves images and videos from Object Storage.
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  • Owner. Each bucket has an owner. This is the user that automatically has full control over the bucket and its objects.
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  • ACLs. Access Control Lists govern who can manage buckets and see objects. By default, Object Storage does not allow any public access to buckets or objects. If you choose, you can provide public, unauthenticated users with the ability to read individual objects. Or, you can choose specific users that have permission to add objects to buckets or view an object.

Managing Object Storage

Interacting with Object Storage is easy. We’ve added a management interface in our Control Portal for Object Storage administrators. From here, you can view a list of users, add new users, and reset user credentials.

CenturyLink Cloud Object Storage

The Control Portal also has a bucket administration component where you can view, create, secure, and delete buckets.

CenturyLink Cloud Object Storage

Each bucket can have its own security profile. For a bucket such as “website media”, you may let “All Users” have read access to its objects. For buckets set up to exchange large files with business partners, you would likely add read and write permissions for a user representing the chosen partner.

CenturyLink Cloud Object Storage

Managing Objects

It’s unlikely that you’ll only use a single interface to interact with your data objects. Thanks to the inherent S3 compatibility offered by Riak CS Enterprise, you don’t have to! There is an entire ecosystem of tools for working with object storage that support an Amazon S3-like interface. Want to use a client tool to upload and delete objects? Then check out a utility like the freemium S3 Browser where you can plug in your Object Storage user credentials (and CenturyLink Cloud Object Storage URL) and manage buckets AND objects.

S3 Browser Accessing CenturyLink Cloud Object Storage

Looking to mount Object Storage as a drive on your database server so that you can easily create and restore backups? Look to a product like ExpanDrive which makes it easy to add Object Storage as a storage volume.

ExpanDrive Accessing CenturyLink Cloud Object Storage

Summary

CenturyLink Cloud is among the first cloud providers to offer native, geo-redundant object storage and we’re excited to see how our customers use this to escape the burden of endless provisioning of on-premises storage! Our Canada region is live today, with the United States and Europe following closely. Existing customers can get started right away, and new customers can take Object Storage for a spin by signing up today.

Codenvy Cloud IDE Now Directly Supports CenturyLink Cloud Platform as a Service PaaS

Just a couple weeks ago, we looked at how Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) helps developers rapidly build and deploy applications to the cloud. We also covered a new breed of cloud-based development environments (IDE) that developers can use to create and publish their web applications. Since then, the cloud-based IDE we featured – called Codenvy – has updated their product to support the CenturyLink Cloud Platform as a Service. In this post, we’ll walk through how to quickly and easily deploy and manage Platform as a Service applications from your web browser.

To start with, when users of Codenvy start a new web application project, they are asked which technology they want to use, and then which PaaS to deploy to. At this moment, the CenturyLink Cloud Platform as a Service is available for Java Web Application (WAR), Java Spring, and Ruby on Rails projects. Note that Platform as a Service works with more environments than these three, but these are the technologies supported via Codenvy.

Codenvy Cloud IDE

Once the user chooses the technology and corresponding PaaS, they choose a simple project template (if one exists for that technology), and are then asked for the management API endpoint of the Platform as a Service environment.

Codenvy Cloud IDE

The project framework is then created, and the user is prompted for their Platform as a Service credentials. After providing a valid username and password, the application is deployed and Internet-accessible. All of this in matter of seconds! To update the application, developers visit the PaaS menu option and choose CenturyLink Cloud Platform as a Service.

Codenvy Cloud IDE

From the subsequent window, developers can modify the name, URL, and memory allocation of the application. Additionally, the application can be started, stopped, deleted, and updated. It’s also possible to add Platform as a Service application services – such as RabbitMQ for messaging or Microsoft SQL Server for relational database storage – to a project.

Codenvy Cloud IDE

Codenvy can also be used as a simple management interface for any applications running in Platform as a Service. This can come in handy if you’re on a shared machine without the typical Cloud Foundry management tools available!

Codenvy Cloud IDE

This interface shows you each application running in your Platform as a Service environment, and lets you start, stop, restart, or delete it.

Codenvy Cloud IDE

Summary

We’re excited to be a supported part of the innovative Codenvy platform and think that this lowers the barrier to entry for our customers while making it simpler for developers to build amazing applications in any language of their choice. Want to try it out? Sign up for a free Codenvy account and then take Platform as a Service for a spin!

The Simplest Way to Build and Deploy Web Applications to the Cloud? Use PaaS and Cloud IDEs!

Web applications are a dominant part of most enterprise IT portfolios and Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) products offer a compelling way to easily deploy and manage these applications. However, PaaS have proven tricky for vendors to explain, and therefore difficult for customers to understand. In this post, we’ll discuss the reason you should consider using PaaS products, what CenturyLink Cloud has to offer, and how you can deploy a web application to a PaaS in a matter of minutes.

Benefits of PaaS

What exactly is PaaS? Basically, it’s a way of delivering an application platform as a service. Developers don’t interface directly with infrastructure (e.g. servers, networks, load balancers) but rather, focus on building and deployment applications through a set of exposed services in a managed fabric. PaaS simplifies the deployment and management of modern web applications while making those applications more resilient and functional. How can PaaS add value to your organization? Let’s drill into some specifics:

     
  • Reduce server sprawl with a centralized host for web applications. How many web servers are sitting relatively idle in your data center because they are only running a handful of applications? Server sprawl can be a major issue as each IT project requisitions its own hardware for application development/staging/QA/production. What about all your websites for customers and marketing campaigns? It’s possible that you’re using many different servers (and even providers!) to host all of those individual websites. PaaS can offer a centralized fabric that can be sized and optimized for hundreds of internal or external web applications.
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  • Save money by adding resources only when you need them. Many PaaS products have a concept of automatic scale or user-driven resizing to account for spikes or dips in utilization. Before cloud computing, organizations typically sized their infrastructure for peaks and accepted that their environment would be underutilized the majority of the time. Now, it’s possible to deploy a web application with a 128MB memory allocation, and instantly double it when needed. Need to spread the workload across multiple machines? Simply issue a command to add the application to another node in the PaaS fabric. No calls to the operations team, no formal “deployment” exercises. PaaS makes it possible to size and scale applications on demand, which makes it easier for you to manage the overall environment.
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  • Focus on your application, and don’t sweat the infrastructure. One of the most important benefits of PaaS is that it abstracts the infrastructure away from the application, and the developer. Developers deploy to a fabric, not a server. There’s no need for the IT project team to provision web or database servers. Simply push applications to the existing PaaS environment. The infrastructure itself is managed closely by an operations team and automation is included at all levels to deliver automatic patching, scaling, monitoring and more.
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  • Multi-tenancy and high-availability baked in. PaaS products are designed to deliver high-availability to multiple applications (or “tenants”) and are therefore scaled out to provide significant compute capacity. As such, you’ll find many PaaS products with built-in load balancing services, failover when servers fail, concurrency management,  and more. All of these features boost reliability and performance for each application hosted in the PaaS. Even applications not specifically designed for PaaS can conceivably be deployed to a PaaS with little to no code refactoring.
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  • Avoid unnecessary duplication by using consolidated application services. When most people think of PaaS they think of hosting web applications, but some of the best capabilities are those offered by complimentary services.  Most PaaS products offer add-on services like databases, storage, identity management, messaging, caching and more. You’ll also find some PaaS products that offer business services such as service catalogs, and API management and monitoring. Developers can use these services when building their web applications and not have to provision or locate hardware to host those services at runtime. These services simply exist inside the PaaS and are available to all applications deployed there.
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  • Deliver “IT as a Service” through measured usage for easy chargebacks. A core tenet of cloud computing is “pay as you go” and measured usage. A true PaaS is built upon a “cloudy” foundation that tracks utilization and delivers an all-up cost to the user at the end of the month (or whenever the user checks their charges). Because of this cost transparency, it’s easy for organizations to deliver “IT as a service” by offering a PaaS for internal/external websites and passing along the usage-based invoices to each department.

All of this helps developers produce faster deployments while giving system administrators a more streamlined operations responsibility.

Why CenturyLink Cloud Platform as a Service?

CenturyLink Cloud has its own PaaS product – called Platform as a Service – that is based on Pivotal’s Cloud Foundry project. We’ve added the open-source Iron Foundry extensions so that we can offer some of the best language and framework support in the industry. Unlike the shared PaaS services offered by others, Platform as a Service is provisioned uniquely for each customer. This gives you the isolation you need, while still offering a robust platform for all the custom applications used by your organization. The default Platform as a Service environment consists of five total servers and can support dozens of web applications.

Platform as a Service Overview

Why might you choose to use the CenturyLink Cloud Platform as a Service to host your modern web applications? We like to point out at least five reasons:

     
  1. Support for the programming languages you already use. Most IT shops are heterogeneous and use technologies from multiple vendors. You may have written a number of enterprise-class web applications in .NET or Java, but also have departments that make use of Ruby or PHP. If you’re doing more mobile development, you might have started looking at Node.js for high performing web applications. CenturyLink Cloud’s Platform as a Service supports all those programming languages and more. Instead of using multiple PaaS products or infrastructure clouds to host your diverse application portfolio, use a single fabric for all of them!
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  3. Application services to cover your scenarios. Need a relational database? We offer MySQL, PostgreSQL, and Microsoft SQL Server. Looking for a NoSQL repository? Platform as a Service has Redis and MongoDB. RabbitMQ is also available when you want to add a durable message queue to your solution. In addition, each Platform as a Service comes with New Relic monitoring for web applications. This excellent application performance management tool gives you deep insight that helps identify bottlenecks and monitor application health.
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  5. Cloud Foundry ecosystem. There’s no doubting the impact of Cloud Foundry on the PaaS industry. This open source project was launched in 2010 and has been adopted by multiple PaaS vendors. Not only does this make it straightforward to move applications between Cloud Foundry-compliant clouds, but also means that there are multiple parties creating tools that work for any Cloud Foundry environment. From the Windows-based Cloud Foundry Explorer, to the OSX-friendly Project Thor, to web-based development environments, there’s a growing ecosystem of vendors and tools to help you be successful with Cloud Foundry.
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  7. Enterprise-class infrastructure. CenturyLink Cloud’s network of highly resilient, globally distributed infrastructure is optimized for performance throughout the stack. And since Platform as a Service runs on the CenturyLink Cloud enterprise cloud, your applications will be powered by high performing storage, multiple VPN options, security services, and much more.
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  9. IaaS and PaaS, better together. Not all workloads fit into a PaaS platform, and not all applications require dedicated infrastructure. By offering our customers enterprise-class infrastructure in addition to Platform as a Service, we’ve provided two useful hosting mechanisms in the same cloud. Keep your PaaS applications geographically close to your IaaS applications and data, and share the same management tools, security profile, and networking configuration.

Deploying to Platform as a Service from a Cloud-based Development Environment

Developers can push their application to Platform as a Service in a number of ways. While most developers are familiar with command line interfaces and GUI tools that run on their desktop, a new crop of cloud-based integrated development environments (IDEs) can make PaaS deployments even simpler. Cloud IDEs offer excellent collaboration capabilities, easy accessibility, and “no-touch” setup.

One such cloud IDE is Codenvy. This tool works natively with Cloud Foundry, making it easy to build Java/Ruby/Python/PHP applications and then push them to Platform as a Service. After signing up for a free account, the developer is presented with the option to link to GitHub or any Git repository.

Codenvy IDE

Codenvy uses a handy “new project” wizard experience to help the developer choose which programming language to use, and then which (supported) PaaS to push to. In the short animation below, observe how I created a new Java Spring project, chose Cloud Foundry (Platform as a Service) as a destination, finish the wizard and publish the application to Platform as a Service.

Creating an application in Codenvy

The Codenvy IDE includes many developer productivity features including type-ahead coding (i.e. “intellisense”), code generation, formatting tools, and much more. Changing the application code and re-publishing the application to Platform as a Service is simple. Notice how easy it is to resize my application (e.g. memory, instance count) at any time!

Updating an application in Codenvy and publishing to Platform as a Service

Besides simply deploying applications, Codenvy supports simple management of existing applications. From the PaaS –> Cloud Foundry –> Applications menu, I can see all the applications that I’ve deployed to Platform as a Service and stop/start/restart/delete any of them.

Managing Platform as a Service in Codenvy

Developers using cloud-based IDEs don’t get all the features of desktop IDEs (like access to local resources, plug-ins), but they are an increasingly viable choice for developers who are trying new technologies or need access to their IDE from any computer.

Summary

With our enterprise-class infrastructure and platform cloud, CenturyLink Cloud is uniquely positioned to address your cloud needs. Platform as a Service is an ideal host for your modern web applications and its Cloud Foundry heritage makes it compatible with a wide array of tools including cloud-based IDEs like Codenvy.

Interested in taking a look at Platform as a Service? Contact us for a demonstration and free trial!

New Control Panel Interface!

We are pleased to announce our new control panel interface with the following new features:

  • New dashboard page that shows the account billing summary and also overall bandwidth for the account.
  • Increased logon performance by 10x so that you wont have to wait for the dashboard page to load.
  • New server list page that shows the CPU, Storage Allocation, and Memory usage.
  • Server Price calculator now shows the hourly cost of each component of a server before build out.
  • and much more!

The new interface is part of a big effort to optimize the user experience for all of our customers and increase overall speed in gaining access to critical data. There are over 50 additional bugs fixed in this latest build. Thanks CenturyLink Cloud Team