Archive for the 'Virtualization' Category

EMS Cortex in good company with Microsoft’s Dynamic Data Center Alliance

May 17, 2010

EMS Cortex is one of five technology partners included in the Microsoft Dynamic Data Center Alliance, along with NetApp, Compellent, F5 and EMC.

This is a program designed to bring together an ecosystem of partners including hosters, system integrators, hardware manufacturers and software vendors who partner with Microsoft to offer rich and differentiated value around the Dynamic Data Center Toolkit for Hosters and the Dynamic Infrastructure Toolkit for System Center.

Dynamic Data Center Alliance

“Single Pane of Glass” Provisioning in the Cloud is a powerful thing

April 25, 2010

The following is an extract from a Microsoft case study on American Cloud Service Provider NGenX and their use of the Cortex Cloud Control Panel and Microsoft virtualization.

To me, it shows what a powerful concept the “Single Pane of Glass” is when it comes to provisioning and managing services in the Cloud. The need for a portal to control all hosted services can even help drive underlying technology choices at the Service Provider.

For the full case study refer to www.microsoft.com

“The VMware environment allowed us to virtualize a good percentage of our infrastructure that we used for hosted application services to our customers,” says Spindt. “However, the VMware platform required a lot of manual intervention for us to provision servers internally, and it didn’t provide nGenX with any means of exposing to our customers any control over their systems.”

To make up for the shortcoming in regard to self-serve capability, nGenX deployed a provisioning solution from Microsoft Gold Certified Partner EMS-Cortex. The IT staff at nGenX uses it to provision servers, and nGenX customers use it as an interface to administer many of their virtualized workloads. “The provisioning solution from EMS-Cortex is key to our vision around cloud computing,” says Robert A. Bye, Executive Vice President and General Manager at nGenX. “We’d seen how the EMS-Cortex control panel benefitted our Exchange and data backup customers, and we thought it would work for building out our concept of cloud computing.”

nGenX envisioned a single console from EMS-Cortex that its customers could use to manage virtual and physical servers, applications, and other resources such as storage and network resources. “However, VMware did not interoperate well enough with the EMS-Cortex solution for us to get more heavily engaged in a cloud computing environment,” says Spindt. “There was also the cost factor. We needed to determine whether we should stay with VMware or find an alternative, more cost-effective virtualization platform that would integrate better with EMS-Cortex.”

Solution

To meet its goals, nGenX chose to use Microsoft virtualization technologies to support its new cloud computing service offerings, called Guardian Cloud, with EMS-Cortex technologies as the core of its Guardian Control Panel for automation and provisioning. The company is leaving its existing VMware solution in place for internal purposes.

How ERP will be Sold, Deployed and Supported in the New Decade

April 22, 2010

Speaking as someone who is involved in the global SME ERP Industry through Enprise NZ and Enprise Software, involved in the Cloud Control Panel & Hosting industry through EMS-Cortex and involved in the Business Messaging and Social Media Industry through Datasquirt; here is my prediction of how ERP Software will be sold in the new decade that we are now entering;

Sales Process

  • Firstly, the prospective customer will search the Internet for an ERP Solution and ERP Reseller that look suitable for their type of business. This will involve the use of a search engine such as Google, Bing or Yahoo and would include searches of web sites and various Social Media including Twitter, Linked-In, YouTube, Facebook and others.
  • The prospective customer will then contact the ERP Reseller via Email, Instant Message, Voice Call or Social Media Tweet, asking for more information and a demonstration of the ERP solution.
  • An initial consultation/discussion will follow via Email, Voice Call, Social Media etc to determine whether the fit between the ERP Solution and the customer requirements is such that a product demo is warranted.
  • The ERP Reseller will then set up a temporary demonstration ERP solution in the Cloud using their own portal in the Cortex Cloud Control Panel. The demonstration system would be a clean installation of the ERP demo, complete with its own clean virtual database server and (optional) desktop environment. The exact solution, including add-on industry vertical components and temporary user accounts can be selected and configured in the Cortex portal. This demo system would be provisioned, up and running within minutes of being requested on the portal and would be set to last for a predetermined duration for the purposes of the demonstration.
  • The ERP Reseller would then either visit the prospective customer and demonstrate the ERP solution on-site (geography permitting) using a computer connected to the Internet or will demonstrate via a web meeting tool such as GoToMeeting or WebEx.
  • The prospective customer might then want to spend further time trying out various aspects of the demonstration system after the ERP Reseller has finished demonstrating it. If the ERP Reseller agrees to this then they can arrange for the demonstration system to be kept alive in the Cloud for a longer duration to enable the prospective customer to continue with their own trial use of the system.
  • If/when the prospective customer decides to purchase the ERP system, the ERP Reseller would go back into their portal on the Cortex Control Panel, delete the demonstration system and configure a new live ERP system. The company and user names would be entered into the Cortex portal and also any additional up-sell items would also be included, such as Exchange Email accounts, SharePoint, Blackberry, VOIP accounts, Backups, Firewalls, Hosted Desktops (eg XenApp, XenDesktop), Payroll Access etc.
  • Application licensing information would be sent via Web Services to the respective vendors (eg Microsoft, Citrix, SAP, MYOB etc) and licences would be generated and applied back to the new hosted system via web services.
  • The Cloud-delivered ERP solution is now live, up and running. The ERP Reseller’s consultants can now access the system to configure the ERP Solution to the requirements of the customer.
  • The ERP Solution is now live in the Cloud and can be accessed from anywhere via the Internet. This includes all the branch and home locations of the customer as well as the ERP Reseller and the ERP and other software vendors.

Applying Upgrades and Patches to the ERP System

Prior to a new upgrade or patch being applied to a live ERP system, it must be tested against the individual customer’s data and processes to ensure that the software changes work correctly and cause no disruption to the business.

To enable this testing process, the ERP Reseller will go into their portal of the Cortex Control Panel and request a temporary test copy of the live ERP Environment. This enables the ERP Reseller’s consultants, in conjunction with the customer’s staff, to test the new software version and identify any possibly reconfiguration issues on the test system.

Once the testing process is completed and signed off, the ERP Reseller can go back into their portal of the Cortex Control Panel and apply the upgrade to the live system. They can also delete the test system when they are finished with it.

Support

Support of the ERP System by the ERP Reseller and the ERP Vendor is a lot easier, more efficient and less costly under this new model for the following reasons;

  • Because the ERP System and its virtual operating environment was provisioned by Cortex, it would be done the same every time, using best practices, using the correct program versions and configuration. These things are therefore known to the support personnel and not subject to variation.
  • The support personnel have quick and easy remote access to the hosted ERP solution (subject to permission from the customer to access their system and data).

The model works better for everyone involved in the ERP system sale. The customer, the ERP Reseller and the ERP and other software vendors.

The Customer gets:

  • Extended Access to a Demo System
  • Reduced Capital Outlay
  • Faster Implementation
  • Reduced management overhead of looking after local server & infrastructure

The ERP Reseller gets:

  • Up-sell opportunities
  • Faster Implementation – freeing up time to sell more!
  • Repeatable Cookie Cutter implementations
  • Easier to Support

The Vertical Solution Vendor gets:

  • Opportunity to list solutions on the Cortex Portal
  • Easier Support on a Known Environment

The ERP Vendor gets:

  • Faster Implementations = More Sales
  • Easier & Less Expensive Support
  • Better Product Performance in a Correct Known Environment

Cortex Cloud Control Panel Boosts Hyper-V Automation

April 15, 2010

Over the last few months, EMS-Cortex has tapped huge demand in the market for Hyper-V provisioning software. As a result, some of the world’s greatest Cloud service providers are now using the Cortex Cloud Control Panel for provisioning Microsoft Hyper-V virtual servers. Some of these service providers are listed below;

MHA Application Hosting – NZ (www.mhaltd.co.nz)
OBT – Australia (www.obt.com.au)
Cloudeon – Denmark (www.cloudeon.com)
Atos origin – Netherlands (www.atosinabox.com)
Integral networks – USA (www.integralnet.biz )
nGenX – USA (www.ngenx.com)
Bluefire (Dimension Data) – Australia (www.bluefire.com.au)

The Cortex Cloud Control Panel makes Hyper-V virtual server provisioning and management fast & easy via the same “single plane of glass” used to provision applications and services such as Exchange, SharePoint, XenApp, OCS, BlackBerry, SQL Server, Dynamics CRM, Terminal Server, IIS, DNS etc.

Global Cloud Innovation born inside Telecom New Zealand

April 8, 2010

Telecom New Zealand has been in the news for all sorts of reasons over the last couple of months, but in my opinion the most interesting story has been overlooked…

The Cortex Cloud Control Panel started off its existence over ten years ago, as a set of provisioning services, management tools, security tools and reporting systems which were custom-built for Telecom New Zealand by a company called EMS-Global. Telecom NZ was a pioneer in the field of hosting business applications and services, which meant that much of what was needed to manage its offerings had to be custom-built.

Over the following years, a product called “Cortex” evolved out of the original collection of tools and utilities used at Telecom. Most of the code used in Cortex was re-written from the original VBScript to the more current VB.NET. The services company EMS-Global was reborn as the product company EMS-Cortex.

Today the Cortex Cloud Control Panel is used around the world by many leading Telco’s and Hosted Service Providers, including TELUS, USA.NET, FPWeb, Melbourne IT, Unisys and Atos Origin.  The list of products supported by Cortex has continued to expand and now includes; Exchange, SharePoint, Broadsoft, OCS, SQL Server, IIS, DNS, Virtual Servers, Backup Solutions, Citrix XenApp & XenDesktop, Terminal Services and more.

Every month, an average of five additional Service Providers from around the world, sign up for Cortex to manage their Cloud Offerings.

Telecom New Zealand remains a loyal customer of Cortex through its Gen-i business unit that uses the latest version of Cortex to manage its Cloud offerings, including Exchange, SharePoint and other hosted business applications.

Additionally, Telecom NZ is a significant shareholder of EMS-Cortex, through its investment in TMT Ventures, which owns a 60% stake in the company.

It could be said that Cortex, which was born in Telecom New Zealand, gives new meaning to the phrase “Land of the Long White Cloud”…

Cloud is a Paradigm Shift for Business Applications

April 5, 2010

Cloud Computing is the most significant paradigm shift to happen to the business software applications industry since the wide-scale adoption of Personal Computers and MS-DOS by businesses in the 1980’s.

After being predicted for many years, the paradigm shift is happening now and is being driven by;

  • Real economic and practical requirements of businesses around the world (influenced in part by the recent global economic downturn).
  • Major technology advances and economies in Cloud delivery infrastructure.
  • Shifting attitudes of business people towards widespread usage of the Internet.

None of the above drivers is a constant. Each is getting stronger as time goes on. From my involvement in the Cloud and applications industries, I believe we are now starting to experience the tipping point.

Paradigm shifts create winners and losers. Business models are changing and what worked in the past and present, may not work in future.

Those in the business software industry that don’t embrace the new world of the Cloud fast enough will be left behind and pay a heavy price. Those that are quicker, stand to make the gains of what a paradigm change has to offer – and this can potentially be a huge win.

The good news for many business application developers is that their applications need not be browser-based nor multi-tenanted to operate successfully in the Cloud. Conventional Windows applications can be delivered economically in the Cloud using technologies such as Citrix XenApp, XenDesktop or Terminal Services and “virtual multi-tenanting”, achieving savings on hardware costs, can be achieved using virtual servers. Servers are now more economical to run as Hosted Virtual Servers using virtualization technologies from Microsoft and Citrix, such as XenServer and Hyper-V. A Hosted Virtual Server can be considerably less expensive over its lifetime than an on-premise Hardware Server.

The good news for Hosted Service Providers is that they can get to market faster with new Cloud virtualization technologies and application delivery offerings using a smart provisioning solution such as Cortex from EMS-Cortex. With Cortex, Hosted Service Providers can be up and running within days, reinvented as “Cloud Providers” and in time to capture the new opportunities.

Business Application Software Vendors need to team up with “Cloud Providers” for a win-win collaboration in the Cloud. The market and the technology is ready!

Cortex Provisioning Optimizes ERP Cloud Delivery for Partner Channels

March 24, 2010

A combination of strategic features in EMS-Cortex’s “Cortex version 8.x” Provisioning System and Citrix’s new XenApp and XenDesktop product lines enables Managed Service Providers to add significant value to the offerings of existing global SME-focused ERP Partner Channels. The combined technologies enable complex ERP applications to be delivered in a fast, templated, repeatable, “cookie-cutter” approach which is provisioned and managed on-demand by the ERP partner and/or the customer’s IT department from their own branded provisioning portal.

The Cortex product enables Service Providers to delegate administration of provisioning and management of hosted solutions to resellers and reseller channels. It can also provision from a quick & simple process, the ERP application together with a selected template database, vertical solution add-ons, virtual servers, SQL database server and other business support applications such as email, SharePoint, CRM, VOIP etc. This facilitates up-sell opportunities for the ERP partners to sell a complete Cloud based offering, as well as the ability to quickly deploy temporary demonstration and pilot test environments.

Citrix XenApp and XenDesktop technologies enable Windows applications (most of the popular SME ERP applications are of this format) to be deployed through the Internet in a similar way to web-based applications. Furthermore, Citrix XenServer (or Microsoft Hyper-V) enables the full virtualization of each customer’s Private Cloud, which means the ERP Partner can customize the ERP solution in a similar way to an on-premise configuration.

The end-result is a win-win-win situation for the customer, the ERP Partner and the Cloud Provider.

The customer benefits from reduced capital outlay, a quicker time to value and a more professionally managed environment for mission critical servers and databases.

The ERP partner benefits from faster, repeatable, cookie-cutter deployments giving a known and easily accessible operating environment – meaning quicker delivery times, easier support access and the ability to up-sell complementary Cloud services.

The Cloud Provider or MSP gets a new channel to market where ERP channel partners are now selling their Cloud services.

My prediction is that over the next 12 months we will see a dramatic shift to the Cloud with SME ERP deployments. EMS-Cortex, Citrix and Microsoft will be key players in making this happen.

Multi-Tenanted ERP Applications Outflanked by Virtualization

March 23, 2010

In earlier days of Cloud Computing, there was an industry-wide presumption that all applications delivered in the Cloud needed to be multi-tenanted in order to achieve the cost efficiencies of a shared infrastructure. Today that is still more or less true, except that virtualization technology and server hardware has improved to the extent that similar platform sharing efficiencies can be gained through virtual environments for single tenant applications. In effect, virtualization gives the single tenanted application much of the benefit of a multi-tenant application.

In the case of relatively simple applications like email, web servers, banking applications, small business accounting, payrolls etc, I would suggest that the multi-tenant model is still the more logical, cost-effective design. Anywhere that there is a high degree of similarity of function between users, suits multi-tenanting because at the end of the day, all users are using the same instance of the same system.

However, for more complex systems where there is a relatively high degree of customization and integration to other external systems, I believe that the multi-tenant design becomes difficult, if not impossible to operate successfully. This is certainly the case with ERP systems for medium to large enterprises.

The most difficult challenge to multi-tenanted ERP systems would have to be version upgrades and the necessary change control processes required from the customers’ perspective. ERP upgrades require testing, sign-offs, documentation changes, user training, checking and updating reports and customizations etc. In short, an ERP system can only be updated for a customer, once these processes have been completed and signed off. So how do you manage that if you have many customers sharing a single instance of the ERP application?

Consider instead the option of a virtualized environment. Under this model, each customer has their own virtual server(s), running their own instance of their ERP software (plus other applications) all sitting on a shared infrastructure within the data center. Version upgrades can be performed at the customers’ pace as and when they are ready and their change-control processes have been completed. Cost efficiencies still apply, because the infrastructure is shared (in effect multi-tenanted at an infrastructure level instead of an application level).

I have tested this argument with many colleagues in the ERP industry and I haven’t yet found anyone to disagree with what I’m saying.

Why are the large ERP companies investing so heavily in multi-tenant ERP? Perhaps they didn’t foresee the rapid advent of virtualization.

What are your thoughts on this?