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In many cases, the end of the year gives you time to step back and take stock of the last 12 months. This is when many of us take a hard look at what worked and what did not, complete performance reviews, and formulate plans for the coming year. For me, it is all of those things plus a time when I u...
SYS-CON.TV
Infrastructure Assets: Bringing Clarity to a Cloudy Situation
A solution that is not only reliable and secure, but scalable

Enterprises understand the economic value of creating disciplines needed to properly move IT resources and applications into the cloud; however, initiatives are unlikely to get funded if they fail to meet enterprise expectations for the security, performance and control that they've come to expect from traditional methods. While new cloud services get most of the attention, the bigger story is how to leverage existing and future network infrastructure to remove barriers that are keeping enterprises from adopting cloud computing. The real-world example of NTT America's partnership with their customer OpSource Inc., a provider of cloud operations, illustrates optimal network architecture for enterprise cloud computing success. In addition, it exemplifies the critical role that high performance IP networks play in maximizing the value of cloud computing, connecting users to the cloud and delivering dynamic, on-demand services and applications to a diverse set of users. The relationship also underscores the five network infrastructure assets (reliability, scalability, speed, security and quality) that are essential for the delivery of cloud services.

Putting Some Backbone in the Cloud
With an uncertain economy leaving most companies looking for ways to increase efficiencies and curb costs, cloud computing is gaining momentum as a means to enable convenient and on-demand access to a variety of computing resources. With hundreds of applications, millions of users and billions of transactions supported every day, OpSource delivers Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) and Web applications as part of the cloud for a growing number of companies whose businesses depend on 24/7 network access.

While the traditional software model requires a customer to buy a license and install as well as maintain software, the SaaS model offers a pay-as-you-go option, accessed over the Internet with a browser. As a cloud operations provider, OpSource enables a company to operate its business on the Web, allowing its customers to focus their resources on building their applications and businesses without investing in and managing a complex and expensive infrastructure.

"We've been successful because we offer more than managed hosting," said John Rowell, OpSource's Chief Technology Officer. "We combine technical, application and business operations into one integrated Web solution that handles application management, compliance and business services to allow our customers to focus on their application expertise and selling products."

OpSource's customers cover a wide spectrum of businesses including customers new to SaaS, those transitioning to the on-demand model and established on-demand software companies. Customers include Adobe, which uses OpSource to deliver Acrobat.com, and SAP/Business Objects, which uses OpSource for its Crystal Reports. Other smaller companies rely on OpSource as well, including Taleo, a recruitment and performance management SaaS vendor, and Xactly, which specializes in on-demand sales performance software.

"The size and type of company that uses our products and services is so varied that we think it's a testament not only to how cost-effective and efficient our solutions are but to the groundswell of interest in the benefits of SaaS," Rowell said. "Over the last three years our business has grown significantly, as our billions of daily transactions attest, and it's vital for us and our customers to have an infrastructure in place that is not only fast but extremely reliable. Any downtime or bottleneck directly impacts our customers' ability to run their businesses," Rowell added.

When Software as a Service Meets Infrastructure as a Service
To prepare for expansion, the OpSource team did a thorough evaluation of their network transit needs including bandwidth, reliability and cost and chose NTT America as a network partner. OpSource was able to leverage NTT America's portfolio of infrastructure assets including its depth of products and services, commitment to leading-edge technologies, such as IPv6, and on-going investments in its Tier-1 network to give OpSource's customers the cost efficiencies, performance and security to effectively run day-to-day operations in the cloud.

"Our goal is to give our customers a way to run day-to-day operations better and faster," said Rowell, "So our choice of network transit is a fundamental component of the infrastructure we provide."

Because OpSource customers are in a wide variety of markets, bandwidth resource and utilization requirements are not only growing but constantly changing based on launching applications, successful marketing promotions or adding new customers. The ability to configure bandwidth quickly as traffic needs change is a distinct advantage. NTT America's 10GigE service was the ideal choice. NTT America offers 10GigE IP transit connections not only across major metropolitan areas in the U.S., but also international connections in Asia, Europe, and in Latin America (via the NTT Com Global IP Network in the U.S.). 10GigE is widely used by web hosting companies, social media sites, content providers, CDNs, and consumer broadband providers.

"Very few other telecommunications companies allow us to shape our bandwidth by what we need to service our customers. We make a commitment on a facility by facility basis and NTT America gives us the flexibility to manage that commitment, which is a huge cost savings for us," Rowell added.

While OpSource started in the U.S., it has seen growth both in Europe and Asia Pacific for on-demand solutions. In addition to increased bandwidth requirements, OpSource needed reliable connections and strong routing with other Tier-1 providers to service demand outside the U.S. Rowell commented, "Another advantage of working with NTT America is the truly global nature of their business. NTT America has a phenomenal Tier-1 network and peers with top networks at the highest level. We were impressed with their substantial global reach."

With Asia Pacific leading the way in IPv6 adoption, the NTT Communications Global IP Network was the first to commercially offer this next-generation protocol and is the largest IPv6 network worldwide. The entire network is dual stack, providing both IPv6 and IPv4 access simultaneously depending on the customer need. As IPv6 traffic continues to grow, and deployment increases globally, it will be critical when it comes to maintaining Internet connectivity and business continuity with global partners.

Running an on-demand business means that an application has to be available and performing optimally 24x7x365. OpSource solutions and NTT America's network have to work seamlessly to make this happen. "Our Service Level Agreements (SLAs) with our customers specify 100 percent application uptime as a guarantee. We live up to our SLAs and our partners must as well." NTT America is fully staffed to support the demands of high availability customers such as OpSource. Because support calls go directly to highly qualified network engineers in the U.S.-based NTT America NOC and not to a call center or overseas, NTT America has 100 percent accountability for uptime requirements.

NTT America's SLAs are the most aggressive in the industry. They guarantee that the network will be outage free 100 percent of the time and also include metrics in latency, packet loss and jitter - all service metrics are displayed so a customer can see them at all times.

The Need for Speed
Network speed was certainly one of the driving factors in OpSource's choice to partner with NTT America. And OpSource enjoyed another speed-related benefit when NTT provisioned their network. "How quickly everything could be installed and provisioned was amazing, NTT America's install was the fastest I've ever seen," Rowell said. "Overall, the combination of all the bandwidth commitments we needed, great tiering, the ability to shape our bandwidth, terrific international access and world class network reliability, all at a cost competitive rate, made our choice of NTT America an easy one."

Conclusion
Companies looking to benefit from the cost-savings and convenience of shared computing and network resources require a provider that they can trust to securely, reliably, and economically manage their critical business applications. The combination of OpSource Cloud and NTT America's global IP network and data centers removes barriers that are keeping enterprises from adopting cloud computing, giving them a solution that is not only reliable and secure, but scalable - all critical components for connecting customers to the cloud.

About Teri Francis
Teri Francis is the executive director of customer solutions for the Global IP Network Business Unit, NTT America. In this role, she handles some of the most critical customer operations including provisioning, technical support, IP address management, product development and Operations Systems Support (OSS). She brings more than 20 years of industry leadership experience to NTT America. Previously, Ms. Francis served as director of operations for Verio Northwest, director of engineering and operations at NetStream, manager of network engineering at Nextlink (now XO Communications), and manager of SS7 network engineering at MCI Telecommunications.

Ms. Francis is a member of PMI, the Project Management Institute; Tau Beta Pi, the National Engineering Honor Society; and NAFE, the National Association of Female Executives.

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