Julian Wraith

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SDL Tridion in the Cloud – Tridion Developer Summit 2014

Earlier this year I presented as lightning presentation at the Tridion Developer Summit in Amsterdam. The even was awesome and really well attended. Here are the slides that I used:

SDL CXC and Tridion

Today I posted some slides to slideshare on SDL CXC and Tridion. Just a simple overview of what we have done for Tridion on SDL’s CXC platform.

Provisioning Tridion in the cloud

See! White and Fluffy

See! White and Fluffy

It’s been a little over a year since we started the “Tridion in the Cloud” project at SDL. Traditionally, SDL’s flagship content management system, Tridion, was is an on-premise solution. Customers either installed the product on their own hardware or private cloud or with an SDL partner. However, Tridion was the only SDL product was not possible to host with SDL. So, a year back we set out to change this so that SDL’s customers that wanted to have a completely managed SDL solution.

Code or Infrastructure

During my day to day role, I talk with many of SDL’s customers who are looking to re-provision their Tridion environments and are taking the opportunity to look at cloud providers like AWS or Azure. This is typically IT driven on the idea of cost reduction or outsourcing responsibility of the platform to experts. What I rarely come across is the idea of moving to a more agile approach with regards to infrastructure. Public cloud providers like AWS and Azure have APIs for the creation of infrastructure using code. This means that you can move from treating infrastructure as a series of interconnected virtual machines (servers) to code objects. This concept is not one that IT teams grasp easily because infrastructure is something you provision and then hand over to the application team to install something onto it. Even with templating of virtual machines, which is common place in IT teams, IT teams still work on the very fixed idea of how hardware has always been provisioned.

When you treat infrastructure as code, then you can roll up the build of infrastructure into the deployment of the platform (Tridion) and the deployment of the implementation (your websites) and do this from a single provisioning process. If each layer in that process is abstracted, then you can even replace different layers with new or updated layers (e.g. an updated Tridion version). For a single organization this makes little sense to go to the effort of coding all of this just for Tridion but it would make sense to do this as an approach for all your deployed applications. For SDL, it makes perfect sense to do when you are managing many Tridion implementations. Not only does it make building and rebuilding environments fundamentally easier but also it make configuration changes easier to deploy, moving to different regions is straightforward and issues with individual servers can be quickly removed by replacing the server within a short period.

Provisioning

When we provision environments at SDL we undertake the following steps;

  1. Provisioning of the infrastructure, security groups, DNS, tagging and storage
  2. Installation of the Tridion application, required modules, hotfixes and pre-requisites
  3. Configuration of the installed software
  4. Deployment of the customer’s implementation
  5. Hook each infrastructure component to monitoring

The process is very quick. If you would compare this to a traditional physical deployment, you can expect around 12 weeks to order and install the hardware and then an additional 1-2 weeks to get all the software installed. With a fully automated approach, you can expect – once you have everything set and ready to go – that an environment can be built in less than an hour. Preparation time is of course, potentially time consuming, but once that is done the process is repeatable in the event of failures or updates to the platform.

To do this you can control the provisioning process with technologies such as Chef or Puppet and leverage any technologies that your cloud provider might have to make this easier. SDL uses AWS CloudFormation. This is not transferrable to Azure so if you would want to be agnostic of cloud provider you will need to control the process completely with 3rd party tools rather than leveraging cloud provider specific technology. SDL uses CloudFormation because it is very powerful and to code something similar would have been time consuming. This was labeled as pragmatic portability by SDL because the built provisioning could be ported but we did not want to code forever for scenarios that may or may not happen. Better know where it is not portable and keep coding to add value to the Tridion product.

Marketing Heads in the Cloud

Or: Three reasons why CMOs should care about cloud

I started out as a real technology geek. I was nuts about computers, the Internet and everything that made it work.

Today, I love to think about the business challenges that drive the technology, about the marketing opportunities it offers and the customer experiences it can create. Rarely does pure technology still get my blood boiling, but now and then I still get ridiculously excited.

Cloud computing is such a tremendously exciting technology to me. I have been following the cloud development in the last year and it pains me to see that many marketing leaders still don’t quite see the benefit of it. Granted, cloud washing – the abuse of the term ‘cloud’ for any old story, just because it’s cool – has a lot do to with it and I don’t like to see all the fluffy confusing marketing B£#%{ that more often than not comes with it.

But: For CXM professionals and online marketing leaders, cloud technology has the potential to totally transform the way we are doing business. Here my top three exciting cloud opportunities for online marketing:

Time to market

In the 13 years that I am following large scale online projects, the first big hurdle has always been to get the infrastructure up and running. No matter how good the internal IT procurement and processes, with all the signatures and delivery timeframes, getting started with the actual physical hardware usually is a matter of weeks. Weeks that nobody has time to lose.

WHAT IF you could start within hours? What if from the time you get the go for your new campaign website or micro site until when you can get to work, is a matter of minutes? That’s what a cloud ready CMS does for you. It’s called ‘rapid deployment’ or ‘rapid provisioning’ or a few other terms with ‘rapid’. What it means is, there is a new server or entire environment pre-built and all you have to say is: one of that, please. That’s going to make your organization a lot more agile.

Protecting your investments

amazon.com CTO Dr. Werner Vogels said it so nicely at the Cloud Expo Europe 2012: “In offline business, our biggest fear used to be that nobody shows up. In online business, our biggest fear is that EVERYBODY shows up.” That is sooo very true.

When you put serious money into your marketing campaigns, can you afford your sites to be slow? Or even go down? When you find that golden egg and your campaign goes viral, can you afford to lose face and not be able to deliver? When you hit the news or your customers need you in the moment of crisis, can you afford to leave them in the dark? Of course not. You might as well flush your budget down the toilet.

WHAT IF you could have the guarantee that – no matter how much traffic – your sites will always be up and performing well? If you wouldn’t  have to fear being ‘too’ successful? Didn’t have to supersize your webfarm? That’s another thing the cloud does for you. It’s called ‘elasticity’. It means that your line of servers can expand and contract(!) automatically, based on the capacity needed to meet your requirements. That means you got your business continuity covered and can be sure to always deliver a well performing customer experience.

More money left at the end of your budget

Truth now, how much of your capacity is idling about the data centre, waiting for that hour of peak traffic for 23 hours a day, merrily keeping your maintenance team and the air condition busy and the electricity meter turning? How often did you expect the big run on your website with a campaign but it didn’t quite get as crowded as you hoped and now you are stuck with lots of hardware that you don’t need but that isn’t appreciated?

WHAT IF you only paid for what you are using and when you are using it? If you could just hand hardware back when you don’t need it anymore at no cost at all? The cloud does also that for you – ‘usage based pricing’. what it means is that you pay per hour for the hardware you are using – and not a minute longer.  A bit like the way your water supply works. It saves you hours of calculating and guessing work and for websites with volatile traffic, it saves a lot of money too.

So you see, cloud computing isn’t just for IT and geeks, but is a totally new canvas for online and marketing professionals. And that’s only my top three reasons! There is many more.

How can cloud technology help you to do a better job? Let me know!

Guest Post

Sonja KeerlSonja Keerl LinkedIntwitter
Sonja is in the online business since 1999 and a passionate voice for Customer Experience Management. She has helped many large global companies with CMS implementations, global rollouts and multichannel strategy. Sonja frequently speaks on industry events. Sonja currently works for SDL WCM as Senior Product Marketing Manager and is engaged to Julian.

White and Fluffy makes a Cloud…

See! White and Fluffy

Sadly, “The Cloud” is a term much abused these days; much like the word “Hoover” which apparently, in the UK at least, applies to any vacuum cleaner whether or not it is actually a Hoover. Everyone and anyone seems to label their service with the term Cloud so long as it appears like it might actually be the cloud. So what actually is the cloud?

In history, the cloud is that thing that appears on an infrastructure diagram, the icon the represents the Internet and all that goes with it. Like a 21st Century equivalent of the remark “ere be dragons”, the cloud picture represents something that is too hard to draw – even if you wanted to try – but it is something that is an essential part of our infrastructure. I’ve drawn thousands of web architectures with the cloud on the right (or left, depending on the day) and it was there to deliver our visitors to our site; without it out efforts would have been worthless.

So the Cloud is the Internet and any service labeled as being “Cloud” is not the Cloud unless it is actually in the Cloud. Alot of hosting providers label their services as Cloud because that is what the market demands, not because they actually are in the Cloud. They offer a service on the other side of the Cloud. Like East and West Berlin with the Cloud being the gap between the two, hosting providers are no more the Cloud than your own Infrastructure. That is not to say they can’t offer virtualization, per minute billing and elasticity (many don’t) but it is more to say they have a protected network or data center that they maintain. Amazon, which is in the cloud, provides you with a service that is somewhere. You will be unable to draw it on a diagram because you have simply no idea where it is or even what it looks like.

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