SDL Tridion in the Cloud is a hot topic at the moment. It’s even being considered as a new idea; however, Building Blocks has been hosting Tridion in the Cloud for a few years now. Let's look at why we recommend the Cloud and the key benefits.
The Cloud seems to be a catchall term for anything hosted offsite. I love the idea of the Cloud, so I wanted to strip away the business and marketing speak and look at how SDL Tridion and the Cloud can work together effectively.
What do we mean by the Cloud?
I am not going to go into too much detail on the Cloud. For a more detailed introduction to Cloud computing you could start here.
In a nutshell, it is a loose term for computer resources on shared hardware. Normally, the hardware is remote and has geographical redundancy for maximum reliability amongst many other benefits.
How you use the Cloud depends on your requirements, but the common aspect is: you don’t have the overhead of hardware.
The Cloud exists in many guises or “service models”:
- IaaS or Infrastructure as a Service is the most rudimentary form of Cloud computing, and usually consists of virtual machines using a particular operating system living on shared hardware (example: Amazon EC2 platform).
- PaaS or Platform as a Service represents a scalable application server abstraction, such as IIS or Tomcat, with no consideration for the underlying hardware, operating system, and storage layers managed by the provider. It provides elasticity to control resources based on demand (example: Microsoft Azure Cloud Services).
- SaaS or Software as a Service is abstracted further, from both infrastructure and platform, providing an endpoint to retrieve or submit information. SaaS exposes an application or API with complete abstraction from underlying technologies (example: Salesforce.com CRM).
- NaaS or Network as a Service covers things like VPNs and helps tie remote systems together.
Now on to the meat of the post, a look at Cloud computing in the context of SDL Tridion.
Can Tridion live in the Cloud?
This is an easy answer; yes, Tridion can live in the Cloud. Thanks to its decoupled architecture, Tridion can really thrive in the Cloud with each component seamlessly adapting to life in the Cloud.
In an IaaS architecture, you would set up Tridion as any other environment: provisioning the virtual machines via the provider interface and installing the desired Tridion components to create a virtual scalable* infrastructure to meet your needs.
All you need to do is choose how much of your ecosystem lives in the Cloud. You can host anything from just the webservers in the production delivery environment to your entire production environment (Content Manager + Content Delivery). You can (and we have) even deploy your entire DTAP environment in the Cloud. We’ve been managing environments of each kind in the Cloud for the past 3 years – so it definitely can be done.
* Talk to your CSM about licensing.
Why would you want to?
So we know it can be done, but why I hear you ask. Why would you choose a Cloud based infrastructure over any other virtual machine based approach? Well, you can Google ‘advantages of Cloud Computing’ for the full story, but to name a few:
- Hassle free service – hardware is someone else’s problem
- Utility model – pay for what you use
- Dynamic scaling (elasticity) – investment when you need it, not up front
- Redundancy – hardware and data backups provided by the Cloud vendor
- Reduced TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) – only paying for what you need
- Reduced TTM (Time to Market) – no ordering new hardware
- Retain control of your environment – they are your servers, install what you want
- Managed Infrastructure – option to outsource upgrade & maintenance
Now that you know Tridion can fly and the advantages of a flying Tridion, I will discuss it in more detail.
Tridion is an enterprise web content management system, and there is no doubt enterprise can benefit from hosting Tridion in the Cloud, but this is where sparks started firing in my mind.
Enterprise Tridion customers have whole divisions responsible for infrastructure and security. They would of course welcome the power, reliability, scalability, etc of the Cloud as much as any customer, but think outside of enterprise.
I see a real potential in hosting Tridion in the Cloud. Cloud hosting Tridion could open up the power of Tridion to the “masses”. By removing the burden of hardware, system administrators and database administrators, Tridion can become a viable solution to a wider range of customers. Using a “ready to go” managed and hosted Tridion solution with fixed service costs.
Don’t get me wrong, there are still some big obstacles in the way of Cloud computing in general regarding issues around security and location of data for highly regulated industries like medical and financial. But I feel over time, these walls will be knocked down by pioneers in the field and will become distant memories.
Over the last 3 years, we have been managing full DTAP Cloud infrastructures in security critical sectors. We have experience creating maximum security environments using Virtual Private Cloud approaches, ensuring data is always safe. Throughout, we have scaled up and down the infrastructures to meet business demand and provide cost efficiencies in lower activity periods.
The Cloud helps bring each piece of your IT jigsaw together, yet allows them to independently scale on demand.
What does the future hold?
Who knows, but I would love to see Tridion’s evolution in the Cloud take it into PaaS or SaaS service models. There are so many ways.
If we could edit the Tridion config files through a web interface and sort out the licensing implications, then we’d pretty much have a dream scenario:
- Got a lot of extra publishing to do for a 2-week period? No problem – spin up a couple of new publisher servers to increase the publishing bandwidth and shut them down once you’re done.
- Running a TV ad campaign for a month which is going to cause an unusual spike in traffic to the web servers? – Not an issue, just add another 5 Content Delivery servers and update the load balancer settings in the web interface to spread the load.
- Running a migration and need another environment for writing the migration code while not affecting BAU (Business As Usual) development? – Just fire up another Content Manager server that the developers can work against.
As a techie, the Cloud excites me. Hardware becomes irrelevant, and the only limiting factor is creativity (and budget). The Cloud gives me power I could never have dreamed of, or afforded before, all from my laptop. I can spin up servers in seconds without the overhead of IT departments. I can publish web services instantly on a ‘pay as you go’ tariff. I have every operating system, every application server, every database, and every programming language at my disposal all of the time.
The Tridion architecture is perfectly suited to life in the Cloud. We just need to sort out the commercial aspects.
Tridion in the Cloud is a door waiting to be fully opened. We have only scratched the surface of what is possible. Once we knock down a few hurdles, we can really do exciting things, both technically and financially, to make Tridion’s reach even greater.