Last month, thedatabank signed a new three-year agreement with SunGard Availability Services to use their Enterprise Cloud Services platform to deliver our products. Instead of buying servers and installing them in our Saint Paul data center, a process that typically takes three to four months from purchase to production, thedatabank will run on virtualized equipment that is provisioned on an as-needed basis, which will allow us to scale our platform easily as our client base grows.

This is an evolutionary step in our long-term relationship with SunGard, who have been managing and monitoring our servers and internet bandwidth for several years now. We plan to test our own system on this new platform for the next couple of months before rolling it out to our customers.

While this change is not likely to be noticeable to our typical users, it is a major change behind the scenes. Some salient points:

  • High Availability: The Enterprise Cloud comes with a 99.95% uptime service level agreement (SLA) covering the hardware and networking.
  • Security: the cloud infrastructure conforms to security best practices and keeps all data private and within the US.
  • Rapid scalability: when we need new server resources, they can be brought online in hours or days, not weeks or months.
  • Stability: SunGard Enterprise Cloud is based on Vblock hardware produced by a joint venture of Cisco, EMC and VMware, giants in the networking, storage and virtualization worlds. The Vblock platform brings together best-of-breed hardware in a well-supported, integrated platform.
  • Small environmental footprint: (as a tree-hugger, this is my favorite point!) Our new servers will take up 85% less space and use 85% less power from operation and cooling than our traditional servers.

Our products have always been about “cloud computing”, ever since we formed thedatabank in 1998 to deliver software-as-a-service. Now our server infrastructure itself is moving to the cloud. It’s easy to imagine “the cloud” as a place that doesn’t exist in the real world, but in this case “the cloud” is in Philadelphia, at one of SunGard’s two Enterprise Cloud data centers. It really is just physical machines running software, like it always has been, but the term “cloud” seems to have some trendy magic to it. During the coming months we will find out how magical it is.