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From Subservient to IT Self Service

Posted by Ephraim Baron

8/26/15 2:30 PM

The first business computer, the Lyons Electronic Office (LEO), went into service in November 1951.  Access to computing used to be highly restrictedIt ran applications for a British tea and catering company.  In the decades that have followed, information technology (IT) has become an integral part of nearly every aspect of business.  Try to imagine work without computers, without devices, without ready access to information anytime, anywhere.  Computing is a constant and necessary part of our lives.  

So why is it that in so many corporate environments, core IT services are still requested and delivered through restrictive processes managed by technologists?  One answer is that's simply the way it's always been.  Like the wizard behind the curtain, users were shielded from the great an powerful force of computing.  Precedent, however, does not imply perfection.  If, as Stewart Brand observed in 1984, "information wants to be free", shouldn't information systems be readily accessible?

Another argument is that computing is comprised of expensive and highly complex systems that only a dedicated, highly trained staff can manage.  Technological changes like cloud computing are changing that, though.  The National Institute of standards and Technology (NIST) defines cloud computing as

“a model for enabling ubiquitous, convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (e.g., networks, servers, storage, applications and services) that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction.” 

Read that description a second time and compare it with traditional IT.  What a contrast!  Cloud is surely appealing to anyone frustrated with their central IT department.

The Specter of Shadow IT

Shadow IT strikes fear into corporate IT departmentsIT has long had a paternalistic attitude towards end users.  “They need us”, they say, or “we’re just keeping them safe.”  But unlike the child that’s eventually allowed to go off on their own, most IT departments won’t let go.  In response, many end users – developers, line of business owners, and the like – look for unsanctioned alternatives.  They create islands of “shadow IT” outside the visibility or control of their IT parents.  It can start innocently enough – perhaps they use an online file sharing service to get around size limits for email attachments.  But it doesn’t stop there.  They may start using personal email accounts for work-related activities.  Before you know it they’re in full rebellion.  They store source code in online repositories or download the company directory to Google docs. 

“I’ll have to be firmer with them”, reasons the CIO, or  “perhaps they’ll grow out of it.”

“You just don’t get it”, say the end users.  “I need to live my life, not yours!”

Handing Over the Keys

Self service IT enables users while maintaining control

The time has come for a different approach.  If IT aspires to be viewed as a business enabler rather than a cost center, they need to provide services in a cloud-like way.  While this may sound difficult or scary, it doesn’t have to be. 

Just as cloud computing is made up of services, an internal IT service catalog can present users with a variety of ready-to-order services.  On the back end, systems administrators need only to create initial templates and then set up mechanisms for instantiation.  From that point on, it’s lather-rinse-repeat. 

There are many benefits of user self-service.  Here are a few:

  • IT organizations have far greater visibility into the systems, software, and security for which they are ultimately responsible.
  • IT is able to establish and control systems standards.  This is far more appealing than having to either support or seek-out-and-destroy environments set up by others.
  • Overall IT costs, usage, and trends are clearer.
  • Self-service enables that most elusive of IT dreams, chargeback.
  • Companies have a far easier time passing compliance audits because they have greater control (and security teams can sleep at night).
  • Most importantly, users are more productive.  They spend their time doing what they were hired to do rather than setting up and managing unsanctioned services.

For companies ready to move to user self-service, there are many IT orchestration and management platforms to choose from.  They range from do-it-yourself tools to highly-structured professional services engagements from big consulting or enterprise software companies.  To decide what’s right for your organization, start by channeling your inner Stephen Covey and “begin with the end in mind”.  Identify your target users.  Define the services and user experience you want to offer.  List in clear, business-centric terms the benefits of self-service.  Establish tracking metrics to determine how well things are working, and measure the current baseline.

In the age of cloud computing, it’s increasingly difficult for IT departments to push back on user requests.  To stay relevant, IT needs to enable users to get what they need, when they need it.

CloudBolt enables user self-service to a wide variety of cloud and virtualization sources.  Our simple, intuitive user portal delivers business agility while maintaining control through approval workflow, usage quotas, and time-bound leases.  Costs are clearly indicated, making chargeback/showback/shameback simple.  Best of all, CloudBolt installs quickly.  You can be up and running in less than an hour, without the need for costly professional services.

To learn more, schedule a demo or download CloudBolt and try it for yourself.

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Topics: Self Service IT

You are not expected to understand this

Posted by Ephraim Baron

8/12/15 10:30 AM

I love the history of technology.  My favorite place in Silicon Valley is the Computer History Museum.  It’s a living timeline of computing technology, where each of us can find the point when we first joined the party.

It’s great to learn about technology pioneers – the geek elite.  Years ago I took a course on computer operating systems.  We were studying the evolution of UNIX, and we’d gotten to Lions’ Commentary on UNIX 6th Edition, circa 1977.  (As an aside, the entire UNIX operating system at that time was less than 10,000 lines of code.  By 2011 the Linux kernel alone required 15 million lines and 37,000 files.)  As we studied the process scheduler section, we came to one of the great “nerdifacts” of computer programming, line 2238, a comment which reads:

* You are not expected to understand this.

Daunting technology

That one line perfectly expresses my joys and frustrations with computing.  The joy comes from the confirmation that computers can do amazingly clever things.  The frustration is from the dismissive way I’m reminded of my inferiority.  And I think that sums up how most people feel about technology.

“Your call is important to us. Please continue to hold.”

In the corporate world, end users have a love-hate relationship with their IT departments.  It’s true that they help us to do our jobs.  But rather than giving us what we need, when we need it, our IT folks seem to always be telling us why our requests cannot be fulfilled.  Throughout my career I’ve been on both sides of this conversation.  Early on, I was the requester/supplicant who’d make my pleas to IT for services or support, only to be told to go away and come back on a day that didn’t end in ‘y’.  

notYes

Later, I was the IT administrator, then manager.  In those roles I was the person saying ‘no’ – far more often than I wanted.  It wasn’t because I got perverse pleasure out of disappointing people.  That was just the way my function was structured, measured, and delivered.

Almost without exception, the two metrics that drove my every action in IT operations were cost and uptime.  Responsiveness and customer satisfaction were not within my charter.  Simply put, I got no attaboys for doing things quickly.  While this certainly annoyed my customers, they knew and I knew that they had no alternatives.

The Age of Outsourcing

Things began to change in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s (yeah, I go back a ways) when large companies decided to try throwing money at their IT problems to make them go away.  So began the age of IT outsourcing, when companies tried desperately to disown in-house computer operations.  Such services were “outside of our core competency”, they reasoned, and so were better performed by seasoned professionals from large companies with three-letter names like IBM, EDS, and CSC.

Outsourcing question

Fast-forward 25 years and we find the IT outsourcing (ITO) market in decline.  There are many reasons for this.  The most common are:

  • Actual savings are often far less than projected
  • Long-term contracts limit flexibility, particularly in a field that changes as constantly as IT
  • There is an inherent asymmetry of goals between service provider and service consumer
  • Considerable effort is required to manage and monitor contracts and SLA compliance
  • New technologies like cloud computing offer viable alternatives

Just as video killed the radio star, cloud computing is a fresher, sexier alternative to ITO for enterprises searching for the all-important “competitive advantage”.

Power to the People!

Cloud computing isn’t just new wine in old bottles; it’s a fundamental change in the way computing resources are made available and consumed.  Cloud computing focuses on user needs (the ‘what’) rather than underlying technology (the ‘how’).

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) defines five essential characteristics of cloud computing.  One of these is ‘On-demand self-service’.  Think about what that means.  For the end user, it means getting what we need, when we need it.  For business, it means costs that align with usage, for services that make sense.  And for IT, it means being able to say ‘yes’ for a change.NIST cloud model

For too long, we have been held captive by technology.  Cloud computing promises to free us from technology middlemen.  It enables us to consume services that we value.

At its core, cloud computing is technology made understandable.

CloudBolt is a cloud management platform that enables self-service IT.  It allows IT organizations to define ready-to-use systems and environments, and to put them in the hands of their users.  Isn’t that a welcome change?

Learn more about self-service IT

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Topics: Customer, Cloud, Services, Agility, IT Self Service, Self Service IT

7 Absolutely Terrible Ways You Run Your Hybrid Cloud

Posted by Chris Moore

8/5/15 7:00 AM


If you’re an IT administrator, there are good and bad ways to offer cloud services to your end users.  Get it right and your customers purr contentedly.  Get it wrong and you get a claw to the face.  Here’s what to watch for.

1.   Taking Too Long

(“Where the @%#$’s my server?”)

cloud service provisioning

Been to a restaurant lately?  How do you feel if you can’t get a server?  The same applies to the IT end-users.  Do they want to wait weeks for servers?  No!

Why not let users serve themselves?  Better still, why not give them all they can eat?

 

2.   Being TOO Cloudy (Not being the broker)

cloud choice

Public clouds are very powerful tools that enable business agility.  But as a cloud consumer, you have an important choice to make.  If you choose to use a single cloud provider, you end up locked into their services and UI.  If you use multiple clouds, you must master multiple toolsets and UIs so that much of the agility is lost.

You can get the best of both worlds by deploying a Cloud Management Platform.  This makes you a services broker and allows you to leverage the power of hybrid cloud from a single UI.

3.   Making Manual Mistakes

                                IT mistakes

Fulfilling requests by hand takes time, which irritates the requestor.  Manual entry is also prone to fat fingering, resulting in VMs that are incorrectly provisioned.  The same goes for tracking costs.

Automating VM builds takes mistakes out of the picture.  Why provision systems by hand when a cloud management platform can do the job automatically, from a single UI?

4.   Leaving Money on the Table (or in the cushions)

 chargeback showback shameback

To paraphrase management wisdom, you can’t charge for what you can’t measure.  Call it what you like – chargeback, showback, shameback – but you’re making a mistake if you don’t track your cloud costs.

Cloud management platforms can track costs for you and your users automatically.

5.   Losing Your Control

                         cloud control

You are asking for trouble if you can’t quickly and easily answer these 5 questions:

  • Who owns the system?
  • Where it is deployed?
  • Why does it exist?
  • How long does it need to exist?
  • How much does it cost to run?

Just like a bank, you must have clear visibility of assets.

Be sure to choose management tools that enable you to answer these questions.

6.   Living Below the Clouds

 multi-cloud management

The one who lives above the cloud, reigns.  Don’t lock yourself into one vendor.  Build a provider-agnostic environment that allows you to standardize IT, introduce new technologies, and transition between clouds without your end-users even knowing.

Make sure you’re able to choose the right cloud for each job.  One size does not fit all.

 

7.   Being the Worker Bee, Not the Queen Bee

 self-service IT

The Queen Bee empowers her Worker Bees to do everything on their own. The same applies to IT admins and end users.  IT need to empower their end users to build and manage their own environments while still maintaining oversight of security, capacity, and performance.

By empowering end users, IT can save time and money.  And, most importantly, it makes IT an enabler rather than a barrier.

CloudBolt enables self-service IT.  To learn more, contact us to schedule a demo.
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Topics: CMP, Cloud Management, Self Service IT, multi-cloud

Running a Hybrid Cloud? Are you tracking usage and costs?

Posted by Chris Moore

7/27/15 3:57 PM

At Microsoft Ignite 2015, 72 percent of IT professionals polled said cloud usage and cost tracking are essential for business management. When not in conflict with other departments, many administrators struggle with efficiently tracking resource usage and costs. This issue was too clear with a major networking vendor. Their administrators spent countless hours each month manually tracking resource consumption. Since this method was prone to human error, the vendor deployed CloudBolt to automate their reporting process. Doing so allowed them to improve the accuracy of cloud usage and cost tracking across five hypervisors and public clouds.

In addition to manual cost tracking, some administrators also manually control resource distribution. Due to limited IT resources, a leading data storage provider’s administrators are afraid of end-users spinning up VMs from a self-service IT portal. The concern came from the idea that administrators would be unable to control how many VMs end-users provisioned. In response to this concern, CloudBolt allows administrators to set quotas that prevent end-users from running over their allotted resources. CloudBolt also allows administrators to set thresholds that alert them when resources are reaching max capacity.

Taking an automated approach lightens administrators’ workload, allowing them to be more productive in areas that were previously neglected. So, whether a company needs to improve the provisioning process, measuring or controlling of IT resource consumption, they should consider deploying a self-service portal. Fortune 500 companies, educational institutions, government agencies and even the City of London have recognized the need for automated self-service tools, and they all chose CloudBolt as the solution.

CloudBolt has been recognized for its market leading time to value. With that in mind, simply submit a download request and test it out at any time.

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Topics: CMP, Cloud Management, VMware, Cloud, Shadow IT, Hybrid Cloud

Control the Clouds & Impress Your Stars

Posted by Chris Moore

7/21/15 1:57 PM

People crave a sense of control and importance, especially consumers.
Why? Because they are the stars of your business.

When consumers feel unimportant, they take their business somewhere else. Consider this: “78% of consumers have bailed on a transaction or not made an intended purchase because of a poor service experience.”1 If IT administrators provide poor service to their consumers, the IT end-users can go to AWS instead and contribute to VM sprawl. So, how does an infrastructure team avoid the unnecessary struggles that come from internal conflicts?

One method is to place an emphasized focus on keeping the IT end-users happy. In a world where virtually anything can be ordered on-demand, end-users are growing tired of tedious provisioning processes. They expect quick turnaround times on their requests, and Infrastructure teams struggle to keep up.

Automation is key.
In a CloudBolt case study, a major retailer’s infrastructure team failed to provide quick provisioning to their e-commerce group. As a result, e-commerce threatened to take Infrastructure’s budget to build a separate datacenter.  Doing so would have led to wasteful spending on areas where e-commerce lacks expertise. More importantly, Infrastructure would have lost their largest customer along with the ability to track usage and costs. By deploying CloudBolt, the retailer’s end-users gained the ability to build and manage VMs while administrators measure and control the consumption of IT resources.

Automating the provisioning process soothes end-user frustration while leaving complete oversight in the hands of IT administrators. Fortune 500 companies, educational institutions, government agencies and even the City of London have recognized the need for automated cloud delivery platforms, and they all chose CloudBolt as their solution. CloudBolt has also been recognized for its market leading time to value.

What Now?
Join the crowd to see what CloudBolt is all about!
Simply submit a download request and give us a test.
 
1 American Express Survey: Good Service is Good Business: American Consumers Willing to Spend More With Companies That Get Service Right
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CloudBolt v.5.1 Now Available

Posted by Rick Kilcoyne

7/15/15 3:17 PM

The heat of Summer has settled in, and we have a new release to help keep your end-users cool and comfortable. This release adds a plethora of new automation features starting with the ability to run remote scripts on any server regardless of cloud or OS. Yes, that includes Windows – we use winrm to work with our favorite OS from Redmond. You can also now wire up CloudBolt to your favorite internal tools using webhooks. Want to notify everyone in your project HipChat room when a server is ready? Create a webhook in CloudBolt!

We've all been been eagerly anticipating the ability to respond to user-defined thresholds on quotas. This release delivers this ability in the form of Admin > Event Automations. Speaking of Admin, checkout the new UI for the Admin section. This release includes several UI improvements and there are many more to come, so if you have suggestions – keep 'em coming!

There are many other new additions to CloudBolt with this release including initial support for Kubernetes/Docker, Service Catalog improvements, and API improvments. Also note, we've renamed CSCV to CIT (Continuous Infrastructure Testing). If you're not using this feature to test your CloudBolt environments, you're really missing out!

If you haven't yet tried CloudBolt, you have to see it to believe it – schedule a demo or request a download today.

Existing customers: start your upgrade process today by going to http://support.cloudbolt.io and downloading the latest upgrader. As always, if you run into any issues, please don't hesitate to drop us a support request at support@cloudbolt.io and we'll jump on it ASAP.

Check out the release notes.

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Topics: News, Upgrade, Release Notes

Game of Clouds

Posted by Colin Thorp

6/22/15 2:37 PM

There is a war among the clouds, the public and private providers are fighting to see who will reign supreme.  Public vs Private, Public vs Public, and Private vs Private. It is chess match to see which vendor(s) will capture the largest share of the market.  This non-stop battle has made it  more challenging for the customer, the normal people, to make the best choice.

Large companies have ruled the land for years: VMware, Red Hat, and others have their stake in the ground. In recent years AWS, GCE, OpenStack and Azure have established control and are now eating away the edges of the market; corrupting the business models of traditional vendors. In a market that is redefining itself every year, how do you make the right choice? First you have to look at the state of the clouds:

Public

The public clouds are simple and easy to use. Public cloud’s destiny is manifested by pushing at our most basic needs: gain control, lower costs, increase speed, and deliver simplicity. However, public providers don’t want you to know how much you will owe them until after the fact, post billing. You don’t get locked in, but clearly the goal is to be the stickiest product that you use with their growing toolset.  The on-premise security you need might not be provided by a public cloud which creates a need for a private cloud with the ability to move between the clouds.

Private

The private/internal cloud providers will reel you in continually attack your budgets with their ever expanding set of services. Layering in so many different tools from their “suites” that you are never quite sure which tools you are using, which tools you have bought, or which you are being charged for. Be wary, these vendors lock customers in at the root level of your infrastructure to the point where you’ll have no choice, but to renew, renew, and renew. There are so many varying levels of integration between these tools that it becomes complex and hard to manage, forcing you to buy professional services. More professional services means more money, and the vicious cycle continues.

So who is the right choice?

The answer is a hybrid approach. For various reasons, maybe it is cost or security or ease of use or vendor lock-in, you will come to use a variety of these tools and they will continue to challenge one another. They will have tunnel vision with one goal in mind: how can we lock our customers in with an vendor specific set of products.  This makes none of them fit to rule the throne, so whose turn is it?

It is time for “choice” to be your weapon. Come above the clouds to be the broker, the king of clouds and give yourself the choice. Enough is enough with vendors ruling you! Take control of the clouds and manage them. Claim your place on the throne by putting the power of the clouds in the hands of your people so they can manage their own IT resources without getting caught up in the fog of vendor war.

So you want to sit on the throne?

To lay claim to the throne is to be the “broker of clouds” above the fray.  End users must be happy, if they aren’t happy you will know and hear about it. Users are ok with paying an IT team to be their broker as long as resources are delivered quickly and correctly. Users care that the job is done, not how you do it. Private and Public clouds have become a commodity, it is time to make the delivery of this commodity readily available. Waiting hours, days or weeks to get commodity resources is no longer sufficient.

When you look at what is preventing private and public clouds from being readily available, you see the following issues: complexity of multiple UIs, slow provisioning, IT overwhelmed with tickets, inability to track costs between clouds, and VM sprawl. IT is spending so much time servicing complexity that they can’t service their users. Solution? Simplicity.

Simplicity is the Vaccine for Complexity

Kings and Queens can’t do it on their own, they need an ally. A tool that reigns above the clouds; a Cloud Delivery Platform that provides you the nimbleness, flexibility, and agility that you need.  Give users a simple intuitive interface that eliminates multiple UIs and gives users the single portal that spans the entirety of your realm of clouds. If you are truly going to lead your users, public, and private clouds, then for every resource you need to know: Who owns it, What is it doing, Where is it, When does it expire, Why does it exist, and How much does it cost. CloudBolt is a vendor agnostic tool that is worthy of the title “Hand of the King/Queen.”

Conclusion

By this point if you’ve read this far you must be somewhat interested. Reach out, schedule a demo, and see how a cloud delivery platform like CloudBolt will put you on the path to the throne and bring the convenience of the clouds to all of your users.

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Topics: Public Cloud, IT Challenges, Cloud Management, Private Cloud, Self Service IT, Hybrid Cloud

CloudBolt Named to Red Herring Top 100 North America

Posted by Jon Mittelhauser

6/8/15 12:00 PM

N_America_WinnerCloudBolt Software today announced that the company has been selected as a Red Herring Top 100 North America winner. The Red Herring Top 100 North America recognizes leading private companies in North America, celebrating these startups’ innovations and technologies across their respective industries.

“CloudBolt is on a major growth trajectory—recording consistent year-over-year revenue growth since its founding in 2012. In the past year alone, CloudBolt saw 10x growth in annual recurring revenue and 3x growth in customer deployments,” said Jon Mittelhauser, CEO, CloudBolt. “This award is strong recognition of the benefits that CloudBolt’s cloud delivery platform provides to the enterprise, helping organizations manage their increasingly complex IT environments and bridge legacy, current and future technologies.”

Red Herring Top 100 America enlists outstanding entrepreneurs and promising companies. It selects the award winners from approximately 1,200 privately financed companies each year in the US and Canada. Since 1996, Red Herring has kept tabs on these up-and-comers. Red Herring editors were among the first to recognize that companies such as Facebook, Twitter, Google, Yahoo, Skype, Salesforce.com, YouTube, Palo Alto Networks and eBay would change the way we live and work.

“In 2015, selecting the top achievers was by no means a small feat,” said Alex Vieux, publisher and CEO of Red Herring. “In fact, we had the toughest time in years because so many entrepreneurs had crossed significant milestones so early. But after much thought, rigorous contemplation and discussion, we narrowed our list down from hundreds of candidates from across North America to the North America winners. We believe CloudBolt embodies the vision, drive and innovation that define a successful entrepreneurial venture. CloudBolt should be proud of its accomplishment, as the competition was very strong.”

About Red Herring Top 100 North America 
Red Herring’s editorial staff evaluated companies on both quantitative and qualitative criteria, such as financial performance, technological innovation and intellectual property, DNA of the founders, business model, customer footprint and addressable market. A review of the track record and standing of startups relative to their sector peers, allowed Red Herring to see past the “buzz” and make the list a valuable instrument of discovery and advocacy for the most promising new business models in North America, complement this assessment of potential.

About CloudBolt Software 
CloudBolt Software transforms how IT interacts with business by significantly improving service to lines of business. CloudBolt is a powerful cloud delivery platform that doubles as an on-premise, unified IT manager and self-service IT portal that leverages existing IT resources and technologies to maximize the value of private and hybrid cloud environments in minutes. Enterprise IT organizations can be more agile with CloudBolt, automating the request, provisioning and ongoing management of systems and applications from an intuitive user interface or through a common API. For more information on CloudBolt visit http://www.cloudbolt.io.

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Topics: Press Release, News, Corporate

CloudBolt Version 5.0 is here...

Posted by Jon Mittelhauser

5/27/15 5:30 AM

We are very happy to announce the immediate availability of CloudBolt version 5.0.  

The platform’s new features include:

  • powerful new service catalog functionality to facilitate complex, multi-tier app deployments

  • provisioning of service catalog blueprints available through both the CloudBolt web interface and a powerful REST API

  • deeper out-of-the box integration with technologies such as VMware, OpenStack, AWS, Azure, Infoblox, Puppet and Chef

  • ability to define arbitrary server actions so DevOps experts can provide simple buttons for users to perform complex operations on servers

  • ability to snapshot VMs from the CloudBolt user interface

  • increased control for administrators, including the ability to set rate-based limits and set limits on environments in addition to groups and handlers

  • significant UI improvements, including adding social aspects to the interface

  • even deeper extensibility - additional trigger points for hooks/actions

  • revamped docs, now made public: http://docs.cloudbolt.io/

  • new trigger points for power on/off, rebooting servers and post-order completion process have been introduced and currency units are no longer limited to USD 

The full press release (as well as all our others) can be viewed on our press release page

If you are an existing customer, you can immediately download the update through our support portal.  If you have any questions or desire hands on help with the update, please (as always!) feel free to contact us. 

If you are interested in downloading and evaluating CloudBolt, you can do so here

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Topics: Press Release, News, Event, Upgrade

CloudBolt's CTO at Vancouver OpenStack Summit...

Posted by Jon Mittelhauser

5/13/15 12:56 PM

The 2015 OpenStack summit in Vancouver is only a week away!  Are you attending?

CloudBolt's CTO (Bernard Sanders) will be in attendance and is currently setting up meetings with folks who are interested in learning how CloudBolt works seemlessly with OpenStack public and private clouds to provide self-service IT.

If you are interested in learning more about CloudBolt and/or setting up a discussion with Bernard while he's in Vancouver please let us know.  You can reach us at info@cloudbolt.io.  

 

 

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Topics: Cloud Management, OpenStack

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