Steadfast Blog

CentOS 6 Now Available!

Posted in Software on September 27th, 2011

Steadfast Networks is pleased to announce the immediate availability of CentOS 6.0 as a supported operating system for our dedicated server and cloud offerings. We will offer continuous support for the CentOS 6 series for the entire 7 year life-cycle typical of Enterprise Linux distributions. All supported control panels: cPanel, InterWorx, DirectAdmin, and Parallels Plesk Panel are immediately and fully supported under CentOS 6. We will continue to support CentOS 5 installations as well for the duration of its life-cycle.

When CentOS 6.0 was released in July 2011, we chose to delay supporting the platform due to the lack of security updates following the release of Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6.1 in May. Internally, we continued to test and evaluate the release, waiting for CentOS 6.1 or some other way to obtain these security updates quickly. CentOS has now deployed a new "yum" package repository called "Continuous Release" which allows CentOS 6.0 users to obtain updates for security and stability from the upcoming 6.1 release. This package set is enabled and included by default in all our installations.

CentOS

CentOS version 6 is based on the packages of Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6 and includes many benefits over previous editions in the CentOS line:

  • The fourth extended filesystem (ext4) is now the default filesystem upon installation. Compared to ext3, this filesystem is faster, more reliable, and scales to much larger volumes up to a maximum potential of 1 exabyte.
  • The Linux kernel has been updated to version 2.6.32 which includes many optimizations and improvements that should increase overall performance and stability while adding support for newer hardware and storage technology.
  • Virtualization using KVM (Kernel-based Virtual Machines) is now supported in addition to Xen. KVM is integrated tightly into the kernel and can deliver better performance and reliability for virtualization.
  • Many core packages and utilities have been updated to newer versions, allowing CentOS 6 to better meet dependencies of modern hosting and automation software.

Please see the CentOS 6.0 and RHEL 6.0 release notes for more information on what's new.

CentOS 6 is now the recommended operating system for our dedicated servers and CentOS 6 templates are now available for the Steadfast Cloud Platform.

On August 25, 2011 we upgraded the Steadfast Cloud Platform to version 2.2 of OnApp. With this new version two new major features were introduced; VM Auto-Scaling and Load Balancing.

What is VM Auto-Scaling

VM Auto-Scaling is an important feature of instant expandability in the cloud. It allows your VM to dynamically adjust your resource needs without having to log in and make the change by hand. This is important because often times you may not be immediately available to make a change; vacations, sleep, movie theaters or even something as simple as driving your car could leave you without internet and as such the ability to make the changes necessary to keep your infrastructure online.

How can I enable and configure VM Auto-Scaling on my VMs?

 

VM resources are scaled based on rules you specify. For example, you can set up a rule that will add 1000MB of memory to a VM if RAM usage has been above 90% for the last 10 minutes - but add no more than 5000MB in total in 24 hours.

To configure auto-scaling:

1. Go to your Control Panel’s Virtual Machines menu.

2. Click the label of the appropriate VM.

3. On the page that follows, click the auto-scaling tab.

4. Add auto-scaling rules, explained below:

• If RAM usage exceeds  X% for a specific time period, add Y MB – but no more than Z MB in a 24 hour period.

• If CPU usage exceeds X % for a specific time period, add Y% - but no more than Z% in a 24 hour period.

• If disk usage exceeds X % for a specific time period, add Y GB - but no more than Z GB in a 24 hour period.

5. Click Apply.

To delete an auto-scaling rule:

1. Go to your Control Panel’s Virtual Machines menu.

2. Click the label of the appropriate VM.

3. On the page that follows, click the auto-scaling tab.

4. Click Delete. This will delete all auto-scaling rules

What is Load Balancing?

Load Balancing allows for you to spread connections for various applications between multiple VM’s. This allows you to add additional infrastructure redundancy and capacity between VM’s on different Hypervisors.

How can I enable and configure Load Balancing?

 

For a Cluster Load Balancing configuration:

1. Go to your Control Panel’s Load Balancers menu

2. Click Add a balancer button

3. On the page that follows, fill in the form that appears:

Cluster Configuration

Port - specify the port for this load balancer to run on (e.g. 80,21,22 etc.)

Load Balancer Instance

  • Label – give a name for your load balancer instance
  • Hostname – specify a host name that will identify your load balancer
  • Port Speed – use the slider to set a port speed or tick the Unlimited box if required

Load Balancer Type

  • Choose the Cluster option – cluster

Cluster Nodes

This is where you add and configure the nodes in this load balancing cluster. A node is a combination of a VM and an IP address.

Virtual Machines – select a virtual machine from the drop-down box.

4. Click Save.

For auto-scaling load balancing cluster:

1. Go to your Control Panel’s Load Balancers menu

2. Click Add a balancer button

3. On the page that follows, fill in the form that appears:

Cluster Configuration

Port - specify the port for this load balancer to run on (e.g. 80,21,22 etc.)

Load Balancer Instance

  • Label – give a name for your load balancer instance
  • Hostname – specify a host name that will identify your load balancer
  • Port Speed – use the slider to set a port speed or tick the Unlimited box if required

Load Balancer Type

  • Choose the Cluster option – auto-scaling

Cluster Node Template

These settings configure the nodes that will be added to your cluster.

  • Image template -  choose a template from the drop-down box: nodes will be built on this template
  • Min node amount – the minimum number of nodes in this cluster
  • Max node amount – the maximum number of nodes in this cluster

Example: if you set Min node amount = 2 and Max node amount = 5, then the system will scale out the cluster up to 5 nodes, and scale in to 2 nodes if required.

 

Cluster Node Parameters

These are the settings for each node of a cluster. Each node added to a cluster will have the following parameters:

  • Memory – set the amount of memory allocated per node in Mb
  • CPUs – set the amount of CPUs which will form each node
  • CPU Priority – specify CPU priority. For more info on CPU priority, refer to Create VMs section
  • Rate Limit – set the port speed for a node

Autoscale Out Parameters

Set the rules for adding more nodes to your autoscaling cluster. The system will monitor CPU and free RAM of the nodes.

  • Specify the period of monitoring (e.g. 10 minutes)
  • Value (e.g. CPU usage is above 85%; free RAM is less then 10 MB)
  • Number of nodes to be added to the cluster if the rule is met (e.g. add 1 more VMs).

Note: If the rule is met, the system will add nodes until the limit set in the Max node amount field is reached. In case both rules are met simultaneously (if you set the same monitoring period for both CPU and RAM), the system will add only one node.

 

Autoscale In Parameters

Set the rules for removing nodes from your autoscaling cluster. The system will monitor CPU and free RAM of the nodes.

  • Specify the period of monitoring (e.g. 20 minutes)
  • Value (e.g. CPU usage is less then 55%; free RAM is more then 50 MB)
  • Number of nodes to be removed from the cluster if the rule is met (e.g. remove 1 more VMs).

Note: If the rule is met, the system will remove nodes until the limit set in the Min node amount field is reached. In case both rules are met simultaneously (if you set the same monitoring period for both CPU and RAM), the system will remove only one node.

4) Click Save.

Overall built in load balancing provides you with another excellent tool to expand your infrastructure from within the Steadfast Cloud Platform.

Steadfast Networks is proud to sponsor the Overnight Web Site Challenge, an event that matches about a hundred web developers with 10 non-profit organizations in the Chicago area.  This event is being held this Saturday starting at 8 AM (going on for 24 hours) at Resolution Digital Studios here in Chicago.  Our contribution is providing free hosting on our Cloud Platform for a minimum of one year.  We feel this will give the developers all the resources they need to quickly deploy comprehensive web sites that will truly benefit these non-profit organizations.

We'd like to thank the developers who are freely giving their time as well as the other sponsors of this event.

The non-profits being benefited by this event are: A Safe Haven Foundation, Crossroads Adoption Services, Hemophilia Foundation of Illinois, Instituto del Progreso Latino, Kids Have Hope, Midwest Young Artists, Near Northwest Arts Council, Northwestern University Settlement Association, Peace Care, and Southwest Chicago Pads.  You can read all about these organizations here.

We hope to see you there!  We'll try to have a member of our team there as much as possible to assure everyone gets as much use as possible out of our Cloud Platform, but it isn't all work, as we hope to enjoy the surrounding festivities.


Steadfast Networks, a leading provider of public cloud hosting, announces SOC 2 and SOC 3 audits of server security and reliability.

Chicago, IL (PRESS RELEASE) August 2, 2011 – Steadfast Networks, a Chicago-based dedicated server hosting, colocation hosting, and cloud hosting service provider, today announced SOC 2 and SOC 3 audits are completed on its public cloud services. The Steadfast Cloud Platform was recently launched and has quickly grown in reputation, with this new level of external auditing marking the next step in the development of the service.

 

“When the Steadfast Cloud Platform started gaining attention, we were all extremely proud at what we have achieved with our cloud hosting services,” says Karl Zimmerman, CEO of Steadfast Networks. “We worked to develop a cloud hosting solution that was reliable and secure with even the most important of our customers’ data. We have been determined to prove to the world just how outstanding our cloud platform is, and this new audit certifies us as compliant with the latest SOC 2 and SOC 3 standards.”

 

Service Organization Control Reports 2 and 3 (SOC 2 and SOC 3 respectively) were issued by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) earlier this year, designed to supersede the previous guidelines established by SAS 70 auditing. SOC 2 and SOC 3 audits both allow third party auditors to investigate the claims made by Steadfast Networks as to the security, availability, processing integrity, confidentiality and privacy of their systems. These guidelines have been put in place to ultimately empower consumers, reassuring them that service providers can deliver on the promises they make. By successfully attaining SOC 2 and SOC 3 compliance, the Steadfast Cloud Platform leads the way among similar solutions and, at the time of this release, is truly unique among public cloud hosting services.

 

“I’m not aware of any other public cloud systems with a SOC 2 or SOC 3 audit,” says Zimmerman. “At Steadfast, we conceived our entire cloud service with security and reliability in mind, implementing policies and practices that ensure complete transparency with our customers. We are committed to seeing businesses grow using our platform and we believe that undertaking these external audits shows that we take security and availability seriously and are doing all we can to make our products secure and reliable.”

 

The Steadfast Cloud Platform is a carbon neutral solution that uses Xen virtual machines across the OnApp cloud platform to enable independent Virtual Machines on shared hardware. In effect, Steadfast can offer secure, highly-available hosting with unrivalled uptime and scalability, but at a fraction of the cost of a dedicated hardware solution. By keeping overhead down and passing savings on to customers, Steadfast lets businesses worldwide increase or decrease their server usage while only paying for what they actually use minute-by-minute. It is a result of an intelligent, well-organized system design and a comprehensive 99.99% service level agreement (SLA) that Steadfast Networks has managed to achieve SOC 2 and SOC 3 audits so much faster than competitors.

 

“Every single day, businesses trust us to deliver their cloud network,” says Zimmerman. “They share information with their customers, which needs to be consistently available to ensure the best return on investment. They also share information with colleagues, which may be sensitive, confidential, or mission-critical. That is why we have strived to complete our SOC 2 and SOC 3 audits as soon as possible – to give our customers peace of mind that their information is in safe hands. With SOC 3 documentation being easily understandable by the general public and setting some well-defined standards of data handling and storage, we are more confident than ever that our customers are with the best cloud platform provider in the business.”

 

With these new external audits providing independent testimony as to the quality of service that Steadfast Networks provides, the Steadfast Cloud Platform is set to continue its impressive growth and see demand increase even further. Steadfast Networks continues to be at the cutting edge of an outstanding hosting infrastructure, setting a highly competitive standard for service providers worldwide.

 

Customers interested in learning more about Steadfast Networks or the Steadfast Cloud Platform are encouraged to visit steadfast.net.

We recently held a giveaway for an iPad and the winner was a long time customer, Intelligent Computing Solutions. They have been a customer since 2005, so along with the iPad I'm also putting them in the customer spotlight here on our blog. Intelligent Computing Solutions is a DeKalb, IL based provider of fixed wireless broadband, VoIP, and many other business services. They started providing fixed wireless broadband services in 2004 because of a local lack of broadband availability in the area, especially in rural areas. Most of their growth (organic as well as acquisitions) has been in providing ISP services. Regarding their relationship with Steadfast Networks, Mike Hammett of ICS says, "We moved our servers to Steadfast in 2005 from another provider that just wasn’t making the grade. Steadfast’s network has provided us great performance for our VoIP services. Upcoming fiber deals will permit us to purchase bandwidth in 350 E. Cermak and Steadfast is on our short list of providers to work with, despite the hundreds of networks available. Steadfast support has been excellent over the years as well. When unfortunate package dependencies rendered one of our servers useless, they were quick to identify the problem and provide guidance on how to remedy the situation. We hope our relationship with Steadfast continues to evolve while both companies grow and provide ever increasing services.

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