Cloud computing promises tremendous advantages in terms of flexibility, agility, and on-demand resources that can give organizations a real competitive edge. Despite the advantages, some organizations continue to drag their feet and point to the precarious nature of cloud based services. A recently released study has uncovered some fundamental disparities between expectations and reality when it comes to cloud computing.
According to Symantec’s 2011 Virtualization and Evolution to the Cloud Survey, IT and c-level executives are at odds over cloud deployment. CEOs and CFOs in particular are concerned with moving business-critical applications into virtual and cloud environments due to challenges including reliability, security, availability, and performance.
On the contrary, in a growth economy like India, the government is leading the way with the adoption of cloud. The fact that the UID project and other central and state government projects are using cloud infrastructure not only validates the technology but also expands the scope of its acceptance in India.
However adoption of cloud places new demands on IT infrastructure and it is essential for organizations to build a foundation capable of delivering cloud benefits. More importantly, organizations need to thoroughly evaluate the approach they want to take to the cloud. Since in this case one size does not fit all.
Consume, Build, or Extend?
Generally speaking, there are 3 cloud adoption models that are proving successful for organizations today:
Consume Cloud ServicesÂ
In this model, computing power is provided by well-known vendors in the form of a public cloud. The vendor provides all the hardware, software, support, security, and high availability for the IT infrastructure, which means an organization pays only for the services it uses, saving a significant amount of money by replacing capital expenditure with operational expenditure.
Organizations also have the ability to access additional resources on-demand in response to increased application loads. It’s this agility and scalability that persuades many companies to venture into the cloud in the first place. The starting point for consuming cloud services is to compile a checklist. Here are some key considerations for organizations evaluating cloud service providers:
Reputation – How long has the vendor been offering cloud services?
Security is Key – Really understand how secure your data needs to be and ask the vendor how security problems are solved.
Backing up and Moving Your Data – Investigate how the cloud provider makes backup copies of your data – and how you can move the data to another provider.
Service Level Agreements – Work hard to get a good SLA with clear financial penalties to ensure a good service.
Be Wary of Certifications – Certifications capture just a moment in time. Do your own research on how the vendor is performing. Ask questions of other customers.
Try Before You Buy – The beauty of cloud computing is that it’s easy to switch on and off.
Obviously, you don’t start your cloud adventure with confidential data or business-critical systems. But if the service works for you, you can expand.
Build Cloud Services
Public cloud outages – large and small continue to raise concerns about public clouds in general. The alternative is for an organization to build a private cloud infrastructure that is resilient and more appropriate for critical workloads. As the name suggests, private clouds are designed to be visible only to the organization that creates them. Private clouds offer many of the benefits of public clouds while allowing an organization to maintain ownership of its data and equipment. Benefits include scalability, metering, and flexible resource allocation. Private clouds also address such public cloud concerns as vendor lock-in and regulatory compliance in a third-party infrastructure.
Keep in mind, though, that to create a private cloud, an organization will have to:
Purchase the servers, virtualization software, application licenses, and networking hardware.
Incur additional system administration costs, as well as hire additional staff with specialized IT skills.
Invest in resources to ensure that the private cloud is highly available and fault-tolerant.
3Extend into Cloud Services – In today’s rapidly evolving IT environment, with its mix of legacy physical systems, next-generation virtual assets and cloud based services, ‘a major concern for IT organizations is whether they can confidently take advantage of new (public and private cloud) solutions without jeopardizing data protection and information security standards’. According to IDC, as IT departments extend into cloud services, they need to address the following issues:
Can IT reliably protect and archive physical and virtual machines using well-tested backup solutions and practices?
Will the use of cloud based applications exacerbate or reduce the operational impact and the complexity of monitoring, alerting, and reporting on information and infrastructure assets across physical, virtual, and cloud platforms?
The ability to confidently back up, recover, archive, and discover information anywhere requires information management technology that provide:
On premise, hybrid, or cloud based deployment options that align with business requirements.
Native connectors to enable deduplicated backup and archive to cloud storage providers.
Broad support for applications, operating systems, and storage infrastructure deployed on premises or in the cloud.
Irrespective of where an organization is on its cloud ‘journey’, it is important to understand cloud computing in its principal forms, whether it’s consuming cloud based services, building a private cloud, or working in a hybrid cloud environment.