Getting Started on Your Cloud
by Troy Garrison
Cloud computing has reached an impressive adoption level within the enterprise. According to Gartner, almost half of large enterprises will be engaged in a combined, public/private cloud operation by 2017. However, the process of getting started on the cloud and evaluating providers can be intimidating.
As I meet with different organizations who wish to make the first steps towards adopting cloud technologies, I witness the same concerns and questions repeatedly. Below you'll find some of the best—and most frequent— questions I receive from companies that are looking to embrace the benefits of cloud – along with my typical answers to these questions.
Are you and your cloud service provider speaking the same SLA language?
Chances are you might have been attracted to service providers based on their service level agreements (SLA) that promise 100 percent uptime, as most providers do. But does that uptime period cover a month or a year? How many facets of your infrastructure are covered? And are the penalties harsh enough to enforce the uptime requirements?
Determining uptime can be subjective depending on who you're talking to. After all, it really doesn't help if the service is up and running but your interface to the service is hampered. It's important to make sure that your SLA covers multiple areas of your engagement with the cloud service provider. Also, make sure you have the ability to collect if things go wrong. That's the difference between an SLA developed by the provider's marketing team and an SLA designed by the people who truly manage the infrastructure.
Will your computing capacity be there when you need it?
When sharing virtual cloud services, are you confident that the amount of capacity you signed up for will be available when you need it? There's a general fear within public cloud providers that another customer on the same physical machine can take up all the available capacity, including what is reserved for you. So ultimately when you need it, someone else is using the capacity.
Your cloud provider should be able to provide capacity with private compute pools that reserve discrete, dedicated pools of compute resources covering CPU, memory and storage on your virtual private data center. This private resource pool enables you to create and manage your own virtual servers, in addition to controlling your load balancers and firewall resources. The capacity you purchase is yours and yours alone. No other customer should be able to tap into those resources. It should be available when you need it.
Does your cloud provider's IT security standards match your policies and requirements?
When moving to the cloud, security is one of the most common concerns for IT organizations and the lines of business. IT has the difficult job of maintaining consistent policies on the virtual and physical IT infrastructure. Sometimes, that means a change to the customer's policies to adapt to the cloud provider. However, the more sensible approach should be the opposite. Cloud providers should be flexible enough to develop IT security procedures to accommodate the customer's physical requirements.
The IT buyer needs a service provider that closely resembles what their corporate security and compliance department would require of them. And they need their cloud provider to help them accommodate those security compliance requirements.
Make a point to ask your service provider about their security policies, processes and procedures. This should include asking to see their security policies in action. Don't just look at the physical aspects of security, but examine how they operationally sustain the delivery of cloud services, including an inside look at their data centers.
Can the enterprise cloud provider deliver service where you need it?
This is a fairly simple question that if not asked could lead to some very complex management problems. If your service provider doesn't have operations where you need them -- Latin America, Asia-Pacific, for example -- you might be forced to purchase cloud services from multiple vendors. This complicates your ability to sustain a consistent level of quality and services. By doing business with a single provider of cloud services with a presence in multiple countries/locations, you can streamline budgeting, invoicing and relationship management.
Can the enterprise cloud provider match your technology infrastructure and meet your overall needs?
Before signing the agreement, make sure you're not matching a square peg with a round hole. For example, does your virtualization infrastructure match with the provider's hypervisor? Are they skilled in the same kind of virtualization technologies? If not, then moving workloads from point A to point B over to the cloud is going to be more difficult than you think.
Good service providers extend tools that help ease the migration of the virtual infrastructure from the customer's data center out into the cloud, such as migration utilities, on-boarding services or even professional services for customers moving for the first time to virtualized environments.
Obviously, evaluating providers should entail more than asking five questions. However, these are guaranteed to get enterprises started on the journey of cloud and on the track of making a smart decision for their businesses.