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Lots of IT organizations are taking a hard look at public cloud services. Two cloud users, Six Flags Entertainment and Yelp, gave us a look at problems they're facing adopting these services and the value they're getting from them.
Picking the right service for your business need is a process loaded with pitfalls. For example, will your public cloud provider's data service match the needs of your application? Will your provider have enough network bandwidth to guarantee quality service, or will it fluctuate widely when other users' activities hog the bandwidth?
Consider how Six Flags Entertainment is using cloud services. To commemorate the 50th anniversary of its Six Flags Over Texas park this year, the company cut the online ticket price, announcing on its blog: "Yup, less than $20 will get you into the park's first weekend." (The usual online admission price is $40.) To get this price, customers had to buy their tickets on the Six Flags website. Both the blog and the website are hosted on Rackspace's pub- lic cloud service, where Six Flags uses servers shared with other Rackspace customers, pays based on usage, and can quickly add capacity to meet demand.
Prior to using Rackspace's cloud service, a promotion like this would have required expensive newspaper, radio, and TV advertising. Six Flags runs 19 theme parks across the country that more than 25 million people visit a year, and it makes extensive use of the Rackspace public cloud service. Besides its website and WordPress blogging, Six Flags hosts three Facebook applications, email marketing campaigns, and other "public" information there.
Rackspace's public cloud has a multitenant infrastructure where customers pay by the hour. The cloud "has the flexibility to be fired up quickly," says Sean Andersen, director of Six Flags' interactive services. It's easy to change things and bring in partners, he adds.
What Works In The Cloud
The company also uses Rackspace's equipment dedicated to Six Flags' use, because it considers that more auditable, private, and secure. Transactions, including ticket sales, accounting, and back-office systems, as well as analysis of sensitive business data, are kept at Six Flags' own data center in Grand Prairie, Texas. Data that must be audited to meet compliance requirements and information that's deemed sensitive to the $976 million-a-year public company's business are kept out of the multitenant public cloud and held either on its dedicated servers at Rackspace or in its Grand Prairie data center.
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