Knowing What You Need From The Cloud

Forrester's James Staten discusses some of the hurdles that enterprise users face in getting to cloud computing.
The enterprise user needs to understand the nature of the application that he wants to run in the cloud, then choose the service best suited for it. It will be a painstaking and exhausting process until the distinctions between services are learned thoroughly. One may offer the best deal on a large single server with lots of memory and network bandwidth, good for running a large data warehouse system. Another may offer the best deal on simple Linux servers with limited bandwidth; another may offer better security guarantees.

“Most clouds have been built to be more secure than the way you do security,” noted Staten, addressing 30 Savvis customers and prospects invited to his talk. They have a data center of uniform systems, which they update and patch in uniform ways, leaving fewer unattended avenues of attack. At the same time, an enterprise’s security may be the best security available for particular processes that it runs. Just because the standardized cloud is generally more secure “doesn’t mean it does security the way you do it,” he warned. Staten recommended checking out the following items, in addition to exploring prices for servers, network bandwidth and storage: • What security measures are available? Are they a match for what you need?

• What user interface is available to prepare and send a workload to a particular cloud? How easy is it for your IT staff to use? "Some have interfaces that look familiar to an iPhone user, but not a user of BMC (ProactiveNet) systems management," he said.

• Can the provider give you a choice of hypervisors, or is it all Microsoft Hyper-V or VMware?

• Does the provider offer a service-level agreement? What are its details?

In addition, he offered a few recommendations to get started:

• If you have an enterprise license from your virtualization vendor, check that it covers a Lab Manager product, then use it to configure and launch virtual machines. It will become a point of IT control but also opens the door to employee self-service. • Build a self-service portal that includes a decision tree to provide structure on how large a virtual server should be and where it gets deployed. • Start using self-service in pockets, such as application development and testing, a new Web site or other Web-based project. • Invite "your most innovative thinkers" and encourage them to use the internal cloud.

Staten noted that surveys show enterprises are more interested in building internal private clouds than making use of public clouds. But internal clouds won’t have "the transformational economics" that public clouds potentially offer, unless their use can be spread across many lines of business. With enough users, peaks and valleys in demand begin to level out into steady-state operations and a high utilization rate of resources. The economies flow from those high utilization rates, he noted.

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