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Time To Think About Cloud Computing

The shift to delivering IT through a utility model is poised to change the business computing landscape as we know it.

Michael Biddick

October 23, 2008

2 Min Read

NOT SO FAST
We don't want to give the impression cloud computing is trouble free and right for every organization. In fact, 2008 saw a long, hot summer for cloud uptime: Google's Gmail and Apps services went down, and on July 20, Amazon S3 was unavailable for eight hours. Outages like these, if they continue, will shake IT's confidence in the idea that users will be able to access critical information at any time. Large cloud providers need to offer near constant uptime. It seems we haven't left the concept of five nines behind, and these outages illustrate that IT must have a backup plan in place for those apps that can't go down, even for an hour.

Then there are WAN costs. How much extra bandwidth you'll need to cover the additional throughput required for SaaS depends greatly on the types of applications needed, but network failover and connectivity are key. And companies with huge existing IT investments will be much more gradual in their adoption of cloud computing, and rightly so.

When exploring cloud-based services, there are several key questions to ask providers. We recommend developing a requirements template that combines these questions with business-specific issues before shopping. Start by delving into service levels; this peek into the underlying architecture will let you judge other areas of the provider's business.

Service-level agreements must clearly define the quality of service, and the provider should clearly state what credit or remediation will be provided if the SLA is violated. Ask for documentation that, internally, the provider has ensured that it can manage its environment to levels promised to customers and that it has policies and automated procedures in place to deal with performance issues or outages.

With an understanding of the SLA, you can now peel back the marketing information and understand more about the cloud provider's infrastructure. If there's a failure, how will it provide resiliency? Is there a failover mechanism? What corporate security policies are in place? What type of configuration management is used to protect against accidental changes that could negatively affect security? Dozens of other questions revolve around the specific IT component that you're moving to the cloud, and we cover more in our full Analytics Report, available at cloudcomputing.informationweek.com.

Chart: How concerned are you with these issues as they relate to cloud computing?

About the Author(s)

Michael Biddick

CEO, Fusion PPT

As CEO of Fusion PPT, Michael Biddick is responsible for overall quality and innovation. Over the past 15 years, Michael has worked with hundreds of government and international commercial organizations, leveraging his unique blend of deep technology experience coupled with business and information management acumen to help clients reduce costs, increase transparency and speed efficient decision making while maintaining quality. Prior to joining Fusion PPT, Michael spent 10 years with a boutique-consulting firm and Booz Allen Hamilton, developing enterprise management solutions. He previously served on the academic staff of the University of Wisconsin Law School as the Director of Information Technology. Michael earned a Master's of Science from Johns Hopkins University and a dual Bachelor's degree in Political Science and History from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Michael is also a contributing editor at InformationWeek Magazine and Network Computing Magazine and has published over 50 recent articles on Cloud Computing, Federal CIO Strategy, PMOs and Application Performance Optimization. He holds multiple vendor technical certifications and is a certified ITIL v3 Expert.

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