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DCS Europe Data storage and IT management: Hosting, service providers, software as a service, security as a service, storage as a service, private cloud, public cloud, hybrid cloud, data centre as a service
Cloud computing is high on the agenda for all UK businesses, particularly for companies with substantial IT infrastructure – hosting providers, and large enterprises.
Top of the list of concerns for most cloud deployment projects: how much it will cost, how long it will take, and how can we ensure return on investment?
Key takeaway: as with any critical business application, make sure you choose a provider with real understanding and experience of what businesses need to successfully deploy a public or private cloud.
2. True cloud, not just virtualisation
Whilst most data centres are already virtualised, at least in part, this is not the same as cloud computing.
Key takeaway: not all cloud products are created equal. Insist on functionality that gives you maximum automation and efficiency. Above all, find a product that gives you the flexibility to adapt to the market as it evolves.
3. Time to “cloud-readiness”
Now is the time to bring public cloud services to market for hosts. Today, cloud hosting margins are as high as 50% with low customer acquisition costs. A land grab is underway fuelled by customer demand; rapid deployment of public cloud services is not just a “nice to have”. Even six months from now the market landscape will be dramatically more competitive. Similarly, demand for private cloud infrastructure within the enterprise is accelerating.
Key takeaway: a lengthy cloud deployment increases the risk of late entry into the public cloud hosting market where early adopters have become established leaders. For enterprises, slow cloud transition risks both the need for fresh capital expenditure on new hardware and operational inefficiency of the existing infrastructure. Measure your deployment in days, not months.
Every planned transition to cloud computing will be carefully scrutinised in terms of cost. Launching a public cloud business for hosts requires complete transparency from your cloud software provider. Similarly, going live with an internal cloud for the enterprise demands clear cost structures to accurately budget for the lifetime of the project. Examine published prices carefully and ensure financial modelling on an operational basis fits with business requirements.
Key takeaway: the cloud management software market is increasingly competitive, and best-in-class functionality can be yours for little or no up-front investment. You need to have a very good reason to insist on software with monolithic licensing and prices for integration, implementation and support.
Billing flexibility is critical in any cloud computing environment. In public clouds, billing flexibility drives profitability for the host, and at the same time gives cloud customers more choice. The more things a host can measure and charge for – CPU, RAM, storage space and so on – the better they will be able to design cloud services with the features and pricing different kinds of customer require, at a price point that makes sense. In private clouds, billing flexibility is more about efficient use of resources, by enabling accurate measurement of resource usage, and financial transparency for reporting, cross-charging or cost allocation purposes.
Key takeaway: don’t assume that moving to the cloud means you have to adopt new billing platforms and utility billing models and a small set of billing options. Billing flexibility will be critical to the success of your cloud project.
6. Hardware compatibility
Whether a cloud is built on high-end racks or much less impressive hardware, the resources provisioned to customers and users are the same: a CPU resource is just a CPU resource. In spite of this, however, it is important to consider what hardware a cloud management product enables you to build your cloud on.
Key takeaway: compatibility in server and storage hardware is a critical success factor for cloud projects. Focus on platforms that support the widest range of hardware types and performance levels; that enable you to re-use your existing servers and SANs; and providers that can help with any hardware investment you need to make.
7. IOPS monitoring
IOPS monitoring (disk Inputs/Outputs Per Second) is central to cloud efficiency and performance. Most cloud providers – public or private, have the ability to assign chunks of CPU and storage resource to a customer or internal user, and of course measure and if required bill for those resources. Being able to do the same for IOPS, however, is much rarer.
Key takeaway: unless you have good reason, avoid cloud management systems that cannot monitor IOPS or that don’t offer flexible tiered storage and swap disks.
8. User permissions
Another area to focus on is how well a cloud management product handles user permissions and limits. Granularity is the secret here. The more control a cloud platform provides over what users are allowed to do, the better it will be at delivering services tailored to the precise needs of those users.
As a minimum, hosts need a simple way of controlling permissions and limits to create all of the typical user types – standard users, VIP or power users, resellers, and their own L1/L2/L3 support teams. Beyond this, look for cloud management software that will enable you to offer premium and add-on services by enabling you to set up different user types with access to specific management features – higher-performing storage, remote access to virtual machines, advanced backup options, and so on.
In the enterprise, IT leaders need to balance performance to the user with resource efficiency. The ability to categorise users, and control their profiles and permissions, allows private cloud operators to optimise sharing and allocation of resources to users across the business.
Key takeaway: look for cloud software that gives you granular control of user limits and permissions, with an API that lets you exploit that control to create exactly the cloud service your customers need.
Self-service is a fundamental characteristic of the cloud. The cloud’s back-end may be complex, but the front-end UI should be simple enough for anyone to use it.
Key takeaway: focus on the UI from an internal as well as a customers’ viewpoint, and favour cloud platforms that enable you to customise the user experience easily – either directly, or through the API.
The promise of the cloud is that it is “just there” – an always-on, instant access compute and storage resource. In the enterprise, cloud users expect their IT “to just work”, and in the public cloud, customers are also buying into the uptime benefits of the cloud.
With automatic failover, cloud users ought not to experience any service disruption. However, the reality of any IT system is that it will fail at some point, and when that happens you will need rapid, high quality support from your cloud software provider.
The key questions to ask your provider are whether support is free or an additional cost, the SLA or response time that can be expected, skill of support team, the hours they keep and whether 24x7 telephone, live and email support are in place. If things do go wrong you will need SLAs with response times measured in minutes, not hours.
Tags: The Cloud
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