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August 13th, 2010

Cloud computing like any emerging new technology has both advantages and disadvantages. Before beginning any infrastructure upgrade or migration, organizations are well advised to first perform a thorough inventory and review of their existing legacy infrastructure and make the necessary upgrades, revisions and modifications. Next, the organization should determine its business goals for the next three-to-five years to determine when, if and what type of cloud infrastructure to adopt. It should also construct an operational and capital expenditure budget and a timeframe that includes research, planning, testing, evaluation and final rollout.
Public Clouds: Advantages and disadvantages
The biggest allure of a public cloud infrastructure over traditional premises-based network infrastructures is the ability to offload the tedious and time consuming management chores to a third party. This in turn can help businesses:
• Shave precious capital expenditure monies because they avoid the expensive investment in new equipment including hardware, software, and applications as well as the attendant configuration planning and provisioning that accompanies any new technology rollout.
• Accelerated deployment timetable. Having an experienced third party cloud services provider do all the work also accelerates the deployment timetable and most likely means less time spent on trial and error.
• Construct a flexible, scalable cloud infrastructure that is tailored to their business needs. A company that has performed its due diligence and is working with an experienced cloud provider can architect a cloud infrastructure that will scale up or down according to the organization’s business and technical needs and budget.
The potential downside of a public cloud is that the business is essentially renting common space with other customers. As such, depending on the resources of the particular cloud model, there exists the potential for performance, latency and security issues as well as acceptable response and service and support from the cloud provider.
Risk is another potential pitfall associated with outsourcing any of your firm’s resources and services to a third party. To mitigate risk and lower it to an acceptable level, it’s essential that organizations choose a reputable, experienced third party cloud services provider very carefully. Ask for customer references; check their financial viability. Don’t sign up with a service provider whose finances are tenuous and who might not be in business two or three years from now.
The cloud services provider must work closely and transparently with the corporation to build a cloud infrastructure that best suits the business’ budget, technology and business goals.
To ensure that the expectations of both parties are met, organizations should create a checklist of the items and issues that are of crucial importance to their business and incorporate them into Service Level Agreements (SLAs) Be as specific as possible. These should include but are not limited to:

• What types of equipment do they use?
• How old is the server hardware? Is the configuration powerful enough?
• How often is the data center equipment/infrastructure upgraded?
• How much bandwidth does the provider have?
• Does the service provider use open standards or is it a proprietary datacenter?
• How many customers will you be sharing data; resources with?
• Where is the cloud services provider’s datacenter physically located?
• What specific guarantees if any, will it provide for securing sensitive data?
• What level of guaranteed response time will it provide for service and support?
• What is the minimum acceptable latency/response time for its cloud services?
• Will it provide multiple access points to and from the cloud infrastructure?
• What specific provisions will apply to Service Level Agreements (SLAs)?
• How will financial remuneration for SLA violations be determined?
• What are the capacity ceilings for the service infrastructure?
• What provisions will there be for service failures and disruptions?
• How are upgrade and maintenance provisions defined?
• What are the costs over the term of the contract agreement?
• How much will the costs rise over the term of the contract?
• Does the cloud service provider use the Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) to transmit data?
• Does the cloud services provider encrypt the resting data to prohibit and restrict access?
• How often does the cloud services provider perform audits?
• What mechanisms will it use to quickly shut down a hack and can it track a hacker?
• If your cloud services provider is located outside your country of origin, what are the privacy and security rules of that country and what impact will that have on your firm’s privacy and security issues?
Finally, the corporation should appoint a liaison and that person should meet regularly with a representative from the cloud services provider to ensure that the company attains its immediate goals and that it is always aware and working on future technology and business goals. Outsourcing all or any part of your infrastructure to a public cloud does not mean forgetting and abandoning it.
Private Clouds: Advantages and Disadvantages
The biggest advantage of a private cloud infrastructure is that your organization keeps control of its corporate assets and can safeguard and preserve its privacy and security. Your organization is in command of its own destiny. That can be a double-edged sword.
Before committing to build a private cloud model the organization must do a thorough assessment of its current infrastructure, its budget and the expertise and preparedness of its IT department. Is your firm ready to assume the responsibility for such a large burden from both a technical and ongoing operational standpoint? Only you can answer that. Remember that the private cloud should be highly reliable and highly available – at least 99.999% uptime with built-in redundancy and failover capabilities. Many organizations currently struggle to maintain 99.9% uptime and reliability which is the equivalent of 8.76 hours of per server, per annum downtime. When your private cloud is down for any length of time, your end users (and anyone else who has access to the cloud) will be unable to access resources.
Realistically, in order for an organization to successfully implement and maintain a private cloud, it needs the following:
• Robust equipment that can handle the workloads efficiently during peak usage times
• An experienced, trained IT staff that is familiar with all aspects of virtualization, virtualization management, grid, utility and chargeback computing models
• An adequate capital expenditure and operational expenditure budget
• The right set of private cloud product offerings and service agreements
• Appropriate third party virtualization and management tools to support the private cloud
• Specific SLA agreements with vendors, suppliers and business partners
• Operational level agreements (OLAs) to ensure that each person within the organization is responsible for specific routine tasks and in the event of an outage
• A disaster recovery and backup strategy
• Strong security products and policies
• Efficient chargeback utilities, policies and procedures
Other potential private cloud pitfalls include: deciding which applications to virtualize; vendor lock-in and integration and interoperability issues. Businesses grapple with these same issues today in their existing environments. At present, however, the product choices from vendors and third party providers are more limited for virtualized private cloud offerings. Additionally, since the technology is still relatively new, it will be difficult from both a financial as well as technical standpoint to switch horses in midstream from one cloud provider to another if you encounter difficulties.
There is no doubt that virtualized public and private cloud infrastructures adoptions will grow significantly in the next 12 to 18 months. In order to capitalize on their benefits, lower your total cost of ownership (TCO), accelerate return on investment (ROI) and mitigate risk your organization should take its time and do it right.

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