Is Your Cloud Really A Cloud?

Lots is being made about cloud technology. Cloud as a vision, cloud as a technology set, cloud as a service provider, cloud as a direction for computing. But is cloud really cloud for most of us?

Cloud providers in the adoption stage are at a crossroads for technology deployment. The direction they take at this first crossroads often dictates if they take a true road to being a cloud provider, or if they take a path towards an alternative solution that simply provides enterprise a virtualisation solution with a self-service element.

What Defines A Cloud?

If you can actually provide the difinitive definition of what constitutes a ‘cloud platform’, you’d probably be worth a pretty penny, as the range of published definitions (both official and unofficial) are as wide as they are long. However, there are some pointers to look for.

Those who have taken the road to true cloud deployments factor into their deployed infrastructure elements not usually found in traditional virtualised enterprise environments:

  • Deploying cloud delivery software (as part of the service delivery stack), combined with a portal that provides a complete administrative and billing interface to give users true functionality for their cloud workloads.
  • Factors like random failure of infrastructure are not only mitigated but encouraged to prevent all layers of the technology stack being single point of failure.
  • Multi-live site deployments without traditional DR capability instead DR deployed at an application level.
  • Application layers tolerant to failure at infrastructure or site level, with active / automatic fail-over.
  • Live service delivery from geographic regions of the same application or service.
  • Active service load-balancing across disparate physical, geographical or policy boundaries.

Deployment Factors

Of course, there are several points in a DC infrastructure that will either prevent or promote the deployment of a true cloud infrastructure. Practical elements like location, physical connectivity, footprint, and available infrastructure all factor, as do political and business elements like costs, policy, strategy and road-maps. But how do these elements affect what direction a business takes at the decision crossroads?

  • Location. Not all locations available to an organisation are suitable for cloud service delivery, be it for reasons of power or cooling availability, SLAs applied to the DC may not be sufficient, and location may be a mitigating factor in policy or strategy decisions.
  • Connectivity. Not all networks connecting a cloud provider may be suitable for a broad spectrum customer base. Commercial links may combine with specialist networks (i.e. academic or secure networks) to provide network services, and these may not all connect to all locations or provide sufficient transit for a cloud provider.
  • Footprint. There may not be physical space to deploy sufficient resources to support a cloud platforms, for reasons of physical space available in a DC, to the cost of co-locating hardware with a provider in a shared DC.
  • Available infrastructure. Not all DCs are the same – especially those with co-location services or those with specific functions. A DC may have single points of failure by design to reduce cost or to provide a specific SLA for a service tier (i.e. DR or staging tier) – making it not suitable for a live cloud deployment.
  • Cost. The ever present business rider – there may not be available budget to deploy a cloud platform with multi-point live deployment and resilience especially in the early adoption phases of a cloud deployment.
  • Policy. Separate from the strategy perspective, there may be company policies that prevent a true cloud deployment, and these can take many forms -such as cost, security, legislation or auditory requirement policies.
  • Strategy. It may not be in the company plan to develop a true cloud service, but the cloud project could be a means to an end for achieving another business goal in the medium to long term strategy.
  • Road-map. Especially relevant to early deployments and cloud start-up projects, an initial infrastructure stand-up deployment may not be intended to be a true cloud deployment with associated characteristics from day 1 – these may come later in later deployment phases.

Of course, all these factors also interact to present a global, strategic or business position….

So, if you are ever stood at the crossroads of a cloud deployment, consider these points as a starting point basis as to which way your cloud deployment will go. Will it be a true cloud?

Jeremy loves all things technology! Has been in IT for years, loves Macs (but doesn't preach to others about their virtues), loves virtualization (and does shout about it's virtues), and sometimes skis, bikes and directs amateur plays!

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