Most businesses have discovered the value that cloud computing can bring to their IT operations. They may have discovered how it helps to meet their regulatory compliance priorities by being in a SOC 2 audited data center. Others may see a cost advantage as they are approaching a server refresh when costly hardware needs to be replaced. They recognize an advantage of placing this hardware as an operational expense as opposed to the large capital expense they need to make every three years. No matter the business driver, the typical business person isn’t sure where to start to find the right cloud provider. In this fast paced and ever-changing technology environment these IT managers may wonder, is there a buyer’s guide to Cloud?
Where Exactly is the Cloud?…and Where is My Data?
Except for the cloud hyperscalers, (Amazon AWS, Microsoft Azure, and Google) cloud providers create their product in a multi-tenant data center. A multi-tenant data center is a purpose-built facility designed specifically for the needs of the business IT infrastructure and accommodates many businesses. These facilities are highly secured and most times unknown to the public. Many offer additional colocation services that allow their customers to enter the center to manage their own servers. This is a primary difference with the hyperscalers, as they offer no possibility of customers seeing the sites where their data resides. The hyperscale customer doesn’t know where there data is except for a region of the country or availability zone. The hyperscaler’s customer must base their buying decision on trusting the security practices of the large technology companies Google, Amazon, and Microsoft. These are some of the same organizations that are currently under scrutiny from governments around the world for data privacy concerns. The buying decisions for cloud and data center for cloud seekers should start at the multi-tenant data center. Therefore, the first consideration in a buyer’s guide for the cloud will start with the primary characteristics to evaluate in the data center and are listed below.
- Location– Location is a multi-faceted consideration in a datacenter. First, the datacenter needs to be close to a highly available power grid and possibly alternate power companies. Similarly, the telecommunications bandwidth needs to be abundant, diverse and redundant. Finally, the proximity of the data center to its data users is crucial because speed matters. The closer the users are to the data, the less data latency, which means happier cloud users.
- Security– As is in all forms of IT today, security is paramount. It is important to review the data center’s security practices. This will include physical as well as technical security.
- People behind the data– The support staff at the datacenter creating and servicing your cloud instances can be the key to success. They should have the proper technical skills, responsiveness and be available around the clock.
Is My Cloud Infrastructure Portable?
The key technology that has enabled cloud computing is virtualization. Virtualization creates an additional layer above the operating system called a hypervisor that allows for sharing hardware resources. This allows multiple virtual servers (VMs) to be created on a single hardware server. Businesses have used virtualization for years, VMware and Microsoft HyperV being the most popular choices. If you are familiar with and have some secondary or backup infrastructure on the same hypervisor as your cloud provider, you can create a portable environment. A solution where VMs can be moved or replicated with relative ease avoids vendor lock-in. One primary criticism of the hyperscalers is that it can be easy to move data in but much more difficult to migrate the data out. This lack of portability is reinforced by the proprietary nature of their systems. One of the technologies that the hyperscalers are beginning to use to become more portable is containers. Containers are similar to VMs however they don’t utilize guest operating systems for the virtual servers. This has had a limited affect on portability because containers are a leading-edge technology and have not met widespread acceptance.
What Kind of Commitment Do I Make?
The multi-tenant data center offering a virtualized cloud solution will include an implementation fee and require a commitment term with the contract. Their customized solution will require pre-implementation engineering time, so they will be looking to recoup those costs. Both fees are typically negotiable and a good example where an advisor like Two Ears One Mouth can assist you through this process and save you money.
The hyperscaler will not require either charge because they don’t provide custom solutions and are difficult to leave so the term commitment is not required. The hyperscaler will offer a discount with a contract term as an incentive for a term commitment; these offerings are called reserved instances. With a reserved instance, they will discount your monthly recurring charge (MRC) for a two or three-year commitment.
Finding the best cloud provider for your business is a time-consuming and difficult process. When considering a hyperscaler the business user will receive no support or guidance. Working directly with a multi-tenant data center is more service-oriented but can misuse the cloud buyer’s time. The cloud consumer can work with a single data center representative that states “we are the best” and trust them. Alternatively, they can interview multiple data center provider representatives and create the ambiguous “apples to apples” spreadsheet of prospective vendors. However, neither is effective.
At Two Ears One Mouth IT consulting we will listen to your needs first and then guide you through the process. With our expertise and market knowledge you will be comforted to know we have come to the right decision for you company’s specific requirements. We save our customers time and money and provide our services at little or no cost to them!