Thursday, March 08, 2012

Six questions you should ask before signing up with a cloud service provider

Before Marrying That Cloud Provider, Be Sure It Isn’t a Bridezilla

When it comes to the cloud, selecting the right cloud provider can be challenging at best and nightmarish at worst. The cloud includes a variety of ways to deliver technology services, from standalone software applications like hosted email or databases to very new and exciting uses that include disaster recovery as a service (DRaaS), storage as a service, or platform as a service (PaaS) applications. While there are obvious advantages to entering into a cloud partnership including decreased IT costs, increased flexibility and a reduced focus on IT maintenance issues selecting the right cloud provider is a critical first step in realizing those benefits in a way that creates a synergistic, long-term and fulfilling relationship.

That’s why I have put together a list of the top questions IT pros should ask when they’re considering a cloud partner for the long haul.

Is the cloud infrastructure backed by at least a 99.9 percent up-time SLA, and is there financial compensation for not meeting it?

Is there a defined change control process for scheduled maintenance, upgrades and security patches?

Are there additional charges for services like backup, OS License, security patch deployment and system management/monitoring?

What type of security and monitoring practices are in place at the data center (i.e., firewalls, IDS, vulnerability scanning, etc.)?

Does the cloud provider allow for easy scalability and addition of resources, including CPU, memory, storage and bandwidth?

What kind of disaster recovery services does the provider offer?

“For a CIO or IT manager, choosing a cloud provider can feel like choosing a spouse”. “Joking aside, the relationship between the client organization and the cloud provider they choose is a deep and meaningful one. The client trusts the cloud provider with what oftentimes amounts to mission-critical data and information and relies on that provider to keep that information secure and available in sometimes heavily regulated environments. Therefore, choosing the right provider is a serious decision that has to be made with the utmost care and concern.”

The Promise and Perils of Cloud Computing

Like most things in life cloud computing is a double-edged sword. It can either eliminate internal IT or be used by IT to drive business innovation.

Speaking at the IBM Pulse2012 conference
today, Danny Sabbah, general manager for IBM Tivoli, strongly urged IT organizations to be a lot more proactive about pursuing the latter path. Clearly, many line-of-business executives are taking advantage of cloud computing to sidestep IT. What internal IT organizations need to do in order to make it less appealing for business executives to go around IT is to simplify, standardize and then automate their IT environments.

According to Sabbah, it’s all the complexity within IT environments today that is making it hard for IT organizations to dynamically respond to the needs of the business. Instead of relying on a “tools du jour” strategy, Sabbah says that IT organizations need to implement cloud computing in a way that accelerates business innovation or you risk being bypassed all together.

Sabbah says that cloud computing done right should make the business more resilient to rapidly changing business conditions, while at the same time providing more choice and flexibility across a hybrid cloud computing environment. Furthermore, Sabbah says that those cloud computing platforms should not only be application workload-aware, but also come with built-in security and analytics capabilities.

As IT has become more complex, the business has actually become more susceptible to disruptions because of any number of IT issues, adds Sabbah. Not only has the rise of mobile computing exponentially increased the number of end points that need to be managed, Sabbah says there are roughly 13 billion security events a day that need to be analyzed. And as physical systems become more instrumented, the amount of data that needs to be managed is increasing at rates that no IT organization can keep pace with.

None of these issues are ever going to go away. IT leaders need to figure out how emerging technologies will ultimately better serve the needs of the business. Otherwise, it’s only a matter of time before somebody else, for better or worse, makes that decision for them.