There is strong evidence that cloud computing and cloud storage will experience big growth spurts this year. The cloud has more to offer than ever before, and competition among providers for mindshare is producing highly differentiated products with real appeal to businesses of all sizes and types, particularly in the mid-market.
Three contributors stand out. The cloud offerings have matured mightily over the past few years, particularly in the area of security and compliance, making the cloud more attractive all around. Maturity in the cloud storage arena has been accompanied by a massive expansion in data generation and data analytics; it all has to go somewhere. Early adopters who sampled the waters with test and development in the cloud and those compelled to pay attention because of technology consumerization are finally moving into real production implementations, having run out of excuses.
Every good story needs a protagonist and an antagonist, right? In this story, the antagonist is the network, both the internal network infrastructure and the Internet pipes through which all data should flow unimpeded back and forth to the cloud.
Maintaining connectivity to the cloud service provider is the customer’s responsibility. So is making sure connections are sized properly to give you the performance you need and expect. Don’t expect the condition and reliability of existing network hardware and connections internally to magically improve by moving to the cloud; thoroughly review and test systems and components beforehand. There’s nothing quite like a migration to the cloud to unearth buried network skeletons.
Network dynamics will change with cloud adoption. Scalability and data access in the cloud alter bandwidth considerations. Applications can perform differently and latency imposed may be too much for some applications to accommodate. Taking time to understand how the cloud will affect networks and applications and the people who use them will minimize fire drills later.
Prepare for Success
There never seems be enough bandwidth to satisfy everyone. That is almost certain to be the case with the cloud. Size your bandwidth requirements appropriately, and understand that they will only continue to increase as your company’s relationship with the cloud matures. At the same time, evaluate the condition of firewalls (and firewall management practices) and routers for the new demands to be placed upon them.
Depending on the capabilities of your chosen service provider and the products you will be using, this may also be a good time to upgrade security monitoring tools and data privacy compliance systems, particularly with regards to data encryption.
Uptime and reliability – always a big concern – take on major importance as more services come to rely on Internet access. Simple redundancy is better than none. Tripling your Internet connections and service vendors will provide added insurance to help keep your company online and productive should one supplier’s connection suddenly go dark.
The Supplier Side of the Equation
Now that you’ve prepared things on your end, be sure the cloud provider is equally well prepared to provide you with an excellent customer experience. Can your provider upgrade rapidly in response to your requirements? How about their own growth requirements? You want to be doing business with a growing and going concern; continued economic viability is a very important criterion in the selection of a service provider. Have them explain their strategy and their metrics for ensuring ample bandwidth overhead to accommodate expansion … theirs and yours.
Expect your provider to be a model of best-in-class network features, boasting redundant carrier-class infrastructure, dynamic routing, route optimization and flexible resource allocation. Ask who their vendors are. Determine their aggregate network capacity and aggregate Internet capacity. Determine the options available to you and that will best meet your particular requirements.
It’s also good to know the proximity of your service provider to an Internet exchange point, the connection nexus for large numbers of Internet backbone routers and their carriers. The closer the cloud provider the better their Internet performance and speed will be, and the less latency you can expect between you and the service provider.
Is Anybody Out There?
Self-reliance and self-service are admirable. Many cloud service providers are happy to see you go it alone, or to provide on-line resource guides to help you sort things out. Expect this, however, to be a journey without end. The goal is not simply to get into the cloud. Using the cloud and all its resources to drive your business forward with new products, services and customer experiences is where the true power resides. Consider stepping off on the right foot by finding a trusted partner with whom to make this journey. There is no need to go it alone, and there is safety in numbers.
We give special thanks to our technology partner, Cisco, for this blog.