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Colocation as a First Step to the Cloud: Questions to Ask a Provider

Desert Arch
October 20, 2015
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Many companies opt for colocation as a first step towards cloud adoption. However, it’s important to keep in mind that colocation-to-cloud is not a “one size fits all” proposition.

A research note authored by Gartner analyst Bob Gill stated:

  • “While colocation’s connectivity options can enable uniquely synergistic hybrid cloud models, selecting a colocation provider without understanding its cloud stance can actually hinder such architectures.”
  • “Moving to colocation as a first step off-premises toward cloud computing requires knowledge of what types of cloud computing are likely to be deployed by the enterprise over the next three to five years. We find this knowledge is often lacking during an initial colocation planning effort.”

If you plan to use colocation as a means of eventually moving to the cloud, you can save money, time and headaches by asking prospective providers a few critical questions. Those questions include:

  1. Where is your nearest cloud cluster in relation to your colocation facility?

    The data center you pick for colocation connectivity may, or may not, be in proximity to a cloud cluster that can eventually support your environment.  Distance between the colocation facility and cloud cluster will play a role in network latency that could adversely affect application performance.  Having colocation gear in the same data center as the cloud cluster could allow for 10Gbps connectivity between your physical and cloud environment enabling application performance and faster migration times as you migrate workloads to the cloud.

  2. Is the platform that runs your cloud enterprise-quality?

    What kind of equipment does it run on – enterprise grade, or white box? Untested, no-name white box servers can affect availability. Enterprise-quality equipment is designed and constructed to perform consistently and provide higher levels of up time.  While any provider can offer 99.999% availability, if you know the gear running the cloud is enterprise quality you’ll be able to trust that uptime commitment from the provider.

  3. Is your data center managed and monitored 24/7/365?

    Risk exists for your data 24/7/365, so you’ll want a provider that offers a data center that is continuously staffed by IT professionals.  

  4. What compliance audits or assessment has your organization completed?

    If your company is subject to regulatory compliance requirements, you’ll want a provider that can help meet those needs. If the provider has a dedicated compliance officer on staff and undergoes annual assessments, that provider will also be more likely to be able to help you with future compliance needs.

  5. Can customers cross-connect their physical servers to your cloud?

    Far too often, companies make an assumption on this issue rather than ask, when the answer can prove to be a deal breaker.If answer is no, you might want to think about moving on. Some providers provide the ability to cross connect directly into cloud resources, others do not.  It’s good if you can co-locate your gear in the same facility as the cloud cluster but, you should ask if you can cross-connect into the cloud.  By being able to cross-connect into the cloud environment you’ll be able to access LAN speeds enabling faster application performance and faster migrations into the cloud.

  6. Do you offer consultation for migration services?

    Some cloud providers provide very little in the way of migration assistance, leaving it mostly on you to migrate your workloads into their cloud.  Ask your prospective provider if they can provide migration assistance or are able to provide turn-key migration services.  The varying levels of migration assistance out there can range from “best effort” offline migration to hands-on online migrations. The latter means little to no downtime versus potential hours of application downtime using an offline method.  The migration is typically the most time consuming part of moving existing workloads into the cloud, whether or not those workloads are virtual or physical.  A full service provider can provide OS and application inventories and assessments along with beginning to end migration of workloads with little to no application downtime.

    If you opt for a provider whose migration software is compatible with the technology you already have, migrations become simpler and less expensive. Migrating between disparate hypervisors creates more steps in the process and generally leads to more costly engagements.  As stated above, it can be done if the cloud provider has the ability to do it.

What are your plans for tomorrow?

A key component to getting the answers you need from a colocation provider is knowing your own needs as well. It’s a good idea to take an inventory of internal projects or initiatives that are on the horizon for the next three to five years, as they may affect the type of colocation and cloud provider you need.

Asking the right questions about tomorrow before you make a decision today protects your long-term goals as well as your immediate ones. Its also a great first test of the kind of service you’ll receive as a customer: are they responsive and knowledgeable? Do they ask questions in return, so you know they’re working for you, helping you pursue your goals? Look for a provider with a consultative approach, someone who can walk you through all your goals.

For more information on using colocation to get to the cloud, check out these free Peak 10 resources:

GartnerIs Your Colocation Provider Cloud-Enabling or a Cloud Impediment?by Bob Gill, April 21, 2015.

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