LOW RISK ADOPTION OF CLOUD INFRA- STRUCTURE FOR ENTERPRISES

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1 LOW RISK ADOPTION OF CLOUD INFRA- STRUCTURE FOR ENTERPRISES Business leaders are recognising that with the emergence of enterprise grade cloud computing, there is no good reason to continue to invest in privately owned and managed data centres. IT leaders are tired of having their support teams deal with daily drudgery like disk failures, SAN replication and backup procedures, which are not strategic to business success. For some organisations the rate of data growth has made ongoing investments in private data centres and storage unsustainable. As IDC recently noted, cloud computing is, a response to deep structural problems affecting enterprise IT today. These problems stretch from high maintenance costs to poor hardware utilisation rates, energy wastage, and above all lack of agility in IT which fails to respond to quickly changing business needs. 1 In other words, the drivers for cloud adoption are clear and compelling. But companies can t jump blindly into adopting cloud infrastructure. They need a strategy for what parts of the IT infrastructure to move to the cloud, when each part should be moved, and how to do so. Most important, It leaders need to be able to answer how they should move. The benefits are clear, but other business leaders will want assurances that migration to the cloud will not disrupt the business, nor create productivity or security problems. In short, businesses need a migration path to the cloud. They need to understand how they will take advantage of the benefits of cloud computing while minimising technology and business risk. They need a plan to select and test a dependable infrastructure provider. Virtually all business applications in use today were written to run on a dependable infrastructure stack, in distinction to some recent Web 2.0 SaaS applications that write the dependability into the software and assume unreliable infrastructure. Businesses need to find a cloud infrastructure provider whose stack has been designed for the applications that businesses already run. Businesses need to make a careful, gradual transition to the cloud with low risk, no capital expense and without long term commitments. Most organisations have already made large investments in infrastructure which may be at various stages of capital depreciation and service life, also necessitating a staged adoption of cloud. The ideal cloud infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) provider will have a suite of offerings that include low-risk ways for the business to evaluate the vendor s capabilities. The Migration Imperative Core v. Context Migrating IT infrastructure to cloud IaaS is a natural evolution of steps that companies have already taken to outsource commodity IT functions. There s nothing new in IT shops trying to eliminate the busy work so they can focus on the high value projects. This is what The Chasm Group and Gartner refer to as core versus context. IT needs to provide context as easily and inexpensively as possible, and invest as much as they can in core, the things that create strategic differentiators for the business. 1 IDC, Accelerate Hybrid Cloud Success: Adjusting the IT Mindset, 2011 nscaled, Inc. 1

2 In a May, 2011 story in Network World, Jim Honerkamp, CIO of Steel Technologies said, "Infrastructure does not differentiate us in any way, shape or form in the marketplace. To be a strategic IT organisation, you have to be delivering value in technology tools, either to strengthen customer relationships or to be used as weapons against the competition." 2 OpEx v. CapEx Another key driver of cloud migration is the appeal of shifting from the large capital expense of buying hardware and software, to the steady, predictable operating expenses, billed monthly, as a utility. This change makes budgeting easier, and, for most small and midsize businesses, makes cash management easier. In a related area, changes in technology happen so fast that the traditional three-year depreciation schedule for hardware doesn t match the reality of an IT department trying to keep up with the power curve. After just one or two years, the hardware may start to become a liability to the company, becoming underpowered relative to the needs of updated software. A software upgrade one with increased resource requirements in the middle of a hardware lifecycle, can bring systems to their knees. Small and midsize companies in particular are hard-pressed to keep up with the latest in both hardware and software as a result. One benefit of cloud infrastructure is continuous access to whatever level of resources the company needs, without the hassle of adding or replacing hardware. In short, the fast pace of hardware innovation driven by Moore s Law, plus the disconnect between hardware and software release cycles, are driving companies to find ways to get their infrastructure stack as a subscription service, with definable, predictable levels of computing and storage capacity. Creating a Cloud Migration Plan Once a business has assessed its reasons for migrating to cloud infrastructure, it needs to develop a roadmap for which parts of its IT operations it will move, and in what order. The first priority is to develop a plan that minimizes risk, including deciding how to evaluate vendors and their service offerings. The IT team also needs to determine what new skills, if any, they need to develop, especially in the area of vendor management. Low risk offerings Companies should look for a cloud provider that has a broad set of solution offerings including ones that are low-risk, like backup-as-a-service (BaaS), disaster-recovery-as-a-service (DRaaS) and Test/Dev. The ultimate goal is to move primary application hosting to the cloud, but working with a vendor that gives the client a chance to assess them in a non-mission critical scenario makes sense. If the cloud provider is successful, then the business can move on to other solutions. Backup & Disaster Recovery If the customer s long term vision is to perform a gradual, low-risk migration to cloud infrastructure, a focus on business continuity will allow them to achieve this in a non-disruptive way while their IT team builds confidence in the vendor and the facility. 2 nscaled, Inc. 2

3 A lot of companies are making 2011 the year of cloud backup. Using a cloud provider for backup and disaster recovery makes sense anyway off-premises backups are safer than onpremises and test many crucial aspects of the provider, like their scalability, on-demand elasticity and WAN optimization. Just as important, clients should be evaluating the provider s customer support is it responsive, professional, and expert in all the enterprise technologies involved? Technical issues that the cloud vendor should demonstrate expertise in include deduplication, WAN optimization, backup windows, and monitoring and alerting. Disaster recovery will show how elastic the infrastructure is. In fact, disaster recovery is the most extreme example of the need for elastic resources on-demand: clients either need zero, or they need many servers, and they need them quickly. If the vendor has trouble delivering a satisfactory backup or disaster recovery solution, the business hasn t risked its most important applications and there will be no effect to business processes, and another vendor can be tried. Test & Development Another natural entry point for any company migrating to the cloud, and looking for a way to try a cloud IaaS vendor, is Test/Dev. Gartner recently noted this trend: customers are likely to begin with a pilot project often a test and development environment but intend, over time, to try to move some, if not all, of their data centre infrastructure into the cloud. They are likely to make a tactical decision about their initial deployment, but are also hoping to find a longterm strategic partner for their infrastructure needs. 3 As with backup and disaster recovery, the appeal is twofold. First, it tests the provider s infrastructure in important ways: elasticity, speed, security, ease of management. Second, it creates no risk to the client s business; if there are any problems with the Test/Dev environment, they will not affect the company s core IT functions in any way. Primary Companies realize the full benefits of cloud infrastructure when they start to move their primary application hosting to the cloud. This the biggest step, but one that a company should be comfortable with after determining that their provider has a dependable, scalable infrastructure, and a world class support organisation. This too can and should be phased. As core services in the primary data centres approach end of life (hardware refresh), they can be started on demand in the cloud with a minimum of disruption. Selecting an Enterprise Grade Cloud Provider As we ve seen, the reasons for a business to design and implement a cloud migration plan are twofold. First, the business needs to assess its own needs, resources and constraints in moving its IT operations to the cloud, and it needs to develop confidence in its ability to integrate and manage the cloud infrastructure. Second, the business has to choose a cloud infrastructure provider and develop confidence in the provider s ability to perform. Vendors should be evaluated based on their architecture, support offerings, and strength of the contract/sla. 3 Gartner, Magic Quadrant for Cloud Infrastructure as a Service and Web Hosting, 2010 nscaled, Inc. 3

4 Hybrid cloud architecture Look for provider with a technical architecture that reduces risk and enables a smooth migration. Hybrid cloud solutions are a recent development that deliver all the benefits of public cloud while addressing the issues. Hybrid cloud solutions combine on-premises local cloud with offpremises remote cloud. The local cloud (also called private cloud) is dedicated infrastructure not shared with any other customers. Yet it provides the virtualization, scalability and elasticity of cloud solutions. The remote cloud (also called public cloud) uses shared physical resources in the provider s data centres to serve multiple customers (but with secure virtual machines that maintain strict data privacy and capacity reserves). The key to a successful Hybrid cloud architecture is to unite these two clouds into one seamless, secure cloud, managed and controlled from the same administrative interface. By setting up VPN or dedicated private lines, the remote cloud and local cloud behave as if they were inside the customer s firewall, minimizing security risks. Hybrid cloud supports cloud migration by giving customers a cloud solution that includes an onpremises portion that is under their control, creating peace of mind. Also, the hybrid approach gives customers flexibility in how to design their backup and disaster recovery solutions. For example, snapshots can be written to the local cloud, and then replicated to the remote cloud data centre, meaning that there are three copies of all backed-up data, with copies both on- and off-premises. This minimizes risk and creates confidence in the IT team as they assess their cloud provider. The hybrid cloud model begins with the placement of a local cloud device within the LAN environment. A secure, encrypted connection is established between the LAN and the remote cloud, and data and workloads are able to migrate in either direction. Once in place, the IT team can begin to use cloud services at a pace and in an architecture of their choosing. Ultimately, clients may end up with all primary services in the remote cloud, some combination of local and remote, or all local with disaster recovery, archive data and perhaps Test/Dev services in the remote cloud. Enterprise agreement As we ve already seen, migrating to the cloud means establishing a corporate wide level of comfort with cloud computing in general, and the chosen cloud infrastructure provider specifically. Having a dependable infrastructure means having both dependable technology and a dependable provider standing behind it. Beyond choosing a cloud infrastructure provider with a flexible hybrid architecture, there are important non-technology concerns as well. Businesses should look for a provider with a strong, comprehensive enterprise agreement (contract). The enterprise agreement should cover not just the basics like service level agreements, but insurance coverage carried by the provider; details of maintenance periods; data ownership and return; data security; support response times; and service credits. A cloud provider that won t assume the necessary level of financial responsibility, no matter how compelling their technology or pricing, should be avoided. Otherwise, the IT team is putting the business at risk. Service & support The third key aspect of a cloud infrastructure provider is their client services and customer support. Businesses that want to migrate their key business applications to the cloud need to know that if they have a problem, or just a question, that someone will answer the phone, 24x7. Furthermore, complex infrastructure components like snapshotting, virtual machines, and storage subsystems can t be entrusted to a vendor with a lack of expertise. Avoid vendors that nscaled, Inc. 4

5 put cost above quality and provide offshored support teams that aren t experts in the technologies. Conclusion The promised benefits of cloud computing are well understood, generally agreed upon, and real. Real, that is, if companies do their homework before migrating to the cloud. Successful implementations of cloud infrastructure involve developing migration plans, and selecting vendors based on their ability to support that migration plan by offering multiple low-risk options for using cloud. The best choice of vendor will be the one with the flexible, hybrid architecture that supports multiple modes of using the cloud and a gradual migration to the cloud. The right vendor will also have an enterprise agreement and support team that instill confidence that the migration to the cloud doesn t put the business at risk. About nscaled nscaled provides hybrid cloud infrastructure as a service (IaaS) for the enterprise. We serve customers with highly confidential data and zero tolerance for system downtime or data loss. Our unique Hybrid Cloud architecture gives customers maximum flexibility and dependability; our services agreement is the strongest, most customer-centric available; and our 24x7 customer support is unmatched in expertise and responsiveness. nscaled offers customers multiple cloud solutions, including primary application hosting, disaster recovery, backup, WAN acceleration and QAdevelopment. All services take advantage of our global network of Remote Cloud data centers plus our on-premises Local Cloud appliance, all managed as one secure, seamless infrastructure. The company is headquartered in San Francisco with offices in London. For more information, please visit or write to Revised June 21, 2011, EMEA nscaled, Inc. 5

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