10 Things to Consider When Purchasing Cloud Computing Infrastructure

February 28th, 2011 by - 10,168 views

So you’re looking at purchasing cloud infrastructure for your business? That’s great! While we believe cloud infrastructure is a viable solution for everybody, each company needs to find an implementation and provider that best meets their specific need. We call it crafting your “Cloud Fingerprint“. Every cloud infrastructure solution is unique to the business looking for a solution. If you choose a provider that tries to convince you that their solution is the only way to go, you might want to consider looking around for another vendor. Your cloud provider should really be your cloud partner. And, they should work with you in crafting your unique cloud solution, not try to jam a round peg into a square hole.

Cloud-Fingerprint

Before breaking out the checkbook there are several things to consider internally and questions you should ask your potential cloud provider to make sure you are getting the best solution for your business.

Internal Question for your Company

Cloud infrastructure comes in many different shapes and sizes. Having a clear understanding of how your organization will be using this infrastructure will help narrow down which providers will have solutions that fit your need. Here are some questions to ask yourself before approaching vendors:

  1. What appliances (e.g., servers, load balancers, firewalls, networks, etc.) need to be supported?Every infrastructure topology is unique, just like your business. In order to create the best infrastructure solution, you need to consider what virtual and physical appliances are required or optional to your cloud solution.
  2. What security requirements do you have? Is a shared environment acceptable or does your cloud infrastructure need to be single-tenant?Cloud computing can come in multi-tenant and single-tenant options. Single-tenant infrastructures are 100% dedicated to your company, but they do come with an additional price. And within public clouds, you can segment off a portion of your infrastructure (e.g., dedicated or colocated environments) that is single-tenant (see Hybrid Hosting).
  3. What are some of the different use cases that need to be supported?Understanding how much computing power your company needs, when your company needs it (seasonal) and which departments will use cloud infrastructure is useful in selecting cloud infrastructure packages. Your first step is to clearly define these business models and use cases so that a custom solution can be created to meet your needs.
  4. Who will manage the implementation?Many companies are happy with a do-it-yourself option in terms of creating a cloud infrastructure for their company. But there are plenty of time and cost constraints that come with these types of implementation. You can also choose a cloud provider that consults with you to understand and help you implement your environments in the most cost and time-effective way. And once the implementation is live, who will be there to support it? Your internal team or the cloud provider? (Be sure to look at SLAs as well.)
  5. Are there regulatory requirements to consider?If there are compliance, regulatory requirements or unique/customer hardware considerations that are critical to your cloud implementation, be sure to map those out ahead of time.

Questions to Ask your Cloud Provider

Now that you know exactly what YOU are looking for, it’s time to find a cloud provider that builds solutions tailored to your needs. Simply sharing your business’s needs to an infrastructure-as-a-service vendor will get you recommendations and solutions, but they may come with some unexpected surprises. It’s a best practice to know the vendors process and procedure to make the purchase and implementation as smooth as possible. Here are some things to consider:

  1. Is it a scalable solution from both a company-installation standpoint and an end-user usage standpoint?You need to be sure that whatever cloud provider (or partner) you choose can grow with your business, otherwise you do not get the advantages of cloud computing. Is your cloud partner large enough to scale with your needs? And can users of your cloud account scale the infrastructure as well on-demand and just pay for what they use? (Beware of the “false cloud” where you have to shell out money in terms of capital expenditure – buying hardware to power your cloud is NOT cloud computing.)
  2. Are they simply a reseller of someone else’s technology or are they an innovator in the space?Several of the big players in the cloud space are simply resellers of Infrastructure as a Service. Or, they have an older infrastructure solution and they are simply slapping the word “cloud” in front of it (this is known as “cloud washing.”) If your needs are simple, they can be great partners. If your computing needs are more complex, it makes sense to partner with a company who is considered an innovator.
  3. Do they require capital expenditures?Believe it or not, several cloud providers will require capital expenditure and on-site hardware. Again, it is not a cloud solution if you have to buy hardware to power it and then manage that infrastructure yourself (“false cloud”). Having to buy physical hardware to power and grow your company’s “cloud solution” really just causes more work for your IT staff and isn’t cloud computing.
  4. Do they provide technical expertise when creating the implementation?The hardest part of cloud computing is the implementation or migration process. Make sure you have the support you need during the transition. Will your cloud partner help you overcome any technical hurdles or offer best practices?
  5. Is their offering based on industry standards or are you required to architect your infrastructure design to meet THEIR requirements?This is big. Some cloud providers require you to re-architect your infrastructure design to meet the requirements of their stack. This can often lead to more work for your company.

We hope that these questions will help you find the right solution for your company when you are looking to acquire cloud infrastructure. We’ve identified even more considerations in our white paper, “Skydiving Through the Clouds”.

Download “Skydiving Through the Clouds”

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Michael Sheehan

Michael Sheehan, formerly the Technology Evangelist for GoGrid, is a recognized technology, social media, and cloud computing pundit and blogger who writes regularly about technology news and trends.

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