September 08, 2010
Cloud computing may be considered a new phenomenon in IT, but, in many ways, it is an evolution propelled by new IT delivery models and enabling technologies. Initially, driven by cost concerns, enterprises turned to collocation as a more efficient IT delivery model. The next logical step, managed hosting, allowed enterprises to leverage the management expertise – and efficiencies – of service providers. At the same time, new enabling technologies, such as virtualization, utility computing, web services, and service oriented architecture (SOA), have already yielded newer and greater data center efficiencies, resulting in more enterprise-friendly IT delivery models.
But, even with these new delivery models and technologies, enterprises must still plan for uncertainty. What will average demand look like? What additional IT resources will be required to handle expected and unexpected demand spikes? There are no easy answers to these questions, forcing enterprises to build out their IT infrastructure to accommodate projected peak demand requirements, incurring capital and operational costs for idling and underutilized servers, as well as for additional physical space, power and cooling. Cloud computing addresses these uncertainties, bringing predictability, agility, and cost-efficiency to the enterprise.
So, what exactly is cloud computing and who stands to benefit? At its core, cloud computing is on-demand provisioning and usage of elastic IT services. Cloud computing employs a pay-for-use billing model, ensuring that users pay for only what they provision and consume. Early-market cloud offerings were ideal for application development. Software developers, for instance, could quickly provision resources to accommodate their project requirements, and then turn off these resources once the development project reached completion.
Defining the Enterprise-Class Cloud
However, these first-generation cloud offerings lacked enterprise-class characteristics creating a significant barrier to more widespread enterprise adoption. More recently, service providers have been rolling out cloud services targeted at enterprises. This is good news for enterprises, but a discerning eye is still required to accurately assess the enterprise-class capabilities of these offerings.
So, what should enterprises look at when evaluating cloud services? Sure, they must present economic value. That’s a given. But, total cost of ownership, though important, is at best, a minimum requirement. Enterprises must also look closely at reliability, security, and transparency. And, perhaps what truly defines an enterprise-class cloud service is management.
Full Transparency, Flexible Management
The cloud service should provide enterprises with the tools – a web-based management console, for instance – for real-time monitoring, provisioning, and management of resources, including computing capacity, memory, storage, and bandwidth. Highly granular management capabilities ensure that enterprises use only the resources they need. Some cloud service providers also allow enterprises customers to use the management console to monitor the performance of applications on the infrastructure cloud.
Though some enterprises prefer to self-manage their resources, most enterprises require a more comprehensive management capability from their cloud service providers. Why? As enterprises start moving more of their workloads to the cloud, the complexity of managing the cloud environment becomes more complex and challenging. Without an appropriate level of management from the service provider, issues, such as VM sprawl, can eat away at the benefits of a cloud service.
So, what is an appropriate level of management? That depends on the scale, complexity, and type of workload. An enterprise-class cloud service provider should offer several management configurations, to address a range of customer requirements. Enterprises that need reliable production environments for critical and complex applications, typically require a fully monitored and managed infrastructure cloud, along with various managed services, including network management; security management; disaster recovery; and SAS70 or PCI compliance.
Other enterprises may only need an on-demand, fully monitored infrastructure, giving them insight into how their infrastructure is being used, and allowing them to optimize their IT environments and use resources more efficiently. Finally, some enterprises may prefer – at least, initially, a self-managed option. A self-managed configuration is appropriate when an enterprise is using the cloud as a robust test environment that does not tax their in-house data centers. In this scenario, the sandbox offers a robust build-destroy-build environment for deploying multiple test environments, with a range of choices for operating systems, databases, and middleware.
Enterprise-Class Infrastructure and Intelligence
The infrastructure goes a long way toward defining the service. An enterprise-class cloud service must be built on highly-resilient, state-of-the-art enterprise-class infrastructure – both hardware and software – which must be configured for high-availability. High-speed connections to physical servers should be coupled with load balancing technology to ensure that even the most complex applications scale to meet business demand.
Advanced cloud platforms also have built-in intelligence. Dynamic instrumentation, for instance, enables the cloud infrastructure to react to changes in application requirements. Using probes to monitor application performance, the infrastructure scales up or down – automatically – to meet the immediate needs of the application.
Enterprise-class cloud service should have a geographically dispersed footprint. Enterprise customers can choose a specific regional datacenter to deploy their cloud, perhaps reducing bandwidth costs and satisfying certain regulatory requirements.
A geographically dispersed footprint also enhances disaster recovery and business continuity, which should be integral to an enterprise-class cloud service. Enterprises must assess the disaster recovery capabilities of cloud service provider and receive assurances – in the form of service level agreements – that even in worst-case scenarios, they will be back on-line quickly.
Highly Secure Platform and Service
An enterprise-class cloud service should also ensure the security, privacy, and integrity of enterprise applications and data. A cloud service should provide all of the security measures associated with traditional hosting environments, including two-factor authentication; network intrusion detection and prevention; automated vulnerability scans; and third-party penetration testing. Advanced firewall technology should provide intelligent threat defense with advanced capabilities, including identity-based access control and denial of service (DoS) attack protection. Additionally, data centers should be compliant with SAS 70 Type II requirements for physical and logical security.
Security should also extend to the management interface. Role-based access control, for instance, ensures that users have only the permissions required for their business or support roles. The service provider should also be able to set permissions on objects or groups. All activity should be logged for auditing purposes.
An Adaptable and Transparent Cloud
Enterprises have differing requirements. Some may want to dive into the cloud service pool, while others may want to test the waters first. An enterprise-class cloud service must be adaptable – able to accommodate different deployment models. Enterprises should consider the following:
• Customized Solutions: Enterprise cloud services are not “one size fits all.” Cloud service providers need to work closely with enterprise customers to build robust, highly customized solutions to address unique and varied IT requirements.
• Virtual and Dedicated Infrastructure Services: Some enterprises are not ready to make a full commitment to the cloud. They may, for instance, have concerns about certain sensitive applications and data. Or, they may have to comply with certain regulations. These enterprises may still be leveraging some aspects of a cloud service. The underlying enterprise cloud platform should enable customers to combine virtual and physical infrastructure to create high-performance hybrid IT environments, allowing organizations to augment their internal IT capabilities with cloud services.
Introducing NaviSite Managed Cloud Services (MCS)
NaviSite MCS is an enterprise-class, Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) that provides secure, virtualized IT environment. MCS is built on state-of-the-art enterprise-class infrastructure. Cisco’s Unified Computing System (UCS), a next-generation server platform, is configured with dual-fabric interconnects for high-availability, while VMware’s vSphere provides a flexible cloud operating system. NaviSite data centers are interconnected by dedicated 10 Gbps Ethernet links, eliminating network-oriented bottlenecks. High-speed connections to physical servers hosted in NaviSite data centers, coupled with load balancing technology, ensure that complex applications scale to meet business demands. MCS offers three high-level benefits to enterprises looking for a true enterprise-class cloud service:
Lower Total Cost of Ownership
• Usage-based billing: Enterprises do not incur the hefty capital expenditures associated with building and maintaining an in-house data center. Usage-based billing is linked to the provisioning process – enterprises make base-level commitments and can scale up or down based on need. This ‘pay for use’ billing model yields savings of 20-40%, compared to traditional infrastructure hosting services.
• Efficient Resource Utilization: The virtualized slices of resources ensure enterprises purchase and use only what they need – eliminating the hidden costs of IT resource underutilization.
Business Agility and Simplified Operation
• Speed of Deployment: Enterprise-class cloud services accelerate the time to value for enterprise customers by eliminating long procurement cycles associated with in-house development projects, and ensuring that deployments move quickly from staging to live production.
• Simplified IT Operations: A fully-managed option delivers an enterprise-class, cloud-enabled IT environment, while eliminating the complexity of managing an in-house data center. From resource provisioning and security management to operating system, network, and application management, an enterprise cloud service makes IT faster, simpler, and more efficient.
Guaranteed Service Levels
• Guaranteed Service Levels: A true enterprise-class cloud service is backed by industry-leading service level guarantees for performance, availability, and ‘response and resolution.’
• Business Continuity and Performance Manageability: An enterprise-class cloud service includes 24x7 monitoring and support, and geographically dispersed data centers to augment built-in disaster recovery capabilities.
Pre-register for the Upcoming Navisite Webinar:
Webinar: Storm Clouds - Security Issues in the Cloud and How to Address Them
Date: September 15, 2010;
Time: 1:00 PM EDT / 10:00 AM PDT
Security technology and procedures are augmenting existing security frameworks to accommodate cloud architectures. This Webinar will highlight the four critical areas of concern when securing cloud infrastructure services and managed enterprise applications.
Register for this free webinar...
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