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Look Before You Leap: All Clouds Are Not Created Equal

Spice IT

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It’s been an amazing day at Cloud & Such – no bothersome customer calls and the power has only gone out twice in the data center (aka parents’ garage). However, the propane-powered generator kicked in both times. Game of Thrones plays on the large screen monitor that doubles as a computer display. Walking outside the single-family home, the CEO adjusts a spray painted sign which reads “SSAE 15-1/2 | Security Monitored.”  Suddenly, a 1990′s corded phone rings and everyone looks perplexed. What if it’s a customer calling about a frozen application – spinning beach ball – or worse, upset that there’s no compute, memory or disk capacity available on a quarter rack of hardware (Infrastructure as a Service or IaaS-cloud) that had been sold as an under-subscribed resource model!

If the above cloud provider scenario scares you, it should. While the example is fictional, some of the people, places and events are real. All clouds are not created equal. Clouds are designed to support a variety of applications with very different architectures. Some live in garages while others are hosted in sci-fi-like data centers sitting in farm fields.  When considering a cloud provider for Infrastructure as a Service (Iaas), here are some things to consider:

Data Center Visit:  Will the cloud provider even allow you to visit their data center?  Is this part of the sales cycle?  Do you know the exact address of where your data will be hosted in the cloud?   Talk to your sales rep or his/her manager and request a walking, in-depth site tour of the data center.  Better safe than sorry.

Power/Environmentals:  What kind of power density is the data center provider able to generate across racks of the cloud?  Do they have gigantic Caterpillar industrial diesel generators that can fire up data center power within seconds? Or, like Cloud & Such, do they have a propane generator?  Do they use battery power from a UPS or state-of-the-art flywheel technology?  Understanding the underpinnings of your cloud provider’s data center will help you understand your possible points of failure and make you feel more secure in your purchase.

Hardware:  Just as clouds aren’t created equal, neither is hardware. You might be paying dirt cheap per gig, but what is your data sitting on?  Is it duct-taped, retread or commodity servers, storage, networking gear?  In the end, you always get the products – and performance – you pay for.

Security/Compliance:  Does the cloud provider have Navy SEALS, dragons and a mote surrounding the data center? Or do they have a staff member checking in visitors/workers at the front door?  Can they get you SSAE 16, PCI, HIPAA (BAA) or ISO certifications or will it be an SSAE 15-1/2 like Cloud & Such gives to its customers? You’ll want to know the basics ahead of time.

SLA’s/Post Contract Support:  As in life, everything is negotiable, including your service level agreement with the cloud provider.  Does the provider treat the idea of accepting your SLA redlines as paramount to agreeing to give you a kidney or lung?  Can you meet your post-contract support manager or technical account manager (TAM) before you sign a contract?

There are some in the IT industry today that say, “If it’s in the cloud, what does any of this even matter?”  That attitude makes YOU the point of failure, not the cloud provider.

As stated in my first blog post, the role of a CDW Cloud Client Executive, your co-pilot in cloud service solutions, is to help you properly examine the cloud industry and ask the right questions.

Learn more about Cloud Client Executives and CDW’s Cloud offerings.

To learn more about CDW cloud solutions, go to CDW.com/cloud

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