Investing in a cloud service offering involves more aspects than meets the eye. The following pointers will prove handy if you plan to invest in cloud computing services.
Cloud computing services can be used to battle internal IT challenges or operational issues. You can also consider cloud-based deployments if you need to procure an application or if you have an existing application which is at its end of life.
The cloud-based application's advantages and cost-effectiveness should be better than an equivalent application implemented in-house.
After evaluation of these drivers, it's easier to decide how you can leverage the cloud. If an organization understands the cloud, knows what it means, and is aware of its capabilities, then the cloud is a useful and powerful tool.
Put pieces of the puzzle together: How the application running on the cloud integrates with your existing infrastructure is another important consideration. Factor in data transfers between applications, latency and other technical aspects when you plan to move infrastructure to the cloud.
A good system integrator (SI) comes next. Whether the SI is the cloud provider or in-house team, this selection depends on the capabilities, skillsets and used technologies.
Plan ahead for options when you move away from the cloud: Many a time, organizations might need to move away from the cloud due to relationship or technology issues.
So you should have a standby plan ready for such situations. Provision the necessary conditions in the agreement with the cloud provider so that you are safe in case you need to move away from the cloud computing service. Outline clauses that will detail how you can get your data back. These clauses should outline the data formats and how you can handle migration of this data onto your future application.
Have no doubts about security: Always clear your doubts about the service provider's data center security levels. Vendor audits are not always possible since the cloud provider may not allow such exercises. In many cases, you may not even know where he houses your data. However, it is recommended that you discuss security concerns, security architecture, security certifications (if any), data center tier levels, etc. Get clarity on the deployed physical and logical security controls.
If your application is hosted on the cloud provider's infrastructure, you don't require additional security tweaks -- provided your application has the built-in security features. If you need to increase your application's security levels, secure it from your end prior to hosting it on the cloud provider's infrastructure. For example, create a password-protected login (if it's not present) in your application.
Service level agreement (SLA) negotiation: There is no universal standard for cloud computing services. Each provider has his own capabilities. The quoted price is typically based on the provider's processes and technology. So, it is important for the organization to be clear on the required SLA. Typically, there is a significant cost difference between 99.9% and 99.99% uptimes.
About the author: Anand Ramakrishnan heads the cloud computing services division of Wipro Infotech Ltd.
(As told to Aishwarya Ramani.)
This was first published in November 2009