Cloud Computing Realities You Need to Know
Cloud computing solutions have been available for well over a decade. Software as a Service (SaaS) came to prominence first, followed closely by Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) solutions, then advanced Platform-as-a-Service offerings (PaaS), and now Function-as-a-Service, or “serverless” cloud hosting models, where the application requests compute resources without visibility or knowledge into the underlying infrastructure.
Most businesses, large and small, are using one or more cloud services. Office 365, Salesforce, and Trello are among a myriad of cloud services that offer feature-rich, relatively inexpensive productivity applications that allow their customers to focus on core business objectives as opposed to undifferentiated IT heavy lifting.
When clients and prospects approach us about moving to the cloud, their primary motivation is often to save money. After all, you can turn things on and off as needed, and you need fewer people to administer hardware since it’s in the cloud. And, since it is in the cloud and you don’t have to worry about your infrastructure going down, you don’t need a lot of oversight or administration, right?
As is usually the case, these misconceptions are often based on an incomplete understanding of what the cloud is and how it works.
Myth 1 – Going to the cloud is always cheaper.
Without hardware overhead, and due to the massive size and scale of major providers, servers and storage are cheaper, and I only use what I need. My cost will go down significantly.
Cloud based infrastructure can be less expensive, depending on how it is utilized. However, significant planning needs to go into the cost model, and in many cases, cost savings aren’t realized until years down the road.
Some of the confusion revolves around the “pay as you go” model, where you may think that if you’re only paying for what you use, you won’t have hardware sitting around at 2AM doing nothing. In other words, if you use less, you’ll pay less. However, realizing these cost savings requires active management. You need to determine what applications your customers and employees use and when to be able to “shut them off.”
For example: Do you have a salesperson who enters order data at 4AM? Are they often in different time zones? Your order processing and sales apps need to be available when your employees are. Do you provide 24X7 support for your product? Your team members on the second shift need the same access to your HR systems as those on the first shift.
Dedicated cloud cost management tools can provide visibility into where resources and budget are being consumed, but realizing the cost savings takes active oversight and management.
Myth 2 – In the cloud, I get built in redundancy. I don’t need DR.
If it’s in the cloud, and the hardware is abstracted for me, the provider has enough hardware that my operations shouldn’t go down. If a server or router dies, a new one takes over and it is seamless to my applications and my clients.
You should plan for business continuity in the same way you would for infrastructure hosted in a data center. Design your cloud infrastructure to ensure all proper diversity of locations, services, and resources. Even though it is abstracted to you, there is hardware in a data center somewhere, and if your environment’s configuration doesn’t explicitly address redundancy, you’ll run the risk that an event at a single cloud provider zone or region could affect your applications and data.
Different cloud providers address this in different ways. Amazon Web Services provides regions and availability zones where you can deploy compute and storage instances in multiple zones for applications that require high availability. The underlying hardware will be located in multiple fault domains, providing diversity of location and systems. For additional geographic diversity, you could deploy your application services and data in multiple regions, providing additional diversity and recovery options.
Myth 3 – If it’s in the cloud, there’s very little administrative overhead.
I don’t really need much of a technology team, since everything is taken care of by the cloud provider.
In a recent meeting with AWS, a spokesperson stated that one of their primary goals is to reduce human touches in the environment.
We’ve found that without extensive investments in scripting and automation, cloud IaaS deployment and management frequently require similar amounts of effort to an on-premises environment. While some tasks like hardware support are now outsourced to the cloud provider, a combination of existing and new administrative tasks are still your responsibility. On-box activities such as security updates, application deployments, and operating system administration are still required.
People move applications and services to the cloud so that they can focus on their core objectives. We provide cloud advisory services that help organizations navigate the decisions that need to be made when moving to the cloud. We pair that together with our managed services teams, which enables organizations to focus on their core objectives. Whether on-premise or in the cloud, we partner with you to manage your technology so you can focus on delivering value for your clients. If you have any questions about cloud services and migrations, we’ll work with you to help separate myth from reality and get you to a better place.
by Corey Dean