ost by Equinix Director of Enterprise Cloud Solutions Ephraim Baron. See Ephraim’s “Connecting the Clouds” session at RightScale Compute on Friday April 26 at 10:30am.
If hype is any indication, cloud computing – like Ron Burgundy – is kind of a big deal. So what’s all the fuss about? And what are all these different types of cloud: public, private, hybrid, community, cumulus, cirrus, etc.? More importantly, how can you best take advantage of cloud’s benefits without getting caught in any cloud traps?
Let’s start with some basic definitions:
Cloud Computing – As defined by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), cloud computing has the following essential characteristics and deployment models:
Public Cloud – Compute, storage, and associated resources running on someone else’s gear and delivered as on-demand services. The best known example is Amazon Web Services.
Private Cloud – Compute, storage, and associated resources running on your gear and delivered as on-demand services. No, this isn’t just virtualization re-branded. (Virtualization alone doesn’t have all of cloud’s essential characteristics.) Gartner has an excellent article listing more things that the private cloud is not.
Hybrid Cloud – One definition of hybrid is running some of your workloads in a private cloud and some in a public cloud. This isn’t a hard-and-fast rule, though. Equinix, NetApp, and Amazon recently teamed up to offer a variation of hybrid cloud computing whereby a user can deliver an application stack with part running on physical, owned gear and part in the public cloud over a Direct Connect link.
Community Cloud – According to Wikipedia, a community cloud “shares infrastructure between several organizations from a specific community with common concerns (security, compliance, jurisdiction, etc.), whether managed internally or by a third-party and hosted internally or externally.”
Putting Clouds to Work
Assuming that you find the idea of cloud computing intriguing, it’s time to answer the question “How do I get me some of that?” This is where many of the biggest challenges lie and where mistakes are often made. That’s because some of cloud’s main benefits – flexibility and on-demand consumption – can result in loss of control by the IT organization. And without central management and coordination of IT resources, consumption becomes chaotic.
The Rise of Shadow IT
Here’s a typical scenario:
- An application developer tries to get IT resources for (what else?) developing an application, but she finds the process too cumbersome, expensive, and limiting.
- Being resourceful, she opens an account with AWS using her personal credit card and quickly has everything she needs. (Yay cloud!)
- IT notices an unplanned increase in network traffic, identifies the source, and blocks it.
- The developer complains to her manager, who tells her to work from home where she has a fast broadband connection
- An adversarial relationship between the business and IT
- Reduced control of and visibility to IT consumption
- Less collaboration due to more people working remotely
- Increased security perimeter
How can IT deliver both flexibility and control? By supporting both public and private cloud.
Both Sides Now – How to Look at Clouds
To exploit cloud effectively, it’s important to understand cloud’s strengths and drawbacks. To that end, I offer two insights:
1) Optimize your network first
2) Public cloud is a means, not an end
The first of these should be obvious. You need adequate network capacity and performance before you start consuming large amounts of network-based resources. The good news is cost-effective options exist to redesign your network. (If your provider of choice accepts direct cross-connects, you’ll be able to set up a secure, fast link and bypass network service providers all together. This will save you a bundle on network charges.) And once those big fat pipes are in place, you’ll find all kinds of uses for them.
As for the second insight, it’s important to follow Stephen Covey’s advice and “begin with the end in mind“. And what is our desired end state? Three words: cheaper, faster, better.
Certainly cost management is one of the primary goals of every IT organization. Cloud, with its on-demand consumption model, would seem to fit this very well. However, as I pointed out in my “Own the Base, Rent the Spike” analysis, if you use a lot of public cloud it gets expensive – really expensive. You can save a lot of money by running your steady-state workloads on your own, private cloud and save the public cloud for transient loads or temporary needs. The key is to understand your loads. More on this in just a bit.
Of NIST’s five essential cloud characteristics, on-demand self-service has to be the most appealing. Looking back at our developer scenario above, this capability would have satisfied her needs. Rather than wading through a process-and-paperwork maze, she wants to do the job she was hired for. Cloud makes that possible.
Depending on how many resources are needed and for how long, public cloud may be a particularly good fit. With it, coders can develop, test, and possibly even release new applications more quickly while using only as many resources as they need. As an application matures and its usage patterns are understood, though, it makes sense to move it to a private cloud resulting in lower costs and increased control.
Finally, cloud computing lets companies do things they couldn’t do before. Take backup as an example. In the not-so-old days, companies would backup everything to tape. Periodically, an Iron Mountain or Recall truck would come by and haul the tapes to an offsite facility for safekeeping. When needed, a retrieval request for multiple tape sets would be sent so IT could restore data – often to find that the tapes were unreadable or that the backup job had failed. Fast-forward to a world where data is backed up to the cloud. (I do this with my home systems today.) No tapes. No trucks. No worries about data recoverability. Best of all, my recovery time objective (RTO) has just dropped from hours and days to minutes and seconds. And if I want to expand my data protection to include disaster recovery, I already have a big head start.
Home of the Clouds
Equinix hosts over 300 cloud service providers across our 95+ data centers around the world. If you deploy your private cloud with us, too, you can easily link public and private cloud environments. And as an increasing number of public providers accept direct fiber cross-connects, you can get extremely fast, secure connectivity at very low cost, just about anywhere in the world.
Pretty cool, eh?