Oncore IT News - 01 June 2012
Establishing best practice in terms of using the Cloud as a delivery platform
In essence, we think this rule of thumb helpful: As not all Cloud providers are equally competent at the back end, only work with a Cloud partner that is able to convincingly demonstrate that it has both capacity and competence to adapt its Cloud offering to fit your needs.
This statement can in turn be decomposed as follows:
Infrastructure capability to ensure security for an organisation in the compliance-sensitive markets of financial and legal services and indeed in many professional contexts, security is a non-negotiable. The concept ‘security’ here encompasses both the ability to defend the company perimeter from external threat, offer resources to aid internal auditing and underwrite policy on information usage and preserve the company’s business processes in the event of disruption (business continuity).
Your prospective Cloud partner must therefore be able to offer proof of resource in all these areas. Competence and capacity to guarantee availability it’s simply unacceptable for a technology provider to shoe-horn client requirements into a shape convenient for itself. True solution design has to come from a documented, repeatable process of client engagement which outputs a customised structure that is the product of an engaged conversation between both sides (partner and customer). That proposed solution must in turn be constantly reviewed and adapted to circumstance and altered to match a customer’s changing needs, again, by a proven, tangible set of procedures.
Such an approach will be for naught but good intentions unless backed up by industrial strength compute potential. In the Cloud context, this means your rented infrastructure or platform should be housed in a high performance facility – that is, a datacentre composed of multiple active power and cooling distribution paths with redundant components, is fault tolerant, so as to provide high availability. It should not be necessary to add, but alas it probably is: none of this will be worth paying for unless it is well supported by a broad, experienced set of engineers at the partner end able to offer true round-the-clock and preferably local support.
Bottom line: it is highly advisable to perform sufficient due diligence as to ascertain that any suggested Cloud partner is able to meet these competency benchmarks.
Service Level Agreements set expectations for the right Cloud relationship What if you identify a partner that has a convincing system design technique and which also meets the technological benchmarks identified above? Are you out of the woods then? Not quite. The final piece of the puzzle is to build a way for you to both get what you want from the relationship. This is where an appropriately constructed memorandum of terms – a service level agreement (SLA) – is put in place as the foundation for the duration of the partnership. Key to the value proposition of the entire transaction has to be a clear means for measuring performance against agreed targets, sanctions and responses for issue management and a set of not just lowest common denominator deliverables but how the provider can excel.
We talked earlier about a responsible supplier being able to offer the appropriate mix of public, private and hybrid Cloud solutions. It may be helpful at this point to review what this could mean for you as a prospective Cloud customer in practice. You will be completely reliant on the supplier’s infrastructure, so if it is not up-to-scratch you may have issues. So you need to ask your supplier this set of questions – and not proceed unless you get satisfactory answers back!
- Can the company actually support your systems?
- Does it have the right expertise?
- Where is the data held and does that comply with appropriate legislation and compliance constraints on your industry?
- What is the security profile utilised?
- What suppliers and technology is deployed, for example?
- Are they open to being visited and their facilities checked?
- What is the protocol and set of SLAs for data recovery?
- What partner technology is in place and what is the level of relationship and access of your supplier to those players? In effect, does your new partner have enough traction with the ‘big boys’ to secure you a very attractive deal?
- How clear and transparent are they in terms of costs and is there flexibility in contractual terms?
Connectivity is key!
We mentioned ‘connectivity’ above. To be specific, you need your Cloud partner to be based in a very high performance datacentre as this will give access to a wide range of top-tier communications providers, and the very highest bandwidth you can possibly get. This will mean the minimum of connections to the ‘Net, low latency and the best price-performance ratio. It may also be highly desirable to obtain geographical dispersal. This is advantageous as it can mean much more robust security and longevity for your data. The best solution: datacentres in different countries – not just in house duplication! Why? To be blunt, if the “balloon goes up”, you won’t be sitting proud.