Ok, so Cloud is the buzzword of the day. I get it. Everyone is headed there. All vendors of disks, applications that touch the storage world, mainstream line of business applications, etc… All going cloud! Today, I can put my entire infrastructure into the Cloud. I even saw an IP based Phone company with a cloud offering. Now, when my phone rings, it’s coming from the cloud! Cloud-based applications, cloud-based storage, cloud-based backup, EVERYTHING seems to be cloud-based!
So… what is the cloud? That’s a question I hear daily from my customers. According to Dictionary.com, it is: Noun – Internet-based computing in which large groups of remote servers are networked so as to allow sharing of data-processing tasks, centralized data storage, and online access to computer services or resources.
That is a lot to process and certainly nebulous in nature, which is one of the reasons people are “cloudy” on the whole topic. The reality is most large enterprises are already putting some of their computing resources in the cloud and those that aren’t are not far behind. When you consider the cost of disk, systems, power, cooling, staff, etc., required to manage local environments, a company of just about any size can consider leveraging the cloud in some way as a straight cost savings strategy. One thing people seem to agree on is the cloud is comprised of all things virtual.
But what about Public versus Private? Do you need to put your data on Amazon for it to be considered a public cloud?
People I talk to define public cloud as anything that more than one entity can use and leverage. Private generally means the cloud is typically housed in your own datacenter. Private Cloud would consist of physical systems set up to run virtual machines with some degree of automation for things like provisioning, backup, and management. Private Cloud would also typically include some form of virtual storage, actually multiple types, and that’s worth talking about briefly.
Virtual storage is different than a standard disk array
For a standard array, you have two or more disk controllers, all with shared access to all disks for redundancy purposes, and you slice and dice the space to allow for provisioning to dedicated hosts. The downside is that if you need a volume for a high end database with a specific number of IOPS (I/O per second), that means adding spindles. The more spindles, the larger the volume. If the array is populated with twenty 100GB disks and you run 10K RPM drives, and you need to use ten of those drives to achieve the number of IOPS your application requires, you have 1TB (before RAID disk usage calculates out space). So what if you only need 200GB? That adds up to a volume that is wasting a ton of space that you are paying for day after day. A virtual array overcomes this major shortcoming by using software in the array that creates a volume out of an aggregate sum of all available disks, giving you the performance of ALL available disks, but you only pay for what you need.
Leverage Public Cloud today Let’s assume you’re ready to use the cloud because you want to save money… and you want to increase efficiency. The best advice I can give: Start small. Look into applications such as mail, CRM, and ERP in the cloud. Cloud-based versions are easy to find and they give you enterprise-class functionality on a per user basis. At the end of the day, this start-up approach can save money, give you greater flexibility and reach so you can focus on other parts of the business.
Look at Public Cloud for Backup. Storage costs continue to drop in the cloud.
Cloud-based backup gives you a life jacket for those “Oh no, my servers are all under water”-moments. It’s a quick fix that eliminates the need for an additional datacenter or the need to manage a bunch of unruly tapes offsite in the hope that they can actually be used to help recover from a disaster. In some cases, you can even run machines from your cloud backups as production servers while you recover your local machines. A couple of key things to look for in a cloud backup product. You absolutely need a local copy of your backup data. And you may already know that restoring large quantities of data is slow at best over the WAN. You need to leverage compression and data deduplication somewhere in the process to save costs and reduce the amount of data you have to run over a network. Better if that capability is built into the backup product as a dedupe device that works only your local copy, not the cloud’s.
Leverage the Private Cloud Today All three major players in the virtualization space, Microsoft, VMware, and Citrix are in hot pursuit of each other to win ownership of the private cloud. Don’t hope for just one winner because as you know, having lots of choices drives innovation and lowers prices. And this is one area where we still need all the innovation and price wars we can get.
But… Private cloud is not just installing Virtualization. Doing it right with virtualized storage and setting things up in the correct manner is critical to success. It is not just about creating a few machines as virtual guests on a standalone virtual host, although that will save you money. It is about the underlying infrastructure. It is about being able to have rules in place on the VM environment that automate things like VM placement based on resource availability and VM movement based on continued availability of those resources.
Rules that define how, what, where, and then things happen. Consider it an abstraction layer that will allow you to deploy new systems through a console that can do it all and make the right choices for you. If you are not there yet and plan to be, do not take the inexpensive way and try to tackle this alone.
Put the key IT folks through the training before you implement. Learn how it is done right first and save tons of money and be issue free for a long time to come. Leverage the community of knowledge and hire a Virtualization Expert to draw up the plan.
Have a plan Without a good solid “run book”-type plan in place that calls out the steps for a recovery, if disaster does strike, and if you’re not there, who is going to be doing the resetting of the company’s data? Build that book.
In summary, cloud computing is in its infancy and is predicted by the analysts to grow huge in the next two to five years. Embrace it smartly by getting an education! Begin by leveraging the vast amounts of knowledge being amassed today by joining forums and signing up for the blogs of several key influencers. And… get your head out of the sand and explore the cloud!