July 15, 2014

Choosing Between the Cloud and Owned Systems


There is a diverse range of choices available today for owning and managing a data center. They range from the enterprise doing everything to outsourcing the entire business processes including applications to a third party. There is no right choice for everyone. The choice depends on what is already owned, when it will retire, the capabilities of the IT staff, whether the business model is CAPEX or OPEX, and whether or not candidate functions can be better managed by an outside organization. In some cases, a third party provides more functionality and costs less. 

This TechNote provides only a high level view of what each choice covers and how to evaluate the choices--because complete coverage of the topic could require an entire book!

Own on premises systems

This has been the common practice for years. The enterprise IT staff manages the systems. If however the enterprise wants to reduce the IT staff or desires 24 hour support or does not have the expertise for managing the data center, then the enterprise can contract with a managed service provider (MSP) to manage the on-premise systems.

Own the systems located off premises

Colocation facilities provide the space, electrical power, HVAC, and physical security for the enterprise-owned servers, storage, and networking equipment used to connect the enterprise systems to external networks. The colocation charges are on a rental basis. The management of the systems can be performed remotely by the customer or a managed service provider.

Employ a private cloud

A private cloud is cloud-based infrastructure dedicated for the exclusive use of an enterprise and operated for a single organization. It can be managed internal to the enterprise or by a third-party (MSP). It can be hosted internally or externally. Undertaking a private cloud project requires a significant level and degree of involvement to virtualize the business environment. It requires the enterprise to evaluate decisions about existing resources and their disposition.

Subscribe to a public cloud
 
A public cloud is when the services are delivered over a network that is open for public use i.e. the Internet. There may be little or no difference between the technologies of public and private cloud architecture. Security considerations may be quite different for services that are available from a service provider for a public audience and when communication is affected by communications over a non-trusted network. Public cloud service providers like Amazon AWS, Microsoft, and Google own and operate the infrastructure and offer access only via Internet. Public cloud services come in three basic forms, Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), and Software as a Service (SaaS); Unified Communications is offered as SaaS. 

Join a community cloud
 
A community cloud shares infrastructure among multiple organizations from a specific community (e.g. schools, local governments, not-for-profits, and industry associations) with common concerns, whether managed internally or by a third-party. It can be hosted internally or externally. The costs are divided among fewer users than a public cloud. The cost can be more than a public cloud, so only some of the cost savings potential of cloud computing are possible. 

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Balance computing with a hybrid cloud

The hybrid cloud is a solution with two or more clouds (private or public) that remain distinct systems but that also remain connected together, offering the benefits of multiple deployment models. A hybrid cloud can also include the connection to collocation, managed, and/or dedicated services with cloud resources. A hybrid cloud service breaks down the isolation and provider borders. A hybrid cloud is not a private, public, or community cloud service; rather, it is some combination. 
 
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Evaluating the best solution

The table above highlights a number of considerations when making the choice, own or cloud. One of the most common reasons for not adopting a cloud service is security. This is especially true for regulated vertical markets like healthcare, financial services, and some government operations.  If you own the systems, you feel more secure than if the security was under the control of a third party. The enterprise is still ultimately responsible when it comes to security-- even with a cloud service.

Another factor is control. If the enterprise looks at SaaS as the solution, then most of the control is in the hands of the provider not the enterprise. A third concern is provider lock-in. Once the enterprise changes its IT staff to support cloud services, it is a considerable effort to return the IT cloud based servcies back into the enterprise. 

In summary, the enterprise must consider cloud services even if the final decision is not to use them. If a cloud service looks attractive, then the enterprise should consider the least mission critical functions as candidates for the cloud because even if the cloud is for these functions, the impact of moving back out of the cloud will be minimal.



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