December 9, 2012

Evaluating Network Services for IaaS Solutions

This is the fourth and last in a series of TechNotes reporting on some of our recent research into the use of cloud-based Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) solutions. The prior TechNotes concerned The Growing Use of IaaS, The Drivers and Inhibitors of IaaS, and IaaS: The Importance of Network Services.

Importance of Network Services

In our last TechNote we discussed how IT organizations expect that cloud-based IaaS services are supported by a wide range of network services. That expectation raises the question, "When evaluating IaaS services, how carefully do IT organizations evaluate the associated network services?" Survey respondents were asked, "When your organization evaluates cloud services such as computing, storage and virtual private data centers, how carefully does your organization evaluate the enabling network services such as Load Balancer, SSL Load Balancer, Firewall?" Their answers are contained in the table below.

IaaS-5.JPGThe enterprise architect who we interviewed as a part of this process said that his organization pays some attention to network services when evaluating an IaaS solution, but network services are not a major component of the evaluation process. His reasoning was that, "Most load balancers have a lot of rich capabilities, but we don't use very many of them. To us, a load balancer is a load balancer."

The conventional wisdom in the IT industry is that network services, such as the ones listed in the table above, are not that important as component of cloud-based IaaS solutions.  The survey data clearly refutes that belief since 60% of our respondents indicate that network services are either a major or a critical component of how they evaluate cloud-based IaaS solutions. 

Criteria to Evaluate Networking Services

Given the critical role that network services play in the evaluation of cloud-based IaaS services,  the survey respondents were asked to indicate the two most important criteria they look for when evaluating network services that enable cloud services such as a Load Balancer, an SSL Load Balancer, or a Firewall. The criteria and the percentage of times that they were indicated by a survey respondent are shown in the table below.

Our survey refutes the belief that a name brand vendor is an important criterion when IT organizations evaluate network services. The data highlights the fact that a robust feature set is the single most important criterion that IT organizations examine when evaluating networks services. 

Another way to evaluate the data in the table above is based on defining the agility of a network service as being the ability to dynamically add capacity and the ability to reduce the time it takes to deploy new functionality. Looked at this way, the data in the table above clearly indicates that the agility of network services is the most important criterion that IT organizations examine when evaluating networks services. 

The enterprise architect said that a number of the criteria listed in the preceding table are important, but since his company currently makes very little use of sophisticated functionality when services such as load balancers are provided internally, they don't tend to be very concerned about a robust feature set when an IaaS provider offers those services. Also, while they do implement chargeback, it isn't done at a very granular level and so they don't need very granular data from their IaaS providers. 

The enterprise architect did elaborate on why agility is so important to his organization.  He stated that in part because they are such a large company, often times the various organizations within the company don't communicate as well as they should and that, "This sometimes results in a fire drill when we find out at the last minute that a major new application is being deployed or a large new office is coming online." 

This ends our series on the evolving IaaS marketplace. We will undoubtably come back to this important topic again in the next few months.


What conclusions did you draw from the research about how IT organization are evaluating, and should evaluate IaaS providers?

The evaluation process is clearly changing. As recently as a year or two ago, IT organizations made very little use of IaaS solutions in general, and even less use of these solutions as part of a production system. As a result, many IT organizations spent relatively little time evaluating alternative IaaS solutions. That whole situation is changing. Now it is increasingly common for IT organizations to use IaaS solutions to support production systems and as a result, IT organizations are spending much more time evaluating the providers and their solutions.

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