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Cloud lessons learned

Cloud lessons learned

What will Cloud adopters do this time around?

Cloud adopters who are coming to the end of their initial three-year contracts may be intending either to change providers, or renew. Some now have strong opinions on what they liked – or didn’t like – about their Cloud experience and may be looking to do things a little differently this time around.

Here are some Cloud lessons learned:

Not understanding multi-tenancy

Multi-tenanted services are those in which businesses share the same application with others, even if it appears that they don’t because data remains partitioned and protected from other users.

That’s a subtle difference to the alternative, which is single-tenancy or dedicated services, where users are allocated their own virtual application and operating system, and in which they are the only user in that environment.

Cloud providers often use multi-tenancy because it reduces their overheads and allows them to make the most efficient use of their own resources, while simplifying management tasks.

This also means lower costs for Cloud users. But, as some users have discovered, it’s not always suitable.

The reason is this:

Data is co-mingled

While providers are careful to deploy the latest security patches and the like, on multi-tenant solutions businesses do share space with other customers. In almost all cases, it’s not an issue, but users should make themselves aware of what type of platform they are on.

Customisation isn’t as easy

While they may be less expensive, it’s not as easy to customise multi-tenanted solutions as it is for dedicated services. Users of multi-tenanted Microsoft Exchange services, for example, may need to work hard to integrate their Exchange and PABX systems. However, where integration isn’t as important, multi-tenancy can be the most efficient solution.

Migration

Multi-tenancy may also complicate migration processes when transition between services. As mentioned, the alternative is single-tenancy, where businesses are the only user in their virtual instance, separating both their data and their application from others and providing them with things like their own file system and Active Directory. Both multi- and single-tenancy have their place, but businesses should avoid the mistake of not paying close attention to which type of service they are procuring, and what the implications might be.

Thinking cheap will result in cheap

Another mistake to look out for is around cost. The hype around the Cloud has seen a lot of providers (especially the big telcos) offering Cloud ‘services’ that don’t include service. The needs of some businesses may well be met by these products, but others have had to go elsewhere for help with managing their IT needs. In short, businesses have realised that the Cloud doesn’t put a stop to the need for IT assistance and support.

Underestimating bandwidth requirements

While the Cloud offers flexible and scalable computing, it also requires a good deal of bandwidth. In the vast majority of cases, bandwidth hasn’t been a problem. Web-based applications are efficient by design, and where more data intensive client/server systems have been required, features such as thin-client systems, WAN accelerators or terminal services have helped to ensure good performance. Lessons learned here mean that even though new adopters are unlikely to face challenges, it’s still important to evaluate constraints carefully.

Costly compliance

Cloud adopters have learned to factor in relevant PCI, ISO or other industry-specific standards from the outset. As a general rule, they have found that the higher their security and compliance requirements, the more costly their Cloud solution. But Cloud providers have learned too, and common concerns around data sovereignty and security have now been well addressed by the industry.

Choosing the wrong provider

Not all Cloud services are equal. The success of Cloud solutions depends on the Cloud provider, as much as their underlying Cloud. Businesses should pay attention to the reputation a potential Cloud provider has established in the market place. Cloud services are now mature and providers should be able to prove any claims they make around service levels, support response times and provisioning times.

Consider the provider’s partnerships with vendors, and engage with some of their existing customers. If having a single provider is also a valued idea, examine the range of Cloud options offered under the provider’s banner – even if you’re only currently considering disaster recovery to the Cloud or an Exchange service.

Summing up

While the overall experience of Cloud adopters is positive, where lessons have been learned has mostly been to do with rigidity – in particular, the integration and customisation hurdles that multi-tenanted services can sometimes present. Fortunately, these are situations that can be easily avoided if businesses take the time to properly investigate their options, and it’s in the provider’s court to make sure that customers understand what limitations users of multi-tenanted services in particular might face.

Dave Stevens is managing director of Cloud and managed IT services business, Brennan IT.

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