Head in the Clouds? 8 things to keep in mind.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

I can still remember the first time I saw a cloud on a diagram of a computer system, it was a long time ago and it looked something like this:

I asked a few questions at the time: Whats in the cloud? surely we need to know how the traffic is routed around?

I was told not to worry about it, that the cloud was only a cloud to us; to the network provider it was a well understood network diagram, they could at any point tell what was going where, but that we really didn't need to know.

The SLA was our iron clad agreement that we would have bandwidth and redundancy we had asked for. That the amorphous entity we were using was managed to our expectations.

The problem with SLAs is that they are an agreement not a guarantee, which we found out to our cost.

Today the cloud is the hot new thing... here are some principals for engaging your business in a cloud.

1) The cloud should only be a cloud from the outside, if the people running the cloud cannot describe it in more detail there are issues.

2) You need to really understand your requirements before doing business with any cloud.

3) SLAs are agreements not guarantees, if the cloud fails to meet their side of the agreement make sure you are still in business.

4) For SLAs to work well you need to be able to monitor them. It's likely the cloud can monitor the service they believe they are providing to you, can you do the same?

5) If you backup one cloud with another, it will behoove you to deconstruct both clouds to determine single points of failure, don't end up backing up one cloud with itself.

6) The benefit of the cloud is that it can change as needed, make sure the due diligence you do when first engaging in the cloud is repeated on a regular basis.

7) The cloud will meet more well understood structures at some point: networks, even USPS(!) ensure you have the right expectations from these services too.

8) The final rule is a truism: If something seems too good to be true it probably is, clouds are not miracles, don't commit until you COMPLETELY understand how it works and how you can use it.

This post may have come off negative in regards to cloud computing, I have tried to not comment on the capabilities of cloud computing, which I feel is still being defined, but rather try to encourage the thoughtful decision not to put too many eggs in too few baskets.


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