Tackling cloud concerns from the front lines

Cloud may be the hottest technology for data centers in years, but abandoning traditional IT processes can cause cloud issues and set a company back.

It seems like every year some new technology explodes onto the IT scene with huge potential -- and frequently even greater hype. But tackling every technology that comes along is usually both impractical and too expensive. So how do you choose the right ones and then integrate them successfully into your environment?

As we all know, one of today's hottest IT topics is the cloud, and it's more than likely on your priority list as well. But figuring out how to maximize the real potential of cloud computing while avoiding the trap of relying on it to solve problems it was never designed to solve is a script most IT executives are still trying to write.

The lesson was to never abandon disciplined procedures, processes and testing plans that have served IT so well over the decades.

Working with many clients on a wide range of IT projects as principal at Transitional Data Services, I've had the opportunity to see what works in the real world and what's more promise than reality. In fact, one client is a perfect example of the opportunity cloud computing presents -- but also of cloud concerns and challenges. The project involved an advertiser, a website and the most watched football game of the year, the Super Bowl.

The ad agency planned to launch a major consumer ad campaign during the halftime show of 2012's Super Bowl XLVI in Indianapolis. The campaign was designed to drive enormous volumes of traffic to the company's website, so scaling short-term capacity up and down via a cloud service was hugely attractive. Frustrating prospective customers with a slow or unavailable website was a major concern, and the cloud offered a possible solution for eliminating that trepidation.

Fortunately, the project team had the foresight to steer clear of a potential cloud concern by performing pre-event load testing and simulation. As it turned out, the project team discovered the website was doomed given its underlying architecture, which resulted in multiple bottlenecks that even the nearly unlimited resources of the cloud would not be able to overcome. The hosting architecture was quickly redesigned, retested and successfully deployed well in advance of Super Bowl Sunday. In this case, the cloud became not only the answer to scalability concerns. but also the perfect testing ground to identify potential catastrophic failures well ahead of the company's website launch.

In this client engagement, the lesson was to never abandon disciplined procedures, processes and testing plans that have served IT so well over the decades. Sometimes choosing the right technology or cloud provider is the easy part; the real success comes from implementing products with the same continuity, testing and systematic approach that has delivered solid results in the past.

About the author: Steve Gunderson is a principal at Transitional Data Services.

This was first published in November 2012

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