While the cloud is a new dimension of technology that IT managers and administrators will bake into the technology landscape, we have to make one fundamental decision: will the technology be in our out of our traditional data centers? This is a loaded question in regards to policy, security, compliance and a myriad of other categories that are very line-of-business specific.
One element than help give perspective for making this type of decision can be applied from basic management challenges. One important thing that I learned from working with various project managers is that in any engagement it is important to determine what you can manage and what you can (or cannot) control. When back-end components of the cloud reside outside of traditional internal data centers, we can manage the cloud — but not entirely control it. Part of this — identified in Lauren Horowitz’ post on this site — concerns the topics of transparency, service issues and cloud standards. When it comes down to it, if the back-end components of the cloud are outside the traditional data center, it cannot be fully controlled internally.
For offerings such as the Amazon EC2, Microsoft’s Azure, and Rackspace, these offerings are off site from internal data centers. With this parameter, decisions have to be made about what lies inside and outside traditional data centers. The alternative to the cloud back end being external, however, may not be as attractive and the time to market compared to a provided solution is inferior.
Building a cloud internally may be a daunting task for some organizations, especially when some of the more primary components may not already be in place. One mechanism that can truly enable an internal cloud is a virtualized server environment. In quantifying the virtual environment, it is not necessarily how many virtual machines or hosts are in use but the percentage of systems that are virtual machines. Along with that, another building block of a cloud is a storage grid for ultimate flexibility on data protection. Lastly, network capabilities are a pillar that defines the internal cloud. This can include the use of load-balancing and traffic-managing switches. With all of that, it becomes pretty clear that the costs and growing pains could be significant.
Make no mistake, there will be cloud computing success stories. But in the case of your own implementation — determining where the back-end cloud components reside will be a critical question that will need answering sooner than later.