There’s very little argument that WAN technologies have helped shape many organizations now do business. Self-service and data delivery over the Internet, referred to as cloud computing, is helping organizations grow organically, while still keeping costs stable. With increased bandwidth and better technology behind the cloud, this solution can be a powerful tool for any business.
But what type of deliverables does the cloud really offer? Disaster Recovery, Backup, Test/Dev and other capabilities of the cloud have helped create an interesting solution set for organizations to choose from. Aside from just knowing what the cloud can offer, organizations and managers must be able to explain the benefits of the cloud in a top-down model. This means that if managers know the end goals of a cloud strategy, while the engineering staff is left clueless, the success of the entire project can be limited. The main goal here is to understand the various solutions that the cloud can bring to an organization, and how to show these benefits to the entire IT team.
The power of the cloud lies in its versatility. With more resources available to the average user, cloud computing is capable of delivering more content faster, and to more devices. There are many ways to utilize the cloud and each can have its own considerations and best practices. The very first planning point is to select the appropriate cloud model:
- Private. This is where an organization elects to host their equipment and present a cloud model that is managed and controlled by the internal IT team. Resources - physical and virtual - all belong to the organization.
- Public. An organization may choose to work with an outside cloud provider for their hosting needs. Applications, servers and workloads are all provisioned from resources owned by a third-party provider. This is a good example of a "pay-as-you-grow" model.
- Hybrid. This is a combination of a public and private cloud model. Sometimes an organization may choose to have a part of their environment hosted internally, while other components are given to a third-party provider.
Once a given model is selected, an organization can begin to plan out the services they want to deliver. Remember, the following list is just a small sample of what cloud computing can deliver. This means that every environment looking to move towards a cloud model must align their IT goals with the overall business strategy.
- Testing and development. Instead of purchasing equipment, provisioning resources and taking on new assets, an IT team can simply deploy these workloads in the cloud. Rapid provisioning and de-provisioning our resources in the cloud will save time and money. Plus, once the testing is done, the organization doesn’t have any extra equipment to recycle.
- Disaster recovery (DR). A cloud model has become a powerful DR strategy. Data centers coast-to-coast offer cloud models capable of fast DR options. Effectively, if a corporate data center goes down, a cloud DR environment will allow users to access temporary servers with live data very quickly. The speed of the DR strategy is of course dependent on the type of solution being designed.
- Data center extension. Instead of purchasing new equipment and allocating it to a given branch office or a remote location, organizations are electing to push some of their resources to the cloud. By having servers, VMs and resources available in the cloud, a company can quickly spin up a new location and point it to the cloud data center. A high-speed WAN connection will allow users to access corporate resources without having to deploy new hardware at the end-point.
- Archiving and storage. Storage can be expensive and sometimes cumbersome. This is where the cloud can help. Solutions exist for organizations who want to use the cloud for their storage and backup needs. Setting a strategic backup cycle will reduce bandwidth consumption and free up resources at the corporate data center.
Informing the IT Team
In previous articles, we discussed how cloud computing has forced IT teams to break down barriers and begin to effectively communicate with one another. Cloud computing is not just one singular platform. Rather, it will contain elements from numerous IT teams who all must collaborate together to get the right solution in place. When working with an internal IT team, it’s important for them to understand how and why their role is so vital in a cloud model.
- LAN Team. Throughput internally is absolutely crucial to ensure optimal cloud performance. The right cabling, core switching and QoS options must be in place for the best possible cloud experience. This team is vital for server and data center communication strategies – which directly involve cloud computing.
- WAN Team. Site-to-site communication and utilizing WAN optimization can make or break a cloud model. The WAN team must know how to gauge their pipe and know how much data is being pushed through. This team must size the corporate WAN properly to ensure optimal data transmission.
- Storage Team. Storage can be very expensive. And, if it's not provisioned properly, storage can topple a cloud platform. Take VDI as an example – proper storage sizing in terms of IOPS is crucial for a positive user experience. Now imagine if that’s being delivered over the WAN to hundreds or even thousands of users. The storage team must understand how many disks are required and in what configuration is optimal.
- Security Team. Working with firewalls, ACLs and end-point devices all fall under the cloud model. Security teams must still secure the servers, end-points and encrypt the data. This team is very important in ensuring that the data being transmitted over the cloud is safe and is delivered properly.
- Desktop/End-user Team. Workloads will have to be delivered somewhere. It can be an iPad or a thin client. Sometimes, information is pushed down to a corporate branch via cloud computing. This is where the desktop team has to step in and ensure that the end-points are working optimally for the cloud solution. Without this team, there may be a poor end-user experience. This alone can topple a cloud initiative.
- Application Team. Depending on what is being delivered over the cloud, the application team must be aware of how their programs are being virtualized and delivered over the WAN. By creating intelligent and optimized applications, cloud-ready models can be designed. The lighter and more efficient the application – the easier it will be to deliver over the WAN.
In many situations, other departments may have to become involved as well. Introducing the HR department to help develop cloud policies is becoming a normal practice within many organizations looking to adopt cloud computing. Simply going to the cloud isn’t enough to have a successful solution. Even planning the phases out may not work out all the way. The best projects are those with clear channels of communication and full participation of the IT environment. The only way this is possible is if everyone knows and understands their role within the corporate cloud.
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