Like it or not, cloud computing, services, storage, solutions, and products are here to stay. Despite the hype and FUD, the question is not if but when, where, why, and how will you be using clouds. Since there are different types of clouds, you must decide which is applicable to your different needs.
I routinely hear from IT professionals in diverse organizations around the world that clouds are an all-or-nothing model. They think that using clouds means moving all your applications and running them at Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, Rackspace, or other service providers. Another common misconception is that cloud storage is only about AWS, Carbonite, Dropbox, Mega, Google, Apple iCloud, or Rackspace.
A lot of people ask if clouds are ready for them and their organization. You should turn this around and ask if you are ready for cloud technology in some form. Keep in mind that going to or using a cloud provider does not have to mean an all-in approach. It can complement or co-exist with what you already have.
Your concerns about the platform might determine if cloud technology is ready for you. But understanding your concerns or caveats about cloud service providers, solutions, or products can also determine if you are ready to use them. Why do you need or want to go to a cloud? What do you need or want to leverage by using it? Will you be moving your applications as they are or using cloud services to complement and support them? For example, will you use cloud storage to supplement or enable high availability, business continuity (BC), and disaster recovery (DR) or to modernize data protection, backup, and archiving.
Likewise, determine what type of cloud resources -- from servers to products -- can be used today or in the future in various modes (public, private, hybrid, community, or other). Develop a vision, strategy, and plan for how you will implement those resources over time. The strategy should take into account how your environment will be supported, moved into a cloud, or complemented by cloud products. For example, your applications, data infrastructures, and development may remain the same, but you may choose cloud resources for testing, BC, DR, backup, archiving, and other functions.
Data protection, including availability, durability with backup, BC, DR, and security, is a shared responsibility in cloud services. The vendor or service provider is responsible for some things, including logical and physical security, availability, and durability, under service-level agreements. Likewise, the user or consumer of those services has responsibilities in how they are configured, how resources are leveraged, and how best-practices are followed. If the primary objective of going to a cloud service is a level of availability, reliability, and durability lower than what a provider recommends, guess who is taking responsibility when things go wrong?
The question is not whether bad things (such as network outages) will happen to you. The question is when they will happen. Plan and design for resiliency, because that is part of taking shared responsibility.
It is OK to have cloud concerns if you can identify what they are, why they are relevant, and your workaround options. By identifying your concerns, you and your provider can discuss and address them. In some cases, the resolution may be to do nothing about that application, function, or use scenario today but plan to revisit it in the future.
Explore how your applications could run in a cloud environment with no changes. What would the performance, availability, cost, or other considerations be? Would you simply be moving a problem instead of fixing it? You can also assess the costs of changing applications to run them in a cloud, or you can figure out how to use cloud services for development and testing while deploying in a private environment. For greenfield or new applications, there can be more options. However, keep the total life cycle in mind.
Do some proofs of concept or pilots. They may identify new concerns that, if addressed, could boost your confidence. Even if they aren't addressed, at least you'll gain better insight into whether cloud services are ready for you -- or whether you are ready for them.
Don't be scared of clouds. Be prepared for them by determining your concerns and how they can be addressed.
— Greg Schulz is founder and senior advisor at the independent IT advisory and consultancy firm Server and StorageIO. He has more than 30 years of experience across applications, server, storage, networking, hardware, software, cloud, virtualization, and services. Read his blog at www.storageioblog.com, and follow him on Twitter: @storageio.