Transitioning to the Cloud: A Preparation Guide
From architecture to management to cost to possible latency issues, here's what you need to consider before you make the move.
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The transition to using cloud or Software as a Service (SaaS) platforms requires a lot of planning and preparation for organizations, but can come with great benefits.
Let's use an enterprise organization with 1,000 employees and multiple divisions needing a customer service tool for their employees as an example. The architecture needed to support this solution on-premises is something like the following:
- Three to four servers providing redundant access to the application
- Two or more back-end database servers
- SAN for application and database servers
- Private network for the SAN
- Load-balancing hardware for application servers
- Backup servers plus necessary software (backup software, agent software and so on)
- Private network for those backups
- OSes and updates
- Updates of application and database servers and the WAN to improve performance for the application
- Divisions to connect to the application (point-to-point and so on)
- Security for applications
The first thing that comes to mind is the cost of such an in-house solution, and by "cost" I mean not just money, but time -- time for implementation, time for planning, time for overall management and updating. In terms of monetary costs, the enterprise is generally going to be OK. However, from the "time cost" standpoint it might not be. Meeting this cost can be even more critical because if an organization can't give their solution the time necessary for proper management, then it leads to security and performance issues and these cost the organization even more, both in additional time and money for fixing problems.
This is where one of the primary benefits of cloud and SaaS comes into play. These days, services providers take the burden -- both in time and money -- to develop and provide a very large and diverse platform that supports a wide range of companies and automates the service to reduce the overall costs and delivery, while increasing the performance for end users.
As for making the transition to the cloud or SaaS services, there are a few things to consider.
First, companies need to think about traffic going through their networks and their bandwidth usage and availability. Thankfully, most companies have more bandwidth at their disposal than they really need for most cloud applications. However, they need to look at their incoming and outgoing allocations and make any changes as needed. For some companies, simply increasing the amount of bandwidth they're getting from Internet providers may be all that's required and not many changes will need to be made to their WAN.
For companies looking to use mission-critical and time-sensitive cloud or SaaS platforms, increasing bandwidth and also evaluating the other Internet providers is important. In addition, they need to understand the providers the cloud or SaaS provider is using. Having some synchronization between their network and the provider's could eliminate a number of hops to the platform, thereby reducing lag and increasing the speed of connection. In addition, private networks might be discussed with the cloud provider to get dedicated circuits and even better performance.
Internally within a WAN, prioritizing applications might be critical so that as much latency as possible is eliminated. Cisco Systems Inc. and other companies are developing new methods for prioritizing applications such as Wide Area Application Services, which can help accelerate and compress traffic for applications on WANs.
Many enterprise organizations also employ centralized access out to the Internet for their various divisions. This is one of the biggest changes that will need to be made for enterprises. They need to accept the fact that each division will need direct access to the Internet and no longer require private connections between divisions before anyone accesses the Internet. The amount of bandwidth that will be required for an enterprise organization if they transition many of their internal applications to the cloud or SaaS will be too large, and applications will run way too slowly without this change.
Tim Uzzanti is CEO of SmarterTools Inc., and previously founded and served as the CEO of CrystalTech Web Hosting Inc.