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July 23, 2014

Cloud: 3 Abused Words That Don't Mean What You Think

When I was a young business professional, I remember the first time I heard that a limousine was going to pick me up and take me to the airport. I thought for sure I joined the right company -- after all, they were going to send a black, shiny sleek limousine to pick me up. Wow!  So, when a blue van showed up at 5am to whisk me away to the nearest airport, you can imagine my shock and disappointment. Another word used in the inverse is retreat. General Custer didn’t retreat (in hindsight...oh, never mind), but my point is that retreat used to be a bad thing, a dishonorable thing, and who knows maybe, arguably, the best decision you ever made.  But now, it’s like, “Oh I went to this wonderful retreat for the weekend.”  Say what? Suddenly, what was bad then is good now. But, there are many words that don’t stack up on their face, and in modern times, cloud is just one more example.

What You THINK Cloud Is

The average cloud user believes that the word inherently invokes indestructability. Cloud is a safe haven where no data is ever lost. The cloud is everywhere. All clouds are somehow created equal so whether it’s iCloud, Amazon, or Papa Smurf’s Blue Cloud, you’re sound as a pound.

Cloud is secure, so no worries stashing all your personal pics, videos, files, personal and corporate sensitive data, and much more up there if the price is right. Those cloud guys must be doing something right because your phone, your network attached storage, laptop, and just about everything in the “Internet of Everything” is syncing non-stop to the almighty cloud. Beyond the diverse mass of consumer electronics relying on cloud, you’ve got the hosting of virtual servers, virtual desktops, cloud storage and much more.

So let’s recap: cheap, secure, omniscient, and pretty much running dang near everything you own, want to own, and will ever own in the future. Yay, cloud!     

Enter the Kanye Cloud

“Let the haters hate, watch the money pile up.” –Kanye West.

You’ve got the folks who of course think cloud is just virtual hosting. Wrong!  Clouds are sophisticated far beyond the enterprise. I don’t care if you’re a Fortune 50, you can’t even get your hands on the same type of alien technology we run in the cloud.  Most of it is either pioneered by the top 10 clouds or specifically made for us and not marketed to the public.  Plus, there are some serious Wall Street-like financial models to go with it and an insane array of global expertise (heck, even I have 20+ certs just to swim with the sharks) that makes cloud what it is. But, cloud is also very much what people think it isn’t – a big box of chocolates and you never know what you’re going to get, Forrest. Take time to stare and compare.

Cloud’s Stark Reality + Hope

Clouds fail. This is often offset by the fact that you’d rather let that be our problem than your problem. I mean, seriously, would you rather be in the datacenter for 8-16 hours fixing some storage array, exchange server, or hypervisor host? Heck no! Especially when the dirt really hits the fan and it takes a council of 12 Jedi to fix the problem. Dismayed as you may be, it’s a lot more fun to watch the misery from the sidelines. Why? Because cloud always bounces back… except when a wild pack of hackers deletes every image you have in the cloud after successfully busting into your cloud control panel. Oops! As we say in California, “bummer, dude.”  But, I digress.

But subjecting yourself to cloud doesn’t mean you aren’t the ultimate decider of your own fate therein. The question these days isn’t, “Do I run a private cloud?”, but rather, “How many public clouds should I be in?” -- so to go from cloud wary to cloud wise, how does one sort the wheat from the chaff?

10 Questions Only the Cloud Wise Ever Ask

  1. Is all my data encrypted by default in the cloud?

You’d be amazed how many clouds do NOT encrypt ANY data by default and how many more don’t even offer any options to do it later! Make sure you can get AES256 on everything in the clouds you choose.

  1. If a wild pack of hackers busts into my cloud control panel and deletes all my images, can you restore my service?

Some clouds offer free snapshots that are beyond the reach of the user control panel so that they can’t be deleted (instead they rollover every 10 days or so) and thus your service can be restored. Most do not offer snapshots at all or include them in the control panel so that they get deleted right along with everything else the hacker destroys. Choose your cloud wisely!

  1. Do you charge data transfer fees?

Most but not all clouds charge you for every byte of data you touch in the cloud. Some have unlimited access (no data transfer fees), while some lure you in with free inbound, but charge for outbound.  If you’re syncing to the cloud this can get very expensive!

  1. What is your default and maximum network speed?

Many clouds are 1gbps or less with some being 10gbps minimum. Others can reach speeds of 40/100gbps if you need it. If you don’t ask, you won’t know.

  1. Do you use AMD or Intel (News - Alert) CPUs in your servers?

A lot of people think a CPU is a CPU. It’s not. If you want to drive 512GB of DDR3 memory at full speed, you can only do it on AMD (News - Alert). And, AMD offers more cores per CPU than Intel. Don’t be a lemming, lured by the sound of great marketing. Read up!

  1. Do you offer virtual desktops that are fast plus can handle high end 1080p video on YouTube (News - Alert), Netflix, etc.?

Many Clouds don’t offer virtual desktops at all. This is critical, because as you expand your footprint in the cloud with servers, storage and more, you will want the fastest way to interact with all of this. A virtual desktop is a much needed tool, but even they are not created equal. Compare the choices with simple tests like surfing YouTube and other sites to see what each can handle.

  1. Do you offer data migration services?

Too many clouds are “take it or leave it.” They don’t care how you get your data there or if you do at all. Getting in is hard, getting out <evil laugh> is near impossible. Some clouds offer migration services IN and will export you in many different hypervisor formats OUT. Find these clouds and use them!

  1. Do you offer colocation services?

Not everything can be virtualized, like an AS/400. So, if you’re going to move it all to the cloud, ask if colocation services are offered so that any physical components you have can still interact with your virtual cloud environment and be hosted in the same datacenter(s).

  1. Do you offer transport services?

If you’re doing disaster recovery to the cloud, cloud storage, virtual desktops, VOIP/SIP, or other things that require either QoS and/or a big pipe, then pick a cloud provider that can hook you up with faster Internet, a private link to the cloud, MPLS, and more.  

  1. What security do you offer?

A lot of clouds have their firewall, load balancer and other key network components as part of their orchestration platform. Some clouds dedicate a virtual appliance for firewalls, load balancers and more to each customer.  Security is one thing you may not want to be multitenant in the cloud! Ask about IPS/IPR services to block malicious hackers using both signature and IP reputation techniques so that not only are they stopped in their tracks, but this traffic doesn’t consume resources you’re paying for in the cloud.  Many clouds do not offer encryption, IPS/IPR, dedicated security appliances, but some do. Forewarned is forearmed!

Takeaways

All clouds are wildly different. You need to ask the right questions. But don’t lose heart -- what you think is cloud can be that ideal cloud if you make the right choices.  Price is not the only consideration; security, data recovery, integration with your onsite Microsoft (News - Alert) Active Directory and other infrastructure, colocation, transport, fees, data migration in/out, and much more are all worthwhile conversations. Some clouds leverage the channel and others do not. The more humans involved, the better, because at the end of the day all technology is sold by humans, to other humans, for the benefit of humanity. If your cloud is too big to talk to you, find another one. There’s no need to be cloud wary, when you can now be cloud wise. Adventure forth! 

Yours truly,

Dr. Cloud

About the Author

Mike L. Chase, J.D., (mchase@dincloud.com) is the EVP/Chief Technology Officer for dinCloud, a cloud service provider and transformation company that helps businesses and public/private organizations rapidly migrate to the cloud through the hosting of servers, desktops, storage, and other cloud services via its strong channel base of VARs and MSPs. Visit dinCloud on LinkedIn (News - Alert): www.linkedin.com/company/dincloud.




Edited by Adam Brandt
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