Top 5 Questions to Ask When Buying Public Cloud IaaS

December 20, 2011 by Jon Corwin

Public Cloud Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) is transforming the hosting industry. Traditional hosting companies and fresh service provider faces both play an active role in this emerging market. IaaS offerings taut agility for early adopters, while slower moving enterprises—still managing their own cloud—watch from the sidelines. Ever expanding datacenters, operational responsibilities and security requirements, amidst shrinking IT budgets, means traditional infrastructure often only makes sense for the largest of organizations.

What is Infrastructure as a Service?

Despite Public Cloud IaaS still solidifying a market foothold, some 65 percent of enterprises are already adopting IaaS and PaaS (Platform) services, according to a recent F5 Networks survey. So, what is IaaS? Infrastructure as a Service is a provision model in which an organization outsources the equipment used to support operations, including storage, hardware, servers and networking components (via SearchCloudComputing). The service provider owns the equipment and is responsible for housing, running and maintaining it. The client typically pays on a per-use basis. Common IaaS use cases include the ability to expand and contract as needed, pay-as-you-go billing, backups, disaster recovery, patching, antivirus and security compliance.

Here are five questions you should answer before deciding on an IaaS service provider (this is a shortened version of Jeff Vance's original IaaS Buying Guide):

1. Is the IaaS model right for you, or are you better off with PaaS, SaaS or other cloud models?

Disseminating IaaS from PaaS and SaaS is simplest to understand using the cloud stack model. IaaS includes all datacenter and network plumbing and service and storage hardware. A virtualization layer on top encases the IaaS offering. PaaS handles the next two layers of the stack; operating systems and infrastructure software. Finally, SaaS delivers hosted applications, ranging from personal email to full blown CRM systems. Leveraging the on-demand nature of these mdoels requires that an organization understand how they intend to develop and deploy applications. IT agility and autonomy beckons an IaaS structure.

2. Will implementing IaaS require additional IT resources?

Adjusting from a static on-premise datacenter to a dynamic IaaS model can be a tremendous shift for enterprise IT organizations. IaaS solution providers also vary in their delivery of managed services. Providers like Bluelock offer managed services traditionally handled by internal IT to streamline operational tasks. This allows organizations to focus on their core business, not running their business. Examples of Bluelock managed services include operating system patching, load balancing, virtual machine backup and antivirus. The ease of IT operations inherent in IaaS solutions makes cloud particularly attractive to nimble startups with limited resources. Cloud investment and resources can scale with fluctuating businesses.

3. How easy is it to scale up (or down) your services?

A key characteristic of cloud computing is scalability, or more precisely the ease with which scalability can be achieved. IaaS enables scalability through dynamic provisioning of resources on a self-service basis to meet business demands. While easy cloud offering takes a different approach to scaling parameters, all IaaS models are far more flexible than traditional one-app-per-service computing.

A good illustration of IaaS scalability existed when Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc (LMHI) filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2008. Amist the sell off of business divisions, LMHI was left without the technology assets necessary to support the wind-down of the company. Lehmann formed an asset manager business, LAMCO. Tasked with building infrastructure able to assume peek capacity day one and slowly wind down over time, cloud computing was the logical choice. LAMCO selected Bluelock’s VMware-based Virtual Datacenters due in large part to its flexible scaling capabilities.

4. Does the IaaS provide adequate support?

The ability to quickly and accurately diagnose and resolve issues with infrastructure not only ensures reduced downtime, but keeps one issue from threatening an entire network. Dedicated support teams ensure enterprise IT and infrastructure keep pace with your business. Keep in mind, select vendor’s customer service is not offered 24/7 or is only available at an additional cost.

Transitioning to the cloud is no small task. A staff of cloud experts at your disposal for guidance and support may help organizations new to the cloud. Bluelock has a proven track record in providing scalability and client support.

5. What is your plan for outages?

Outages are a problem for any computing model. On-premise datacenters are especially susceptible to outages. Designing for failure should be obvious, but each cloud providers approach to blackouts varies. For example, Bluelock offers 99.99% uptime in the cloud because our clients are enterprise-level companies with mission-critical production environment needs. You likely can’t afford the downtime that would be threatened with a provider who can only promise 99.9% or 99.95% uptime.


What are your biggest questions about public cloud IaaS? Please share your ideas in the comments section below.