Refining Cloud Services through Apt Configurations

By CIOReview | Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Enterprise IT, through cloud computing aims to serve corporations by offering scalable and  pay for usage facility for robust computing, networking and storage options. The cloud realm now boasts a plethora of solutions and platforms, making knowledge of cloud configuration an important prerequisite.

Depending on the business model, companies may use Public Cloud that primarily offers generic Software as a Service (SaaS) that addresses incremental capacity demands. When a business is centered on case specific data and applications, a Private Cloud infrastructure would be a viable option with enhanced security and privacy. Many enterprises orchestrate instances of private cloud and third party public clouds on a unified platform which can termed as a Hybrid Cloud. The lines that demarcate these cloud models continue to diminish based on the complexities of work environment. For instance, Private clouds encapsulated within public clouds are not uncommon among enterprises and are termed as Virtual Private Clouds.

Preparing for the Transition

Methods of configuring cloud infrastructure differ from that of in-house data centers. The former which banks upon Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) and/or Virtual Machines (VMs) and demands clear understanding of the organizations functions and processes. The cloud has its own set of challenges like concerns in security and speed which should not be overshadowed by its promises of virtualization, standardization and automation.

Transition of Enterprise IT to private cloud should be perceived as a challenge concerning employees (end users) rather than a technical one. Input from all levels of management would prove to be valuable at times of inevitable dilemma associated with the transition. It is important that management has procedures in place to address unwarned outcomes such as delays. Documentation is thus crucial to realizing standardization which goes in tandem with automation and understanding enterprise workloads and services.

As migration to cloud proceeds, keeping track of resource usage through a chargeback or show-back model ensures its fair consumption. The former would be easier to implement for enterprise that are new to resource accounting. Additionally enterprises also need to consider and evaluate several security features that come bundled with cloud offerings such as VM firewalling and intrusion detection, agent-free antivirus scanning and disaster recovery to name a few.

Several Routes, Single Destination

Solutions such as video conferencing, Customer Resource Management (CRM), document sharing and collaboration are examples of SaaS available readily via interfaces such a web browser with limited options for customization and are usually updated and maintained by the service provider/ vendor. To gain more control over applications companies can opt for Licensed Enterprise Cloud Solutions that supports functions like datacenter virtualization by building VMs and deploying its instances on the cloud. Along with several readily deployable solutions, clients are also entitled for back-end support from vendor.

Enterprises with large-scale cloud implementations may require robust cloud management tools which include specific characteristics. Need for cloud configuration becomes more relevant when companies harbor specific non standard software solutions using APIs and/or VMs across multiple hardware infrastructures resulting in a unified programmable experience. First step for an effectively configured cloud would be to choose an appropriate Cloud Management Platform (CMP).

Relying on open source offerings as opposed to vendor specific offerings (which are mostly based off open source technologies) imparts a certain degree of flexibility and independence from proprietorship especially at the time of migrating to a cloud environment. Eucalyptus and OpenNebula are open source CMP projects which organization can use to build their cloud infrastructure. Entrepreneur and researcher, Ignacio M. Llorente, co-founder of Open Grid Forum working group on the Open Cloud Computing Interface writes, “The important aspect is that these projects do not deliver enterprise editions of their software, they commercially support the community software. In other words, the community versions of Eucalyptus and OpenNebula are not limited editions of enterprise versions.” On the other hand OpenStack is a similar open source project that offers versions of enterprise distribution released by the vendors contributing to the project and thus holds a level of enterprise maturity. In short, OpenStack favors vendors while Eucalyptus, OpenNebula and yet another open source project worth mentioning, CloudStack serves the needs of users and developers.

For companies that are looking forward to rid the burden of having to maintain their cloud infrastructure and VMs, several Platforms as a Service (PaaS) offerings such as Heroku, AWS Elastic Beanstalk, AWS OpsWorks, Google AppEngine are available wherein third party providers would handle the task. If companies wish to run their own VMs, they could opt for Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) offerings like AWS EC2, Azure IaaS and Google Compute Engine. As mentioned earlier, further blurring the lines of distinction are services like AWS SQS, SNS, S3, RedShift, which are SaaS-like given  that they are readily used through an API, yet PaaS-like such that firms run their own code on some of them, and IaaS-like as firms can instantiate some of them similar to compute resources.

Look Before You Leap

Cloud configuration calls for deeper insights into the functioning of the firm. There have been many instances where it spelt disaster for firms. ‘Cloud’ is not just a technical term; it is also a marketing jargon and should not be taken for granted. It is important to carry out thorough review of vendor’s Service Level Agreement (SLA). Although cloud offerings have come a long way since its genesis, they are yet to achieve complete maturity. It is crucial that enterprises be prepared for the worse and be equipped with a ‘plan B’ such as storage back up and disaster recovery.