IaaS Buyer's Guide: Getting StartedFor many in IT it is not a question of whether to use cloud computing but which cloud service (or services) to use. Cloud computing users have many options for infrastructure as a service (IaaS).
Amazon is still the 800-pound gorilla of the IaaS market but they are competing with the likes of Microsoft, IBM and HP as well as specialized cloud providers like Rackspace and RightScale. This is article is the first in a series of buyers guides describing some of your options for IaaS. We will review the technical details of course but also examine business considerations such as service level agreements and pricing models. The series will conclude with a summary article comparing IaaS providers covered in this buyers guide.
Each buyers guide article will examine: resource types, costs and service options, service level agreements, and management issues.
Cloud computing is about delivering on- demand resources and services. In the case of IaaS, the emphasis is on resources like virtual servers and storage. In this buyers guide our focus is on the details that you as the consumer will see. We will not delve into implementation details, such as the pros and cons of OpenStack cloud operating system versus proprietary cloud systems, except as they directly affect what you can do in the cloud or what it will cost you. We will review compute, storage, identity management, relational databases and other specialized services.
Compute and Storage
Servers and storage are fundamental IaaS services. Servers vary in size and cost. Finding the IaaS provider with the right mix of server sizes for your needs can help control costs. Do you need the equivalent of an 8-core, large memory machine to run a relational database along with several low end servers for development and test? Do you need to create a cluster to run Big Data analytics? You may also want to consider the image library provided by cloud providers. You could, of course, start with basic operating systems and configure your own images, but more image options can translate into less image building and patching for your administrators.
Storage is another distinguishing service. You will find basic block storage and local file systems common to IaaS providers. High performance options such as guaranteed IOPs for database applications or terabytes of local solid state disk storage can be a distinguishing factor among providers.
Identity management services are essential to controlling access to information and applications maintained in the cloud. When evaluating an IaaS provider you should consider how difficult it is to incorporate your existing, internal identity management system. You may want to assess the IaaS provider’s options for fine grained access controls, such as the ability to restrict access based on IP address or require the use of two-factor authentication, as well.
Dan SulivanDan Sullivan is an author, systems architect, and consultant with over 20 years of IT experience with engagements in systems architecture, enterprise security, advanced analytics and business intelligence. He has worked in a broad range of industries, including financial services, manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, software development, government, retail, gas and oil production, power generation, life sciences, and education. Dan has written 16 books and numerous articles and white papers about topics ranging from data warehousing, Cloud Computing and advanced analytics to security management, collaboration, and text mining.
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