A year ago, Jonathan Day-Reiner decided it was time to change the way his company delivered its information technology services and step up to the cloud.
The director of IT operations at Toronto’s 80/20 Solutions, an online interactive marketing company, knew the firm’s co-located servers were due to be replaced. And co-location, where he paid by the amount of power consumed not the space used, wasn’t a bargain.
"Blades use an incredible amount of power in a really small space, and that can kill you on the billing side," he says.
But the company also has varying compute needs – sometimes a customer has a major marketing effort and needs more cycles for a short time.
So Day-Reiner turned to an infrastructure-as-a-service provider, CentriLogic Inc., for an answer. There he contracts for "instances" of computing power a month based on a total amount of memory – in short, a virtual sever. In his case a standard instance is 8 Gigabytes of RAM and two processors, and 80/20 Solutions normally has six instances of its core applications running.
"You can spin up and down more instances as required," he says. "We can just go into a Web interface, hit a button and in five minutes there’ll be another server there with an IP address with our app and everything we need installed on it."
This is the new future of cloud computing, and network managers better be prepared.
The thought of cloud computing may give them the shivers, if only because the term is so ill-defined.
But arguably for the burden will fall on them: Without an adequately prepared network, cloud computing – whether software or infrastructure as a service, public or private – can’t work.
"It’s critical that resiliency and redundancy are baked in to those Internet connections because now core business functions are in that cloud," warns James McClosky, a senior analyst at London, Ont.-based Info-Tech Research.
That resiliency is crucial in part because service level agreements don’t cover everything. It does no good, McClosky argues, if your cloud provider’s data centre has five-9s reliability when the Internet connection is down.
That sound like cloud means more work for network administrators, but experts say there will be trade-offs. If done right, says McClosky, the cloud should be a net win.
For example, cloud means additional security risks. On the other hand, McClosky says, there are maturing security-as-a-service offerings so some of that burden can be offloaded. In return, administrators can focus on other security areas instead of network security.
Canadian organizations are familiar with software-as-a-service (Saas), but infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) will make big waves here this year.