10 things to consider before deploying a cloud

If you're planning to set up a cloud, be forewarned: The process could turn out to be time consuming, complicated, and expensive. Jack Wallen shares his cloud deployment experiences.

Are you thinking about setting up a cloud for deployment in your business or enterprise? Have you planned it out yet? If so, how far have you gotten with it? If you haven't begun the setup process, check out this list of things to consider before you start deploying that cloud. It might confirm your belief that you're on the right track -- but it could persuade you otherwise.

Note: This article is also available as a PDF download.

1: Time is always an issue

The time you spend attempting to deploy a cloud will be time you never get back. Unless you happen to have a spare whiz kid hanging out in your IT department, most likely you (or your department) do not have the time to dedicate to the creation of a cloud. It's not easy (see #3 below), and you will wind up starting over more than once.

2: Hardware needs are huge

Do you have fast enough disks? Enough RAM? Fast enough network pipes? Clouds are monsters and need monstrous hardware. Attempting to serve up a cloud on a standard server will probably only lead to frustration. And the machines they serve up on can't be just any old machine, either -- even the clients need to have some beef to them.

3: The process is difficult

Creating a cloud is no easy feat. I have spent solid weekends trying get the Ubuntu Eucalyptus cloud set up (only to be burned by #2 above). Not only is it time consuming, it is challenging. Before you begin to enter that first command (or double-click that first button), you'd better read as much as you can to understand the technology behind what you are about to deploy.

4: Network speed can be a pain

If your network isn't as speedy as you can possibly make it, you might wind up with a lot of frustrated users. You can't serve up a cloud without some serious bandwidth. And the more users you have, the bigger the pipes you'll need. Are you ready to shell out the #5 for this?

5: Cost is a deal breaker

New hardware. New software. New networking hardware. It all adds up to a big negatory to many a cloud enthusiast. The server alone would break many SMBs' IT budgets. You need huge hard drives to hold images, you need tons of RAM to keep the machine going, you need the fastest CPUs you can buy -- that's a hefty server. Amazon can do this because it has huge data farms. Your SMB does not enjoy such a beast. Are you ready to shell out the money?

6: Image(s) is(are) everything

When setting up a Eucalyptus server, you can download plenty of images to serve up. Fedora, Ubuntu, CentOS, and more. Can you (and your server hard disks) cover all of the images you might need within your company? And that doesn't include apps you might need to serve up. It gets really confusing at this point. Have you done your homework? (See #3.)

7: Reliability will bring you down

I have always said (of thin clients, app servers, and now clouds) a single point of failure... will! Murphy's Law is highly prevalent when it comes to cloud computing. Think about it. When serving up clouds, you have that much more to fail. Not only can applications and hardware fail, but your network can go down as well. And when your network goes down, your workers aren't working. That's bottom line, buddy.

8: Security is not on duty

How do you secure a cloud? It's taken you how long to get your internal LAN as secure as possible? And now you're considering the addition of yet another level of complexity to the mixture? What happens if you need to serve up data outside of the company firewall? Can you allow those telecommuters to continue telecommuting? Probably not. And when that happens, you will have a revolt on your hands.

9: It's not environmentally sound

You know that server you built to serve up your cloud? The one that sounds like an old Pontiac Trans Am being driving by a guy with a mullet named Bud? It's sucking down megawatts of power, and you can't just turn that puppy off. Clouds, as they stand right now, are not environmentally friendly. And in an age when many companies are trying to put their greenest foot forward, clouds are about as irresponsible as incandescent lights.

10: Platform agnosticism is not a religion

That Eucalyptus cloud I was referring to serves up Linux. If I wanted to serve up Windows, I'd be using a Windows cloud system. Clouds almost always force you into a single platform. In today's Windows, Mac, Linux world, a single platform won't do. True, most SMBs are working on Windows, which means you will be using a Windows cloud platform (which means you will be shelling out plenty of cash). But if you're lucky enough to have a homogenous environment, a cloud might not be your best bet.

Other issues?

Did this list scare you away from clouds or can you refute these concerns with your own experience? The TechRepublic audience should hear what you have to say. Clouds might well be the future of computing. If so, these fears will need to be put in check.

By Jack Wallen

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic, The New Stack, and Linux New Media. He's covered a variety of topics for over twenty years and is an avid promoter of open source. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website jackwallen....