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Cloud revolution: fashion or necessity?

By iulius.bidalach ·
Each day, we hear about technologies relying on a fancy word which basically turned into a new trend in the IT industry: Cloud. Truth is that by now, IT community embraced so much this concept that it makes me believe if its not doing it with the closed eyes...

Commercials working in IT business are anxious to provide us with lot of brochures for their cloud based solutions, presenting their benefits; however none or very few dare to aware their customers about potential drawbacks. And after cloud services are implemented into a corporation, everybody wonders why the systems are not working as expected!

There are some important considerations to make before adopting a cloud solution in an infrastructure and because of this I believe its worth discussing them in this post, with the risk of upsetting some enthusiasts.

The benefits:

- Cloud computing relies on data hosted on a remote location. Unless we consider a private cloud, the implementation is a rented service offered by an entity specialized in delivering a professional service. The monthly fee may include agreements for data confidentiality, security, reliability for the system (failover protection, backups, traffic motorization and so on);

- Affordable for those willing to start a business with a lower initial cost, when compared with the acquisition of a personal server;

- Suited for clients that lack IT expertise in configuring servers and whish their solution to be provided as ready to use;

- No concern regarding decommissioning when life expectancy for the hardware reaches its limit, since the cloud provider assumes this responsibility.

The drawbacks:

- A cloud implementation relies on a remote system. No matter how many guarantees of reliability you will be presented from the company offering the service, these warranties worth nothing if your internet connection is down. Malfunctions with modems or routers of your ISP, or other providers on the route to the cloud datacenter, will affect the stability of your applications dependent on cloud services, no matter how reliable the system is at the other end.

- A cloud implementation relies on the global Internet speed, which is not the one your ISP provides at the very end of your router, but the fastest link between your router and the cloud datacenter, which is dictated by the slowest node on the route. Because of this, location of the cloud datacenter and the worldwide transport technologies involved affects data transfer and is crucial in providing a good QoS.

- When compared to a LAN Ethernet, the bandwidth of a cloud link is slow and will continue to remain slow for the years to come. If your application needs to handle a large amount of data, cloud implementation may not be the ideal solution.

- When considering implementing the cloud service the physical access to the remote server can be an issue. If the server stops working or the connection is lost, you will have to rely on an international telephone line or an e-mail to an operator in order to communicate the problem to the support team that provides the hosting. The reply may come within minutes or can take hours, lag which may affect your business. Having the server into your infrastructure considerably eases troubleshooting time and access to the data can be gained without relying on a network connection at all!

- On long term, an expensive service. With the money spent on a cloud solution for a year, you may purchase a server with comparable performance and reliability, with a projected lifespan of five to six years.

Where a cloud implementation can deliver expected results?

The ideal environment for a cloud solution is when individual clients access the remote server via independent routes, because the bandwidth for each individual route may suffice for the application to work in proper conditions.

In practice however, this is quite difficult to achieve if the server is located on a remote site, many of the clients will end up by sharing common portions of the route to reach the cloud server.
For instance, all clients from France share independent routes within the country, but a common external fastest route to the remote server, responsible for bandwith penalties. Similarly, all countries from Europe share independent routes within the continent, and a common portion to the cloud server outside.

Placing the server on ISP's backbone can provide the clients with the nearest access and the guarantee of a stable bandwidth

Where cloud service is not reccomended?

The worse implementation of a cloud service is to an enterprise which has in a single site tens of hosts that will require simultaneous access to the remote server. All hosts will use the same route to reach the cloud server, and all will have to divide its bandwidth.

If the cloud server is located in a nearest location on the ISPs backbone, and if the application is designed to work well over slow links, the penalty over performance may not be as critical. However, if the cloud service is located on a remote location, not only all clients will have to share the same route to reach the data, but the bandwidth of the connection will depend on the performance of third party transport infrastructure, for which the QoS is not guaranteed by the cloud service provider, nor by the ISP. It is in this no-mans-land area of the fastest possible route, where bottlenecks will cut into the bandwidth of the cloud implementation.

Balancing bandwith resources

So where the server should be located? Truth is that if we wish to o provide good results, we face a constant battle for resource optimization and network bandwith makes no exception.

If our company has many hosts witin its LAN which require access on the server, and has branch offices with fewer hosts, then the optimal solution is to keep the server within your LAN and configure to act as a private cloud for the branches. Like so, headquarter clients (most of the hosts) will take full advantage of the internally shared gigabit ethernet links to access the data. On the other hand, for the headquarter's site, a good upload internet speed should also be considered in order to suffice bandwith sharing among branches that will access the server.

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That my friend isn't even scratching the surface

by HAL 9000 Moderator In reply to Cloud revolution: fashion ...

The big thing you ignored is Security in all it's forms and who is responsible for it.

For example none of the above is of any importance if everything that you business posts to a Public Cloud goes straight to your competition. Or if you do use a Public Cloud anyone who uses it has access to everyone elses data. Its happened in the past where you log into the Control Port and can access every piece of data on that Server.

Yes Bad Design I know but it has happened previously.

Then another important issue, what happens in the event of the Cloud Provider going Broke? Can you get your Data and delete it from their system or will the Administrator close things down and in an attempt to recover as much money as possible effectively Auction Off the Data in small Packets to whoever is interested in buying it?

Remember Knowledge is Power and having your competitions Knowledge is Ultimate Power.

If the provider ceases trading will you have to wait weeks or even months to get a copy of your Data so you can continue to run the business or will there be a way to get everything off their servers before they cease trading? Have they a system in place to allow easy transfer to another provider or do they expect that once you start with them you are locked to them for the life of your business?

What is the Financial Situation of the Cloud Provider and what Guarantees do they have to continue their business? Are their Banks Financially Secure and unlikely to cease trading and taking all of their customers to the Bankruptcy Courts with them? Remember the GCF? Just how many business would have survived if their Bank was put out of business and all their Cash Money was lost but their Liabilities still owed and demanded immediately?

If you dont believe that could happen just look at Cyprus where the Banks held the heist and the Government drove the Get Away Car and the only people hurt where the depositors. If the Government had of refused to act then things would have been far worse and instead of just the Big Bank bitting the dust every bank trading in the country would have failed.

Even with all of the above there has been no mention of even the more basic stuff like regulations for Data Storage in certain industries. Some Industries have rules and regulations about sending their data over State or Country Borders and with Cloud Storage you have no idea where your Data will be stored in the World. So it's entirely possible that while you have a local server to upload to your data to it may then be sent overseas breaking your rules and leaving your company Legally vulnerable to legal action for any Security Breach that could happen. It could even include staff of the Cloud Provider accessing your Data and passing it on to others. As you do not employ these people you have no idea who the people are or if any Basic Security Checks where even done.


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Cloud security

by iulius.bidalach In reply to That my friend isn't even ...

There are commitments we can expect that the company provides cloud service to take in order to guarantee data confidentiality. Violation of agreements may lead to court, and true, when the damage is done, the price may be just too big to be paid.
On the other hand my friend, the truth is that those who opt for a cloud solution can be bad administrators of these implementations and forget to secure their own data.
Some of those who read this post know that starting with Windows Server 2008, Microsoft invested heavily in data security and brought extremely powerful security solutions to the market. We speak here about improvements on data encryption at file level with stronger algorithms, at disk level, secure communication based on certificates, certificate based logon authentication and so on.
Configured properly by the Microsoft's book these solutions provide an extremely powerful protection to attacks and yes, can secure your data even against the US government (unless a policy agreement exists between them).
About data recovery in case the cloud service becomes completely unavailable without warnings, things are not that critical, and again, they fall in the competences of the person which is administering the cloud server. The solution is to implement daily backups on the cloud server and store this data on another Internet location or on a NAS server hosted at your home. A full + differential backup solution may be a good option. It's a question of competence / incompetence on both sides. Thank you for your post.

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