It’s no secret Amazon Web Services has been on a mission to court enterprise IT, and by now, visible changes in its strategy are becoming pronounced. Namely, AWS will accommodate more traditional, on-premises IT into its operating model.
Take, for example, the recent Directory Services announcement. While the new Simple AD from Amazon could theoretically be used as an identity management service for third-party clouds, its overall target is existing AWS customers who want an easy approach to extend an on-premises Active Directory deployment into the cloud. This is similar to Amazon’s Virtual Private Cloud, which is also oriented toward extending on-premises environments into AWS.
This contrasts keynote talks by AWS executives at the RE:Invent conference in 2012, which only briefly mentioned hybrid IT, and openly disparaged on-premises infrastructure – particularly private clouds — as an outmoded idea perpetuated by legacy vendors to protect fat profit margins.
Most small businesses can leverage cloud-based solutions easily, because they haven’t invested heavily in legacy infrastructure, as larger organizations have. That segment is highly desirable for cloud providers, because the small business is the fastest growing segment in the business industry; they don’t have the challenging corporate protocols found in medium to enterprise businesses, according to software consultant Dr. Sheryl Kitchen, who’s worked in senior management positions with NetApp, Oracle Corp. and Sun Microsystems Inc.
In our recent conversation, Kitchen suggested cloud evaluation questions specifically for small businesses. She then shared her views on the best cloud platforms for small businesses. Core questions for getting to know a cloud provider should include:
- Does the cloud provider offer strategic value and do they have proven products and offerings that you can trust?
- Does the cloud provider have expertise in integration or provide integration services?
- Does the cloud provider have a “try and buy model” and can they rapidly deploy the service beyond the try and buy period?
- Can the cloud provider’s solution scale as the small business grows?
- As a subset of scalability, can the cloud provider manage your business data requirements and in the manner appropriate for your type of business?
- Is the cloud offering just hosting or is it true multi-tenant service?
Which cloud providers measure up to this basic selection criteria list? Kitchen’s first choices are AWS and Informatica.
Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud has provided a true multi-tenant solution along with integration services, Kitchen said. “They also offer a try-and-buy model,” she said. Scalability is an AWS strength, as it has greater compute power and geographic distribution than any provider. Also, AWS provides cost-effective data storage and data storage management for small businesses with its Simple Storage Service or DynamoDB products.
Informatica Cloud offers a true multi-tenant solution and tiers of services for various business needs, Kitchen said. She’s evaluated and gives high marks to Informatica’s integration capabilities, provided through native and PowerExchange, which help small businesses connect on-premise to cloud applications and business data.
“For a small business, the cloud can be the most efficient delivery system for their products or solutions,” said Kitchen. Just be sure to ask the right questions.
Storage is an essential component of the cloud world. You could say that storage IS the cloud. The decision of which storage option you choose will affect the scalability, reliability, availability, latency and cost of the data you’re storing, and is the topic of this month’s SearchAWS handbook, “Sorting through AWS Data Storage options”.
Amazon’s object storage system, Simple Storage Service (S3) offers developers many options when it comes to storing and managing large volumes of data in the cloud. In object based storage systems, like Amazon S3, data is stored and organized in buckets, not files. Buckets can store up to 5 terabytes of data.
If you’re looking for a smaller storage system, Amazon Elastic Block Storage (EBS) is a better choice. Amazon EBS provides block storage devices that are attached to EC2 instances. Users can format Amazon EBS volumes to fit the storage option of their choice, like Amazon S3. In part one, Author Dan Sullivan explores both options and which makes the most sense for your enterprise.
When considering storage, encryption tops the list. Encrypting data can save your business from hackers and lawsuits. While Amazon S3 and EBS both offer security, S3 offers Server Side Encryption that encrypts data at rest and in transit. Business technology advisor Ofir Nachmani explains how AWS services are designed to work together in a seamless workflow, but capabilities still lack in areas.
Due to recent public cloud breaches it’s understandable why customers are hesitant to make the leap from their private cloud. AWS’s encryption choices, and the option for customers to use their own encryption keys, may help make the private to public cloud transition easier. If you find it too overwhelming to be responsible for an encryption key, AWS offers AWS CloudHSM, physical hardware that will manage encryption keys for customers.
If you’re still concerned about a smooth workflow, Dan Sullivan discusses how the AWS Data Pipeline is designed to ease your fears. AWS Data Pipeline provides definitions that customers can define with specific tasks to perform and scheduling information that explains when to run the definition. The AWS Data Pipeline assigns tasks to “Task Runners” which perform their task, like reattempting failed tasks, and report the status back to the Data Pipeline.
Remember, whichever AWS storage system you choose, take into account the storage capacity of the service, the length of time it stores files or objects, which other AWS services it will work with and what type of encryption the storage service offers.
It’s clear that cloud computing is no longer a do-it-yourself venture, especially in the enterprise. A lot of companies can roll their own applications on Amazon Web Services for one-off projects, or for prototyping and testing, but for many enterprise application rollouts, a cloud computing consulting partner is becoming essential.
And there are a growing number of partners out there to help. Last week Forbes’ Ben Kepes wrote about AWS partner 2nd Watch landing $10 million in financing on the heels of 600% Q2 growth. 2nd Watch is one of about two dozen Premier Partners on the AWS Partner Network, which has more than 1,000 members.
How to choose a partner is another story. While 2nd Watch specializes in AWS, others, like Cloud Technology Partners, are more cloud agnostic. A good place to start is SearchAWS.com expert Ofir Nachmani’s tip on selecting an AWS partner, which asks you to consider first what type of AWS partner you need.
The answer to that question depends on your business need. So, in the end, the decision to go to infrastructure-as-a-service requires the same strategic approach as all your old-school technology needs. Don’t be afraid to trust the experts.
Check out sister publication Modern Infrastructure this month on your take on the best consulting partners for AWS.
If you are going to be at AWS re:Invent, please let me know what you’ll be checking out.
Welcome to IT Knowledge Exchange. This is your first post. Edit or delete it, then start blogging!