Cloud Computing: The Newest Kid on the Block (Part Two)

Apr 17, 2012
  • Cloud

By Mike DeNapoli

Part two of “Cloud Computing: The Newest Kid on the Block” focuses on making the switch from physical, in-house servers to cloud computing, and also offers predictions on the growth of this computing methodology.

Switching to the Cloud When considering a switch to Cloud storage, first if helps to know how much data and time your company can afford to lose to justify a Cloud budget. Two metrics that measure data and time are called the Recovery Point Objective (RPO) and the Recovery Time Objective (RTO).

RPO is the threshold of how much data a company can afford to lose since the last backup. Defining the company’s RPO typically begins with examining how frequently backups take place. Tape backups are usually done only once a day since they are 100 percent intrusive to systems, so in this case, the RPO would be 24 hours. The best disk-to-disk software can detect bytes or blocks of data that change and replicate them in real-time, so their RPO would be zero. However because disk-to-disk requires a duplicate set of hardware and software somewhere offsite, Cloud computing can give you zero RPO without the cost and maintenance of redundant equipment.

RTO is the threshold for how quickly a company needs to have an application’s information restored. Some companies may be able to go a few days without e-mail for example, but restoring from tape or provision servers, storage, networking resources and virtual machine configurations can take considerable time. Cloud computing can automatically failover to applications running on redundant virtual servers in the Cloud so users won’t even know there’s been a problem.

Next it is important to have a process for evaluating providers. There are several factors to consider before making a decision, but start by asking these important questions:

• Can I buy capacity in very small chunks and change usage on the fly?

• Will you bill me only for what I consume?

• Is there a long-term commitment to any specific usage pattern or cost?

• Can you protect all of my servers and applications?

• Can you protect the OS and applications as well as the data?

• Can I actually failover to the Cloud without downtime?

• Can I test the failover process to ensure the servers are recoverable?

• Do you provide a mechanism to recover the data/servers without lots of downtime?

• Do you provide free idle bandwidth, with (nearly) unlimited burst capacity?

• Do you have data centers located in multiple countries?

Finally, determining which servers need to be protected is additionally important. But with the cost of Cloud storage so low, businesses can afford to be safe rather than sorry.

Eye on the Future

According to a recent article in the New York Times, “I.B.M., a bellwether in the corporate technology market, forecasts that it will have $7 billion in cloud revenue by 2015. Of the total, $4 billion will be customers shifting to cloud delivery from the company’s traditional software and services, and $3 billion is expected to be entirely new business.”

Although change is never easy, especially when it comes to running a business, with technology racing forward at the speed of light change is inevitable when it comes to updating technology.

So start by working through your cost of downtime and estimate the cost of your current backup design. You may discover Cloud computing provides a more reliable alternative to the tape and disk-to-disk storage you are currently utilizing. After all your evaluations, ask the right questions to secure a provider that meets your needs. With inexpensive costs and ease of set-up, Cloud is a worthwhile exercise for organizations of any size.

About the Author:

Mike DeNapoli is a Virtualization Solution Architect at Vision Solutions, Inc., the world’s leading provider of information availability software and services for Windows, Linux, IBM Power Systems and Cloud Computing markets. For more information, please go to: