Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS): Buying Guide: Page 2

Cloud computing infrastructure-as-a-service is redefining hosting, enabling companies to rent computing and networking capability using a pay-as-you-go model.
Posted October 31, 2011

Jeff Vance

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When CEO and founder Kaiser-Nyman started the company, he looked around for a platform he could leverage to build a cloud-based auto-dialer that would be simple to use, easy to scale and affordable.

He looked at major IaaS and PaaS providers, including Amazon’s Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2), Google AppsEngine, Microsoft Azure and Rackspace. He also looked at two PaaS providers that leverage Amazon EC2, Heroku and Engine Yard.

Kaiser-Nyman decided that the IaaS model was best for his startup. “The PaaS services are great. They solve so many problems for you, and you don’t have to configure everything yourself,” he said. “On the other hand, they lock you into certain configurations and don’t offer the flexibility of pure-play IaaS.”

Building an app based on Ruby on Rails required a lot of deep-in-the-trenches development work that meant that most PaaS services simply wouldn’t work. “Our app has special requirements that most platforms can’t meet. Many organizations will want to outsource many of the operations and development jobs, but we simply had to keep those things under our control,” Kaiser-Nyman added.

Another consideration for Impact Dialing was the fact that they intended to use the cloud-based voice and SMS services from Twilio. Since Twilio was built and hosted on Amazon EC2, by choosing Amazon themselves, Impact Dialing was able to colocate with them to minimize latency issues.

2. Will implementing the IaaS require additional IT resources?

Shifting from a traditional siloed data center to a dynamic IaaS can be a monumental adjustment for enterprises that have already allocated resources and personnel to managing everything in-house. Depending on the IaaS solution, IT managers may still be responsible for patches, updates and maintenance, in addition to migrating the traditional infrastructure to the IaaS provider.

However, some IaaS providers alleviate the burden on IT by automating operational tasks, streamlining processing and provisioning and managing services traditionally handled by internal IT. Xcitek Solutions Plus (XSP) helps the financial services industry mitigate the operational risks and costs associated with corporate actions processing.

XSP was at an impasse trying to manage their entire infrastructure in-house. IT was not only responsible for managing its internal infrastructure, but also supporting the ongoing development and investment in XSP’s enterprise software.

“We came to the realization that we needed to focus on building our core software offering and providing great customer experiences, not managing a complex enterprise infrastructure environment,” said XSP’s CTO, Dan Retzer.

After surveying several IaaS vendors, which XSP preferred not to mention by name, XSP selected the Tier 3’s Enterprise Cloud Platform for its availability, security and built-in disaster recovery, as well as its capabilities for performance and provisioning in the cloud.

As a result, XSP has seen considerable benefits from no longer needing to maintain and support its own IT infrastructure. Instead, IT staff can focus on providing service to clients from a single point of entry using the Tier 3 Management Control Portal, rather than physically managing their servers.

For startups with limited resources, ease of IT operations is a motivating factor in choosing an IaaS vendor. For Wilton Re, a company that provides risk and capital management solutions for the life insurance industry, robust IT operations and management was critical to the launch and growth of the company. Instead of building an IT department from the ground up, Wilton Re contracted Logicalis to not only manage their total infrastructure, but also to provide long-term IT operations for the company.

Andy Wood, CTO at Wilton Re, emphasized how outsourcing their IT department has impacted their ability to focus on core business. “Our key internal skills are business analysis, process analysis, information analysis, project management, and relationship management. That is what we do best. Logicalis is well positioned to provide the IT operation layer. That’s what Logicalis does best.” In this age of specialization and outsourcing, IaaS services help businesses of all stripes stay focused on their core missions.

3. How easy is it to scale up (or down) your services?

Scalability is supposed to be an inherent feature of IaaS. As with so many “supposed to’s,” things don’t always work as advertised. With many IaaS and other cloud services, scalability means you can scale up to certain threshold or down to a cut-off level. You’re still operating within basic parameters, though, albeit parameters that are far more flexible than with traditional one-app-per-server computing.

After Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. (LMHI) filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in March 2008, the financial giant sold its off many of its business divisions, along with its entire technology division (datacenters, servers, people running the systems, etc.), which meant that Lehman Brothers was left without the technology assets necessary to support the wind-down of the company.

As part of its Chapter 11 reorganization plan filed in the spring of 2010, Lehman formed an asset manager business called LAMCO that would specialize in management of Lehman’s commercial real estate, mortgages, principal investments, private equity, corporate debt and derivatives assets.

Tasked with building an entirely new technology infrastructure for Lehman, LAMCO faced a unique challenge. Most businesses’ infrastructures are built for growth and designed with excess capacity. This infrastructure, however, needed to assume peak capacity on day one and then be positioned to wind-down over time. The company began to look into cloud computing, since it offered “pay-by-the-drink” pricing, scalability and the ability to manage the entire infrastructure as a single entity.

“Given our unique situation, we didn’t want to spend upfront capital on an in-house solution. We were faced with two issues: first, the technology would be a depreciating asset; and second, we would have been purchasing at peak capacity on day one and then half way through the project, we would only be running with 50 percent excess capacity,” said James Johnson, Senior VP, LAMCO.

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Tags: cloud computing, networking, data center, servers, IaaS, buyer guide

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