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Explaining how cloud computing infrastructure is different to customers

To gain the most from cloud, customers must change their applications and business processes. Understanding how cloud computing infrastructure is different is critical to helping customers choose the right approach.

Unlike traditional on-premises infrastructure, cloud computing can survive infrastructure failures and it delivers a fixed set of configurations and emphasizes management over any single part of production.

Cloud computing infrastructure provides for failure

Cloud applications expect cloud computing infrastructure to fail and are designed to survive the failure of part of the infrastructure. Enterprise infrastructure is designed never to fail, so applications assume it doesn't fail. When enterprise infrastructure fails then so do the enterprise applications. This is one of the fundamental differences in applications actually designed for the cloud rather than those that are just running in the cloud. By designing to allow failure, it is easy to drive down the cost of cloud computing infrastructure. Redundant disks, fans and power supplies are expensive and are only essential to enterprise IT. Simply transplanting your enterprise applications into the cloud, however, doesn't remove the need for enterprise IT, nor does it guarantee greater agility.

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Cloud configurations

Enterprise IT will usually bend itself into all sort of complicated shapes to accommodate enterprise applications. Customized operating system installations, specialized configurations and manual processes are all part and parcel of modern enterprise IT. With cloud, there is a catalog of fixed configurations that are available, and everything must be automated if it has to be done more than once. Fixed configurations are the basis for easier automation and cost savings with cloud computing infrastructure.

Complex cloud applications are broken into pieces that can be scaled out to multiple small servers rather than having to be scaled up to huge servers. So before customers set out on a path for cloud adoption, application redesign is required in order for cloud computing infrastructure to deliver real benefits.

Cloud computing infrastructure management

In enterprise IT the management network tends to be treated as less important than applications. If it is down, only the IT department really cares. In enterprise IT, the production networks are the valuable and important part. In cloud IT the management networks are the most important network, because without the management networks there is no way to make the production networks work. In the cloud there are multiple customers each with their own set of production networks, but only one management network keeps the whole environment running. This philosophy is already transforming enterprise IT, increasing the importance of management and monitoring to determine the functionality of applications in delivering services.

Understanding cloud computing infrastructure

Solutions providers need to explain to customers how cloud computing infrastructure is different than traditional enterprise IT. Understanding these differences will be a key to helping your customers reap the benefits of using cloud computing infrastructure and avoiding the problems. Once customers understand the ways that cloud is different, they can start to make better decisions about adoption of cloud methods. Redevelopment of applications to work in the cloud is a large undertaking and needs commitment from business application owners to deliver the greatest value. Helping customers understand what is possible will improve your cloud services and sales business.

About the author
Alastair Cooke is a freelance trainer, consultant and blogger specializing in server and desktop virtualization. Known in Australia and New Zealand for the APAC virtualization podcast and regional community events, Cooke was awarded VMware's vExpert status for his 2010 efforts. Follow him on Twitter @DemitasseNZ.

This was first published in October 2012

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