Cloud vs. in-house: Where to run that app?

Options include public clouds and external private clouds. Here's how to choose wisely.

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How to decide

Choosing where to run applications depends on a number of factors:

  • Characteristics and processing requirements of the applications, including performance requirements, storage requirements, security requirements, availability requirements, amount of data to transfer and service-level agreements.
  • The mission-critical nature of the applications.
  • The resource capacity available in the data center.
  • Desired cost savings.
  • Politics.

"You need to create a process for determining where applications should be run," says Chris Swan, chief technology officer at Capital SCF, a London-based consultancy for technology firms. This process begins with application assessment and packages such as Novell's PlateSpin Recon and VMware's Capacity Planner, which can be used to profile physical IT environments and determine which applications to virtualize for optimal performance.

Next, the processing requirements of each application (or application class) should be compared with the security concerns of running that application in each execution environment.

Once you're sure of which applications you want to move where, P2V (physical-to-virtual), V2V (virtual-to-virtual) and Z2V (zero-to-virtual) tools can help physically migrate applications among stand-alone servers, virtualized servers and clouds.

Security plays a huge role

Mission-critical applications with high-availability and compliance or regulatory requirements are not good candidates for running on public clouds or external private clouds because there are issues around resource control and geographic location of data. Applications that require high levels of security should be run in on-premises environments -- server virtualization or internal clouds -- or in external private clouds only if the cloud provider demonstrates the degree of security required.

Boston College's David Escalante
"It is very important to create a definition of cloud computing for your organization," says David Escalante, director of IT security at Boston College.

Unlikely applications for external clouds include those with proprietary algorithms that run on specialized hardware and high-transaction production applications that are core to the business.

Today, the most frequent use of clouds includes the development and testing of new applications, disaster recovery and running Web applications that have surges or spikes. Other uses include collecting data from Web surveys and storing and processing it on clouds.

Boston College's Escalante explains that academic departments at Boston College conduct various types of surveys in connection with research projects that periodically collect lots of data. They range from polling on a variety of topics to surveys as part of grant-based projects. Boston College outsources some of these surveys to external providers with survey expertise. Escalante includes this type of outsourcing in his definition of cloud computing.

Peter Beardmore, senior product marketing manager at Kaspersky Lab, is using clouds to analyze large amounts of data collected from his company's customers to gather the latest intelligence about threats and malware trends. For competitive reasons, Beardmore declined to provide more details about the specific cloud providers that Kaspersky Lab is using. The company will make an announcement about it "later this year," he says.

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