Businesses are now operating in a golden age of data-centric IT. With cloud application development continuing to intensify, businesses suddenly have access to vast computing power for a fraction of the cost of traditional delivery methods.

The cloud also helps level the IT playing field, but not every provider is created equal. Market fragmentation and business-specific considerations mean the cloud has to be approached carefully, especially from a connectivity perspective.

The Four Fundamentals

Behind every cloud application is a data centre and within that, a range of environmental factors and security concerns that IT management has to address. Thermal factors and data protection are definitely important, but many IT managers overlook an even more critical consideration, connectivity.

Without a high performance network between operational sites and the cloud, data centres quickly become ineffective, expensive and potentially defunct. Rather than driving growth and competitive advantage, they achieve the reverse.

To avoid this businesses need excellent connectivity – that is a fact – but what is meant by ‘excellent’? In such a fast moving marketplace, what technological developments are the right ones to pursue? More importantly, how can the cloud’s common pitfalls be avoided?

Alongside the specific decision on which network standard to implement (IP, fibre, Ethernet, etc.), four key characteristics also need assessing:

  • Bandwidth
  • Latency
  • Availability
  • Cost Control

Every organisation has a unique blend of operational objectives, technological requirements and infrastructure.

This makes pre-implementation and cloud assessment a crucial stage during deployment. Furthermore, because connectivity influences existing applications, other network supplier partnerships and general staff productivity, care must be taken.

For every business that needs low cost bandwidth, another demands the lowest latency or highest availability. Each has a specific budget, knowledge of the market and legacy applications, but there is always a common factor – the data centre.

Maturity Analysis

Businesses can no longer ignore data facilities. Regulatory compliance, load-balancing requirements, capacity planning, globalisation, cost and business continuity have raised data centres to the top of the boardroom agenda. These pressures are joined by business redundancy requirements with connectivity playing a central role in the implementation of business continuity strategies.

As a result there are currently three cloud / data centre maturity phases / connection possibilities. These run in parallel with the developments seen in IT in general: internally owned, outsourced and consumable services (cloud).

Phase 1 – construction and management of internally owned facilities
Phase 2 – connection to co-located / outsourced data centres
Phase 3 – connection to cloud providers with their own data infrastructure

Knowing which of the above is right for which business is a decision that will be covered in my next blog. Next time I will further explain the three phases of maturity, explain what Zero Assessment is, why it is important and what the (im)possibilities of maximum availability are.