Converting cloud set-backs to opportunities

By : |May 31, 2011 0

[image_library_tag 415/13415, align=”left” title=”” height=”150″ alt=”” hspace=”7″ width=”200″ vspace=”7″ border=”1″ ,default]BANGALORE, INDIA: More than a week after the days-long partial outage started on April 21, Amazon released a detailed 5,700-word postmortem that identified the culprit as a configuration error that occurred during a network upgrade.

The impact of the recent outages at Amazon and Sony has been enormous to say the least. Sony’s Playstation Network — its online service for PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Portable consoles — boasts over 70 million registered users, all of whom have been affected.

Also Read: Cloud Security: Compliance a major challenge

The Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) and Elastic Block Storage (EBS) platforms used by Amazon host thousands of major web sites on the cloud, and outages mean that users are unable to access these sites or, for that matter, their personal data stored on these platforms.

An outage of this proportion has the potential of putting companies out of business as crucial data can become inaccessible for an extended period of time, thus jeopardising operations.

Even if a corporation, such as Sony, uses its own local system, it can still be exposed to threats. This calls for the need to have strategies in place to cope with any eventuality and to have a back-up plan, even if it means paying for a backup service, using multiple clouds with various vendors, or using a combination of private and public cloud.

Organisations in their zeal to go on the cloud often do not plan for such contingencies and events like these just showcase the importance of such planning.

As a result of this incident, corporations planning to move to the cloud have some work to do. They will need to examine the reliability of the platform as well as prioritise operations in terms of what needs to go on a cloud which is operated by third party vendors and what needs to remain inside their own data centres.

It also highlights the need for redundancy which can be a life saver in such situations, as in the case of Netflix which uses Amazon but managed to remain online during the outage thanks to Amazon’s redundant cloud backup infrastructure.

Organisations need to adapt to suitable cloud architecture according to the criticality of an application. While many prefer to do it themselves, incidents such as these, once again demonstrate that architecture exercises are best handled by experts.

The recent set-back suffered by Amazon and Sony Playstation network should be taken as a learning experience and not as a threat which can bring the cloud computing industry. Most companies face such outages regularly, add to it the inability to cope with pace of business because of longer procurement cycles contribute to lost business, time and money.

However there is no running away from cloud computing because of lack of options for a better solution. The cloud architecture provides ample opportunities to design systems to withstand failures.

The material cost of such designs is a fraction of what comparative measures would cost using traditional hosting means. One has to plan better to go on the cloud.

The author is leader of Emerging Technologies at PwC India.

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