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Which new service provider is right for me? Seven ways CIOs can tell: Karl Horne, CTO, Asia Pacific, Ciena

November 14, 2013

Which new service provider is right for ...
Today’s innovative new service providers (NSPs) are bringing to market an explosion of services combining the cloud and the network. Recent moves by business giants HP, Oracle and IBM demonstrate that they too are trying to transform themselves into cloud providers using the full suite of technology that they have developed over the decades.

With such a bewildering array of choices, how can you pick the NSP who’s right for you? What criteria do chief information officers (CIOs) need to consider if their organisation is in the market for cloud services and would like to engage the services of these NSP’s?

Assess what you really need to grow: Examine the current business and technology needs of your organisation, and determine what type of cloud and network services will best support a successful growth strategy. Different NSPs will have different areas of strength, whether a rich fiber network, extensive data center footprint, unique network services or vertical industry specialisation.  You need to assess your growth needs and identify the best fit among NSPs to support this growth.

Select a service provider that can grow with you: It is important to select a NSP with a built-in migration path so that you can easily move from a colocation infrastructure to a high speed internal cross connect to cloud resources as your organisation grows.  At the same time, the NSP should be able to allow you to keep key database applications on internal servers in a small, economical on-premise space for closer scrutiny of performance and security. Also make sure that the NSP can offer dynamic bandwidth services along with dynamic hosting and storage services for greater flexibility and performance when moving into and out of the cloud.

Saas to IaaS: As your business grows, it is very likely that you will need to start putting the cloud to more sophisticated use, for example by moving applications to the cloud under Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) or using the cloud for Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS).

When adding IaaS services, a standard Internet connection may need to be augmented to handle the substantial amounts of information in storage and virtual machines that will be transferred between data centers or between users and the data centers forming the cloud.

In this environment, the supporting network must certainly be based on high performance fiber-based infrastructure, leverage a Layer 1 (optical) direct connect network or a Layer 2 (Ethernet) network – or both – that offers high scalability and predictable “performance-on-demand”.Overarching the network resources, orchestration software can help control and unify data center resources for managingpeak workloads, or for supporting other off-premise processing outside of the datacenter.  This allows you as the cloud customer to manage costs, leveraging a model for a baseline investment for nominal networking needs, and pay-per-use for bandwidth spikes.

Performance and availability are critical:  As with any other service provider, your NSP also needs to provide a superior service level agreement (SLA) on the key metrics of performance and availability. The NSP needs to be able to integrate network and data center services and should understand the importance of offering network options to fit both standard applications and more demanding business-critical applications.

Talk to your current network services partner:  It is always a good policy to check first with your current service provider if they have the capability to provide upgraded service requirements as your needs evolve. Your current bandwidth services provider may also be able to offer you cloud services; and your data center colocation vendor may also be able to leverage bandwidth partnerships.  Do check with your current services provider on the width of their offerings and what their roadmap for the future is likely to be.

Plan for disaster recovery:  As we are all aware, network and data center outages are inevitable. Being prepared is the only option and, in this, cloud services can be your best friend.  Look for a NSP that offers replicated VM and storage services for immediate access, in case the primary location becomes unavailable.

Make sure your network is intelligent: Going forward, we will begin to see NSPs add Network-as-a-Service (NaaS) capabilities to standard network offerings. Thanks to software driven networking, NSPs will have the ability to intelligently increase network performance as required depending on the application’s requirements. Make sure your NSP canprovide a “performance-on-demand” operationfor greater network agility and efficiency.

Choosing an NSP can sometimes seem daunting but as with all partnerships, a little groundwork and establishing parameters upfront can lead to a network that truly supports your business growth.

 
 

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