Saturday, February 20, 2010

Which Cloud is right for you?

Deciding which cloud is right for your software engineering team isn’t as difficult as you would think. The big players getting all the attention in the media today are Google, Amazon, Microsoft, and For most software engineering teams, however, none of them is the best option from a development perspective.

The big four are geared more to production environments than development. Although most of them provide the ability to extend their environments through local IDEs like Visual Studio and Eclipse, that’s hardly enough for a development team. They don’t address things like integration, testing, and demo environments.

A good example of the inadequacy of the big four as software engineering environments is the fact that Amazon deletes VMs when they are shut down. That’s clearly indicative of a public facing focus where shutting down a VM equates with shutting the doors on a business. Thus, Amazon, as well as Google, Microsoft and, are not options when moving “development” to the cloud

A more appropriate approach for cloud development environments are Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) providers geared specifically towards development teams. They are lesser known but I assure you they are out there.

Under this structure, environments can be spooled up on demand. Costs are controlled by having VMs running during working hours and shut off during off hours. In addition to conventional application development, teams need temporary plug and play VM infrastructures to be used for an finite period of time to develop POCs, demo systems, troubleshooting specific issues, and many other one-off situations.

My firm’s application support service offering is an ideal function that is conducive for IaaS providers. Our development team has 40 VMs consisting of various client applications and project infrastructures. Putting all of them in the cloud with the ability to start and shutdown on demand based on client requests provides our team with the ability to focus on our core competency (software development) and offload those functions that aren’t our core competency (infrastructure engineering and management) to cloud providers.

IaaS providers aren’t for everyone either. They are ideal for organizations with lots of infrastructure needs. They are typically not suitable for public facing production environments nor are they ideal of a single demo VM or similarly smaller infrastructure.

In general, here are the rules of thumb:

  1. Big Four: If you have a public facing product with a high hit rate, then one of the big four providers is likely to be the right choice.
  2. Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS):
    1. If  you are a software development team with many sophisticated infrastructures to support many projects and would like to offload the infrastructure supporting the SDLC, then an IaaS provide is the right choice.
    2. If you are a startup product company and do not want to invest in infrastructure engineering resources, then an IaaS provider is worth considering.
  3. Internal Resources: If you are a small application development team with few environments, your internal resources or that of your consulting vendor will be the most efficient solution.

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