Building trust between cloud providers and consumers

This vendor-written tech primer has been edited by Network World to eliminate product promotion, but readers should note it will likely favor the submitter's approach.

In a recent report, analyst Ray Wang proposes a cloud consumer 'bill of rights.' Wang's proposal is important because it highlights significant aspects of the client/vendor relationship in the cloud computing space. This relationship is unique because of the level of both trust and communication that must exist between client and vendor in order for cloud deployments to be successful.

Enterprises that have, or are considering, the move to cloud computing should understand that they are not simply purchasing a specific product or service. Rather, they are entering into a partnership with their cloud provider. An enterprise's cloud provider becomes an extension of the enterprise IT department. As a result, the vendor should be considered a trusted partner. In order for this to happen, both client and vendor must commit to communication and transparency that is generally foreign to the purchase of on-premise IT solutions.

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The emergence and explosive growth of cloud computing represents a fundamental shift in how IT services are developed and delivered. Cloud computing offers incredible benefits ranging from reduced cost to improved user experience. These benefits are largely realized from increased efficiency, streamlined system upgrades, reduced system deployment and configuration time, significant flexibility, and control over how and when resources are utilized. This emergence also introduces new, but not necessarily additional, risks that managers must consider when evaluating cloud services and vendors. Questions regarding security, data ownership, and reliability are at the top-of-mind for CIOs and other technical managers, as well they should be.

When firms embrace cloud computing they are, in part, entrusting a portion of their IT operations to a third party. As such, the cloud provider becomes an important member of the firm's IT team and strategy. Given how integral a cloud vendor becomes to various IT operations it is imperative that clients and vendors transcend the traditional transactional relationship and enter into a cooperative partnership mutually beneficial to both parties.

Trust and Transparency

A key to building a successful cooperative partnership is establishing — and maintaining — trust. To set the stage, cloud vendors must be transparent about their:

  • Policies
  • Underlying infrastructure
  • Support/maintenance procedures

Some cloud vendors may be hesitant, at first, to disclose this type of information in a highly competitive marketplace, but will quickly learn that transparency is good for business.

Operational risk is inherent when adopting any cloud platform — and most clients will recognize that no IT implementation, whether cloud or on-premise, can be undertaken without it. Vendors can mitigate concerns by clearly outlining potential risks and the procedures that are in place to deal with them — for example:

  • Data center specifications
  • High-level storage, compute, and networking architectures
  • Disaster mitigation processes
  • Outage SLA and recovery plans

Clear lines of communication should be in place so that when issues arise, both client and vendor can work together to find resolution.

Clients also have a role to play in building and maintaining a cooperative partnership by clearly communicating their planned use of cloud services. A realistic and accurate plan allows a vendor to provide the best possible performance and user experience — as well as mold their offering to meet both present and future client needs. Cloud vendors are, after all, experts in the field and can often help clients take advantage of resources optimized for their specific use case.

IT will continue its march toward cloud computing. Clients and vendors alike can best adjust to this new paradigm by viewing each other as partners and working together to design and deploy solutions to increasingly complex technology problems.

Clients who understand these fundamentals will be better poised to choose the right cloud provider by asking the right questions and expressing their needs. And cloud providers who commit to transparency and ongoing communication will be in a position to offer a superior cloud experience that maximizes the potential for client success.

Skytap is a provider of self-service cloud automation solutions for dynamic workloads. Skytap Cloud gives businesses a fast, easy, and secure way to create complex computing environments in the cloud.

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