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How to get your IT team ready for the cloud

IT and developers can run into problems when they utilize public cloud offerings, experts warn

By Sandra Gittlen, Network World
October 03, 2012 03:33 PM ET

Network World - So you received word that cloud is now a priority for your organization. The challenge is how do you get your team cloud-ready?

"The cloud is changing so rapidly there's no book you can buy to get up to speed," says Ross Lambert, software architect and development lead for electricity storage provider Demand Energy Networks.

Lambert faced the problem himself when his company decided to migrate applications to a virtual private cloud. Needing to quickly amass as much knowledge as possible, he signed up for free or low-cost accounts at numerous cloud-based service providers, including Amazon Web Services (AWS). 

By subscribing to these services, Lambert was able to page through documentation and access provider road maps. "Getting to that level makes it much easier to compare offerings," he says.

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Lambert recommends that IT and developers both do due diligence when it comes to the cloud because each has certain responsibilities regarding integration and performance. For instance, everyone should be well versed in networking issues such as routing, and keep latency, security and other issues that cloud amplifies top of mind when programming and building out infrastructure. "There is a tendency to think that virtual servers will act just like in-house physical servers. That's not the case. You can easily get into a situation where a provider can't help you make on-site and cloud-based servers communicate properly," Lambert warns.

Most notably, IT and developers can run into problems when they utilize public cloud offerings. "People think cloud offerings such as Amazon's are just about storing stuff off-site; that's one small piece of a giant set of services," says Jeremy Cioara, a trainer for educational Web site CBT Nuggets.

Cioara, who has more than a dozen industry certifications, has been working to put together a training series (some videos are free, some have a fee) on AWS. The pace of cloud computing already has forced him to update his tutorials several times. His current video instructs users how to build a cloud infrastructure with AWS, a concept that's not easily captured in print.

"To fully understand AWS, I had to create my own cloud architecture," he says, and suggests others do likewise. "Traditional ways of learning such as reading a textbook are going by the wayside with cloud."

The rate of change even has industry association IEEE feeling the pressure. The IEEE is focused on interoperability among global cloud providers. In addition to hosting test bed infrastructure for vendors and providers to use, the IEEE's Cloud Computing Initiative, which launched in June, features a Web portal, six interdependent activity tracks, conferences, publications and standards development.

"We want to make sure that the environment is open and that enterprises don't suffer consequences because cloud providers don't play well with one another," says Mike Lightner, track leader for the IEEE's Cloud Computing Initiative. The IEEE is tackling a range of IT issues, including the ramifications of integrating distributed cloud database services and cloud-based Web analytics engines. "We also address cloud security, energy efficiency, uptime, redundancy and flexible provisions," he says.

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