Choosing a Cloud VendorThe advent of the cloud, particularly Infrastructure-as-a-Service, caused a sea change in the way that businesses think about infrastructure provisioning and deployment. The vast majority of businesses have at least some cloud deployments, and most of those that don’t are considering making the move away from legacy infrastructure to flexible, elastic, and on-demand platforms.

Demand breeds supply, which means there are ever more cloud vendors competing for the attention of IT executives. Choosing between them isn’t always easy, particularly when differentiating factors are obscured by marketing verbiage or complex jargon.

Cloud marketplaces go a long way towards making the task of choosing a cloud vendor a less painful task, but there are a number of questions that any business about to venture into the cloud needs to keep in mind.

1. Price

Price is a major differentiating factor between cloud vendors, but it’s wise to keep in mind that you get what you pay for and not all cloud platforms are equal. Vendors are competing ferociously on price at the moment, so you can expect to pay less for cloud resources than traditional deployments, but make sure that price isn’t the only deciding factor.

That said, competition in the market is causing vendors to slash prices, so you should keep your eyes open for the best deal. Cloud marketplaces make it relatively straightforward to assess cost and features.

2. Standard Compliance

Vendor lock-in has plagued enterprise IT from time immemorial, and some cloud vendors rely on the same practice to keep revenues flowing. Standards-compliant cloud hosting allows for the free movement of data and workloads between vendors and platforms, helping keep vendors on their toes as they respond to competition. The freedom to move between vendors puts the client in control.

3. API and Control Interface

Look closely at the openness and power of the API that a vendor offers and the user-friendliness of their web interface. Much of the advantage of the cloud comes from the ability to automate and script infrastructure management, integrating it with existing applications and processes.

4. Is It Really Cloud?

The popularity of the cloud has given rise to a phenomenon known as cloud washing – legacy vendors trying to pass off non-cloud as cloud. To be cloud a platform must offer on-demand service, broad network access, rapid elasticity, and measured resource usage. Relabelling a shared hosting platform as “cloud” is deceptive, but some companies are desperate amid heavy competition. Make sure that their platform conforms to standard definitions of the cloud, or what you get may not be what you’d hoped for.

5. Service Level Agreements

As I said earlier, not all clouds are equal. As an example, IO performance differs between cloud providers and service tiers within cloud platforms. Ensure that the vendors SLAs guarantee service levels that are appropriate to your tasks.

Image: Flickr/TheBusyBrain