10 Things a Start-up should look for in a Cloud Hosting provider
(Question originally posed on NY Fintech Start-ups meetup.com page - 05/12/2013)
Here is our short list
1. Where does the cloud provider host the systems? A good cloud provider should be happy to take you on a tour of the facility or at least provide you with documentation about the facilities, such as SAS-16 SOC certification.
2. Are the cloud virtual instances portable to another cloud? Does the cloud provider use openstack or cloudstack? vmware? Citrix Xen? Redhat KVM? How compliant is the cloud provider with other cloud based systems, such as hybrid cloud, private cloud, vmware, etc? What will the cloud provider support if the customer wants to migrate away at some future state? Can the customer take their cloud instances (virtual machines) out of the cloud easily to another provider or their own servers?
3. Explain all charges clearly! - What total charges exist? Does the cloud provider charge for incoming, outgoing or burst Internet usage or at a given speed? Avoid surprises - as at many clouds this can get costly!
4. API Support - What API’s does the cloud provider support to start-up, create, destroy, backup and clone cloud instances - how fast can a startup’s developer write code to have the cloud provider’s system easily scale via dynamic methods on demand?
5. SSD and Flash Storage - Does the cloud provider use extremely fast SSD storage (greater than 10k storage operations per second etc)? If so for what price? Many cloud providers use extremely slow disk - on purpose - to force customers to purchase virtual instances with more RAM than necessary - this is very expensive. At Amazon an instance with 63GB of memory is far more expensive than a smaller one with 7GB of memory - but the disk is so slow the developers often have no choice - they need to rely on ram for databases and such. A start-up can get caught in the “memory trap” where in order to get more performance from their site or applications the start-up will have to spend more and more money on renting memory from a cloud provider to overcome slow disks…
6. Performance metrics the Cloud Provider will publish - What is the published performance and other customizations for performance the cloud provider has made for load balancers, NoSQL databases? How fast is their high performance computing platform (HPC) from a storage and network layer - many start-ups are now building systems where a message bus is critical or complex event processing (CEP) is part of the system. An example is how well can a cloud provider’s systems run Streambase, Tibco RV or use GPU’s for big data?
7. Support and SLA - Does your cloud come with service? How well supported is the cloud provider’s systems? Can the start-up pickup a phone or open a ticket and quickly speak to an engineer in real-time? If the startup does not have Infrastructure Cloud experts on staff (like Adrian Cockcroft of Netflix) - the startup may not be able to fully understand all the issues they are facing during an outage of their software and may not be able to adequately configure their applications for fault tolerance.
8. Cloud Security - Can your cloud provider provide a secure isolated environment for financial transactions and PCI compliance? This is critical from a payment card and financial trading perspective. If your site is tested by your merchant processor and fails you could be in for fines and hefty charges to re-architect your site to comply.
9. Private connectivity to their cloud - Can your Cloud provider allow private connectivity to the cloud based systems? An example would be a trading firm startup wanting to use cloud, but needing fiber optic cross connects to a broker, bank or ECN for live pricing and trade execution. Some cloud providers can incorporate direct secure access into the cloud systems.
10. Cloud Disaster Recovery - Does the cloud provider support snapshot or backup services to a different geographic area of the country or world? This may be critical to the start-up to provide their own customers assurances and meet RFP questions when the start-up is leveraging their cloud provider’s infrastructure to win business. Of course the next part of this is HOW FAST can a start-up recover from an outage. Ask your cloud provider to provide detailed reports of how fast virtual machines can be restored from backup to live machines.
Affirmed Systems CLOUD ASSURE™