IaaS buyer’s guide: Which provider is best for your business?

 In Cloud, Solutions

Infrastructure as a service (IaaS) is among the fastest-growing cloud solutions, predicted to expand 41 percent per year through 2016. It’s not hard to see why. Organizations scrambling to virtualize storage, hardware, servers, and networking components not only stand to reduce operational headaches and total cost of ownership, but gain a more scalable system and free IT staff to focus on more strategic work.

But deciding on the right solution to meet an organization’s needs isn’t always an easy task. From Amazon Web Services (AWS) to VMware vCloud Hybrid Service (vCHS) to Windows Azure to HP Public Cloud to Rackspace to Hosting.com, IT organizations have their fair share of IaaS offerings to choose from. Here’s a guide to help any organization, large or small, hone in on the most appropriate IaaS cloud solution.

Choose infrastructure-as-a-service provider

Organization One: Ready to go

Many companies stand on the precipice of cloud conversion, ready and able to dive into the IaaS pool. These companies already have heavily virtualized environments and retain the tech resources necessary to undergo full implementation.

If you’re one of them, three providers will offer seamless migration to cloud: Microsoft Windows Azure, VMware vCloud Hybrid Service (vCHS) and Amazon AWS.

To narrow the field, first look at your current IT environment. If your organization already runs off VMware, you’ll find the move to the Cloud is simplest with vCHS since you can easily transition workloads and even seamlessly migrate virtual machines (VMs) back and forth.

If your company is virtualized via the latest version of Microsoft’s Hyper-V and running Microsoft System Center 2012 R2, it’s relatively easy for you to migrate workloads into Microsoft Azure.

In addition, AWS is simple enough that companies with sufficient IT bandwidth can move their virtual infrastructure to the cloud themselves using Amazon’s free import tool. This tool converts VMware vSphere, Citrix XenServer and Microsoft Hyper-V VMs to the AWS format. Amazon also offers managed services and third-party support to assist with migration.

Rackspace also offers third-party cloud migration services, and HP offers managed cloud services, including consultation, migration, and management.

Outside the differing migration processes, price structure is the main point of comparison.

vCHS allows customers to choose from two service offerings — Dedicated Cloud and Virtual Private Cloud — and a buffet of services, such as compute, support, storage, bandwidth, and public IP. You then pay for the options most applicable to your situation and can attain lower monthly prices for longer service commitments. VM sizing is also highly customizable (e.g. 4 vCPU x 8GB RAM x 100 GB disk) whereas other solutions have preset VM parameters.

Azure has customers pay upfront for services. Then, similar to a debit card, money is deducted from that initial payment for the blend of memory, compute, and I/O instances you’re running. If you exceed your limit, additional fees are accrued. While still able to access the service, companies could end up paying higher rates for services outside the upfront payment. This billing system works best for companies that easily stay within the initial service fees.

Overall, AWS offers the most flexible payment option — no minimum fees and payments based only on what you use — and its rates are among the most competitive.

Organization Two: A couple steps removed

While Organization One is prepared for the journey to cloud conversion, Organization Two seeks a little more guidance before taking the plunge. These organizations haven’t yet virtualized their environments and often don’t have the in-house resources to undertake this conversion on their own.

Hosting.com is often the most appropriate solution for this type of company. With a comprehensive, consultative approach to cloud solutions, Hosting.com offers cloud hosting, disaster recovery, hybrid hosting, colocation services, and managed services such as cloud assessments and cloud migration assistance. Its managed services options exceed those of any other provider, from handling the conversion process to managing day-to-day infrastructure services, such as OS patch management, relieving corporate worries or headaches. This also eases the path to conversion for companies that can’t subcontract personnel to manage the migration process.

Organization Three: Just off the ground or starting to grow

For startups and small and medium-sized businesses, the jump into the cloud sometimes skips the purchasing of physical infrastructure. After all, why should a growing company waste precious capital on equipment or an IT manager when it can get a zero-footprint, always-updated solution for a price that any startup with tight margins would appreciate?

For smaller companies that just need IaaS, AWS shines. It allows a business of any size to explain its business needs, and pay an inexpensive monthly rate for only the systems it needs.

Companies without an existing vSphere or Hyper-V environment wishing to spin up one can do so too with either Azure or vCHS. Like AWS, Azure and vCHS both offer OS template images that can be spun up on demand.

Organization Four: The best of both worlds

Organization Four strives to maintain its current, in-house environment while retaining the option to move virtual machines into the cloud when needed. These types of companies need hybrid cloud options that enable them to move data on- and off-premises. Azure and vCHS lead this space.

Azure allows companies to easily develop hybrid cloud solutions through the use of System Center 2012 R2 and efficiently move workloads into the cloud using a familiar interface. vCHS was designed as a hybrid cloud solution built on vSphere that enables users to work with the same familiar VMware tools, including vCenter Operations Management Suite. Both Azure and vCHS allow you to manage many legacy and new applications, and migrate workloads back and forth between on-premises and the cloud as needs demand.

In addition, Rackspace offers a customized hybrid cloud solution, with public cloud, managed hosting, and private cloud options, as well as managed services that monitor day-to-day operating system functionalities.

Next steps for adopting IaaS

If you didn’t see your exact company type, don’t worry. These are just four of the most common situations for companies considering IaaS. To get a more detailed idea of which IaaS solution best fits your business needs, drop our team a line at Cloud@SHI.com.

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