Ensure Your Cloud Is Always Operational
We have become so accustomed to being online that we take for granted the technological advances that enable us to have instant access to everything and anything on the internet, wherever we are. In fact, it would likely be a little disconcerting if we really mapped out all that goes on behind the scenes when we clicked a button to start binge watching all five seasons of our favorite show.
The reality is these modern conveniences that have become part of our way of life are the result of years of technology innovations and the development of a massive infrastructure that ensure we are always connected. For the consumer this is a wonderful world, for the enterprises that are part of this great machine there’s a high expectation of near perfect performance and execution, which does not come easily.
There is no room for downtime; everything must be operational at all times. No vacations, no extended upgrade or maintenance windows, no single points of failure. Because the enterprise cloud hosts the services that drive fundamental business tools and operational systems there are serious consequences to any disruption in service — including the potential ire of consumers because of a 5-minute disruption in their Facebook browsing. Enterprises delivering cloud-based services need to constantly consider their strategy for maintaining a high level of uptime.
When looking for a fully operational cloud infrastructure, companies should consider the following factors:
- Multiple Data Centers and Staffing – An enterprise cloud solution should consist of at least two fully active data-center regions in each of your geographies that feature the highest standards for reliable power, fire suppression and physical security. Each of these data center regions must be able to handle the full production load of your environment by itself. Redundancy combined with continual testing of the redundant configuration ensures continuity in the geography. Each data center must be staffed full-time, 24 X 7. Employees of the cloud provider should be the only people that have physical access to the cloud infrastructure, including the servers that hold the data and the network gear that connects you to the Internet.
- The Network – Look for a solution that uses diverse carriers and redundant private connections when building the network between the paired data centers in each region. Every network path should be built with a redundancy in mind with no single point of failure in equipment, physical fiber paths, data center entry-points and distribution rooms, and so forth. You should work with your carriers to understand the exact physical path of each network circuit to further qualify the redundancy. You should also connect to multiple Tier 1 Internet Service Providers and provide multiple public peering points across the globe for additional Internet connectivity and redundancy.
- Multi-layered Security – To provide customer-facing networking and security services, a cloud enterprise provider must have highly-available firewalls, denial-of-service attack protection, intrusion-detection systems and server load-balancers that work in orchestration to ensure the necessary levels of protection and preventative measures. Beyond a secure operating environment, the cloud provider should add layers of security by executing daily infrastructure vulnerability scans, having regular 3rd-party penetration testing and using static code analysis tools. It is also critical that the cloud provider have a comprehensive industry compliance strategy.
- Automation – It is critical that you automate all provisioning and maintenance activities for the cloud infrastructure. When operating at scale even the most experienced and qualified experts can make mistakes that affect availability. Automating the initiation of new instances, moving instances out of harm’s way when server, network or data center issues occur, patching the infrastructure to ensure a proper security posture are all activities that need automation.
- Multi-instance Architecture – To ensure the data is never commingled with another customer’s data, a cloud enterprise solution should feature this multi-instance architecture, which will also guarantee the data is backed up in both data centers within each region.
With the right amount of preparation and by using modern techniques to achieve a highly available cloud infrastructure, cloud-based service providers can ensure they are meeting the rigorous standards that are expected. While nothing is perfect, continuing to seek higher standards and providing greater assurance to your customers should be the absolute top priority for your teams.
By Allan Leinwand
Allan Leinwand is chief technology officer at ServiceNow , the enterprise cloud company. In this role, he is responsible for overseeing all technical aspects and guiding the long-term technology strategy for the company.
Before joining ServiceNow, Leinwand was chief technology officer – Infrastructure at Zynga, Inc. where he was responsible for all aspects of technology infrastructure used in the delivery of Zynga’s social games including data centers, networking, compute, storage, content distribution and cloud computing.
Previously, Leinwand was a venture partner for Panorama Capital, LLC where he focused on technology investments in data networking, open source software and cloud computing. Prior to this role, he served as an operating partner at JPMorgan Partners.
Leinwand currently serves as an adjunct professor at the University of California, Berkeley where he teaches on the subjects of computer networks, network management and network design. He holds a bachelor of science degree in computer science from the University of Colorado at Boulder.