If you are looking for a cloud hosting provider, the number one question that comes up is which one to use. There are a ton of cloud providers. How do you decide which one is best for you? To be honest, the answer is it depends. It depends on what your problem is and what problem you are trying to solve. Are you trying to solve how you communicate with customers? If so do you purchase something like SalesForce or Oracle Sales Cloud, you get a cloud based sales automation tool. Doing a search on the web yields a ton of references. Unfortunately, you need to know what you are searching for. Are you trying to automate your project management (Oracle Primavera or Microsoft Project)? Every PC magazine and trade publication have opinions on this. Companies like Gartner and Forrester write reviews. Oracle typically does not rate well with any of these vendors for a variety of reasons.
My recommendation is to look at the problem that you are trying to solve. Are you trying to lower your cost of on-site storage? Look at generic cloud storage. Are you trying to reduce your data center costs and go with a disaster recovery site in the cloud? Look at infrastructure in the cloud and compute in the cloud. I had a chance to play with VMWare VCloud this week and it has interesting features. Unfortunately, it is a really bad generic cloud storage company. You can’t allocate 100 TB of storage and access it remotely without going through a compute engine and paying for a processor, operating system, and OS administrator. It is really good if I have VMWare and want to replicate the instances into the cloud or use VMotion to move things to the cloud. Unfortunately, this solution does not work well if I have a Solaris of AIX server running in my data center and want to replicate into the cloud.
The discussion on replication opens a bigger can of worms. How do you do replication? Do you take database and java files and snap mirror them to the cloud or replicate them as is done inside a data center today? Do you DataGuard the database to a cloud provider and pay on a monthly basis for the database license rather than owning the database? Do you setup a listener to switch between your on-site database and cloud database as a high availability failover? Do you setup a load balancer in front of a web server or Java app server to do the same thing? Do you replicate the visualization files from your VMWare/HyperV/OracleVM/Zen engine to a cloud provider that supports that format? Do you use a GoldenGate or SOA server to physically replicate objects between your on-site and cloud implementation? Do you use something like the Oracle Integration server to synchronize data between cloud providers and your on-premise ERP system?
Once you decide on what level to do replication/fail over/high availability you need to begin the evaluation of which cloud provider is best for you. Does your cloud provider have a wide range of services that fits the majority of your needs or do you need to get some solutions from one vendor and some from another. Are you ok standardizing on a foundation of a virtualization engine and letting everyone pick and choose their operating system and application of choice? Do you want to standardize at the operating system layer and not care about the way things are virtualized? When you purchase something like SalesForce CRM, do you even know what database or operating system they use or what virtualization engine supports it? Do or should you care? Where do you create your standards and what is most important to you? If you are a health care provider do you really care what operating system that your medical records systems uses or are you more interested in how to import/export ultrasound images into your patients records. Does it really matter which VM or OS is used?
The final test that you should look at is options. Does your cloud vendor have ways of easily getting data to them and easily getting data out. Both Oracle and Amazon offer tape storage services. Both offer disks that you can ship from your data center to their cloud data centers to load data. Which one offers to ship tapes to you when you want to get them back? Can you only backup from a database in the cloud to storage in the cloud? What does it cost to get your data back once you give it to a cloud provider? What is the outbound charge rate and did you budget enough to even terminate the service without walking away from your data? Do they provide an un-limited read and write service so that you don’t get charged for outbound data transfer.
Picking a choosing a cloud vendor is not easy. It is almost as difficult as buying a house, a car, or a phone carrier. You will never know if you made the right choice until you get penalized for making the wrong choice. Tread carefully and ask the right questions as you start your research.