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How Do You Choose Your Cloud Provider?

Here are few questions to ask yourself while doing the research

If you have been thinking how to choose your public cloud vendor you are not the only one. There are hundreds of offerings that you can choose from and comparing those can be a cumbersome exercise. Hence most of the people just run to the vendor (or technology) they are either most familiar with or gives them the best price. This is all good until they discover that… well, that vendor is not what they have been looking for.

Lately I've been few times asked: "Which public cloud provider would you recommend to deploy our application?" Doesn't matter how much I want it to be, the answer is unfortunately not that simple. Here are few questions to ask yourself while doing the research.

Do you plan to migrate existing applications or to develop brand new applications?
Very few if any legacy applications are designed with cloud patterns in mind
. Things like sticky sessions, admin access, usage of local machine resources or direct access to OS are often deeply woven into the application logic, and ripping them off may be equivalent to starting from scratch. In such cases you may be better off keeping those apps in house or be limited to only IaaS providers. Even in the IaaS case you may not be able to use some of the functionality like sticky sessions for example. For enterprises this is the predominant scenario, and if you want to get to the answer easier you need to be very familiar with your internal application portfolio.

The answer is much simpler for startups - they don't have the legacy apps baggage of the enterprises.

What technology do you plan to use?
If you plan to migrate legacy application then you don't have a choice - you are stuck with the technology it is already using. For the past decade Java and .NET made their way into the enterprise world and most of the public cloud providers offer those as a choice. However you need to be careful what each provider understands under Java and .NET support. Very few PaaS providers allow you to move your legacy application to the cloud without any modifications - most of the times the vendor just supports the language on their platform but not the full technology stack.

PHP and Ruby seems to be the choices for startups and lot of vendors offer those as choices.

What is your developers expertise?
If your staff spent most of their lives developing in Java or .NET and you want to use PHP or Ruby in cloud you obviously are not making the right choice. The migration to the cloud should be smooth. Think about the ramp-up time they will need to just learn this new paradigm. Although very promising and exciting it will require from them to change lot of the development and design processes they have been using for years. It will be easier for them if they don't need to learn yet another language.

Ruby is the choice for startups because it is easy for prototyping but may not be well suited for large scale apps. If your startup gets traction you may need to migrate from one cloud vendor to another.

What is your budget?
The question about price is always pressuring. It is mistake though to make decisions only based on price. There are two things going on right now that impact the prices of cloud computing. One is big players like Amazon and Microsoft who are almost in a price war, and two is the numerous new players who try to enter the market by offering more competitive prices. While the first one is good for you the second is, in my opinion, not so desirable.

The reason is that some of those smaller players may not survive the pressure of the lower prices and may end up out of business in a year or two. If you are one of their unlucky customers you may need to migrate your applications even before you complete your first migration. This doesn't mean that you should not choose any of the smaller providers. What it means though is that you should always have a back up plan and this is true also for AWS and Azure.

How long the vendor have been on the market?
Last but not least you should think about how stable and experienced the provider is. There are lot of players in the area and this is good for bringing the price down but they lack the experience that older ones have. And once again the question here is not about size - think about HP that released they cloud just recently vs Joyent that has been hosting wordpress.com for years.

Making the choice of cloud provider should be approached in a thoughtful way with consideration of all the above factors and maybe few more. Building a solid plan and evaluating as many choices as possible is you best bet to migrate your apps successfully.

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More Stories By Toddy Mladenov

Toddy Mladenov has more than 15 years experience in software development and technology consulting at companies like Microsoft, SAP and 3Com. Currently he is a CTO of Agitare Technologies, Inc. - a boutique consulting company that specializes in Cloud Computing and Big Data Solutions. Before Agitare Tech Toddy spent few years with PaaS startup Apprenda and more than six years working on Microsft's cloud computing platform Windows Azure, Windows Client and MSN/Windows Live. During his career at Microsoft he managed different aspects of the software development process for Windows Azure and Windows Services. He also evangelized Microsoft cloud services among open source communities like PHP and Java. In the past he developed enterprise software for German's software giant SAP and several startups in Europe, and managed the technical sales for 3Com in the Balkan region.

With his broad industry experience, international background and end-user point of view Toddy has an unique approach towards technology. He believes that technology should be develop to improve people's lives and is eager to share his knowledge in topics like cloud computing, mobile and web development.

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