By Tim Mullahy, General Manager, Liberty Center One

Tim Mullahy, General Manager, Liberty Center OneBy now, most IT management executives have heard that cloud computing has revolutionized the ways in which business is conducted. Not only has cloud computing changed how we work and look at infrastructure, life-cycle management and workload demands, but it’s fundamentally changed the ways a modern enterprise manages and plans for resource demands in a very large way.

A typical scenario that many are familiar with is the management of a busy webserver. Running a website or application on a dedicated server that experiences an unusual surge of traffic would suddenly increase resource demands and bring your application to a halt, which translates into severe productivity losses.

Even with 99.999% uptime (five 9’s – the industry standard), one can still expect to have a least five and a half minutes of downtime per year, assuming all other measures are in place to make sure your server runs smoothly. Add a brute-force dictionary attack or an inexperienced IT staff into the mix and you have the potential for much more downtime.

It’s a problem that’s long plagued the hosting space. Regardless of how powerful a server might be, there’s always a chance it will eventually be unable to meet your needs. Components fail, attacks occur, and resource demands can surge out of control quickly.

Load balancing techniques came about to address this issue. By dividing resource needs among multiple systems and networks, load balancers ensure that no single server is overwhelmed and that there’s no single point of failure where a downtime event may occur. In the event that a failure should occur, the workload would seamlessly be able to failover to the next set of dedicated resources that have been pre-provisioned and configured to be ready to jump into action at the millisecond that an error could occur.

How this has any relevancy in a cloud-based infrastructure is similar to the concept that the cloud is the natural evolution of virtualization technology. With cloud-based load balancing you will find that instead of using a load balancing appliance or software running on an internal server, cloud balancing can allow your organization to intelligently distribute application and resource requests across a vast number of cloud deployments from various PaaS vendors, both public and private.

This increases redundancy and availability, not only in resources, but within geographically-defined zones as well. For instance, with data centers in Detroit, Cincinnati, and Dallas, Liberty Center One can easily route traffic around large-scale disruptions such as natural disasters or Internet disruptions with very little loss of productivity.

Going back to the example of the busy webserver, in periods of particularly high demand, a well-planned, load balanced approach would allow you to send excess requests into the cloud. Your web strategies can rely on the fact that there is another identical webserver available to help during a traffic surge by intelligently routing surging traffic numbers to hosts with lower process counts.

As Stephen J. Bigelow of Tech Target writes, “Cloud load balancing forces enterprise IT to address security and performance in the public cloud. Support for virtual local area networks can partition cloud resources to mitigate the noisy neighbor threat of shared hardware and bolster security for traffic. Public cloud providers also frequently mate load balancing with automatic scalability to invoke or dismiss virtual machine instances in accordance with load-balancing rules.”

“Hybrid cloud brings more concerns because load balancing must extend from the local data center into the public cloud cohesively,” he continues. “Global server load balancing and a global domain name system present a unified DNS that embraces multiple locations — primary data center, backup data centers and the cloud providers’ racks — and determines the location that is best for serving applications to end users.”

So how exactly can you implement such a strategy? In a few ways, actually.

First, and most importantly you need to be exceedingly selective about who you partner with to manage your cloud infrastructure. Many vendors currently lack standards for cloud migration and integration, while others don’t really have policies in place for dealing with sensitive or regulated data. Make sure to choose a host that offers a HIPAA or FISMA-compliant cloud solution. Organizations that strive for industry standard compliance adherence are almost always the type that take cloud security seriously, as it impacts their overall legal risk considerably if they were to be lackadaisical.

Secondly, you will need to conduct a thorough evaluation of your infrastructure and resource needs, and work with a cloud migration architect to ensure that all services are migrated and tested before going into production. The conversion process between physical and virtual machines or virtual machines and the cloud is often seamless, only relying on a few IP address and DNS changes, and if planned properly does not look or feel any different to end users than dedicated in-house infrastructure, minimizing downtime.

Cloud balancing and cloud computing are powerful services that allow businesses to drastically reduce IT overhead costs and personnel needs while increasing redundancy and productivity and reducing failures. One of the hottest topics from organizations large and small is the need for disaster recovery (DR) practices. We help customers define and implement cloud infrastructure that can be easily used for business continuity and disaster recovery with on-demand resources that are fully expandable. Liberty’s cloud solutions can provide businesses with a virtual DR that costs very little to be 100% available in the event of a disaster with a “pay only for what you use” utility billing model, if and when cloud resources are activated. Many of these customers operate their own on-premise data centers and are realizing that hybrid clouds can be incredibly powerful in the right hands.

By tapping into the vast resources available in the cloud, you can ensure that your servers stay operational, regardless of what sort of resource demand or attacks that may occur, allowing your organization to focus on business needs instead of putting out IT fires.

About the Author

Tim Mullahy is the General Manager of Liberty Center One, an enterprise class, tier 3 data center located in Royal Oak, MI.