Choosing a Cloud Provider – towards a structured approach

Cloud computing provides a compelling option for Financial institutions (FIs) looking for more flexibility in deploying technology and managing costs. There is a wealth of cloud solutions available in the market today, and some major providers, but how does an FI choose between one provider and another? Not all providers are the same.

If the goal is storage that might suggest one provider, while computing intensive applications could suggest another. It can be quite a complicated proposition and as the industry is relatively young there is little guidance available.

Another complicating factor is the number of different deployment models available and the client need to balance short term priorities with longer term goals. Will a SaaS approach be enough or are we looking for the whole enchilada - PaaS and IaaS as well?

One temptation is to dive straight into the technical details, but what matters more is the end to end performance the FI is seeking.  But how do you measure that? Focusing on a few important metrics, such as storage service response time, network latency and cluster elasticity may help.

Another complication is the rapidly changing environment. For example, the technology of data centers is undergoing game-changing transformation and constant innovation has implications for the relative performance of the providers.

Finally the choice of cloud provider is as much a business as a technology decision. There are risk, costs and benefits in moving to the cloud. A cloud provider is also a business partner, not just a technology vendor. For example if the goal is to archive sensitive materials then there may be governance, security and rights management issues to be considered which may influence the choice of solution. The goal is not just to reduce costs, but mitigate risks and improve performance as well.

So there's a big need for a structured approach.

Research on this topic has so far been limited. But one such study has recently been posted on the Microsoft Research website and provides an interesting analysis of some of the issues involved.

"CloudCmp: Comparing Public Cloud Providers" by Ang Li, Xiaowei Yang, Srikanth Kandula and Ming Zhang can be found at: