Getting the most from IaaS

Mix, match and burst. New infrastructure-as-a-service tools make it easier to shift among multiple private and public clouds.

Like many young data-driven companies, BuildFax decided in 2008 to host its construction data services on Amazon Web Services. But now, it's moving some systems to Google's new infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) offering, some to other cloud providers and some to its first in-house servers.

BuildFax's vice president of research and development, Joe Emison, says he was at first delighted with Amazon's low costs and pay-as-you-go model. But he soon wanted a choice of public and private clouds so he'd have the flexibility to get the best price, performance and disaster recovery options as his needs changed -- and as computing technology and the capabilities of IaaS providers changed.

"You can take advantage of the benefits of the cloud without locking yourself down to Amazon" -- or any other provider, he says.

That viewpoint is slowly gaining traction as the IaaS business model grows beyond serving only smaller organizations and supporting less-critical systems such as development and testing. But becoming cloud-agnostic requires new tools and mindsets: Users must design applications that can survive the unpredictability of the cloud, and they have to ensure proper security.

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