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Infrastructure as a Service – Are You Getting The Best Value For Your Money?

Posted 27 January 2014 by Anthony Green

An area I’ve touched on in a number of previous posts is that of the cost associated with Cloud Computing – largely with respect to its justification in the case of Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) when compared with the total cost of ownership of an equivalent on-premise solution. What are these costs, and how do they stack up? As we enter 2014 the marketplace is littered with Cloud providers, so how do you ensure you are getting the best value for money?

Costs generally break down into two elements: Licensing and Infrastructure, both of which are charged on a consumption basis in a Cloud model using varying degrees of granularity. Some providers focus their offerings heavily towards those who require very short term resource – offering infrastructure by the day or even hour, whilst others (such as Blue Chip) are geared more towards longer term IaaS partnerships and charge on a monthly basis.

Licensing costs are generally fixed under agreements such as those provided via Microsoft SPLA (Service Provider License Agreement) or CSPP (Citrix Service Provider Program) and can form a significant portion of any IaaS provision. It’s worth noting that many software providers (particularly larger organisations such as those above) have strict rules around licensing when deploying their applications on a shared infrastructure platform and in a number of cases insist on Service Provider based licensing. The absence of licensing charges (or reference to these types of programs) from a Cloud Provider should raise questions immediately about the nature of the underlying IaaS platform, and the experience of the provider.

Infrastructure costs account for much of the cost variation between providers and are driven by two key factors – the underlying platform (which constitutes a number of things - hardware specification, age, resilience, the level of proactive maintenance etc.), and the level of commit / contention of the hardware. “Cheap” IaaS provision will generally mean compromising at least one if not both of these, not a problem in all use cases, but a consideration where performance and security are high up on the requirements list.

So what am I trying to say? That you should go with the most expensive provider to get the best service? That cheap providers offer a poor service? Not at all - Simply that taken at face value some providers seem to offer incredible deals from a cost perspective; rock bottom prices for huge amounts of resource, but be aware – there’s more to IaaS than the amount of resource advertised and the headline figure!

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