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Not all Cloud Solutions are Created Equal

The errant swing of a backhoe in a New Jersey field cuts through a major cloud provider's underground cable, bringing activity along the U.S. Eastern Seaboard to a crashing halt.

The outage hits some businesses hard. Every minute of downtime means thousands of dollars of lost revenue and hordes of angry users. But they've no choice but to wait until crews physically arrive on site to repair the cable before business can resume.

Other businesses don't notice a thing. The dollars continue to roll in.

Both groups of businesses rely on cloud solutions for their workflows. So what's the difference?

Simple. It's the difference between a cloud solution that simply runs your workflows, and one that that actually manages them.

It's an important distinction that often gets lost whenever "cloud" enters the conversation.

Nearly every definition of "cloud" is correct. But nearly every definition is incomplete. Most cloud solutions provide elastic storage and powerful on-demand compute capabilities that help you cut costs and simplify workflows. But not all cloud solutions -- nor all cloud providers -- are created equal. And the more you come to rely on them, the closer you need to look at what you're really getting.

Here's why:

First, cloud services are part of the Internet, not apart from it. As such, the data and applications you run from your cloud provider are subject to the same dynamics and exposed to the same risks as is Internet traffic from other sources.

Second, the most popular data centers typically serve one specific geographic region. Data may be backed up, but is rarely replicated in different locations.

Both of these shortcomings can have serious repercussions for your business. Unfortunately, it usually takes a major Internet outage to bring them to light.

The cloud continues to hold enormous promise for video streaming companies. But I routinely meet with executives surprised not only by the amount of upfront configuration work that's required to migrate their workflows, but by how much responsibility for the performance of those workflows remains on their shoulders after the fact.

What if there was another way?

What if you could achieve the immediate cost savings and ongoing peace of mind -- to realize the true promise of the cloud?

In this scenario:

  • Your traffic and workflow would be immune from the effects of errant backhoes. Network intelligence would simply route your data around fiber cuts or other blockages without your businesses missing a beat.
  • Geography would be irrelevant. Persistent, synchronous data replication in multiple locations would ensure you deliver a complete experience, regardless of its complexity, to every visitor.
  • Your own role as an administrator would be drop-dead simple. System configuration, maintenance, and troubleshooting would all disappear, leaving you with a simple URL to maintain.

An effective cloud solution shouldn't simply be a lot of compute power sitting in someone else's data center. Rather, it should be a self-healing network that scales in capacity, manages your workflows, and navigates your data around the persistent risks and challenges of the Internet.

That's the way a cloud solution should work.

In fact, ours already does.

Shawn Michels is Director of Media Product Management at Akamai, with responsibility for Akamai's Media Services Live solution, which recently won two awards at NAB: "Best of NAB" from Streaming Media and "Best of Show" from TV Technology.