Need an agile infrastructure? Do your homework

The larger you are, the more attention you should pay to performance, integration, and costs

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Companies looking for more agile data centers are increasingly turning to public (external) or private (internal) clouds with virtualized servers, storage and networks. Getting the lowest cost and the best speed and flexibility from those systems requires assessing everything from performance to control and interoperability. And the larger your organization is, the more planning it takes to create an "enterprise grade" cloud that meets your performance, security and compliance needs.

Smaller and newer organizations with simple needs often get the most dramatic and immediate results from public cloud services. That's because they have no "sunken costs" in existing infrastructure and fewer internal applications to integrate with cloud platforms. In addition, the per-seat pricing plans offered by software as a service (SaaS) vendors tend to favor smaller customers.

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Some of the biggest beneficiaries of cloud setups are SaaS vendors themselves. Digital Technology International, for example, manages its own hardware in remote data centers to provide hosted applications to publishers, and it found the cloud to be "five times more profitable and half as expensive" as it predicted, says Byron Oldham, vice president of engineering and development at the Springville, Utah-based company.

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