Usually I write about technical stuff, or my rc cars, but this time I’m going to write about cloud computing, which isn’t that technical.
While reading two magazines today one had in the cover “Cloud computing you can’t afford to leave this one out” and the other “Cloud computing a must for every company”.
So, if your in IT certainly heard about cloud computing, but lets start by defining cloud computing; cloud computing is is a style of computing in which dynamically scalable and often virtualized resources are provided as a service over the Internet. Users need not have knowledge of, expertise in, or control over the technology infrastructure in the “cloud” that supports them (Wikipedia definition).
Having said this you probably are using the cloud, if you use gmail,hotmail, or something like that, apart from the mail service you may be using picasa storage, dropbox, or even HI5 or Facebook to share photos and if you use a blog is probable that’s on the cloud too. But the cloud concept is wider. Imagine that your company as all the info on the cloud, all the applications that support your business, and that your systems are on the cloud too. You just leave your cheap PC clients, or thin clients, or whatever equipment you use to connect to the Internet and your piece of the cloud.
In theory this is a great tool, you won’t have to worry about uptime, backups, system maintenance, sys admins, power failures,air conditioning, but on the other end you’ll be dependent on your providers and your ISP. You won’t be free to change and you won’t be so versatile, your choices will be your providers choices and in the end applications and systems won’t be made to suit your needs but they’ll suit part of your needs and all your provider needs. Apart from that you’ll probably end spending more than you would if you had your own IT.
Sometime ago I was thinking in using amazon S3 for backing up my personal data, photos, personal movies, my documents, as well as my family ones. Right now I’ve a BackupPC on a server to do it all and backing up about 3.5TB of info. With my usage profile amazon would cost me about 350€ a month, so as fast as I though in using amazon I lost the idea of using it, with 2 month of service I could buy a new server to do all the backup and with another month of service I could pay electric bill,space, and man work hour for a year.
Then a client that happily uses Sugar CRM, heard about “the cloud” and thought that easily could migrate sugar to SalesForce and all the applications on the company to Google Apps. So we asked for prices and the price of the cloud was about 960% more than the regular prices of applications and Sugar licenses, and this including all the system maintenance, space and electric costs.
So I started wondering, in the end I don’t see people pay less for the cloud usage, I see people having a smaller initial cost that in the end will be much greater than the original one.
I’m sure many of you had already made your own investigations about the cloud? Are you getting to the same conclusions?
Till now I’ve been writing about costs, now lets get to flexibility and limitations.
Usually when talking about the cloud everyone sells you that the cloud is flexible, that the cloud will suit your needs and that it will grow when your business grow and get smaller when your business is going through a bad time.
In the end your cloud won’t be that flexible, most of “cloud providers” will have well established limits on amount of CPU usage/time, there will be limits on bandwidth, limits on connections per second and if you need to pass those limits you’ll be paying a lot for it. Then the small letter of the contract, sometimes you can have more processor power because you needed it but then you have to keep it for the minimum period, sometimes a year or even more.
But well the cloud is cutting edge innovation so this is something worth paying for. Once again this isn’t totally true, IBM as a cloud scheme running for decades, corporate clients may pay for processor, MIPs, processor time and memory usage. Apart from IBM, other companies worked like this for ages, companies like HP, SUN, and others.
So what’s new? In my opinion the news are the way you interact with the cloud, making the browser the central part and unification point. The larger bandwidth available today also made this possible and the content is much richer.
I can see a really good usage for the home user who don’t want to worry with tech things, I see youtube, twitter, hi5, facebook and others growing and companies using those with a business mind, honestly I don’t see companies putting their secrets, their know how, their experience, and their core on the hand of a cloud, I may be wrong but right now I don’t see it moving that way (maybe I need glasses). I see a big fuss on the cloud as I’ve seen the .com bubble and IT recession, I’ve seen the thin-client revolution and the virtualization boom, now I see the cloud hype and in a few months or years something new will come up and all this will be forgotten. I’ll see companies moving towards a new hype and I investors spending they bucks on something else.
So to conclude; I don’t think the cloud is a must, I think it’s something that you already had with a different name, and it became an hype because of a lot of marketing and publicity. If you think a little bit you’ll see who wins with all the hypes, usually isn’t your company nor mine.
Of course cloud computing in the form you mentioned is stupid. It’s outsourcing by another name.
It only makes sense for some very rare seldomly peaking workloads.
Cloud computing in terms of private enterprise clouds on the other hand has a lot of potential.
No we don’t want to give all our money to Amazon, they have taken enough of it as it is!
I think your message is important. Cloud marketing and fuzzing seems to be targetted to business decision making personnel. However, no matter what they try to look like, that’s a technical decision and I really think that companies just following this marketing hype will eventually get caught on those small contract letters. As a technician, I agree with you on the enterprise [not] moving its core to the cloud, and that the prices are [still] overrated.
However, for medium-to-large traffic platforms, such that they require a complex setup (meaning >4 machines) cloud can be a solution very similar to what could be called Hardware-as-a-Service. Unavoidabily, you have to move this kind of platforms outside the core, even if they are on a DMZ. More, you don’t usually want to mix corporate traffic with specific platforms (eg. a multinational’s CRM, the company’s website, etc.). In this context, cloud adds as much value as a regular hosting company would do, IMO. No more, no less.
Having said that, I still think it has lots of potential for intermediate companies (and again, this lives in technical scope) to provide HW solutions to costumers by clicking and adding “resources” to a [kind of] shop cart and then split them accordingly to their needs. That’s pretty much how Amazon seems to work – not some VPS/sliced hosting we are getting used to. Also, I see benefit for large hosting companies (now these could be those VPS/sliced ones 🙂 because they can turn the income on periodic basis to match the periodic costs. From this intermediate’s perspective, one of the great features of this cloud thing is that they have setup quite heterogeneous provising systems, which a regular company can’t handle – that is to say you could setup a small/medium/full-blown pile of servers with a few clicks. Time also costs money.
Of course, this is all theoretical while the prices remain so high. It seemed even worst from my searches (although I confess I didn’t explore in depth): you will pay much more with cloud to have there available the same resources you can find on typical dedicated hosting servers – but it’s also true you rarely use them at 100%, so you may eventually get more cost/performance benefit in the near future (because when you buy or rent hardware it’s very difficult to recover the cost).
My conclusion is that the cloud is trying to attract customers on the hype, and that makes our technical advice more needed than ever: explain to the client how to plan, how to implement, and how to scale and where exactly the cloud fits in. To them, my recommendation is this: being on the cloud just because “it’s cool” or because it (seems) so simple you won’t need specialized IT staff, will eventually turn against you.
PS: I also agree with Hari’s words, except for the last radical sentence 🙂
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Hi Pedro, interesting considerations about the cloud computing reality. I understand cloud computing offers two values why companies will pay for it: The instantaneous availability and the “no limited” scalability. This allow to a company to adjust the budget of investments on IT by increasing a variable costs structure. So, from my point of view, cloud computing takes sense only for a low percentage of applications with unpredictable peaks of workload. Excellent article, please continues posting this kind of information!