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February 9, 2010

Why I hate the cloud

Filed under: Virtualization — Tags: — Nate @ 4:26 pm

Ugh, I hate all this talk about the cloud, for the most part what I can see is it’s a scam to sell mostly overpriced/high margin services to organizations who don’t know any better.  I’m sure there are plenty of organizations out there that have IT staff that aren’t as smart as my cat, but there are plenty that have people that are smarter too.

The whole cloud concept is sold pretty good I have to admit. It frustrates me so much I don’t know how properly express it. The marketing behind the cloud is such that it gives some people the impression that they can get nearly unlimited resources at their disposal, with good SLAs, good performance and pay pennies on the dollar.

It’s a fantasy. That reality doesn’t exist. Now sure the cost models of some incompetent organizations out there might be bad enough to the point that clouds make a lot of sense. But again there are quite a few that already have a cost effective way of operating. I suppose I am not the target customer, as every cloud provider I have talked to or seen cost analysis for has come in at a MINIMUM of 2.5-3x more expensive than doing it in house, going as high as 10x. Even the cheap crap that Amazon offers is a waste of money.

In my perspective, a public cloud(by which I mean an external cloud service provider, vs hosting “cloud” in house by way of virtual machines, grid computing and the like) has a few of use cases:

  1. Outsourced infrastructure for very small environments. I’m talking single digit servers here, low utilization etc.
  2. Outsourced “managed” cloud services, which would replace managed hosting(in the form of dedicated physical hardware) primarily to gain the abstraction layer from the hardware to handle things like fault tolerance and DR better. Again really only cost effective for small environments.
  3. Peak capacity processing – sounds good on paper, but you really need a scale-out application to be able to handle it, very few applications can handle such a situation gracefully. That is being able to nearly transparently shift compute resources to a remote cloud on demand for short periods of time to handle peak capacity. But I can’t emphasize enough the fact that the application really has to be built from the ground up to be able to handle such a situation. A lot of the newer “Web 2.0” type shops are building(or have built) such applications, but of course the VAST majority of applications most organizations will use were never designed with this concept in mind. There are frequently significant concerns surrounding privacy and security.

I’m sure you can extract other use cases, but in my opinion those other use cases assume a (nearly?) completely incompetent IT/Operations staff and/or management layers that prevent the organization from operating efficiently. I believe this is common in many larger organizations unfortunately, which is one reason I steer clear of them when looking for employment.

It just drives me nuts when I encounter someone who either claims the cloud is going to save them all the money in the world, or someone who is convinced that it will (but they haven’t yet found the provider that can do it).

Outside of the above use cases, I would bet money that for any reasonably efficient IT shop(usually involves a team of 10 or fewer people) can do this cloud thing far cheaper than any service provider would offer the service to them. And if a service provider did happen to offer at or below cost pricing I would call BS on them. Either they are overselling oversubscribed systems that they won’t be able to sustain, or they are buying customers so that they can build a customer base. Even what people often say is the low cost leader for cloud Amazon is FAR more expensive than doing it in house in every scenario I have seen.

Almost equally infuriating to me are those that believe all virtualization solutions are created equal, and that oh we can go use the free stuff(i.e. “free” Xen) rather than pay for vSphere. I am the first to admit that vSphere enterprise plus is not worth the $$ for virtually all customers out there, there is a TON of value available in the lower end versions of VMware. Much like Oracle, sadly it seems when many people think of VMware they immediately gravitate towards the ultra high end and say “oh no it’s too expensive!”. I’ve been running ESX for a few years now and have gotten by just fine without DRS, without host profiles, without distributed switches, without vMotion, without storage vMotion, the list goes on..! Not saying they aren’t nice features, but if you are cost conscious you often need to ask yourself while those are nice to have do you really need them. I’d wager frequently the answer is no.

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