The myth behind cloud

Cloud is probably bigger than it has been in the last 5 years, its got to the point of maturity and a lot of people are finally starting to adopt and embrace what it means; but have they really thought about what cloud is? There are so many places out there preaching how good “Cloud” is and how much money it saves, but depending on your use case will depend on if it is right for you, do not just use cloud because it is there if you do you fall into the well established Bad sysadmin! category.

So what is the cloud?

What the cloud is

  • Flexible deployment
    • Time based
    • CPU usage based
    • Auto scaling
  • Utility based pricing
    • Cost per CPU hour based on performance of server
  • API based interaction
    • API’s to deploy / manage and maintain environments
  • Simple
    • To set up accounts
    • Understand the costs

Flexible deployments deploy your systems where ever you want US, Europe, Asia, spin them up and down at different times of the day, scale your clusters based on CPU or memory usage
utility based pricing Costs are cheap, really cheap even the largest boxes are less than $5 per hour (normally cheaper than $2) so if you need a lot of CPU for a short period of time this is good for you.
API based interactions to be a true cloud service it has to offer you the API control over what the environment does, you should be able to write applications that turn things on or off, or scale them up or down at certain times, If you can’t do that it’s not really a cloud, just hosting hanging on the coat tails of the buzz word.
Simple It is so easy for anyone to sign up and build the systems it gives the marketing teams the opportunity to fire up demo systems without the need for IT to get in the way

What the cloud is not!

  • Cheap
    • Costs can escalate quickly
    • Time can be wasted working around the limitations of the cloud
  • Predictable
    • Cloud environments are complicated, as a result your systems may change
  • Practical
    • In situations where you would normally connect to a console or attach a USB drive you can not
  • Secure
    • Yes you can secure them however…
      • You have no control over who has access to the physical hardware
      • You have no access to secure the Virtual Host
      • You can not stop Joe Random hammering his service and causing an effective DoS on your system

Cheap Everyone says how cheap the cloud is, but did anyone ever look at the costs? Cloud solutions are expensive unless your usage is sporadic and specific. On a continuous usage basis Cloud environments are more expensive than traditional hosting.
Predictable Kernel updates, faulty hardware, software updates are all out of your control, one day a system may need a reboot because of a kernel upgrade, another the DB could be down for an automated update the next your hardware may die and a reboot is needed again, If your system is meant to always be on, this can be annoying. This can all be mitigated but in “traditional hosting” things are on your schedule not someone else’s.
Practical You have less access and control and as such you lose out on flexibility and practical usage, for example, No console to log in to to fix a networking issue or recover the system.
Secure The lack of physical access control, and usage of the systems and patch schedules means you have little chance to control access to the fundamental layers your secure system may be built onto, there’s no point building a castle on a pile of sand (other than sand castles…)


You have to work out what you want to use the cloud for, If you are planning on shutting down tyour data centre and moving everything to the cloud, think carefully. If you can turn off all your servers at 6pm ever night until 6am every morning and off totally at the weekends you could save money, but the reality is you can’t turn off all off your servers, so look at the costs carefully.

I’d highly recommend people reading why mixpanel moved to the cloud and why a year later they moved off on a side note Mixpanel is pretty good tool…

In next weeks post I will cover how to make the best use of your cloud.

Business, Cloud

Join the conversation! 3 Comments

  1. […] Last week I covered what the cloud was and what the cloud wasn’t some very basic concepts that people seem to forget about when choosing to go to the cloud. This week my focus is on how to make the best use of the cloud to save the most money and utilise the flexibility that it can provide. […]

  2. […] the last couple of weeks I have posted a Foundation to what the cloud really is and How to make the best use of your cloud. This week is about tying […]


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