Advantages of Cloud Computing
Whether you’re an enterprise IT department planning to build your own private cloud using vSphere or OpenStack, or a business deciding whether to leverage the public cloud using AWS EC2 or Rackspace; the advantages of cloud computing depend on the opportunity cost for each solution.
First let me start by defining for those who are new to this topic what cloud computing is.
Most definitions I’ve read say something like this…
Cloud computing architecture is a scalable, robust, and high available infrastructure service designed to allow for quick and transparent compute capacity.
Does my definition fit your assumption? Or, what you currently have in place in your data center?
Over the last decade as I have traveled and visited various IT infrastructures, the common thing I see is most legacy data centers are lacking solid solutions that provide scalability and transparency.
Amazon uses the term elastic, which perfectly describes [CLOUD] because compute and workload can be transferred from point to point and is not pinned down like in most traditional data centers.
Now that I have covered what cloud is [at a high level], the advantages of cloud computing are different depending on whether you chose to build a private cloud, or decide to use a public cloud service.
Weighing the Differences of Private Cloud versus Public Cloud
If it’s already in the budget to upgrade or refresh existing hardware and DC facilities then opportunity cost is low for building your own private cloud because you will be spending CapEx anyways.
And adding the right hardware and software to build a private cloud that is scalable, robust, and high available; can be baked into your budget plan.
The next factor to consider is to compare the advantages of building this new private cloud versus leveraging a public cloud built and supported by experts.
Let’s have some Q & A time.
- Is there more benefit to having your own cloud where you need to support the hardware and data center operations to meet you businesses SLA?
- Do you have the staff expertise to do it?
- Have you truly calculated the expenses and labor involved?
- What is the cost if you already have the facilities and the staff?
- Do you need to invest in training on new hardware and cloud software?
- Will the cost of owning your own cloud be less than the cost of paying for it at Rackspace or Amazon (or another)?
- Do you want to control [end to end] responsibility of your cloud?
Be honest when asking and answering these questions.
The Benefits of Cloud Computing!
To help understand the benefits of private vs. public cloud, here are two lists.
List #1 is for the requirements needed to support private cloud:
- Lots of Network engineers and admins
- Lots of Network & Security equipment
- Lots of Server engineers and admins
- At least 2 virtualization engineers
- Lots of Server hardware and software
- Lots of Storage engineers and admin
- Lots of Storage hardware and licenses
- Lots of Licenses for hypervisors and operating systems
- Lots of Licenses for databases
- Support agreements and EA/ELAs
- Facilities (power, cooling, cabling, generators)
- Security, compliance, audits
- Warranty, technical support, shipping, receiving
- Lots of infrastructure training investment
- Operations and Capacity Management, inventory, asset management
- New backup and monitoring solution
- End to end control
List #2 is for the requirements needed to support public cloud:
- Less Network & Security engineers and admins
- Less Network equipment
- Maybe more security equipment
- Less Server engineers and admin
- At least 2 virtualization engineers or admins
- Less Server hardware and software
- Maybe no Storage engineers and admin
- Maybe no Storage hardware and licenses
- Maybe no licenses for hypervisors and operating systems
- Maybe no licenses for databases
- Less support agreements and EA/ELAs
- Less facilities (power, cooling, cabling, generators)
- Maybe more security, compliance, audits
- Maybe less inventory, asset management
- Maybe less warranty, shipping, receiving
- More 3rd party technical support
- Less infrastructure training investment
- Capacity management, less inventory & assets management
- New backup and monitoring solution
- Limited end to end control
Note: These lists do not include an PaaS or SaaS benefits or advantages.
So where’s your biggest trade-off or value when analyzing and comparing public cloud with private cloud?
Here’s my 2 cents.
The trade-off is in staff, hardware, and licenses; however, it is a fallacy that public cloud will cost less.
The adjustment in security and remote support will more than offset any savings from not hosting a cloud in your own data center.
While on the other hand, if you are not a technology company then training your staff to design, build, and support and automate your own cloud may not be worth your effort and cost.
You may instead want to pay to leverage the expertise of people who are great at building and supporting clouds because this is their business.
Two steps forward, then two steps back?
For the last seven years I have been on both sides of this discussion so I can admit managing a private cloud does create a lot of expense, work, and risk that could be easily replaced with public cloud services.
You almost feel like you are taking 2 steps forward, and then when a gap is found you turn around and take 2 steps right back. It doesn’t matter if how well you plan, you don’t know what you don’t know and that is what gets you!
Then, on the other side of this discussion, I can also say I’ve seen the expectations of public cloud savings evaporate as more dollars start going into 3rd party cloud support and services.
And not to mention the drop in moral as top support staff worry there will be no more investment in them. People also play into 2 steps forward and then 2 steps right back, dance.
Peeling Back the Layers
Now let’s peel the layers down to the core and get to what everyone thinks are the main deciding factors: high costs for hosting verses high costs for 3rd party services and support, right?
As I explained, any hardware and software savings are washed out by more costs for private cloud services (compute, network, and storage usage).
Nothing is free in the public cloud and it will all add up. A 3M Capex/OpEx budget for private cloud versus a 3M budget for public cloud and 3rd party support really doesn’t make for much of a convincing argument.
And finally let’s not forget there is also a washout for up-time because even Amazon has outages.
But is all this really the core?
So what is the true (((core)))?
Do you want to be in control of every aspect of your IT?
If the answer to this question is yes then don’t waste your time on public cloud. Save yourself a lot of frustration because you will lose the SLA battle every time there is an outage in whichever public cloud service you choose, and it could be a public spectacle.
When the outage is in your own data center you are in control to fix it, and it is private except for the impact to your customer.
Another thing to consider is when it is in their data center, you may not ever know what caused the outage. But then again, maybe you don’t care and all you want to know is an ETA when things will be back online.
The argument I am creating here is between people (businesses) who want [or need] to be in control should build private clouds; while people (businesses) who just want a compute service and are willing to yield control to those great at building clouds should use public cloud.
In the end it’s all about control.
In conclusion, this is only the objective opinion of someone who has spent years in the trenches working with both of these cloud solutions.
I can say from my experience, it’s not easy migrating from a tradition data centers to dynamic Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), public or private.
But if you’re researching this topic for your business then it is important to weigh all the advantage and disadvantages from both sides and the impact to staff and moral.
That said, I also know from prior experience, it could end up a political decision, which may or may not be good for the business. Moreover, that doesn’t mean you should not count the cost of more than just hardware, software, and facilities; there are human costs as well that should be factored into the decision.
The advantages of cloud computing are many; the least is in being able to boast of best of brand hardware or software (which often happens) and biggest advantage is in the value it offers your business which can passed on to the customers.