Dan's Take

Is Cloud Computing Risky Business?

Don't overlook this aspect of moving operations into the cloud.

What are the benefits cloud service providers have been claiming? Depending upon the supplier and its products, typically the benefits fall into one of the following categories:

  • Cost reduction. This is a common claim, even though it's clear that some applications might actually cost more to deploy in a cloud computing environment.
  • Scalability. Since it's possible to spin up new instances of a workload when needed, providers often wave the scalability banner. It's true that deploying a workload in a cloud services environment could make it possible for an enterprise to scale up a workload if business conditions warrant an expansion. It also means that the workload can be scaled down or stopped entirely if the need diminishes or disappears.
  • Reliability. Cloud service providers are proud to point out that they have datacenters located in a number of places throughout the world. Customers, they would point out, can have as much redundancy and reliability as they wish. The limiting factors are budget and expertise in setting up complex distributed computing environments.
  • Simplicity. Some providers point out that it's far easier to set up and use a workload in a cloud computing environment. Customers, after all, don't need to purchase or configure the hardware (e.g., systems, storage, networks, cooling, power and so on), the software (operating systems, application frameworks, database engines or application software) or hire staff (facilities management, operations staff, security and so on). They just have to choose what resources they want to access and set up a credit card billing account.

Although there are other important factors, we hear less about security, privacy or complying with regulations or laws.

Dan's Take: The Subtle Benefit of Risk Reduction
Cloud computing offers something else important, that isn't spoken about as much: risk. It's risky for an enterprise to start up a new operation, develop a new product or service, then bring it to market. In today's digital world, that almost always means developing processes and procedures designed to support or create a new product.

Cloud computing reduces the risk of trying something new a great deal. It's possible for a startup (or, indeed, a new task force in a bigger company) to get all the computing they need without committing to the purchase of systems, memory, storage, networking equipment or even signing up for software licenses. They just need to have a credit account big enough to deal with the month-by-month expenses of the project as long as they wish to play.

If their plans work out, they're in a position to continue using the cloud service, bring the environment in-house, or sell it to someone else.

If the plans don't work out, they can shut everything down, pay the final expenses and say "whew, I'm glad we didn't commit to do that long term."

About the Author

Daniel Kusnetzky, a reformed software engineer and product manager, founded Kusnetzky Group LLC in 2006. He's literally written the book on virtualization and often comments on cloud computing, mobility and systems software. He has been a business unit manager at a hardware company and head of corporate marketing and strategy at a software company.

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