What Does Cloud Computing Change?
Does Cloud Computing Change Anything?
Cloud computing, aka utility computing, aka SaaS, aka PaaS, aka IaaS, etc. is definitely the buzz word du jour (or buzz word 2009). Cloud computing is pretty much whatever a particular vendor wants it to be as long as it will allow them to be 100% buzz word compliant. For the sake of this article, let’s say that cloud computing is a service based offering that allows dynamic allocation of virtualized resources from remote (and centralized) hardware farms, accessed via the internet.
You Can Fire Your Administrators
Well, not really. If you use an infrastructure service like AWS, your administrators (system and database) won’t see much change in the day to day job. For system administrators it may be a bit more time in the OS and less time on hardware but for DBAs, it’s an almost transparent move.
If you choose a platform service like Google Apps, or a SaaS offering, you can fire your administrators. The service provider will employee the administrators. If you go with SaaS, you don’t even need to employee programmers. The SaaS provider will even employ them.
Your Applications Will Scale Automatically
If you go with SaaS or PaaS, the service provider will scale the applications for you. If you choose SaaS, you are limited to specific features and abilities and you can only scale as far as your provider will enable. If you choose PaaS, you can add features and abilities as you see fit but you are still limited to the scalability of the platform you choose. In addition, to scale with a PaaS provider, you will have to use the frameworks and tools (such as custom database engines) offered by the provider.
If you go with an IaaS provider like AWS, you can scale as far as you like. The problem is that you are responsible for creating the applications, and designing the data stores, so that they will allow you to scale. Moving to a cloud platform does not miraculously cause your applications or your database to scale. You don’t have any abilities in your application in the cloud that you don’t have in your own data center. You do, however, have access to scalable hardware without any upfront costs.
Cheap and Easy Hardware
The big selling point to cloud computing, beyond access to vast hardware resources, is the ability to get started at what ever level of resources (CPU, memory, storage and bandwidth) that you might need with a minimal capital outlay.
To start up a web 2.0 application the old way, you might need to drop $50k on hardware and rent space in a data center. Once the hardware arrives and is provisioned, you can let the developers et to work. When you’re ready to go to production, you drop another $50k for additional hardware. You may even drop $100k just in case your customer base grows. You might end up with thousands of dollars in underutilized hardware.
When you go with the cloud, you sign up for a service like AWS and startup a virtual machine. Your developers are productive within an hour and you are out less than $100 per month. When you’re ready for production, ramp up a larger virtual machine and put it on the web. Production and development hardware (remember this is the hardware, the data center, the electricity and cooling, none of which you need to worry about) will cost you a few hundred dollars a month.
If you grow beyond your wildest imagination, you (having designed and written scalable software) can start up additional virtual machines and scale to your heart’s content. This is what the cloud changes. Everyone, anyone, can now take the leap. Anyone who has an idea can put it out there with a minimal expenditure.
The Democratization of Business
The internet gives a voice to everyone. It’s changing publishing, TV, movies and every other kind of media. The internet offers a cross country, cross culture social environment for consumers. Now, with cloud computing, that democratization is being offered to anyone with a good idea (and even bad ones).