Adopting the public cloud is similar to renting a car from Hertz or Avis. You pay for the days you use (or by the hour, if you rent from Car2Go or ZipCar). It’s very easy to get one anywhere anytime, you can jump in a car in minutes, the car is used by multiple customers every month (multi-tenant) and you have the flexibility in that you can rent a car in one location and drop it off in another when you’re done.
Yet, if it is so convenient and inexpensive, why don’t more people drive a rental car to work each day?
Public Cloud Perks
The public cloud is to renting a car as dedicated servers are to owning a car. Here are some of the benefits:
- No multi-tenancy. Dedicated computing gives your organization sole access to your server, leaving you in control of your server’s security and content in use. It’s similar to owning your car, where you can control the make, color, interior and cost. It’s your car, with your stuff. There’s no “noisy neighbor” (or backseat driver) and you’ll get more predictable performance.
- Customization. Avis lets you choose what kind of car you want, but you don’t have much control over the other features. You want more power or higher economy? Can’t do that. No tinted windows? Tough luck. You don’t like the bright yellow exterior when you pick up business clients? Sorry. It’s the same with servers. With dedicated servers, you can customize them specifically to your needs without the added hassle of dealing with a shared environment.
Here’s an example: The most powerful servers offered by most public cloud providers come with under 60GB of RAM. Meanwhile, you can get a dedicated server with 1.5TB of RAM. For some database applications, this capacity can make a huge difference in performance. It’s similar to renting a sedan when you need a minivan or a school bus. You can probably get the job done, but it’ll take more resources: multiple trips, more gas spent and a lot more time (or more cars and drivers) to get the results you need.
Custom Cloud Perks
Customization is important because it allows you to tailor the infrastructure to the specific requirements of an application. A better fit usually results in higher performance and more efficient usage.
- Control and Security. You jump in your rental and you head for a long trip on a twisty road in a thunderstorm. How are the tires? Did the previous owner take care of the suspension? When you park and leave your laptop in the rear of the minivan, do you feel it is safe? With your own car you can take specific security measures. Dedicated servers usually live in a separate network segment, are protected with physical VPNs with more advanced controls and give you the option of toying with the hardware. Some clients require specific RAID configurations. Others require (reasonable or not) that their hard drives be destroyed for data protection under certain circumstances. Dedicated hardware makes it easier to meet compliance requirements and build a custom security setup.
- Economics. Spending $30 a day on a car rental seems cheap compared to spending $30,000 to purchase a car. But in the long run, renting becomes more expensive. If you know you need a car every day for the next few years, it makes zero economic sense to rent one. You should buy it or lease it. The same is true for cloud. In our experience, when a customer is spending more than $10,000. a month in cloud, it is a really good idea to compare the overall economics with dedicated physical hardware. Anyone spending more than $30,000 in public cloud should look at both dedicated and hosted private cloud economics.
Cloud computing is a game-changing technology for not only the IT industry, but for the entire world. Cloud concepts have been evolving for years, and it’s incredibly empowering and exciting to be part of the evolution.
Finding your way in the Hybrid Era
Public cloud servers are popular because they are built around the “compute as a utility” model, where costs are generally low and users pay by the hour. They’re also very flexible due to a rent vs. buy multi-tenant model. At the same time, using public infrastructure means you may need to share resources with other tenants and you may lose some of the performance benefits that the private and hybrid clouds offer. The public cloud is not for everything – or for everyone.
We know that the hybrid cloud architecture is the future of cloud computing. With a hybrid cloud, you can combine dedicated and cloud servers based on the needs of your applications or your business requirements. It’s like owning a car for yourself and renting a minivan when the in-laws show up; or like renting a car for long trips to avoid adding extra mileage to the car that you own.
A very common use case is a setup where high-performance databases, stable workloads and those requiring high security are hosted in dedicated hardware while web front-ends and other application components are hosted in a public cloud.
The main lesson is that the public cloud (much like a rental car) is wonderful, but not the right answer for everything. Don’t start with a specific technology as the answer and force-fit your application to make it work. That would be like renting a car before deciding where you want to go – it is kind of hard to drive to Hawaii. Understand the specific requirements of the workload and the business needs (and how they evolve over time) to determine the right infrastructure model for your application. Drive safe.