Cloud computing has become the new normal. Numerous companies are starting their software projects directly in the Cloud, or are migrating existing ones there… and with numerous good reasons.
In my last post, I explained 10 of the biggest benefits behind Cloud Computing. However, I also quickly realised that 10 advantages weren’t enough – there’s more to talk about! So, here’s the second and final part. Between this and the first entry, that’s 20 key benefits for Cloud solutions!
In the first part, we had a short introduction covering types of hosting and Cloud service levels. Then, we dived into 10 advantages of Cloud computing. If you want a quick recap, this included:
- A handy abstraction
- Unlimited resources and scalability
- High availability
- Quick recovery
- Insight and control
- The economy of scale
- Painless maintenance
- Capital expenditure reduction
In this part, we will cover 10 further benefits, as well as demystify commonly misunderstood problems with the Cloud. I hope doing so will leave you much more informed about the Cloud’s advantages and why so many businesses are choosing to adopt, migrate and thrive.
11 – License Cost Reductions
Many companies are tied to gargantuan database management systems or enterprise servers, complete with tons of features they don’t really use, but pay tons of money for nonetheless. Cloud providers offer several alternatives that turn out to be much cheaper. There are plenty of useful tools that can help us in migrating a database from an existing vendor to a Cloud equivalent that’s more than adequate.
The second option is to stay with the old vendor but, instead of hosting it ourselves, pick it up as a managed service from the Cloud provider. The economy of scale principle applies here as well – the Cloud provider can purchase a license for specific databases at a much cheaper per rate processing core than most companies – once again sharing the savings with us by offering it as a service. A Cloud provider’s core business is selling computing resources, not to rip us off on software. In cases where there is no Cloud equivalent or managed version of the software we need, and the licensing is bound to a particular physical machine, it’s not a problem either. We can select the appropriate tenancy level of machines in the Cloud, ensuring we adhere to such license requirements.
12 – Security
Security is a very important factor for IT systems, especially as the amount and variety of personal information we store within increase constantly. One might say that handing over the data to someone else is a risk, but usually, the opposite is true. Cloud vendors maintain a very high standard when it comes to both the physical and virtual safety of their data centres. Once again, because of scale, they can do so more efficiently than most companies will ever be able to. These vendors can afford scrutinized third-party audits and the employment of top-notch security experts. Such staff also can’t just peak into our data, as we are the ones holding SSH keys to virtual machines. There is also support for sophisticated cryptographic schemes for many services, including encrypting everything under several layers of rotating keys, where the master key can be kept in tamper-proof hardware or may never even be present in the Cloud.
Paranoid as it may be, if we are afraid of running containers or virtual machines on a physical machine shared with someone else, we may choose a tenancy level to have them for us exclusively. If you are hesitant to trust Cloud providers, keep in mind that the US Government, as well as numerous major banks, are running their IT systems there. These organisations requires a different level of trust than holding information about which cat image you liked or commented on.
13 – Compliance
Aside from security, IT systems further need to comply with various regulation on how to store, as well as process, personal and sensitive information. Many industries are loosely regulated, but if we are dealing with medical, financial or government data, we need to be prepared to meet certain laws.
For example, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act in the US, GDPR in Europe or numerous ISO certifications. Getting such certifications for in-house infrastructure is costly, problematic and time-consuming. However, major Cloud vendors already hold a portfolio of such standards, so we can free ourselves from thinking about them on the infrastructure level. Some regulation might require us to keep data in certain countries, which is easier to achieve with the number of different regions and availability zones Cloud providers offer. If we were to do that ourselves, all our problems related to maintaining hardware would only multiply.
14 – Learning Curve
The Cloud offers much more than raw computing power, memory, and storage. For example, we now have:
- Big data support
- Batch workflows
- API gateways
- Mobile devices and Internet of Things support
- Image recognition
- Speech translation
The list could go on, but you can see just how versatile it is. Sure, we can use many of those from outside of the Cloud but, if we already have some systems in there, we gain a number of key benefits.
For example, we gain a diversity of entry points we can attach to events related to our other services. Common interfaces make it easier to integrate with other services and resources. We also have centralized control over what is going on in the entire system without constantly switching between various consoles or tools. Costs become transparent and easy to track.
Using existing building block from one common sandbox is more convenient than jumping between sandboxes or building the actual blocks from the ground up ourselves. What if a block is missing, or the one we have is not meeting our requirements? Well, we can always leave our sandbox and look somewhere else – but let it be a choice, not a necessity.
15 – Global Presence
Having a vast number of datacentres available for us to deploy our systems to has several advantages. We gain availability and disaster recovery capabilities, which we have already mentioned, but that’s not all. We can also fulfil certain regulations related to the physical geographic location of our data, as we discussed as part of the Cloud’s compliance benefits, and we can also be closer to our users.
But, hey – everyone is on the Internet, so aren’t we global after all? We are, but we could be more global. Packet latency between Europe and Australia is noticeable and, if we want to minimize the responsiveness of our systems, we would prefer that our user in New Zealand to talk to servers in Sydney, instead of Frankfurt. Major Cloud providers have datacentres all around the globe and they are constantly adding new ones. By having our system distributed across many farms and using geographical load balancing, we can assure the best possible experience for our users. Leveraging a massive content delivery network on the Cloud gives us opportunity enhance the experience even more.
16 – Reduced Carbon Footprint
With all the savings, performance and optimizations of the economy of scale comes the benefit of ecology. The Cloud provider ecosystem, combined with all its clients and partners, will consume less electricity and produce less pollution than if everyone would operate on their own. This includes day to day operations, but also the environmental burden of producing all the hardware in the first place. Google Cloud, for instance, claims that they consume 50% less energy than typical datacentres and that they purchase from renewable sources. Even if somebody doesn’t really care about our planet, there is always the factor of keeping good public relations at stake.
17 – Talent Acquisition
Finding good specialists in the software industry is not an easy task. People like to work with modern technologies and learn new things. On the other side of this, they hate to work with obsolete technologies. Cloud is the new normal and traditional hosting is an increasing burden, not only for administrators and infrastructure people, but also for software developers. They may be more likely to join our organisation – and stay with us – if we can offer them the possibility to immerse themselves with Cloud technologies.
18 – Productive Partnerships
Cloud vendors create a network of partners around their ecosystems. Among others, there are consulting companies and software houses that employ people specialised in building Cloud-native applications, as well as migrating legacy systems into the Cloud. Basically, any business needs software now, and any serious business needs something custom-built to their specifications. Software houses are constantly looking for new customers. A partner network is a place where these those two can find each other and start collaborating. Businesses gain a proven software vendor and can additionally benefit from Cloud discounts the vendors have. The vendor, likewise, gets a client for its software and the Cloud provider finds a client for its services. Everyone wins.
19 – Time to Market
Cloud flexibility speeds us up in any situation where hardware management in classic hosting paradigms becomes a limiting factor. For instance:
- We have an awesome new product, but we lack additional servers to deploy it to production? Spin up new virtual machines.
- Latency is a critical aspect of our system and we want to conquer a new market on a different continent? Copy existing production farm instances to a new region.
- Do we need to run a massive simulation? Employ fleet of spot instances.
- Need to scale database servers horizontally to accommodate complex queries that cannot easily be distributed? Resize virtual machines or change their type to memory intensive.
- Need rapid prototyping? Use a Serverless solution.
All those endeavours have a common denominator: time. We can make things happen faster, thus gaining an edge over any competition that uses traditional hosting model. Furthermore, times equal not only money, but sometimes survival in today’s mercilessly shifting business landscape.
20 – Clean Restart
We all want to succeed and we do our best to achieve that. Yet, nevertheless, sometimes we fail. Perhaps the business plan wasn’t that good after all, maybe the competition was faster or perhaps they simply had a better product. Maybe we underestimated the required effort, or we failed to find an investor for the crucial round of funding. Maybe the technology choices in our project were wrong or we couldn’t find enough developers in time. Perhaps, just maybe, we were simply out of luck.
Whatever the cause, imagine that we need to abandon the idea and start with a new one. If our servers are running in the Cloud, we can simply flip the switch and get rid of all our infrastructure. With the classic hosting model, we are left with tons of bare metal we need sell to recover at least some of the money we invested in it.
Is That All?
So, there you go: 20 benefits for using the Cloud. While I don’t have any more advantages to talk about (at least not right now)… how about I debunk a couple of so-called disadvantages?
Vendor Lock-In Is a Myth
A commonly mentioned disadvantage of using the Cloud is vendor lock-in. What happens if our Cloud-provider goes out of business, raises prices or does something else which makes cooperation no longer possible?
First of all, it is unlikely to happen. Secondly, we have layers of abstraction we can put on vendor-specific services, as well as tools that allow us to lift and shift most of our infrastructure to a different Cloud vendor. Thirdly, we may choose to substitute most vendor-managed services with software we configure and run on our own, whether it’s in containers on virtual machines.
Lack of Control Is a Delusion
Another classically misaligned disadvantage of Cloud computing is the lack of control over our infrastructure. We might be tricked into thinking that, if the servers are not physically in our basement, then we are depending on a third party and we will be in trouble.
What we need to realise is that we already do depend on a myriad of third parties. There are hardware producers, internet service providers, electrical and water suppliers, not to mention the layers of software and operating systems, such as hypervisors, container engines, interpreters, frameworks, devices firmware, and so on.
These all have their own dependencies, and you will find that their dependencies have further dependencies of their own. We live in a deeply integrated and interconnected world and we cannot just do things on our own, because it’s simply infeasible. We should treat Cloud computing as a normal service that someone else provides for money.
Is The Cloud Right for Me?
There are no silver bullets and the Cloud is no exception to this. There are some cases where the traditional hosting model might be better for an enterprise, but they are very rare and, most likely, they are candidates for a hybrid Cloud solution, where only a small part of the infrastructure is kept on-premise, while most of it operates in the Cloud.
For the vast majority of companies starting digital projects in the Cloud, or migrating existing ones, this is a no-brainer in the current state of the software industry.
The Cloud services landscape is evolving rapidly. Major Cloud vendors are adding new functionalities on daily basis and the competition is fierce, which is to the benefit of companies that already use the Cloud, or are planning to migrate their software inventory. Properly used, the Cloud helps with flexibility, scalability, fault-tolerance, security, performance, and many other aspects of modern IT systems, while unlocking unparalleled technical and, as a result, business possibilities. The Cloud offers all of this at our fingertips. Our Cloud adoption workshop can help you on your journey to Cloud computing and all the benefits and opportunities that come with it.