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Bob Gourley

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Unplanned Expenses Are Significant Risk For Cloud Adopters

Before adopting cloud infrastructure solutions, businesses should ensure their use case calls for the cloud, otherwise they may face a cloud hangover.

Although the benefits of the cloud do not necessarily hinge solely on cost, many businesses adopt the cloud with precisely that rationale in mind. The cloud's elasticity allows for rapid scaling up and down, so that infrastructure deployments, and costs, can accurately track a business' requirements. At least that's the theory; the reality tends to be a little different because of the inherent complexity of predicting cloud costs. Many businesses find themselves suffering from what's become known as the cloud hangover.

In a recent study from Sungard AS of companies adopting the virtualized cloud, it was discovered that almost 90% of them reported unplanned expenses related to the cloud. Those expenses fell into three broad categories: managing the deployment, integration with existing systems, and integration between clouds.

Keith Tilley, an executive VP at Sungard, argues that:

“By getting caught up in the hype, some organizations were quick to adopt the cloud without linking it back to their wider business goals and failed to see the additional considerations such as interoperability, availability and the operational expenditure linked to cloud.”

It's crucial that businesses understand that the virtualized cloud is not the answer to all infrastructure problems. Cloud cheerleaders make a convincing case, but like all technologies, the cloud has a limited domain of application — it has a specific set of capabilities and payoffs that have to be measured against the real and ongoing needs of a business. Of course, it's possible to deploy almost any sort of application on a public cloud, in the same way that it's possible to bash a screw in with a hammer, but the results might not be exactly those that were anticipated or desired.

And, most importantly, there are cost implications to choosing the wrong tool for the job. To take one example of the payoffs inherent in cloud adoption, consider performance. Public clouds offer great elasticity, but they are not built to offer superior performance. The cloud is great for HPC applications where a company needs to spin up hundreds of servers for a short period of time, because the performance limitations are balanced out by the cost savings of not having to maintain the infrastructure over the long term where it may well be idle.

But, if the use case demands long-term performance, clusters or bare metal clouds are almost certainly a better option. In this use case, what's important is a consistent and reliable level of performance over months and years. To get the maximum ROI from infrastructure investments in this use case, it makes much more sense to deploy on bare metal clouds or dedicated server clusters. Such deployments are scalable in line with the requirements of the use case, but they don't sacrifice performance by unnecessary use of hypervisors and guest operating systems.

Choosing the cloud in the latter use case is almost certain to result in unforeseen costs because the cloud imposes a performance tax in addition to the deployment complexity (managing elastic deployments when they aren't necessary is expensive), integration complexity (no established company goes all in on the cloud), and availability costs (the cloud is just not as reliable as bare metal unless users invest heavily in redundancy, which pushes up costs significantly).

The cloud has its place, but if businesses are to avoid a cloud hangover, they need to make sure that they carefully consider their operational needs and whether the virtualized cloud is the best possible solution.

About Graeme Caldwell -- Graeme works at InterWorx, a revolutionary web hosting control panel for hosts who need scalability and reliability. Follow InterWorx on Twitter at @interworx, Like them on Facebook and check out their blog, http://www.interworx.com/community.

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Bob Gourley writes on enterprise IT. He is a founder of Crucial Point and publisher of CTOvision.com