February 17, 2012 Leave a comment
If two companies offer a form of cloud computing, do they offer exactly the same or can we find differences and how? As a self-respecting IT company it’s nowadays almost impossible to ignore the latest buzz-words as “Cloud”, “PaaS”, “IaaS” or “SaaS’. They are often presented and thought of as the Holy Grail for all our IT challenges. Most hosting companies will offer some form of Cloud computing (or use a different Buzz word for something similar) and will try to convince us all IT challenges belong to the past. We need a way to distinguish these different solutions and providers in order to understand which solution and/or provider aligns best with our needs.
We can distinguish 3 maturity levels of cloud computing which we for easy reference will call: childhood, puberty and adulthood. It is important to understand that, just like in normal life, a provider classifying for a certain maturity level can time evolve into a next phase. This evolution follows from natural learning process and the drive to continuously invest and improve the provided solution.
Lots of hosting companies just changed the name of their hosting offering into one of the current buzz-words without actually changing the underlying offering, business/IT processes or business model
- Traditional hosting, but now using a “cloud” buzzword
- No automation of processes
- No transparent “per-per-use” invoicing
- No self-service portal
- Great diversion in hosting platform, no homogeneity
- Hardly any consolidation of systems, inefficient use of computing resources
- There is a hard cut-off in terms of performance, no (auto) scaling possibilities
- General Availability/uptime will be limited
Some companies started to understand what cloud computing is really about and started to gradually transform operations of their business. The puberty phase is , like in normal life, a transition phase for a company to streamline the platform and all its operational processes. This cannot be done overnight, but is a gradual process.
- Transparent pay-per-use invoicing
- Passive Self-service portal, meaning that customer can retrieve (usage) reports from their environment, but not directly manage the environment from the portal
- The hosting stack is becoming more homogenous but some legacy diversity is still there
- Basic operations are handled through a management framework sitting on top of the hardware
- Availability and performance can vary because the company is learning and introducing lots of changes all the time
This is where you’d want a cloud provider to be. It classifies fully matured hosting providers that have successfully transformed their business to run a smooth consolidated and automated cloud platform
- All re-occurring tasks have been fully automated
- There is a transparent pay-per use invoicing model
- The complete hosting stack is homogenous
- A cloud management framework is sitting on top of the bare metal hardware provider operational/management tools to the engineers and customers
- A full-fledge self-service portal is available for customers that integrates with the platform management framework
- Auto scaling and consolidation is available for efficient use of the computing resources
- Availability/uptime will be very high because of less human interventions (less errors) and auto scaling/failover processes
The presented key characteristics are just a few examples of how to classify cloud providers. There are a lot more that can be considered, but this should give a general idea on how to look at this.
At first glance providers classifying for the “Adulthood” category can be assumed to provide the best offering, but also to be the most expensive one. This is not necessarily true as they should also have established best of class internal efficiency because of the high level of automation of all operational processes and self-support for customers. This should limit the cost-price of these providers, lowering the costs for customers. Providers in the middle of their “Puberty phase” are in the middle of a very large transformation and are investing lots of money into their company. This most likely increases costs and hence prices for customers.