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What is cloud really?

March 6, 2013 Leave a comment

Fairly late on a Wednesday night. Had a great day at work albeit it some frustrations. Did some work tonight, cooked a nice meal from left overs, played a few rounds of Gears of War 3. And then a sudden and unexpected thunderstorm. Needless to say I have unplugged everything and using my iPad to write this. Thank someone for 3G.

So I decided to use this time to eventually post something on my blog again. So cloud it is. But I think this topic has been coming for a while and notably because of some experiences recently. So let me quickly set some context, or at least mention some events.

On my way back from Pietermaritzburg today on a business meeting, I was listening to East Coast Radio and MWeb had an advertisement, several times over, about their new business cloud. Listening to it I couldn’t help but chuckle inside.

Now I’m a Microsoft boy, and have been playing with Azure since early BETA. So I have seen what has been on offer, or future offerings, and have also been exposed to their pricing model for some time. And more recently been paying for some virtual machines, storage etc to play a little more, and I have been enjoying the experience.

So as a business, and me pushing, we decided to move our CRM system into a cloud environment. Unfortunately Azure had some technical issues we are still trying to resolve, mainly with extending our corporate network into the cloud, so my first choice went out the window. So we decided to contact all our local ISPs and see what was on offer.

And off course everyone is now screaming cloud, but do they understand it or even the significance of it.

Here’s my take on some of it, and this is just some thoughts and some of it might not make sense or could be partially incorrect. But here goes.

Cloud for me means the following:

1. Infrastructure as a service, which suggests quick and easy self deployment
2. Platforms as a service, quick and easy way to deploy applications without worrying about the underlying platform
3. Software as a service, meaning access to software related service for either easy integration into my own, or something like LinkedIn.
4. A pricing model, charging me for what I use, and not the usual hosting type costs
5. Guaranteed 99.9% uptime

Looking at the items above a service/platform/infrastructure like Azure covers all of those bases although I might not need something to cover all.

So back to some of the items noted before I noted what it means to me. So when our local ISPs came back and you looked at the pricing, low and behold, it was hosting related prices. So an initial setup cost, firewall costs, bandwidth costs, backup costs, software license costs and it goes on. Then over and above that, a disclaimer that the data will run on a shared link ranging from 2mb to 100mb. My expectation was storage, processing, data costs and not what I received.

And this is what made me chuckle about the radio advertisement. Is this just a glorified hosting surface with some new branding? Are we really this backwards in South Africa that we don’t understand or see the trends? Do we really still believe we can overcharge for these kind of services.

So we chose a provider and set up our system. Atwood weeks later we were virtually dead in the water because of hardware failures on their perimeter. Huh?!?

And then to add to all of this, I had one of our ISPs sales people call me to understand why we did not go with them. So I explained my expectations and he was initially very confused.

So what am I really saying here, and does it really tie back to the title. Well, possibly not 100% to the title, but what I am saying/suggesting is that cloud is hype again and without businesses being empowered with the right knowledge they won’t really get what they are looking for.

A an organization, we can easily move 85% of our data into a proper cloud infrastructure off shore without legislation impacting us, and keep the other 15% in local “Datacentres” or even on premise. Do our local ISPs not understand this? Their competitors are not just confined within our border anymore and maybe they should adapt accordingly. A huge investment, granted, but that’s business…

So as it stands today, with the expectation of a few SaaS apps available locally, our local ISPs either don’t have a clue about cloud, or are just trying to squeeze out a few more million out of its customers before they as empowered to make better educated decisions…

A bit of a long pst and maybe some rants, but do you understand what the cloud really means for your and your business? Do you have the relevant knowledge to make those empowered decisions today? 🙂

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