Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Beware The Cloud Snake Oil Salesmen

We've been working with cloud providers for over seven years and I'm getting convinced that cloud computing is to technology what mortgage derivatives were to the finance industry.

Mortgage derivatives were packaged, obfuscated, repackaged, sold, refinanced, obfuscated and then split and resold again. In the end everyone was selling toxic packets where no one understood the risk.

With computing you used to know what you got. A dedicated server cost x per month, and x + 1 with more RAM and x + 2 with more RAM and a faster processor. All of the moving parts were understandable and it was pretty easy to calculate one provider against another. The trouble was that with this transparency came competition.

In the cloud world things are very different. Trying to fathom and predict how Amazon or Microsoft charge for their services demands an ouija board and quite a few glasses of the hard stuff. In fact, scrub that, stick your finger in the wind and select a figure. Then double it and then double it again.

For example, I've just spent an hour on Azure's lovely looking new portal. I was looking for how much storage, in GB, we are using on their service. You can find information about obscure s**t like peer resources, containers and queues (who cares ??) but not the most important metric pertaining to storage - how much you're storing. Please point to a single piece of useful information from this screen:

This madness is shared by the other cloud providers. Obfuscating is the order of the day.

What I can tell you is that a test system on Azure is costing us four times what the equivalent dedicated servers are costing for a similar product and getting the same performance is a major issue. What the cloud service is great at is quick deployment and management.

I think that the cloud platforms are reasonably developer friendly, but they really need to up their act where business decision makers are concerned and provide clear data that is comparable to that available from existing dedicated and managed servers.