When Cloud is Not What You Signed Up For

The AWS S3 outage on Tuesday confirmed the worst fears of many that bigger is not better. Three hours of outage for 150,000 or so websites and other services, because of some internal issues at S3. What we saw yet again yesterday was that a massive data center like S3 proved to be no more reliable than private data centers happily achieving five 9’s.

The real issue here is not that there was an outage. The outage was unfortunately just an inevitability that proves no infrastructure is invulnerable. No, the real issue is the perception that a cloud service like AWS can be made too big to fail. Instead, what we saw was that the bigger they are, the harder they fall.

Now, I like public cloud services and I use them often.  In fact, I used Google Docs to type a draft of this very blog post. However, would I trust my business critical data to public cloud? Probably not. Maybe I am old fashioned but I have had enough issues with outages of either internet services or cloud services to make me a believer in investing in private infrastructure.

The thing about public cloud is that it offers simplicity. Just login and manage VMs or applications without ever having to worry about a hard drive failure or a power supply going wonky. And that simplicity comes at a premium with the idea that you will save money by only using what you need without having to over-provision, like you would expect to do with buying your own gear. That seems like wishful thinking to me, because in my experience, managing costs with cloud computing can be a tricky business and it can be a full-time job to make sure you aren’t spending more than you intend.

Is the cost of managing private infrastructure even more? You must buy servers, storage, hypervisors, management solutions, and backup/DR, right? Not anymore. Hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) is about delivering infrastructure that is pre-integrated and so easy to manage that the experience of using it is the same as using cloud. In fact, just last week I talked about how it really is a private cloud solution.

What is the benefit of owning your own infrastructure? First: Control. You get to control your fate with the ability to better plan for and respond to disaster and failure, mitigating risk to your level of satisfaction. No one wants to be sitting on their hands, waiting, while their cloud provider is supposedly working hard to fix the outage. Second, Cost. Costs are more predictable with HCI and there is less over-provisioning than with traditional virtualization solutions. There are also no ongoing monthly premium costs for the third party who is supposed to be eliminating the risk of downtime.

Cloud just isn’t the indestructible castle in the sky that we were meant to believe it was. Nothing is, but with HCI, you get your own castle and you get to rule it the way you see fit. You won’t be stuck waiting to see if all the king’s horses and all the king’s men can put Humpty back together again.