To Cloud or Not to Cloud
I love looking at the sky. Staring at the clouds, your imagination can run wild and you can invent wonderful stories about the shapes you see in them, but they always seem so far away out of your reach. For me, as a DBA, it was same with cloud computing.
Cloud computing has been around for a long time, starting with Google Apps and Amazon AWS. Working in medium-sized companies has limited my exposure to them. About a year ago, I was asked to join a panel discussing IT for startups, where one of the most interesting issues raised was, “Should we use the cloud hosting solution”? My answer then was NO. Along the last year, my view about cloud computing has shifted to favoring cloud computing as a partial solution for startups.
What are the benefits of cloud computing?
Scaling up and down is possible within a matter of hours. Moreover, you only pay for what use, and on an hourly basis. Meaning, if a new client comes along, you can palace a request for ten new servers, and within the next day you’ve received them fully load-balanced and ready to go.
All hardware and OS management are the provider’s responsibility. No need for highly qualified IT tech that has wide knowledge in networking, security, virtualizations, storage, and FW.
You receive fully monitored OS and hardware services, including reporting and alerts.
You receive a fully redundant solution with an obligation for high availability.
Worldwide location distribution brings the application closer to your clients.
No need to upgrade your hardware every three years.
What are the problems with cloud computing?
These are not your servers! Your control on selected OS versions, maintenance and patches is limited.
These are not your servers! Placing sensitive data from passwords to your core technology is an issue.
These are not your servers! If it crashes, nobody promises you how hard they will try to save the data stored on the hard drives.
These are not your servers! For some reason, I can’t see you passing a credit card company inspection…
These are not your servers! You will probably have to make changes to your application to fit cloud computing.
Windows .NET based applications are not native to this environment. If you want to enjoy the monitoring and management benefits, you will have to use a non .net language.
Database solutions are very limited either in capacity and version or in manageability.
Deciding if to use cloud computing or not is not an easy decision. It will affect your application design and development environment. I can give you some point for consideration:
CDN on cloud?
Downloads require a lot of bandwidth. You will probably want a redundant network (which cost a lot of money), and there is always an issue of being close to your clients (which requires multiple locations).
In order to solve these issues, you’re probably using some kind of a CDN solution. If your total download is not in terabytes, I recommend looking into a cloud solution such as Amazon S3. Pay per usage has a huge advantage (I’m talking about thousands of dollars per year) over not buying a minimal quota package per month from major CDN providers.
If you are a new and upcoming company, requiring just a few dedicated servers including load balancing, buying and hosting a server, a managed dedicated solution will cost you $1,000-$1,500 per month per server. Each cloud server is about $200-$500 and you only pay for what you use.
The key benefit is the ability to scale up in a matter of hour and not weeks or days. And it’s important to place your server close to you client no matter where they are in world.
If you require a simple DB services with storage requirements lower then 10GB, and the number of hits on your server per second is in the low thousands, finding an adequate SQL or MySQL solution should not be a problem. Your solution will enjoy high availability and be redundant.
The actual trigger for writing this blog was SQL Azure but that will be on my next post. For now, I’m going to stare at the sky and look at the far away clouds.