So far in this series of blogs, Quocirca has made the case that any cloud platform, be it public or private, has to improve the way an application supports a business in some way and that the take-off of private cloud heralds an increasing uptake of public cloud, providing a usable set of open standards emerge. But, what is it about public cloud platforms that will make them so appealing?
There are plenty of doubts expressed in various surveys, especially in the areas of security and compliance. Quocirca believes that such doubts are often misplaced and will come back to these topics in future posts. However, negative perceptions have to be overcome not only by direct countering but by putting forward a positive case for public cloud that provide solid business reasons for its use. This post aims to do just that, by outlining four use cases for public cloud platforms that any business should find attractive:
- Public cloud as an application test bed. Applications are often developed on dedicated servers, rightly isolated from run time environments. Whilst most functionality can be tested in such environments, scalability cannot. Testing new code in run time environment is risky as it may impact the current actual live application. Some might be able to do this at night, but many applications now have to operate 24*7. Public cloud platforms provide an ideal platform for such testing. Resources can be allocated to make the test environment match the live one as closely as possible and new software put through its paces.
- Public cloud as a failover platform. Whatever the cost comparisons one comes up with for public cloud versus private cloud, one thing is certainly true; maintaining an un-used infrastructure stack for business continuity reasons in case the usual run time platforms fails is expensive and unnecessary. The same resource can be rented from a public cloud provider on the (hopefully) rare occasion it is needed. Having a public cloud provider on standby is a far more cost-effective way of having redundant infrastructure when disaster occurs.
- Handling peak loads. Many organisations have times of the week, month, year or just some unpredictable event that leads to an application having a far higher workload than is normal. When this is the case, having the excess capacity required on standby internally is expensive. Far cheaper is to have an arrangement with a cloud service provider that allows new application workloads to be provisioned at will. The service providers can cope with this because they have many customers with peak loads at different times and the reallocation of resources is possible at relatively low cost.
- Planning for unexpected success (or failure). Kicking off a new venture – for example a new retail web site or new social media application – is an unpredictable business. What if it takes off far faster than expected? What if it flops? There are plenty of examples of both. So, how much do you invest in the supporting infrastructure upfront? The answer is very little if a public cloud platform is used. The risk of the new venture is far easier to justify if the capital investment is minimised and, if you hit the jackpot, the fees to the cloud service provider may seem like chicken feed compared to the new revenue being generated. Such a capability should encourage more innovation within the organisation – more ideas can be tried out as the risk and cost of failure is minimised.
These use cases all stand up in their own right. Public cloud does not have to be cheaper per se, just more flexible. However, perhaps the best argument of all for using public cloud, especially for smaller businesses, is that increasingly does not make sense to run IT systems in-house. Whether it is the direct use of infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) or platform-as-a-service (PaaS) or their indirect use via a subscription to software-as-a-service (SaaS) provider, the long term promise of public cloud platforms seems assured.