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Why Not to Use the Cloud: the Top 10 “Good” Reasons

By Mat Ellis on September 25, 2012

The Cloud is a major buzzword right now: Google has 244 million results for it. Apparently it can cure cancer and has more TV than you could ever watch in a lifetime. Did I mention it’s also free? I’m pretty sure I read somewhere it will get your car extra mileage and make you better looking too.

So you’d be forgiven for thinking that maybe the whole world was using it, right? Well, they aren’t. While many companies are using the Cloud in some capacity, not that many use nothing but the Cloud. (Cloudability is totally cloud based by the way: we own zero servers.) The reality is that most companies are still hosted mostly on equipment they own or lease.

So why is this, the Cloud being so awesome and everything?

Here are some of the better reasons we’ve heard about why not to use the Cloud.

1. You’re fine where you are: computers have been around for 50+ years, and there are some really smart people who have made things work just great. Many large companies have spent billions on their IT and it works just fine, thank-you.

2. The Cloud isn’t designed for your app: the Cloud is a good fit for distributed systems, but maybe what you need to do just doesn’t work well or isn’t cost effective on the Cloud. Want to do algorithmic trading on NASDAQ? Your sub-millisecond SLA will probably not be available on a public cloud near you soon.

3. Your app isn’t designed for the Cloud: your app could be made to work just fine on the Cloud but it wasn’t built that way, and it’s just not cost effective to rewrite it. Too bad— go find something else to do on the Cloud.

4. You don’t know enough about the technology yet: when you have a NetApp and Oracle RAC cluster available 10 feet away you build your app to take advantage of that. The Cloud has different strengths and weaknesses when compared to on-premise systems, and you will have problems if you don’t take this into account. Start with a smaller project and learn the ropes first in a lower risk environment.

5. The tools are immature: put another way, for bigger projects you’re probably going to have to improve the tools yourself, like Netflix did with Casandra. If you’re a hard core user of open source this won’t be a big deal, closed source users beware.

6. Multi-data center distributed data ain’t trivial: if you read the blurb it’s easy to stand up a multi-data center Riak or Cassandra ring, right? The reality is your code needs to be aware of what’s going on, and this stuff still isn’t fully baked. It’s going to be interesting or very stressful, depending on your point of view.

7. You’re concerned about vendor and/or tool lock-in: want to get off your cloud in a hurry? Ever tried to move terabytes of data in short timeframe, without pausing your business? It’s hard. So build in multi-vendor from the start if you can (it can be as simple as off-vendor backups at the beginning). And don’t forget about #6 above.

8. You’re regulated: thanks to services like FreedomOSS and GovCloud it is possible to run a HIPAA or FISMA compliant service on the Cloud. Your auditors might have a hard time adapting. Standards like this (and others) are evolving to take the Cloud into account, but if your business is heavily regulated, it might be best to let one of your competitors be the guinea pig.

9. “Cloud” is a dirty word round here: we feel this is a good reason to pause. People can get emotional about change. If your colleagues are strongly anti-cloud, it may be best to scale back or defer your project for a while. They will surely catch up, and you can get back to building interesting and useful systems in the meantime.

10. I will be a small fish in a big pool and have no leverage over my vendor: public clouds are, by definition, shared resources, and this slows down changes. Hit a service issue or structural limitation? You had better hope your vendor was already planning to deal with that or you could be in for a long wait.

Most of the issues above for why not to use the Cloud can be dealt with by taking an evolutionary approach to your cloud: start small, build up your skills and confidence, and demonstrate at each step that it adds value. But you know this already, being a great technologist, right? 🙂

Watch for my next post where I’ll be writing about the less compelling reasons we hear.

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