Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Trade-Offs In The Cloud

Did you ever have to make up your mind?
Pick up on one and leave the other one behind
             From The Lovin' Spoonful's "Did You Ever Have To Make Up Your Mind?"

Life is all about trade-offs.  Sometimes good, sometimes bad...but you're always giving up something to get something else.  The economists call it "Opportunity Cost".  Simple-minded guy that I am, I call it trade-offs.

So Oracle OpenWorld 2013 is on the immediate horizon.  If all the early rumors are correct, we'll hear a ton of messages about the public cloud, engineered systems, and the "internet of things".  I also suspect we'll hear a special emphasis on PaaS (Platform as as Service).

The combination of messages makes sense to me, as it all combines to drive hardware sales.  And Oracle definitely wants to drive hardware sales at the moment.  But, in my mind, I'm hoping we'll hear Oracle address the trade-offs involved in the public cloud.

Trade-offs?  Yup, there are trade-offs involved in working with a public cloud.  Let's talk about that for a moment.

On The Upside


The public cloud has a much lower cost of entry than an on-premise installation of enterprise software.  The hardware cost is amortized over multiple customers, licensing costs can be eliminated through buying SaaS (Software as a Service), and most of the maintenance is handled by the vendor hosting your instance.  All this combines to lower the price-point of entry and provide overall lower short-terms costs…very good news.  This is especially good news for small and medium-sized organizations, who now find high-quality enterprise software well within their reach.

On The Downside


As usual in life, there is some bad news to accompany the good news.  The public cloud is no different.  Three particular points come to mind:

- As Google has recently implied, those who put their data on the public Internet (and, yes, a public cloud is a part of the Internet) have waived any expectation of privacy.  Google is right.  We read about it in the news every day.  Like it or not, security in the public cloud is currently a big issue.

- Integrating data between on-premise and cloud, or between different cloud instances, is a real stinker due to performance.  Cloud-based integration is typical done via either SOAP-based Web Services or REST services.  Neither were meant to move big chunks of data or heavy volumes of small chunks of data.  When you attempt to do so, performance suffers…and I mean, really suffers.  So things like real-time reporting tends to become a huge issue.

-  Support turnaround times can drop like a stone.  Copying an instance or fixing an issue can take a week or more.  Vendors are still working to streamline and speed up their processes in this area.  It will get better as the market matures, but for now turnaround can be very slow.

The Real Tradeoff


The real trade-off with the public cloud comes down to cost versus security and speed.  Lower cost of entry and lower short-term cost of use versus lower levels of security (compared to data stored behind a corporate firewall) and longer turnaround times (for both information and service).

Yes, I'd like to hear Oracle address these trade-offs during OOW 13.  There are some really bright people behind the public cloud strategy and I'd like to hear their viewpoints on this…no dig intended here, I'm just hoping to get more info to analyze the trade-offs.

Still, in the end, it's up to each of us to evaluate the technology and make the best determination for each of our unique situations.  I'm just hoping we'll get the info needed to make well-informed evaluations.

Got an opinion?  The comments await!


Alex Antonatos said...

Good article Floyd! Another tradeoff concern was portability and vendor lock-in. A previous client of mine had written an application on one of the existing cloud platform providers and he wanted to move the application to another cloud platform or back internally to an enterprise server and it was going to be a pain. There were just too many differences between the cloud platform providers, so the analysis showed many rewrites of code and reworking of data was required on their to-do list.

Jose Antonio Rodriguez Garcia said...

Really great post, great resume,

To me, I am concerned legally. Where is the cloud physically America, Europe, Asia?

The legislation changes the next few years, potential bans have data in certain countries. Not all countries have the same legal stability.

fteter said...

@Alex: another great point!

@Jose: valid concern. If I were a customer in, say Canada, why would I want to subject my data to scrutiny under the US Patriot Act by having my data hosted on a server physically located in the US?