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Cloud computing both more agile and less expensive

Bernard Golden | Jan. 27, 2012
In Silicon Valley, the saying "it's a dessert topping and a floor wax" is often used to puncture the pretensions of a product that promises that it can address every need; it's applied to products claiming oxymoronic qualities. For example, the saying would be applied to a product that claimed to perform network management and word processing--two different, mismatched, and disharmonious functionalities.

Returning to the agility vs. low cost "debate" in light of these facts, you can now see that the supposed oxymoronic conflict between these two characteristics does not exist. Both are true and will, in the future, simultaneously affect IT. Trying to emphasize one characteristic to the detriment of the other is a losing proposition. Smart CIOs will need to understand how to achieve both.

Rather than the arid faux dilemma dialogue of cost versus agility, a more appropriate response is to consider what an IT world where both are considered prerequisites for commonplace infrastructure. Here are some thoughts:

  • Agility at the front-end isn't enough. While agility is typically embraced by senior IT management trying to reduce developer dissatisfaction (and "shadow IT" use of public cloud computing), agility needs to be present throughout the entire application lifecycle. This means production environments, too. Failing to automate infrastructure throughout the lifecycle means that production environments will remain high cost (and error prone, to boot). The nature of applications is shifting to variable load, short-duration designs as application groups learn more about how to build and operation them (see #4 above for why this shift in design occurs). It's crucial to support agility in every part of the infrastructure.
  • Infrastructure itself must be automated. Being able to provision resources for an application is insufficient; the growth in demand, large-variation loads, and increase in application scale means that overall infrastructure demand will grow. IT Infrastructure and Operations must be able to handle the shared resource pool as deftly as applications handle the resources used at the application level. If this sounds like "DevOps," you're spot-on. Whether you like the term or not, the implications of cloud computing demand infrastructure agility.
  • Price and cost benchmarking will be part of the daily environment for IT organizations. Offering rapid resource provisioning with the belief that it obviates any requirement for cost competitiveness with external providers is delusional. Putting agility into place and failing to meet market pricing will elicit a "what have you done for me lately" attitude from business units and application groups. Switching costs for users are vastly lower in this world, and transparency of pricing implies that benchmarking will be a fundamental fact of life for IT.

Don't get trapped in the "either-or" discussion of agility versus cost. Don't even imagine that these two characteristics are really different. They are just two expressions of the same phenomenon, virtualization automation. One might say they are two sides of the same coin, except that intimates a "heads or tails" reality. Cloud computing is more like a "heads *and* tails" story.

Bernard Golden is CEO of consulting firm HyperStratus, which specializes in virtualization, cloud computing and related issues. He is also the author of "Virtualization for Dummies," the best-selling book on virtualization to date. Follow Bernard Golden on Twitter @bernardgolden. Follow everything from on Twitter @CIOonline


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