Up in the Clouds – The Full Service vs Budget Airline Model

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I don’t know about you but I am not that enamoured with the budget airline concept of providing you transport from A to B but where B isn’t as a convenient stopping point as you might have thought and the journey is potentially more expensive than the internet price may have led you to believe.

I suppose the airline’s counter to that is its cheap and it does safely fly you to a destination, and we have probably all used these types of products when we just needed to get somewhere quickly and didn’t care about the hassle or service.

So we’ve bought the ticket and are now the captive audience for the “essential extras” which can be applied: “Did you have any checked in luggage today?” - “Would you like an allocated seat, a coffee, or perhaps the use of our on-board toilet? No problem that will be … let’s just call it the price of the ticket again, plus 10%.

What’s this got to do with cloud? The public cloud revolution marches on unabated and it’s here to stay. How cloud companies get to their revenue goal is highly dependent on the budget airline model where the ‘get in’ costs are not necessarily the overall cost of the service, and like the budget airlines, you are self-selecting the products you want to consume yourself from the menu -  so anything you purchase is down to you.

Of course the public cloud services provide premium versions like the airlines, where you start to get access to more technical assistance and larger usage limits on certain components, which when you add up the savings in deploying in to a public cloud can sometimes reveal the jump wasn’t that cost effective as first thought.

Another top reason for using a budget airline, is the ease of booking. It’s also a top reason cited for moving to a public pay as you go service with its flexibility and portability.

The ability to spin up a service on the public clouds has changed the way IT is seen, from IT developers who now have a limitless bucket of resource to play with, to the line of business managers and directors who see a quicker way of getting innovation through IT into their business.

In the 35 years of my IT career this revolution of how IT is consumed by the business has occurred at least three times. The first was when punch cards ruled the world and took too long to write and test programmes to support all the parts of the business, the distributed computer was born and the line of business took their budget and spent it themselves - sometimes without the help of traditional IT – sound familiar? As that concept became outmoded and the opportunity to have the computer on our desk tailored to our specific requirements arrived, hail the PC, the model evolved again.

But like all of the preceding revolutions, users should adopt these innovations with a clear vision of what the pros and cons are. One of the emerging concerns following the migration to a particular cloud service is vendor lock-in, where once the application is running in the cloud it becomes more and more difficult to move it away if you need to.

James Walker, president of the Cloud Ethernet Forum (CEF) told Cloudpro recently: “Because cloud is a relatively immature concept users can find themselves opting for a solution that fulfils a specific function no other services provider can - a common scenario cloud users find themselves in and which is really a form of voluntary lock-in with nobody to blame but yourself if you end up getting addicted to that feature and can’t move away.”

An example of service providers developing their own proprietary toolsets on their cloud platform is Amazon with their Aurora Database product, which is pitched against Microsoft’s MySQL. Nothing wrong with either and the Amazon product is wire compatible with MySQL using the InnoDB storage engine. But each new feature the provider introduces makes it that little bit harder to move away. Although I singled out an AWS product, Microsoft and Google are implementing many of the same features for the same reasons.

AstraZenica CIO David Smoley told Fortune recently: “Vendor lock-in is a concern, it aways is. Today’s leading-edge cloud companies are tomorrow’s dinosaurs.”

Another highly discussed topic is “Data Gravity”. Data gravity is a tech term that means that once data is inside a given repository, it is difficult and expensive to move it. Most Public cloud providers levy fees to download data away from the platform and these, like the cost for the coffee and sandwich on the budget airline, are hidden from your buy in price until you try to do it. Interestingly, the market is now waking up to the issues around lock in, and there are several articles that highlight the more common pitfalls.

One bright spot on the cloud horizon is the surge in the use of Containers and Docker as a way of splitting application workloads and sharing these out across multiple cloud providers. It is still in its infancy but could offer a gateway to better portability if you decided that the chosen cloud provider is not for you anymore. It’s an important step forward as Tom Krazit commenting on the Structure event in San Francisco recently said: “That means that hybrid cloud customers could use public cloud services only for specific applications or workloads that they know will be easy to transfer to another service provider, or for spikes in demand. And then if something changes and one’s public cloud vendor became annoying, you’d still have your own datacentres to rely upon.”

Whichever way you decide to fly, it’s a good plan to check out how easy it is to get to and from your destination not just the airport and if what the cheaper flight option costs does what you’re expecting without having to spend more for the service. Would you like recovery with that Sir?

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