Risks of running in the cloud

I think we’re beginning to see cloud computing mature a little bit. There is a long ways to go, but I am detecting more sober thinking on a wider scale. The events of last week, where many people were affected by Amazon’s outages, are helping clues sink in a little bit.

There are a lot of risks that don’t go away when you use cloud platforms. There are a lot of new risks that you’ll encounter. And yes, some problems are outsourced. But clear-headed thinking on “what is cloud computing about and what is it good for?” is still largely nonexistent on a broad scale. The din of the hype machine has most IT folks’s heads ringing and they can’t think straight.

Is that an over-generalization? I don’t think so. Go look at Twitter and I think you’ll see a pretty good representation of the general state of people’s thought processes around cloud computing. You can look at the four-page special advertising spreads and pull-out sections in the Wall Street Journal for the source of the confusion. A recent pull-out section told me that cloud computing is going to revolutionize even the nursery – who wants a baby monitor when you could have a laptop sitting in your nursery with a webcam watching the babies? That was over the top, but not too far. Most of what’s written about “cloud computing” is both ridiculously hyped and completely off-topic; writers will slap “cloud” on anything tech-related to get eyeballs on it. And that’s causing a general muddiness of the waters.

But this week, I heard some people thinking about questions like “if I rely on an external services provider for something, and there is an emergency that affects a lot of their customers, will I have to wait in line to get help for my own systems?” That’s sober thinking. We need more of that. A monoculture of any type is a problem. If I were building something on a cloud platform, I’d ensure that it was diversified not just across availability zones, but across completely different providers.

This is one reason why we need standardized APIs for managing cloud resources, but that’s a digression.

I'm Baron Schwartz, the founder and CEO of VividCortex. I am the author of High Performance MySQL and lots of open-source software for performance analysis, monitoring, and system administration. I contribute to various database communities such as Oracle, PostgreSQL, Redis and MongoDB. More about me.