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Top 10 Reasons for NOT Using a Cloud

By John | September 11, 2008

Today I realized that I have been kind of stubborn about opening up to the idea of not using a cloud (go figure!). When I read articles that ask the question, “Should the enterprise use the cloud?”, I typically get annoyed and respond with “It’s not a binary question.” Enterprises will use clouds for certain applications and not for other applications. However, today I realized, due to my stubbornness, that I have never really focused on reasons for not using a cloud. This morning I did an interview with a freelance writer to discuss this very topic. As I was preparing for the call, I realized that there are some really good “Nays” out there. In our last two AWSome meetings we have had some great discussions about the cloud, and the other night a few good points were raised that I have added to my list. I decided to compile a list of 10 reasons for possibly not using the clouds that I found from a few different sources. Before you get your “Flame” shooters out let me be loud and clear. I am a huge proponent of cloud technology and I am also aware that not all the reasons in this list apply to all clouds. Also, this list is not a proclamation for not using the cloud it is just some food for thought.

  1. Regulatory Issues
    Security experts have told me that HIPAA and the clouds can not work. The jury is out on PCI and SOX.
  2. Legistrative Issues
    James Urquhart has an excellent post on legistrative issues concerning clouds. There are issues about laws and privacy. For example, the Stored Communications Act recently allowed the FBI to access data without a warrant or consent.
  3. Geopolitical
    Reuven Cohen, Co founder of Enomaly, has a great article about how foreign governments are creating laws to prevent storing of data in US based clouds due primarily to the Patriot act.
  4. Security Vulnerabilities
    Unknown vulnerabilities in a shared hypervisor. The other night this question came up at a cloud meeting and it was suggested that people have hacked the Xen hypervisor in the past. The question was also raised that “has Amazon’s hypervisor ever been hacked?” The answer was no one knew. Also during that specific discussion a local Atlanta security guru suggests that Amazon’s invulnerability might be suspect because they might run a customized version of Xen and the patch update process could be delayed due to a customized hypervisor.
  5. Application Architecture
    Some applications just don’t make sense in the cloud. Today the two most successful models in the cloud are the elastic LAMP stack model and the batch queuing model most used for digital trans coding. Most blog’s don’t need a cloud and can be designed in a shared hosting environment to be less costly and as elastic as needed. Some cloud vendors limit the amount of IP address that are required and the applications some times need to be re-designed to accommodate this.
  6. Hardware dependencies
    If an application uses specific hardware, chips or drivers, it might not be a good candidate for the clouds. Low level assembly based applications might have disruptions if the cloud provider upgrades or changes chip sets in the future.
  7. Control over your servers
    If your IT computing model demands complete control over everything that is running, then the cloud is not right for you. Some clouds do not even allow your root access. If your model needs detailed control over the amount of memory, CPU, hard drive specs, or the interfaces, then a cloud might not fit.
  8. Cost of the cloud
    A 24 by 7 operation on the cloud in most cases is going to cost around a $100 per month (millage varies). If you run an application that keeps a persistent sustainability this could equate to a very high cost on a cloud. In a recent CloudCafe podcast Brad Jefferson the CEO of Animoto suggested at some point he might actually flip the cloud. His point was that at some point they might achieve a level of consistent usage that it “might” make sense to bring their core servers in house and use the cloud for elasticity only. There is also this new concept emerging called Cloud Bursting where legacy business models might be able to burst resource usage for on demand only scenarios.
  9. If it Ain’t Broke Don’t Fix it
    My wife’s brother’s wife’s sister’s husband (I love saying that) is the co-founder of Blippr and we met at a recent family outing. He told me about his business and I quickly asked him why he wasn’t using a cloud. He said the application seems to work fine as-is and that they were in a ferocious development cycle for new feature requests. Revamping their infrastructure just wasn’t on their immediate road map.
  10. Because this post might make it on the Amazon Web Services “In the news” page
    NOT!

Topics: amazon, aws, cloud computing, ec2, other | 13 Comments »

13 Responses to “Top 10 Reasons for NOT Using a Cloud”

  1. Adam Jacob Says:
    September 11th, 2008 at 3:16 pm

    I’ll add a few more:

    11. Because you don’t want to deal with the edge cases (yet)

    Using EC2 as an example, there are lots of details in getting the platform “right” for your application. Where do you use EBS? Where do you use the ephemeral store? How often do you back up the ephemeral store? Is your 5th webserver “ec2-72-55-195-22.compute-1.amazonaws.com” or “web5prod.foo.com”? Do you care?

    The basic edge cases in traditional physical (and virtualized) infrastructure are well understood by a large swath of engineers and systems administrators. The edge cases of the cloud aren’t, and if you don’t want to invest the time in understanding them, you might be better off skipping it this round. (Or using a service that abstracts those edge cases away from you)

  2. Jason Meiers Says:
    September 11th, 2008 at 9:17 pm

    12. Because the mainframe solves these issues.

  3. James Urquhart Says:
    September 12th, 2008 at 1:44 am

    I’ve got one more:

    12. Network issues. The Internet is strained, and cloud computing depends on it…likely growing traffic tremendously (though not as much as on-demand media). DNS is under attack, vendors are looking to charge for decent network performance, and the network itself is far from unbreakable.

    Excellent work, John.

    James

  4. Jack Hughes Says:
    September 12th, 2008 at 3:34 am

    You are really nailing the whole cloud space John. Well done…great post.

  5. Mike Hughes Says:
    September 12th, 2008 at 12:59 pm

    Nice list – I’d add the Patriot Act to your legislation list. Under this act the US gov can ask any US company for access to data they hold\host and Hp is not even allowed to tell the data owner they have done this. So if your cloud is US based – it’s fair game. This has led to situations where customers have said to me ‘we’ll send you the logs for analysis, but they must be analysed by someone within Canada and at no time can these be passed to someone in the US or using a system hosted in the US’. You can imagine how complicated this makes life. Of course this affect traditional models as well, but with our new data centre strategy being based around 3 US locations – it’s causing increasing issues.

  6. Doug Neal Says:
    September 12th, 2008 at 2:29 pm

    I like the list. It is important to keep these issues in mind and to track how they evolve. This is NOT a static situation. It is easy to fall into the trap of making choices based on what used to be.

    There is also the issue of performance and SLA’s. What is important for the business is not a contract, but the performance. We need to be able to model the performance, not just use SLA’s as CYA’s.

    Easy switching may be the most important thing. Instead of having a single system with 5 nines reliability ( and the extra cost that would require ) we may need 9 fives with easy switching.

    Long run the compute market may evolve to being like the electricity market, where the decision as to where to execute is made in real time

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  12. Joshua Says:
    April 15th, 2009 at 12:16 pm

    I got an easy one. Why do we want to lose ownership?? What happens when 50% of our IT infrastructure is hosted by say Google? Isn’t that a bit too much power to give one company?? Cloud computing is worse at the personal level. Besides the idea I like having offline software (iWork, Office, etc.) why do I want ZERO control of my application ownership or data? Local computing power is awsome. Data storage is getting fatter and fatter as well as cheaper and cheaper. The internet shouldn’t take over our computers or turn our computers into thin clients. It is a tool, not the computer.

  13. Michelle Greer Says:
    November 5th, 2009 at 1:09 am

    I’d be curious to see this post revisited now that Obama is president. I know there are initiatives to implement the cloud at the federal level. I’ve also heard of moves to make the cloud HIPAA compliant. Not sure if that was just conceptual.

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