back to article What is it with cloud computing? Engage VM, disengage brain?

The implosion of source-code hosting biz Code Spaces should have rung plenty of alarm bells. A company with a loyal following and a bright-looking future suddenly disappeared, never to be seen again. What's worse, for the past several years a significant chunk of the IT community has been warning about exactly the sorts of …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Some great points

    Clouds are full of water. Then it rains and the clouds are gone.

    Simples eh?

    Some people in my company think that everything including our desktops should be 'out in the Amazon Cloud'. The only upside is that is isn't Azure.

    Those of us 'doubting thomas's' have mandated that all our IP (eg Git Repositories) is backed up hourly to the few servers we will have left inside our corporate firewall. Then we were told that the network costs were going to be too high.

    My colleagues and I have been polisihing our CV's ever since.

    They are doomed I tell ye, doomed.

  2. Guus Leeuw

    Wow :-)

    Dear Sir,

    unreservedly I agree with you. On the whole, and in detail.

    Good job, and about time that somebody points this out clearly.

    TheRegister, please make it so that this same article appears every other day as a new article on your site, so that all your MEEELIONS of readers will see it... Make it so that your analytics *knows* who read it (all three pages) and that you, TheRegister, thusly can hassle those readers who haven't bothered *yet*.

    Thanks, Trevor,

    Regards from,



    1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

      Re: Wow :-)

      Barkeep, a pint for the lad!

  3. Erik4872

    It'll calm down eventually.

    AWS, Azure and the other cloud hosting services definitely have their place. If you're a startup looking for a way to instantly spin up 20,000 web servers serving monetized cat video streams[1], there's no way to economically do that even in a colocation scenario. Even if you're an established business and have something that can tolerate downtime and isn't mission critical intellectual property stuff, I can see a use case.

    The problem is when people doing the infrastructure architecture job in whatever size company begin treating the cloud as a hands-off completely maintenance free resource. I'm in end user computing and have dealt with a few different companies/customers moving their stuff from local desktops to Citrix and VDI. It's the same thing I always tell them -- the problems don't go away. They're shoveled up into the data center, and in the cloud case, into someone else's data center. You need to be prepared to invest the money into smart people who can keep the service from falling over. You may not have to fix as many PCs, but you'll have to deal with the potential for massive outages with hosted application upgrades. In Code Spaces' case, they didn't realize that they had a vulnerability from a security standpoint that would allow an attacker to destroy their entire VM infrastructure plus backups. In AWS' defense, they do warn people to never use the access keys that the attackers use for day-to-day sysadmin tasks.

    So many companies are being sold the cloud as a way to get rid of IT staff and synergies and onboarding of opex revenue streams. When you're a startup growing too fast to properly design an infrastructure, or an established company that jettisons all the smart IT people who know how things should work, this is what happens. The truth is that IT infrastructure is brittle, constantly changes, and requires a lot of brainpower to design correctly. Just because AWS or Azure gives you a console that lets you fire up any possible configuration, doesn't mean that you can't use it to design a complete mess.

    On-premises installs have the same problem, but can be a little safer since (a) it's under your direct control, and (b) you don't have to get in line with all the other customers when a failure at your provider occurs. Having someone local who knows your particular environment may be more expensive but you're always better off when a disaster happens.

    [1] Patent pending on the monetization of cat videos, sorry guys...

    1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

      Re: It'll calm down eventually.

      " If you're a startup looking for a way to instantly spin up 20,000 web servers serving monetized cat video streams[1], there's no way to economically do that even in a colocation scenario."

      I am afraid I must agree and disagree at the same time. If you need it right now, this instant, public cloud computing is the only way to go. Very few organizations do. What they need instead is both "soon" and "without having to worry about the infrastructure part of the equation."

      SimpliVity will give you all the infrastructure you need as part of a pre-configured out of box experience and the only lag is shipping from A to B. Receive, unpack, plug in, private cloud.

      This is the future of IT. Not installing System-Center-I-Hate-You-In-The-Face edition and configuring for a month. Not manually configuring 50,000 different nerd knobs. Unpack, plug in, go.

      SimpliVity is the first provider. Not the last. VMware's MARVIN will be the second. Dozens more will follow. Mark my words.

      1. dan1980

        Re: It'll calm down eventually.

        The more precise case might be needing to spin up 20,000 more web servers. Or, to be more realistic, perhaps a site with a dozen or so web servers that very quickly experiences a huge increase increase in traffic and needs to spin up another dozen or, maybe they have big promotions (e.g. Black Friday-style sales events) that are predictable but short-lived and require an order of magnitude more servers.

        None of which is in any way contrary to your article, just pointing out that even after revising "instantly" to "soon and without having to worry about the infrastructure part of the equation", there are still instances where on site hardware is not the best option. If your loads are widely variable - regardless of if they are predictable or not - then buying and maintaining enough infrastructure to handle peak loads results in a lot of waste during quieter periods.

        1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

          Re: It'll calm down eventually.

          Content Delivery Network.

          1. dan1980

            Re: It'll calm down eventually.

            Well, yes, a CDN would do nicely but you'd still need to spin up more DBs for the back end. (Admittedly, I didn't say anything about that!)

            1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

              Re: It'll calm down eventually.

              Okay. you have to spin up more DBs. You need a fraction the number of DBs as you do webservers, and you we figured out how to provide hardware that could run a highly demanding database in a virtualised environment ages ago. Any converged vendor can provide you something for that. Nutanix does a great job. Or any old big bunch of CPU power and fast storage you want.

              There's nothing magical about scaling, especially when the hard parts of the infrastructure can be purchased pre-canned. Nerding over infrastructure is oiling buggy whips.

      2. dan1980

        Re: It'll calm down eventually.

        Also, while I, too, believe System Center is some form of extreme punishment, SimpliVity is bloody expensive at $110K buy-in for the (mandatory from what I see) 2 units.

        Going from Dell (because it's quick and easy to spec via the site), you can get an identically-spec'ed machine for less than half the price - $20K. That means that whatever 'secret sauce' SimpliVity are adding is apparently worth $30K.

        Seeing as you can buy an EquaLogic SAN for ~$35K - make it $40K with switches and some spare drives, you could have a 2-node cluster for much less than $110K!! Especially as now you don't need the storage in the hosts. That drops the price down to $7500 (R620, 1U) per host with the same CPU, RAM and NIC specs. If you're keeping score, thats a 2-node cluster for $55K - the same price as a single CN3000 unit.

        Looking at, say, 4 CN3000 units, you are up for $220,000. For that, you could get 2 x PS4000 series SANs and 10 x R620 servers (2 x ES-2640, 128GB RAM) all loaded with Microsoft 2012 R2 Datacenter and you would still have $25 left over so all the sundry bits. That's enough to throw some SSDs and some AutoCache licenses on each host . . .

        Switch to, say, SuperMicro and who knows what you might be able to do with that pile of bills!

        What am I missing? Is the SimpliVity magic really worth such a huge premium?

        1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

          Re: It'll calm down eventually.

          Short answer? No.

          Long answer: SimpliVity is the first, not the last. Don't be so temporally limited!

          Look, when deduplication first came out, it cost $virgins. Now it's a tickbox feature. SimpliVity is $virgins today. 5 years from now, that sort of hyper convergence will be available from every vendor out there for a minor premium. 10 years from now, it'll be down to SMB pricing.

          This is the way our industry works.

          Also, do remember that SimpliVity isn't Nutanix. It's not just Hypervisor + server SAN + hardware. SimpliVity includes backup, DR, WAN acceleration and a bunch of other stuff too.

          So, when you look at the cost, you can't just add up the cost of the hardware. Throw in the cost of the software as well as the cost of configuring it, support for however long they're pledging it and so on and so forth. For some companies, it is worth it to go SimpliVity, even today...though for most, that isn't yet true.

          So...what's the value? For some companies - especially those doing greenfeild - they might be able to run infrastructure that might have taken 5 ops guys with just 1. Spend the salaries for the ops guys on dev, or security, or app integration.

          How much is that worth? 200% premium over the raw software+hardware? 100%? 50%? 25%? Everyone will answer differently. But the premium charged will shrink, and shrink dramatically over the next 5 years as competition heats up in this space.

          1. dan1980

            Re: It'll calm down eventually.

            But what (one market-speak is filtered out) does SimpliVity offer? Is it really that much more than what VMware provide with their vSAN product?

            That's $2500/CPU so bumps the Dell 720xd boxes up to $25K each - still less than half the price and so easily able to fit 3 x 720xd (min for vSAN) inside the cost of the 2 x CN3000 setup. That's 75% of the price with 150% of the RAM, compute power and raw storage.

            $virgins, indeed!

            EDIT - thanks for the answer, above. I didn't see that when replying.

            1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

              Re: It'll calm down eventually.

              But what (one market-speak is filtered out) does SimpliVity offer? Is it really that much more than what VMware provide with their vSAN product?

              SimpliVity is more than VSAN + hardware, honest! Backups, DR, WAN acceleration and cloud gateway are the big ones. I'd argue monitoring as well, if you've ever played around with their management software. They're adding more bits to the convergence stack even now.

              Is this more than VMware can deliver, if you went with all VMware products? NO. (Well, WAN acceleration is something I don't think VMware does.) So add in a bunch more SKUs to the stack than just "hypervisor + vSAN" to at least include vSphere Data Protection Advanced and VMware Disaster Recovery Manger. vCOPS should probably be in there to get closer to apples to apples...though vCOPS is more functional than the monitoring and analytics available in the SimpliVity management software.

              Again: is SimpliVity commanding a $virgins premium on top of that? Youbetcha. MARVIN will first. But the prices on these hyperconverged stacks are going to drop. And fast.

              Edit: replied with added info in this comment before I saw your edit. Cheers! Have a beer!

              1. dan1980

                Re: It'll calm down eventually.


                Make mine a Little Creatures Pilsner!

                (And thanks again for the info - at $30K it'd be quite interesting . . .)

    2. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Re: It'll calm down eventually.

      It will not. For a different reason.

      Try being a startup and showing the VCs a payroll with a 2+ qualified sysadmins (to ensure that a bus running over one does not cause interruption) and some local kit (so you have a viable DR and cloud-to-cloud transition strategy).

      You will have your arm twisted until you move the whole lot to the cloud, because the cloud is good and cloud is infallible. The "engage VM, disengage brain" happens at VC/financing level, not at engineering level. All of Trevor's arguments (which I agree with and practice myself) will be brushed aside and brain shall be disengaged.

      1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

        Re: It'll calm down eventually.

        Two flaws in that argument.

        1) VC-backed companies are an infinitesimal percentage of total companies.

        2) A lot of VCs aren't that stupid.

        It also depends where you are. Angel? A round? Cloud makes don't know how long that company is going to be around, and what matters more is the sprint towards the next round of funding. Big capital acquisitions are frowned upon. But B round forward, VCs seem to care less.

        So you're right; sometimes the decision comes down from the VCs, or management, or whomever. In those cases I weep for the people involved. But - in theory at least - eventually consultants and analysts and those who write for the magazines these types of people read will obtain clue, and the pendulum will swing back around again. I hope.

  4. Shadow Systems

    Very well said. *Applause*

    Don't put all your eggs in one basket. You won't have any eggs left when that fat arsed drunken prat plonks down in the seat beside you & turns the basket into a sombrero.

    We have RAID for a reason, we have multiple site DR plans for a reason, we use multiple drives from multiple vendors and multiple batches on multiple dates to make sure that no defect in one production run of a drive will hit all the drives in the RAID at the same time. We use Tape and HDD and BlueRay and even *Paper Tape* to make sure that we have multiple copies of critical data in as many different formats, in many different geographical locations, so if one format/location gets nuked, we've got others to try & recover from.

    Putting your entire business "in the cloud" is perfect... if you don't want it to be YOURS anymore after the shite hits the fan.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Trevor, what you are saying is what we have been saying to our clients for several years. It even got to the stage where we offer free off site backup for the simple reason it means we can get them up and running that much quicker when everything at their end goes poof because clod in the office thought they knew of a better way of doing things.

  6. Gert Leboski

    Spot on!

    Trevor, as always you talk a lot of sense that very few want to hear. Keep up the great work that you do in trying to open people's eyes so that they can see beyond the shiny-shiny.

  7. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

    Security, Security, Security. And Processes.

    I couldn't agree bless!

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    But statistics proves that now a very bad thing has happened to code spaces, it won't happen to anyone else for, like, ages, so let's all save money and be proud in the cloud!

    1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

      You can prove that public cloud computing provides savings for all use cases? Or even the majority of use cases? Please. Share. I have a number of clients for whom I've run the numbers and have found the public cloud to be as high as 50x the cost of on premises IT. I would love to see exactly how it is that my calculations are so very decidedly wrong.

      1. dan1980

        I think he was being sarcastic. Which is to say I hope he was being sarcastic . . .

  9. Cloud, what..... Sorry... Um... - you just made that up.

    Bloody good stuff

    I'm starting to think, that the IT industry is getting very good at selling snake oil.

    Good for you for spelling it out TP.

    Obviously VMware, Microsoft and Citrix may never speak to you again.

  10. Long John Brass

    Cheap, Fast, Reliable

    Pick any two.

    I was taught this many years ago, by a very smart & very grizzled SysAdmin/Mentor.

    He was also the guy who pointed out that you can hire any cheap monkey to baby-sit multi million dollar systems; But when it hits the fan you really do need someone who knows his/her shit.

    I've been in meetings with bosses & vendors, and calling the vendors out when they start to spin bullshit. "Yes we can move your entire estate in 6 weeks". <expletive deleted>. I was asked by my manglement no to turn up to any further meetings as I was too negative.

    I get why companies want cloud/outsource/snakeoil vendors to white knight in and save them from IT. Tech is hard and most don't want to be tech companies, they want to focus on "core business"; problem is when IT goes away so does their core business. How many clerks, typists etc would it take to run even small businesses today?

    Grumble, mutter, get off my damned lawn

  11. Captain DaFt

    I may have had an epiphany*

    But for the longest time, something about 'The Cloud' just seemed so... familiar.

    Then it hit me: 'The Cloud' is just the old AOL paradigm tuned for business.

    A walled garden for all your business needs, no need to go anywhere else, no ability to go anywhere else, because it's all seamlessly tied to one provider that damned well doesn't want to play nice with anyone else.

    *Or it could just be a paranoia induced stroke.

  12. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    Trevor, could we have that in PDF ?

    I am documenting this cloud business as it goes, with all the failures and stark, dank reality, not the hype.

    I will be referring quite a few people to your article, for which I would like to thank you.

    But you know management types, if it's not in a PDF, it's not serious.

    So, could you bang that into a PDF that we can download, with references and copyright and all ? Because then I can mail that package to a list of numpties who will not be able to say that they haven't been warned.

    Thanks in advance,


    1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

      Re: Trevor, could we have that in PDF ?

      White paper. That's the magic words.

      Please, Trevor?

      1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

        Re: Trevor, could we have that in PDF ?

        The readers' wish is my consideration. But this is an easy one. I'll get my team to make you a whitepaper, sirs.

    2. dajames

      Re: Trevor, could we have that in PDF ?

      But you know management types, if it's not in a PDF, it's not serious.

      My! Management have come on a long way ... time was that it took a PowerPoint presentation to convince them that something was serious.

    3. Tonsils

      Re: Trevor, could we have that in PDF ?

      A brilliant article which I have been also saying since the earliest clouds. One point missed out though that I always like to add - access to the cloud is based entirely on the most unreliable part of any IT infrastructure - The Internet. If you happen to be based in a major city and have oodles of Telcos to choose from then not so bad - but rural comms often all goes back through the same wires to the same exchange, and 3G doesn't exist yet so what hope ever of 4G. Office 365 may well be up, but if you have no way to get to it then it is down!

    4. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

      Re: Trevor, could we have that in PDF ?

      I apologise for the delay guys, but here is the PDF.

  13. al 3

    Hellayf*%inloooyahhhhhhh !

    What do you mean the emperor has no clothes on ??

  14. Jim 59


    Add Owncloud to that list at the end of the article.

  15. Canecutter

    Thank You

    Words to live by, Trevor. Thank you.

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