How Datacenters are Like Big Wholesale Clubs

Datacenters (or at least the equipment they hold) at some point became the modern equivalent of one of those wholesale clubs where you can buy 50 rolls of paper towels. The draw of these stores has always about saving money through buying in bulk. Someone long ago discovered that perceived value factors heavily when consuming a product in a non-traditional way. But the wholesale club makes it personal, emotional. Who can’t appreciate the heart-stopping moment when you discover you’re all out of hand sanitizer right before the gaggle of 8-year olds arrive for the Cowboy Rodeo Theme party? Even I fall for those frozen éclairs and 50 individually wrapped packs of potato chips, but I noticed something about all the stuff I buy in bulk.

I don’t always use it.

Worse I may insist on using it and find my family doesn’t appreciate having rice three out of five meals, or having five kinds of sausage sticks for snacks. Something bought for a great deal but is never used isn’t a bargain. It’s a wasted expense.

The Cloud was supposed to change all of this. Oh, I’m not saying the Cloud will rid you of enough detergent to wash all of the clothes soiled during the last Burning Man Festival, but the Cloud was supposed to change how we consumed resources and in large part is succeeding.

Cloud computing is not just an interesting concept but it is changing the way we do business.

In the mid-2000s IT directors discovered they had a glut of equipment on their hands. Years of accumulation, as well as several premature demises of Moore’s Law, gave them row upon row of highly prized, yet massively underutilized servers. At first they rejoiced; at last they possessed enough computing power to serve their needs for the next foreseeable period.

Imagine the relaxing Director of IT, sitting at the pool at 3 PM in the afternoon, sipping drinks with umbrellas. He no longer works such long, back-breaking hours in the data center or hunched over his terminal keeping headcounts low., Now cycles were going to waste. No one was calling to complain about how slow their reports ran or how long it took for the site to respond.

But nature abhors a vacuum. Instead of catching up on the backlog of other duties, the Director opened an industry magazine and discovered his spare cycles were no longer the company savior. They were costing the company millions in lost dollars each year by remaining unused. In fact, the bean counters were starting to think of ways to cut this cost as well! Surely there must be a way recapture this resource.

Enter the new world of virtualization. We found we could use these spare cycles by splitting them into smaller “servers” and voila! Now instead of waste, these gleaming Valkyries were making money and the Director could reclassify them as a value instead of a cost. This massive system, which once seemed so underutilized, now supported new initiatives, reduced physical complexity, and saved the company money. When Finance needed a new reporting server the Director merely spun off a new VM and sent them the login information.

This went on until we discovered we no longer needed to own the Virtual Machine. Like an automobile lease, Infrastructure as a Service lets you buy only the resources you need thanks to the oversubscribing, or even purposeful provisioning, of virtualized resources.

Now we’re at the cusp of the last great turning away from the wholesale mentality of hosted services. Thanks to new concepts such as Platform as a Service and Software as a Service we no longer think of the license either; it comes with the account on the platform. In fact, at the start of our next project we no longer consider the cost of the hardware, the price of the software license, or even the staff to support it. Instead we spend our time considering the structure of the database, the flow of business processes, and the testing of our new application. The Cloud broke down the unwieldy, multi-pack box of chips so you could grab just one, which was all you needed anyway.

So, what do you think?  How is the Cloud helping you to save money and to develop new capabilities you didn’t have before?  We’d love to hear from you and you can submit your comments below.
Jeff Morgan Lead Product Marketing Manager AT&T About Jeff