Emil Sayegh

Oct 14, 2014

Cloud Analogies – Are They Necessary?

cloudAnalogiesThere are a number of analogies trying to explain how the cloud works. Sure, none of them are perfect, but they do help us understand a band of technologies that are largely metaphors themselves.

So to get a better understanding of cloud hosting’s benefits and functionality, let’s sum up some of the most popular analogies, and see what we can learn starting with perhaps the oldest: the power grid analogy.

The cloud is like a power grid

cloudAnalogies-01Say you have a building far out in the country and it needs electricity, so you buy some electric generators and you maintain them, provide fuel, check on them to make sure everything’s running smoothly, etc. Then one day, your building gets connected to the power grid. Glorious day! Your power has now been tied to the city. Now they provide the power and perform the maintenance, and all you do is pay for what you use.

In this analogy, owning and maintain your own generators is like having a dedicated bare metal server, while being connected to the city power grid is like the cloud. What we’ve learned about cloud from this analogy is that it takes the burden of maintenance off you, while saving you money.

The cloud is like a rental car

Another analogy for the cloud? Renting a car instead of buying a car. If you have a lot of people you need to move very quickly, it’s much, much easier to rent as many cars as you need than buy a new car for every few people. That’s an example of how easy it is to scale with cloud vs a dedicated bare metal server. If your plans change, you have the flexibility to change your rental plans any time.  That’s cloud flexibility.  And all throughout, you never pay for maintaining the cars. So what we’ve learned about cloud from this analogy is that cloud is flexible and scalable.

The cloud is like a thermostat

The classic home thermostat serves as another analogy. (Note: Not talking about fancy smart home stuff here.) You can think of the cloud like your IT department is given computing thermostats, and just as you control the temperature up or down in your home, the IT department can call up processing power, as needed.   This analogy highlights the idea of peak periods (ie: being very hot or cold outside), and how the cloud helps you quickly respond to them.

The cloud is like the cloud

cloudAnalogies-03Cloud analogies can go on and on like this. If you were to search for more, you’d find some really interesting examples. You might find one about how an office printer is like a cloud, how a bank is like a cloud, how the cloud is like Thanksgiving dinner, there’s even one about how pizza delivery is like the cloud.

But how about this for a concept: The cloud is like the cloud.  It doesn’t have to get complicated when you talk about its true value and benefits.

It’s about home sweet home, and where apps live

There comes a time when you need to discuss where things belong. Where they feel at home. That’s especially true in our world filled with apps and the data that comes with them. And much like a city has a variety of tenements that serve different purposes, different apps and requirements demand different hosting environments. Diving deeper into that analogy:

  • Houses – This is very much like dedicated hosting. Your major database systems, Big Data systems, ERP systems, custom software apps, back office apps, they all live happily in a dedicated purpose-built dwelling where they have the full uninterrupted capacity of the facilities.  There are no I/O contentions here, and a large degree of privacy.
  • Apartments – This is like the “private” cloud.  This is great because you don’t have a lawn to cut, pipes to repair or shingles to replace. You use your space and, if you need more, you can rent the apartment next door.  You can also move easily. With “private cloud”, you get the benefit of ease of mobility of your VM to different parts of the infrastructure, as well as cookie cutter scalability.
  • Hotel – This is most like the public cloud as we all know it.  Hotels are even more granular than apartments. You can quickly book rooms and conference rooms as you need.  There are lots of people living in a hotel, just as there are lots of services that run in the cloud.  This is a natural home for standard apps that have variable growth patterns, fluctuating demands and need a high-capacity system. Things like web applications, test/dev environments, SaaS, blogs, and wikis work well in this construct.

Those other analogies are missing the point; the focus should be on which type of hosting is best suited for your app.  It could be cloud, it could be dedicated or it could be both of them, connected with by an On-Demand Hybrid.

There is nothing conceptually complicated about the value of adding Cloud to your arsenal once you’ve considered all the licensing costs, power costs, backup costs, network costs, support, maintenance and everything else that you take on when you run your own systems. It’s just a question of how to use it, when to introduce it and which cloud product is best for you. Remember: The right app needs to live in the right home. And once you have that, On-Demand Hybrid makes it easy and seamless to connect, talk and “visit”.


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