Choose your Cloud on Capability, Not Cost!
For those following the cloud computing movement, a common question arises after some level of contemplation… “I’m paying for what?”.
This is a tough question to answer, because depending on what kind of cloud service your consuming, you could be paying for infrastructure, platform, or service. Say you get past this point, and understand what kind of cloud service your consuming, the next question that pops up is, “How do I select a provider?”.
This inevitably leads down the cost path, and for me, this is where the road gets slippery. Driving costs down on a seemingly commodity service is non-trivial, but not impossible either. Negotiating better prices on your supply services, or becoming more operationally efficient, are well understood techniques for lowering your bottom line, and these savings can be passed onto the customer. But the tricky part of cloud is, it’s just not about providing the fungible. For example, we’re not talking about a standardized service like power, or a true fungible like wool. Using the power analogy is flawed, mainly because power has a specific exit criteria, the output voltage. You either get your target voltage or not, so who cares whether the actual core provider uses hydro, nuclear, or coal? And, switching providers based on cost is easy, it’s not like you need to swap your toaster or microwave oven. And for wool, it’s the same. Wool (for all intents and purposes) is wool, so trading in a commodity market is easy, because the transformation of that commodity is also standardized. I can buy wool from multiple providers, put it through my production process, and still product a yield with little change to my production process.
Cloud is not the same. While you could argue that two IaaS providers of a Windows VM are commodity, in fact, they are not. They more than likely have different API’s, different mechanisms for billing you, different SLA’s, different baked in technology models (load balances, security appliances, etc), different levels of compliance (SAS70, etc), different physical locations (San Francisco, New York). All of these things prevent them from meeting the commodity bar, and by no means are they truly interchangeable or fungible.
So why is this important? Because selecting cloud providers purely on cost is a poor technique. What you should be selecting a cloud provider on is capability. Matching your requirements to a providers capabilities, and their capability roadmap, ensures you receive the service you need to meet your goals and objectives now and down the path, where cost is a factor, but not the deciding attribute.
This also points to the the course for many cloud providers, and that is to move away from the commodity market and move towards high-value, capability driven cloud service offerings.
So next time the conversation of clouds and costs come up, throw the capabilities card down, and see what happens?