The Cloud Game Is For Grown-Ups

tantrumListening to a recent podcast on Software Engineering Radio featuring Adrian Cockroft speaking about the modern cloud-based platform, I was left bursting with thoughts. He covered a lot of topics which I hope to cover in the near future. However, one in particular hit me like a ton of bricks. He mentioned that he has seen many retailers and manufacturers of goods choosing to build their own private clouds rather than trust Amazon, someone they see as a rival, to provide their cloud infrastructure. To this, Adrian had many great points. I’d like to outline some of them as best that I can and add some of my own thoughts. (All of these are in my own words inspired by Adrian’s thoughts.) I’d highly recommend you ceck-out the podcast yourself. I’ll provide a link at the end.

Don’t Be A Child

By this I mean, by seeing Amazon’s online retail business as a competitor and not giving them your cloud-hosting business is analogous to a child saying they won’t let a friend help them with your math homework because they beat them at ball earlier. The only person you will be hurting is yourself.

Amazon has already figured-out all of the ins-and-outs of building, maintaining and scaling a cloud infrastructure. For you to do the same, without a really, really good reason (I acknowledge that there are cases that warrant private clouds. But, I find them to be few and far-between.) is a fool’s errand. Even with the most skilled, most experienced (read: highly paid) staff, you will have many months if not years of time lost getting your private cloud to the state of reliability, scalability and usability of Amazon’s.

Leverage Your Competitor’s Strength

By choosing Amazon to host your cloud infrastructure, you are starting two steps ahead. You don’t have to worry about building and maintaining this infrastructure. While, to do it properly, you will need to build or buy some additional automation and monitoring. But the vast bulk of the complications of building and maintaining a cloud infrastructure will be someone else’s problem. this will free you to focus on your core competencies. If it happens to be software, it allows your teams to focus on building new features, rapidly. And this, ultimately, is the greatest competitive advantage to the cloud.

By embracing Amazon’s strength as the best (I know, arguably) cloud platform provider, you are turning their strength against them. The fact that you are free to concentrate on making better products, whatever they may be, you are allowing your competitor to help you. Bringing back the childhood analogy it would be like letting your friend that is the superior basketball player teach you to be better at math. Then you take the time saved on your math homework to get better at basketball. (Ok, a stretch of an analogy but, I hope you follow me.)

In short, get your head straight

Seriously, if you want to compete in today’s ultra-fast-moving world you need to make smart decisions. You need to take every single advantage you can get. Allowing somebody else to take-off such a tremendous burden as providing your cloud infrastructure is a gift. You can’t let base such decisions on emotions. As Adrian Cockroft poited-out, Netflix still uses Amazon to host it’s entire streaming infrastructure despite the fact that Amazon is directly competing with them for the same business through it’s Prime video offerings. And beating them handily in the process.

I am however, not naive to the fact that there are still many good reasons to build a maintain a private cloud. Ultimately, there are some applications that likely wouldn’t benefit from a cloud infrastructure at all. But, you should think long and hard about your reasoning before deciding to build your own cloud. Think inwardly to make sure there are not personal feelings influencing your decision-making. As I mentioned, there are many reasons for building your own cloud (storing critically sensitive data, localization laws, etc.) but, feeding the competitor is not a good one.

Pertinent Links

Adrian Cockcroft on the Modern Cloud-based Platform

Adrian Cockroft’s Blog

Software Engineering Radio

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