The generic things that you can hear people talk about cloud computing benefits is its affordability and agility. Some people says cloud computing is less expensive than traditional IT practices, while some might argue that agility is what’s really great about cloud computing.
Both proclaim as if cloud computing really provides only one of the benefits, that it’s either cheaper or works faster.
Both sides of this cloud computing debate are missing the point, though. Cloud computing is special because it provides both lower costs and agility.
What does cloud agility mean? It’s tied to the rapid provisioning of computer resources. Cloud environments can usually provide new compute instances or storage in minutes, a far cry from the very common weeks (or months, in some organizations) the same provisioning process can take in typical on premise environment.
As one could imagine, the dramatic shortening of the provisioning timeframe enables work to commence much more quickly. No more submitting a request for computing resources and then a watching e-mail for a fulfillment response. As agility may be defined as “the power of moving quickly and easily” it’s easy to see how this rapid provisioning is referred to advancing agility.
Because cloud providers offer self-service and immediate provisioning, companies can now respond to business opportunities or threats far more quickly than the old, manually-provisioned practices of IT can support.
The key thing to understand about cloud computing is that it substitutes automation for manual effort. Instead of doling out work to a system administrator, who then manually completes the task and makes the resource available, cloud computing uses resource APIs and an orchestration engine to drive the same task.
What if you could get agility without an associated low cost? Actually, you could implement agility within the standard IT processes of today. It would just take a much larger IT staff so that people were always available to respond immediately to any service requests that might be submitted. You’d be able to respond quickly to any business opportunity or threat. You’d have agility, for sure—only IT would cost probably twice and perhaps four times as much as it does today, with people spending most of their time sitting around, with no work to do, waiting to respond to sudden opportunities or threats. It’s the very nature of today’s processes where manual administration, face-to-face interactions and etc. that could cause IT services to be so expensive. It’s impossible to imagine significantly cheaper IT without figuring out how to remove human touch.
Both agility and low cost are inherent characteristics of cloud computing and automation is the foundation for them both. There’s no way to achieve one without the other, because both require automation, and it’s their combination that makes cloud computing a disruptive revolution.
So to end the debate over “It’s agile; no, it’s cheaper”, Cloud is agile and it’s cheaper. It’s agile because it’s cheaper.