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Does The Cloud Mean A Loss Of Infrastructure Control?

The cloud’s convenience, speed, flexibility, scalability, programmability, and automation capabilities brought about a sea-change in the way organizations think about infrastructure deployment. Things changed because there are obvious and significant benefits to the public cloud when compared to collocation and other physical infrastructure modes. There are some cases where physical infrastructure is preferable — mostly for legacy applications — but for the most part, the cloud is where it’s at.

Related: Bimodal IT isn’t a Permanent Solution to Legacy Infrastructure Problems 

None of which is to claim that cloud platforms as they exist today are perfect: they aren’t, but there are some persistent myths about the capabilities and negative aspects of the cloud that I have a hard time understanding. Among the most pernicious is the idea that cloud adoption forces users to accept a lack of control.

If by control, they mean the ability to polish their server to a high shine and admire the way it sparkles under the data center’s fluorescent tubes, then sure, that’s a choice they don’t have if they deploy to the cloud. But most of the time, the cloud is a massive choice multiplier.

To be fair, those who complain about a lack of control in the cloud are often thinking about direct hardware access: specifically, who has it and who doesn’t. Cloud vendors can access the hardware and the data it contains. Cloud customers have no privileged access to the hardware at all.

That’s all true, but it’s important to think of negatives and positives in terms of capabilities. What capabilities are lost by not being able to access the underlying physical layer? What business processes and revenue generating capabilities are denied to those who cannot interact with physical servers? In terms of business benefit, nothing is lost.

What’s gained in exchange for a lack of physical access? All the control and capabilities that come with being able to deploy as many servers as you need, when you need them, paying only for what you use. It’s hard to underestimate the change in thinking that goes along with construing a server as an ephemeral unit of computational power and not as a lump of metal and plastic gobbling up power in a data center.

Related: The Benefits of a Geographically Diverse Federated Cloud

At least as important as the shift to ephemeral hardware is the ability to automate. Servers, storage, entire networks can be conjured from the ether and the whole process can be scripted. The cloud offers infrastructure deployment, management, and utilization that are intimately tied to business logic, allowing businesses to escape from the restrictions imposed by physical infrastructure.

I experienced corporate IT before and after the cloud came to prominence, and cloud platforms give me more control and better choices than I would have dreamed possible a decade ago.

Related: Scalability in the Cloud: a Gaming Example

Image: Flikr/Sebastian Wiertz 

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