January 3, 2014 | Written by: Erik Anderson
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Note: We are currently posting the top 10 posts of 2013 today through Jan. 3. This was our No. 1 post for the year, and was originally published Feb. 1, 2013.
I love my wife, but sometimes she drives me crazy. She is an elementary school counselor with a Master’s degree, so you know that she is a good listener, is intelligent, and is also very patient. Yet somehow when it comes time for me to talk about my day or what I work on for a living, that patience and those listening skills suddenly diminish. So when I sat down to write a blog today, I thought to myself, “What could be a better topic than explaining something from work in a way she could more easily understand?”
Whenever I try to explain a new topic to someone, I like to use analogies. In this case, I chose rental cars. I’ll spend the rest of the post describing the four ways that rental cars are like cloud computing in a way that even my wife would be willing to read.
(Related: Cloud computing basics)
1) Rental cars are available when and where you need them.
When we fly somewhere to go on vacation, we usually rent a car. It is very easy to do, and in most areas in the United States, you need a car in order to get around. When we go skiing in Colorado, we rent a car. When we go to Michigan in the summer, we rent a different one. It doesn’t matter if the cars are provided by different rental car companies; they serve the same purpose and are designed to do the same thing. Very similar in cloud computing, we can access the computing resources we need when and where we need them.
2) When you rent a car, you pay only for the time you use it.
When we travel to these various cities, obviously it doesn’t make sense to buy a car in each one of them. We don’t need the car all the time, so we don’t want to own it all the time. When we have these temporary needs, we rent a car for the location and time that we need it, without being required to buy and maintain it permanently. In a typical cloud computing environment, it works the same way; companies pay only for what they actually use. Instead of saving the cost of buying and maintaining a car, they are saving the money required to buy large computers.
(Related: How does cloud computing work?)
3) Booking a rental car is easy to do by yourself.
Before we go on a trip, we never actually call and talk to a person at the rental car company to reserve a rental car. All of the rental car companies have websites designed for you to enter the type of car you need, where you want to pick it up, and for what time period you want to use the car. This same self-service method is used for cloud computing. Companies can log into websites to request the specific computer resources that they need.
4) The rental car company has a large number of vehicles that it can rent, and can buy more cars to rent if there are consistently many requests.
Car rental companies have many types of cars that they rent out, but effectively, the cars all serve the same purpose: they get you from point A to point B. However, there is a difference between a compact car and a luxury SUV. To account for this, rental car companies have the flexibility to offer various prices for various car sizes. They also have the ability to provide a higher class car than reserved. This allows them have a smaller total number of cars than what would be needed if they had to keep a specific number of each class of car. This practice is like grouping a large number of computers together to form a cloud. The computers might be different models or have different sizes of hardware, but when you group them all together into a resource pool, you ensure you have enough power to go around.
I’m definitely going to try this analogy on my wife; perhaps her reaction (or lack thereof) will be the topic of my next post. If you try this explanation on your spouse, I’d love to hear about it. Let me know @TalkToErik.
(Check out Part 2: How to explain cloud to your spouse)