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Five ways cloud computing is like Las Vegas

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How can using and working with “the cloud” be like Las Vegas? You’re probably thinking I’ve lost my mind, but bear with me! At a recent conference, while I was looking out of my hotel room window, I began to see some similarities between Vegas and what is happening in business and IT as we all move to the cloud.

Las Vegas sign1. Things seem to appear out of the desert.

If you have been to Las Vegas over the last decade or so, you have seen large transformations in how the city runs. Now, I’ve had the “opportunity” to be in Vegas many times over the last few years, and there is always something new. For most people that “consume the services” of Vegas, these things just seem to appear.

This is also how those of us working with cloud providers feel. Gone are the days where extensive roadmaps are published for consumers. Instead, work usually happens behind the scenes to bring out the new and exciting capabilities that are offered by infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) or platform-as-a-service (PaaS) providers. Then, almost magically, these services just appear. Whether it’s a new infrastructure service (think load balancing as a service) or a platform service (such as a new supported runtime), like those of us who have visited Vegas know, it just seems to appear out of the desert.

(Related: How I used the cloud to understand the cloud)

2. What happens in the cloud stays in the cloud.

OK, I may be stretching the slogan a bit here, but my point is this: after people and organizations get comfortable with using the cloud and storing data in the cloud, it’s difficult to go back. Yes, there are security issues and things to consider, but the fact is these are short term issues and they are being addressed.

This is especially true for analytics, because it is the dynamic, scaling nature of the cloud that really opens up the ability to store structured and unstructured data in the cloud. Just look at the recent big data and NoSQL offerings that IBM has put out (IBM Platform Computing Cloud Service and Cloudant, an IBM company).

3. “It seems like chaos, but it’s managed.”

This was the one that really struck me as I looked out my window. When you look at Vegas, it appears to be just one big party (especially on weekends, I discovered—remember, what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas). However, what is really amazing is the coordination of flights, deliveries, taxis and more. Watching this from 26 stories up, one can really see the ecosystem at work. What you can’t see are the invisible communication channels at work that must be orchestrating all of this.

Now look at cloud and, especially, at hybrid cloud. There can be a lot of moving parts in the cloud ecosystem with different service providers doing their part to orchestrate the movement of workloads, service requests and data to different components in a hybrid cloud. And just like in the early days of Vegas, it’s not all there yet, but things are happening! We will see big changes appear from the desert soon that will truly enable a modular, managed, dynamic cloud ecosystem.

4. Risks: you get what you pay for.

Vegas is all about risks. But as you watch (and repeatedly watch) the activity on the gambling floor, you can see the systems in place for the casinos to manage their risk. There are cameras and locks and big dudes with sunglasses. The consumer in this case also needs to manage his or her risk. This is pretty similar to the cloud. The cloud providers are doing their part to manage their risks and to make sure they are covered. The consumers of cloud services must also do their part. If you don’t want to pay for a firewall, then the cloud provider isn’t going to make you have one, and they certainly aren’t going to give it to you for free. Just like if you were working in your own data center, you will still need to consider the fundamentals of running complex IT systems. There’s no real major revelation here. If you don’t want to invest in protective measures to reduce your risk, then, just like if you were going to a shady casino, you may want to watch your wallet (or business).

5. You pay more when you rent by the hour.

OK, so lesson learned: don’t tell your colleagues that you want to write about this kind of topic while you are in Vegas. Mine took it entirely the wrong way. What I’m trying to get at is this: look at the hotels and the rate you pay per day. Have you ever multiplied out what that little hotel room would cost you for a month? There is a lot of infrastructure here that has been put in place to support daily billing. I mean, it all has to be paid for somehow!

When working with clients, I often see that there is an attraction to the daily or hourly rates. As a consumer of cloud services, I do understand the attraction. But remember this is Vegas—metaphorically speaking—so make sure you do some calculations if you are looking to stay awhile. You may find that the monthly rates are actually better for your bottom line.

We all like the idea of the quick trip to Vegas: do some work—yeah right—and then leave. However, based on an analysis of the workloads that clients are looking to deploy to the cloud, your trip to the cloud will most likely be longer than your stay in Vegas.

So, as the old TV show line goes, “Be careful out there.”

Senior Cloud Solutioning Architect

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