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SOA & Cloud Bootcamp: Who Ya Gonna Call? Cloudbusters!

Cloud success? It's in your hands

As the theme tune to the classic 1984 Ghostbusters movie goes, "If there's something strange, in your neighborhood, Who ya gonna call?", I am left wondering what we'll all be singing (shouting?) when something goes wrong in our cloud world. When you've got your whole business in the cloud and there is an outage, just what happens to your bottom line? What happens to your customers? What do you do?

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As the richness of our cloud-oriented world grows, this is becoming a serious consideration. We've come to rely, for example, on various web-based email systems such as Microsoft's Hotmail, Yahoo Mail and Google's Gmail. Each of these have had high-profile outages in the last year, and whenever that happens, you are completely powerless to do anything. You are merely a voice among millions caught in the same boat. What makes you think your voice will be heard above the others? It's becoming increasingly popular for us to let the likes of Google to control our main email domain, meaning that we never advertise the fact we are coming from an @gmail.com address. But when they go down, your whole ability to conduct business is strangled.

It gets worse. Only recently Google had a major software bug that caused some of the documents housed in Google Docs to be accessible to others. This very editorial is composed on the cloud via Google Docs. So if you recognize it, you know why! But Google has the only copy of it. I don't have a copy locally. What if it's lost? You are probably thinking that if Google does lose it, then it's my fault for not taking care of my own data. Well yes, part of me agrees with you, but another part of me is screaming Why should I?

That's the whole reason I am using a service like Google in the first place, so that I don't have to do the heavy lifting of actual thinking! After all, I don't keep a copy of my money when I deposit it in the bank. While I am referring to an end-user type of application, the exact same applies if a company had deployed its infrastructure to say Amazon EC2, GoGrid or say Google's App Engine.

The service-oriented world has had a degree of lock-in since day#0. If the power company has an outage, then we are literally powerless to move to a new provider; we have to ride it out and hope they restore the service as quickly as possible. But are we held to the same lock-in with this new cloud paradigm?

The short answer is yes, the long answer is no. It all depends on how lazy you want to be. Allow me to explain.

Living in the cloud world is not unlike life as a whole. When you are first born, everything is new to you and you wonder at all the beauty around you. You see all these new toys you want to play with and you wonder how you are going to have time to really play. This part of our learning usually lasts till our teenage years. Many of you, as you look into the world of clouds, are currently at this stage. So much choice, you're finding it hard to see the wood for the trees.

The next part of life is the hard bit. This is the bit where we have to get out and earn a living. We've got to actually provide for ourselves, get a roof over our heads, and all our lofty ideas we had when we were children (I want to be a space man) have to be scaled back as we hit reality. In the cloud world, this is when you have to make a decision on how you are going to put some of these services and toys to work to make your life easier. It gets serious now. Now you have to make it pay.

Yet we still have some lofty ideas left over from our childhood, namely the fact that we're the contradiction to it all, that we're going to live forever and never grow old. In the cloud world we call this denial. This is the most dangerous phase, where we assume that all the services we are utilizing will always be and we can safely bet-the-farm on it. After all, Google, Amazon, Microsoft, etc. - these are all big companies, of course they are never going to go away.

Then we reach our twilight years. We realize we didn't quite know it all, we weren't going to be millionaires, and even our bodies are failing us as things start to droop and go gray. We wish we could have done things slightly differently if we had only had the chance. In the cloud world, this is when we realize that the big names we had put so much trust and faith in originally let us down at some point or another, and because of that, we lost everything.

At the moment, the vast majority of cloud users are in their middle-age period of their lives, the baby boomers if you will. They aren't heeding the advice from the veterans, rocking on their chairs preaching about contingency or backup plans. But heed them you must.

When you've deployed your cloud solution, sit back and ask yourself the following question: What if...BOOM?

Have you planned for the worse case, and more important have you implemented the worse case scenario? In the old days, it was expensive to have redundant systems all over the place and it was easy to just wing it and hope all was going to be well. But in this service-oriented world there is no excuse for that attitude to persist. It costs very little money to have a backup sitting waiting in an alternative cloud for the "BOOM". It just takes planning and maturity to realize that you can survive the worse-case-scenario - and do it in style - if you choose your cloud toys wisely and architect accordingly.

Cloud success? It's in your hands.

More Stories By Alan Williamson

Alan Williamson is widely recognized as an early expert on Cloud Computing, he is Co-Founder of aw2.0 Ltd, a software company specializing in deploying software solutions within Cloud networks. Alan is a Sun Java Champion and creator of OpenBlueDragon (an open source Java CFML runtime engine). With many books, articles and speaking engagements under his belt, Alan likes to talk passionately about what can be done TODAY and not get caught up in the marketing hype of TOMORROW. Follow his blog, http://alan.blog-city.com/ or e-mail him at cloud(at)alanwilliamson.org.

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