On Public, Private and Horses for Courses…

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I recently wrote a post critiquing some shortsighted thinking around Cloud Computing and in particular the relative cost implications of a Cloud versus Self-Hosted approach. A recent series of events has reminded me of this issue and bought me back to the topic. Recently Zynga, during a regular earnings call, released the somewhat startling fact that in the space of a year it has moved from a situation of 80% of computing being based in the public Cloud, to one where 20% of the workload is public. Zynga has long articulated the fact that it follows a strong hybrid strategy with it’s so-called Z-Cloud setup where it has significant private cloud running within its own facilities and some workloads out in the public Cloud. But this strong move against the general private to public trend is something new.

This hybrid approach towards computing is something we discussed at length in a CloudU report that was aptly named “Creative Configurations” – speaking to the fact that Cloud is in no way black and white – rather it is a movement where organizations need to assess the most appropriate mix of technologies and approaches for their particular situation.

As I said in a Twitter exchange, at first glance, the Zynga move would seem to be counter intuitive – they’ve moved away from utilizing the public cloud for their infrastructure that delivered, despite a price margin for the benefit, an increased level of focus and agility that outsourcing brings. The economics are undoubtedly important, and organizations need to consider the potential capital drag that having their own infrastructure creates. As Netflix Cloud Architect Adrian Cockcroft said;

But it’s a fair argument to say that at Zynga scale, those rules get bent a little. It was revealed at the recent Cloud Connect conference that Zynga operations teams can provision 1000 servers in 24 hours. That’s from delivery of hardware in boxes, through to racking and stacking, to getting fully running and managed servers. That’s a speed that is competitive with public Cloud providers. It’s also a speed that renders some of the arguments around agility and focus that many of us use to justify the public cloud a little irrelevant.

It’s important to recognize that two of the biggest cloud case studies – Netflix and Zynga, are clear outliers who should be looked at absolutely as thought leaders, but more as aspirational players rather than role models to follow blindly.

The bottom line from all of this, and from a synthesis of both the Netflix and the Zynga case studies, is that there is no black and white in Cloud Computing, but that organizations need to look long and hard at the different workloads they have and to think about the best place for all of those workloads – taking into account the different factors – technical and not, internal and external – that drive their decision making process.

Cloud is no place for dogma, and those who articulate zealotry about one kind of approach to cloud do the community at large a disservice. There’s many ways to skin a cat, and Zynga shows us that there’s just as many ways to drive IT efficiency within organizations.