Aloha! Welcome ladies and gentleman to the face off of the decade. The Battle of the Clouds. In this corner, the up and comer, the phenom that has changed the way IT works, wearing the light shorts - The Cloud! And in this corner, your reigning champ, born and bred of Mother Nature with unstoppable power, wearing the dark trunks - Storm Clouds!
You’ve either read about or lived through the massive storm that hit the Mid-Atlantic coast last week. And, by the way, if you are going through a loss, damage or worse, I do hope you can recover quickly and wish you the best. The weather took out power for millions including a Virginia ‘cloud’ datacenter which hosts a number of entertainment and social media sites. Many folks looking to get thru the candle-lit evenings were without their fix. While there has been confusion and growing pains over the years as to just what ‘cloud computing’ is, this instance highlights the fact that even The Cloud is still housed in a data center, with four walls, with power pulls, air conditioning, generators and many of the features we’ve become familiar with ever since the early days of the dot com boom (and bubble). They are physical structures, like our homes, that are susceptible to natural disasters among other things. Data centers have outages all the time but a single traditional data center outage might not get attention since it may only involve a couple companies – when a ‘cloud’ data center crashes, it could impact many companies and like last week, it grabbed headlines.
Business continuity and disaster recovery are one of the main concerns for organizations since they rely on their system’s information to run their operations. Many companies use multiple data centers for DR and most cloud providers offer multiple cloud ‘locations’ as a service to protect against the occasional failure. But it is still a data center and most IT professionals have come to accept that a data center will have an outage – it’s just a question of how long and what impact or risk is introduced. In addition, you need the technology in place to be able to swing users to other resources when a outage occurs. A good number of companies don’t have a disaster recovery plan however, especially when backing up their virtual infrastructure in multiple locations. This can be understandable for a smaller start ups if backing up data means doubling their infrastructure (storage) costs but can be double disastrous for a large multi-national corporation.
While most of the data center services have been restored and the various organizations are sifting through the ‘what went wrong’ documents, it is an important lesson in redundancy….or the risk of lack of. It might be an acceptable risk and a conscious decision since redundancy comes with a cost – dollars and complexity. A good read about this situation is Ben Coe’s My Friday Night With AWS.
The Cloud has been promoting (and proven to some extent) it’s resilience, DR capabilities and it’s ability to technologically recover quickly yet Storm Clouds have proven time and again, that it’s power is unmatched…especially when you need power to turn on a data center.