Will cloud put traditional hosters out of business?

Elasticity isn't everything


It sometimes seems as if the whole world has gone cloud crazy - well at least most of the vendors, pundits and many in the media. If we listen to the evangelists, the days of the enterprise data centre are numbered and players like Google, Amazon and Microsoft will inherit the earth. Even David Cameron, the illustrious leader of the opposition to the UK government, has been talking about handing over the country's health records for storage and management to one of these big American multinationals.

In the midst of all this noise and hype, many have lost sight of the fact that getting a third party to run some of your infrastructure for you has been around for at least three decades. Indeed, those who have been taking advantage of hosted services - or on the other side of the fence, delivering them - must be wondering what all the fuss is about. Just what, exactly, is this cloud thing bringing to the party that is supposed to change the way everything works?

Stacking up

To deal with this question, we need to be very clear what we mean by cloud services. There are all kinds of definitions kicking about, but most of it boils down to three types of offering. If we start at the top, we have software as a service (SaaS), which is essentially based on the concept of renting application functionality from a service provider rather than buying, installing and running software yourself. Offerings within this range from services such as Salesforce.com at one end, delivering the equivalent of a complete application suite, to players like MessageLabs at the other, whose services are designed to complement your operational infrastructure.

If we drop down a level in the systems stack, we then have platform as a service (PaaS), which is all about providing, a platform in the cloud, upon which applications can be developed and executed. Players like Google, again Salesforce.com (this time with Force.com), and Microsoft (with Azure) exist in this space. Facilities provided include things like database management, security, workflow management, application serving, and so on.

Once you have developed your application, it then takes advantage of the scalability and on-demand economics associated with the cloud computing model at execution time, which is great for highly dynamic externally facing applications, for example. The snag is, at least for today, that these environments are very proprietary, offering little in the way of portability should you want to move your application elsewhere.

We then get to the bottom of the stack, and it is here that we find the concept of infrastructure as a service (IaaS). The proposition here is the offering of compute power and storage space on demand.

The difference between this and the other two categories of cloud is that the software that executes is essentially yours. In practical terms, the model is based on the same principles of virtualisation that we are all familiar with in the context of server partitioning or flexible storage. Rather than running a virtual image on a partition existing on a physical server in your data centre, you spin it up on a virtual machine that you have created in the cloud. Virtual disks can be created in a similar manner, to deal with the storage side of things.

“Hold on”, you might say, “but haven't we been doing this with traditional hosting companies and ISPs for a long time?” In terms of the basic principle of renting virtual servers from a provider to run some of your stuff on, then the answer is obviously “yes”. The difference is that hitherto, we have generally been required to commit to that rental for a reasonable period of time and pay for the resources allocated whether we use them or not.

In the cloud model, we can grab a virtual server for as little as a few hours then drop it again, and only pay for the time and/or resources that we have used. And if the load on the application fluctuates, the horsepower available to it can be adjusted accordingly. Rapid and automatic provisioning and deprovisioning, coupled with clever billing systems, are the key to this on the service provider side.

Elasticity at a stretch

With such an attractive model emerging, it begs the question of whether existing hosting companies and ISPs will be threatened by the new breed of cloud services offered by the likes of Amazon. To address this question, we have to remember, however, that the kind of flexibility we have been talking about, or ‘elasticity’, as the cloud folk like to call it, is likely to come at a price. Indeed, as some of the traditional hosters have started to extend their service portfolios to include cloud type offerings, this difference becomes very apparent in their price lists (if you do the calculations).

Conveniently, cloud computing advocates are constantly comparing the cost of IaaS with the cost of running on-premise equipment. But they typically ignore the comparison between the elastic cloud model and the traditional static hosting approach. And when we consider that the majority of computing workloads running in the average data centre or even on existing hosted infrastructure are not that dynamic, this is quite an important difference to consider. After all, why would you pay a premium for elasticity and you don't really need it.

Looking forward, it is clear that the on-demand IaaS model will find its place for executing applications that are genuinely very dynamic in nature, or for grabbing resources to deal with transient needs such as development, testing, one-off number crunching jobs, and so on. And many of the traditional hosters have already realised this and are moving in that direction. There will, however, continue to be a demand for the kinds of hosting we have always been familiar with. Whether it's commodity server space, or more bespoke hosting arrangements, cloud is not going to kill the traditional approaches or providers.

In fact, as customers are likely to need a blend of static and dynamic hosting arrangements in most situations, providers who can offer a range of options within a single service portfolio - and for strategic hosting arrangements back that up with good quality support and account management - will continue to do well.

Amazon will not, at the end of the day, rule the world.

Broader topics


Other stories you might like

  • Your snoozing iOS 15 iPhone may actually be sleeping with one antenna open
    No, you're not really gonna be hacked. But you may be surprised

    Some research into the potentially exploitable low-power state of iPhones has sparked headlines this week.

    While pretty much no one is going to utilize the study's findings to attack Apple users in any meaningful way, and only the most high-profile targets may find themselves troubled by all this, it at least provides some insight into what exactly your iOS handheld is up to when it's seemingly off or asleep. Or none of this is news to you. We'll see.

    According to the research, an Apple iPhone that goes asleep into low-power mode or is turned off isn't necessarily protected against surveillance. That's because some parts of it are still operating at low power.

    Continue reading
  • China will produce one in five of the chips it uses in 2026, says analyst
    Well short of planned 70 percent domestic capacity

    China’s integrated circuit (IC) production has failed to keep pace with its appetite for silicon, with market research firm IC Insights predcicting the nation will produce only one in five ICs it uses in 2026.

    That figure is a increase from 2021's one in six, and reflects eight percent compound annual growth rate from 2021 to 2026. But it means China will miss its own targets for locally-made-and-consumed silicon.

    “Although China has been the largest consuming country for ICs since 2005, it does not necessarily mean that large increases in IC production within China would immediately follow, or ever follow” said the firm in a bulletin on Wednesday.

    Continue reading
  • Tencent happily parting ways with loss-making cloud customers
    Cutting costs across sprawling business as COVID makes life hard in China

    Chinese tech giant Tencent has recorded its first ever quarter-to-quarter revenue fall, warned that COVID-19 lockdowns will hurt messing with its business, and cautioned against assumptions that Beijing is ready to enthusiastically support tech companies.

    On its Q1 2022 earnings call yesterday, the company offered more explanation of its shifting cloud strategy.

    Chief strategy officer James Mitchell told investors the company is pleased to have shown loss-making cloud customers the door, and “proactively scaled back … deeply discounted infrastructure-only contracts for basic services such as cloud compute and content delivery network.” Projects that had high costs and/or relied on sub-contractors have also been scaled back.

    Continue reading
  • Will this be one of the world's first RISC-V laptops?
    A sneak peek at a notebook that could be revealed this year

    Pic As Apple and Qualcomm push for more Arm adoption in the notebook space, we have come across a photo of what could become one of the world's first laptops to use the open-source RISC-V instruction set architecture.

    In an interview with The Register, Calista Redmond, CEO of RISC-V International, signaled we will see a RISC-V laptop revealed sometime this year as the ISA's governing body works to garner more financial and development support from large companies.

    It turns out Philipp Tomsich, chair of RISC-V International's software committee, dangled a photo of what could likely be the laptop in question earlier this month in front of RISC-V Week attendees in Paris.

    Continue reading
  • Did ID.me hoodwink Americans with IRS facial-recognition tech, senators ask
    Biz tells us: Won't someone please think of the ... fraud we've stopped

    Democrat senators want the FTC to investigate "evidence of deceptive statements" made by ID.me regarding the facial-recognition technology it controversially built for Uncle Sam.

    ID.me made headlines this year when the IRS said US taxpayers would have to enroll in the startup's facial-recognition system to access their tax records in the future. After a public backlash, the IRS reconsidered its plans, and said taxpayers could choose non-biometric methods to verify their identity with the agency online.

    Just before the IRS controversy, ID.me said it uses one-to-one face comparisons. "Our one-to-one face match is comparable to taking a selfie to unlock a smartphone. ID.me does not use one-to-many facial recognition, which is more complex and problematic. Further, privacy is core to our mission and we do not sell the personal information of our users," it said in January.

    Continue reading
  • Meet Wizard Spider, the multimillion-dollar gang behind Conti, Ryuk malware
    Russia-linked crime-as-a-service crew is rich, professional – and investing in R&D

    Analysis Wizard Spider, the Russia-linked crew behind high-profile malware Conti, Ryuk and Trickbot, has grown over the past five years into a multimillion-dollar organization that has built a corporate-like operating model, a year-long study has found.

    In a technical report this week, the folks at Prodaft, which has been tracking the cybercrime gang since 2021, outlined its own findings on Wizard Spider, supplemented by info that leaked about the Conti operation in February after the crooks publicly sided with Russia during the illegal invasion of Ukraine.

    What Prodaft found was a gang sitting on assets worth hundreds of millions of dollars funneled from multiple sophisticated malware variants. Wizard Spider, we're told, runs as a business with a complex network of subgroups and teams that target specific types of software, and has associations with other well-known miscreants, including those behind REvil and Qbot (also known as Qakbot or Pinkslipbot).

    Continue reading
  • Supreme Court urged to halt 'unconstitutional' Texas content-no-moderation law
    Everyone's entitled to a viewpoint but what's your viewpoint on what exactly is and isn't a viewpoint?

    A coalition of advocacy groups on Tuesday asked the US Supreme Court to block Texas' social media law HB 20 after the US Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals last week lifted a preliminary injunction that had kept it from taking effect.

    The Lone Star State law, which forbids large social media platforms from moderating content that's "lawful-but-awful," as advocacy group the Center for Democracy and Technology puts it, was approved last September by Governor Greg Abbott (R). It was immediately challenged in court and the judge hearing the case imposed a preliminary injunction, preventing the legislation from being enforced, on the basis that the trade groups opposing it – NetChoice and CCIA – were likely to prevail.

    But that injunction was lifted on appeal. That case continues to be litigated, but thanks to the Fifth Circuit, HB 20 can be enforced even as its constitutionality remains in dispute, hence the coalition's application [PDF] this month to the Supreme Court.

    Continue reading
  • How these crooks backdoor online shops and siphon victims' credit card info
    FBI and co blow lid off latest PHP tampering scam

    The FBI and its friends have warned businesses of crooks scraping people's credit-card details from tampered payment pages on compromised websites.

    It's an age-old problem: someone breaks into your online store and alters the code so that as your customers enter their info, copies of their data is siphoned to fraudsters to exploit. The Feds this week have detailed one such effort that reared its head lately.

    As early as September 2020, we're told, miscreants compromised at least one American company's vulnerable website from three IP addresses: 80[.]249.207.19, 80[.]82.64.211 and 80[.]249.206.197. The intruders modified the web script TempOrders.php in an attempt to inject malicious code into the checkout.php page.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022