Amazon Web Services (AWS) is “The” power house in Cloud computing. However, Amazon has struggled to gain a foothold in the enterprise. This is the case even when the geekiest of the enterprise SMEs finds creative uses for the service itself. EMC’s Chad Sakac provides a use case where his team builds an AWS application to test their ScaleIO solution for a total cost of only $7.41! I can see a C-level executive making the statement, “If EMC can find a use for AWS surely we can migrate our enterprise data center to AWS.”
After all, Netflix runs almost all of its streaming service on AWS and Netflix accounts for 1/3 of all Internet traffic at peak. If AWS can handle Netflix, then it can obviously support running a couple of Exchange and File Servers? AWS even offers a VDI solution to keep the users close to the data just like your expensive in-house VDI solution. I can understand the temptation to look toward a provider like Amazon to migrate your data center services.
The key to Chad’s example and the Netflix use case – both were purpose built for the AWS consumption model. Netflix is the undisputed master of leveraging cloud to run an IT operation. Amazon has built several tools that they’ve since open sourced that allow other organizations to take advantage of AWS like services. Netflix’s generosity reveals two of the greatest challenges for migrating traditional operations to AWS. The first is management of the cloud itself.
Enterprise service management solutions are all built around managing onsite solutions. These systems include applications such as Exchange servers, Windows servers, and Oracle databases. Retrofitting these operations and platforms for AWS is no small task. Netflix has practically built custom tools for service management.
More importantly, the challenge is the cost model for Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) solutions such as AWS versus the use model of typical enterprise applications. EMC’s use case is a perfect example of a typical AWS workload. The EMC team had a specific task that was going to take a finite amount of time. EMC sized the AWS environment for 2 or 3 different tests and disposed of the workloads. Their experiment costs $8.00. Chad’s team leveraged super computer type resources for basically the cost of electricity to run a similar environment in a traditional operation. However, if you take a typical application such as Exchange that never shuts down then the costs are on the opposite side of the spectrum. Without getting into the math, you could pay for the server and operations of a traditional environment with just a few AWS workloads running a fraction of your enterprise applications.
Netflix is a prototypical Internet startup. Netflix built all of their operations and applications based on cloud architecture. Their apps scale the number of AWS workloads up and down as usage dictates. Netflix is able to limit their costs during non-peak streaming hours. During peak workloads, Netflix is able to scale as much as needed during the sprints of heavy usage. Enterprise applications do not behave in this fashion. In the traditional enterprise, when the application server becomes overwhelmed you buy a bigger application server. The applications don’t scale “horizontally.”
When looking at migrating to AWS it’s not a simple question of can your enterprise application run on AWS. But a question of how do you build new applications to take advantage of the cost and operating model of services like AWS. Alternatively, you could look at services such as VMware’s vCloud Hybrid Cloud Service (vCHS). vCHS consumption model is much closer to typical enterprise virtual machine environments. But it’s not a slam dunk. The cost of vCHS and the like can be just as expensive. So, when presented with the question, “Why not AWS?”, the answer is sure. The catch? An organization has to be ready for a complete transformation of their IT operations and services.
The enterprise view of AWS and Cloud computing in general is about the transformation of IT operations and services.