Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Cloud and I

A true story

Why my enthusiasm about the cloud?

I used to be such a doubter. I thought it was all just was just marketing hype. 

Then a few years ago the company I then worked for placed me as a consultant in the roll of technical team lead on a project developing a new website for a University. 

The team and I had a hard deadline of two months to deliver the new site, on a new CMS, with new content and a new look, on new hardware. 

The first thing I did was calculate the number of servers that the team and I would need for the project. 

I picked up the phone to the university's IT services department.
“Could I have 7 servers to go please?” 

The voice on the other side cackled: “You're new here, aren't you? Go to our website, download the application form, fill it in in triplicate, mail the copies to the acquisitions committee, who will then either approve or decline your request. If approved, the request goes out to tender, the successful bidder is selected and an order placed. Eventually you will get your servers.” 

“How long does this take” I asked, feeling faint. 

“The committee sits once a month, and they've just sat, so you'll have to wait a month, and then ordinarily it takes at least 4 weeks for the hardware if the purchase is approved. So for you, at least 8 weeks” 

I hung up and buried my head in my hands. We were totally screwed. There was no way that we could make our deadline! 

Then the Universities development lead said “I know a site that will host our source code and defect tracking system for a few dollars a month. Someone lend me a credit card”. 

Inspired by his example I thought “Amazon!” 

I phoned my companies hardware and network guru to talk it through. 

“Don't worry about Amazon - I've got a big server lying spare” he said. “I'll set up some virtual servers for your team on it. How many do you want?” 

30 minutes and $10 later we had all the hardware and software we needed and by the end of the day we were already committing code and accepting defect reports. 

In a blink of an eye the politics, processes and policies of the University had been totally upended. 

When physical servers eventually arrived their cost was in the order of about $20 000. And they arrived well before the end of the project, because we threatened to go live on our virtual servers, thus demonstrating that the IT services department wasn't really needed... 

That project showed me that despite my doubts, cloud computing is a game changer. Everybody in IT, no matter what their role needs to understand this.

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