I have more than once tried to raise my voice against the overwhelming hype of cloud computing especially when sold to startups. I just found a non-tech article that seems a good excuse to write this post I had in my head for some time. I have read the following reasoning many times:
- You need to care about scaling from day one.
- There is an easy way to scale.
- This way is the cloud.
Each of them are wrong.
First, about scaling. As this Forbes article says startups die beause of premature scaling. By the time a startup finds its real business it will pivot enough times that a complete rewrite is necessary anyways.
Second, there is no easy way to scale. There are some best practices to apply but scaling is a matter of compromises which are unique to each site. For example, it takes a few minutes your ad to appear in Craigslist search after you submitted it. But then again, the site handles a real lot of searches and it does so absurdly fast.
Third, the cloud is not some magic way to scale. It only solves one particular problem really well (namely, deploying more hardware). Whether your application benefits from more hardware is a whole different problem -- and not a particularly easy one to solve. The cloud provider might also have some other services which are typically so-so (here's some SQS critique posted yesterday, just as an example). It also creates its own problems many times over, especially related to I/O: virtualized I/O is totally unpredictable at best and horribly slow other times.
And, it's not just Amazon even though they are the biggest so my examples were about them. Read this thread for experience with another service but also for this comment: "Dedicated is so much cheaper/more powerful than typical cloud machines that you can have a surplus of machines ready for your bidding and still pay less than the cloud +end up with way more processing power."
Note that if you have an extremely spikey workload then the cloud makes sense. This post is about how it does not for most websites. When you need 30000 cores for seven hours then it's a whole different story.
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