The wrong architecture
The IT manager of a Perth building materials company that has been in business for more than four decades, who asked not to be named, told CRN that the company had tried hosting its ordering site externally in a bid for greater reliability, but brought it back in-house after constant VPN dropouts and disconnects.
"At the time the most pressing challenge was a reliable power source. The industrial area we’re located in had over-voltages and under-voltages. Sometimes one of the three phases would drop, and once or twice a year we’d lose power completely. Big storms were always dreaded. UPSs were in place but only lasted so long.
"Hosting the ordering site externally would leverage the provider’s power infrastructure, along with the usual associated benefits. However the strategy I devised at the time did not fully embrace the cloud as it was back in 2011. We more or less took a workload off an internal server and put it on an external one. To facilitate database communications we used commercial firewall and VPN software. In effect we tried to create a hybrid cloud, and when it worked it was great. The website was, and still is, highly dependent on the database.
"However the VPN connection kept dropping. The software would try reconnecting and succeeded most of the time, but other times it just couldn’t. As such, while the ordering system had a higher availability the reliability of the overall system had not improved, we’d simply swapped one problem for another".
The IT manager's takeaway was not to avoid the cloud, but rather that companies must take a holistic approach.
"Looking back at it, I think I was looking for a quick fix solution to the power problem. A long-term solution was developed when we reassessed the whole server infrastructure, and replaced everything with an IBM and VMware environment.
"Moving one workload into the cloud was a half measure, or less. Had we fully committed to the cloud concept, internal systems would have been re-architected to be interoperable with external ones. More workloads could have been moved. In all, it didn’t represent the maturity of cloud and hybrid solutions at the time, but rather the maturity of our understanding of them."
Warren Simondson, managing director of Brisbane-based reseller Ctrl-Alt-Del IT Consultancy, said he could think of plenty of examples where "clients have been very embarrassed by their move to the cloud, and often it has been a financial and logistical nightmare that has backfired on both the company and its bottom line".
In one particularly disastrous example (covered in greater depth here), the client nearly ground to a halt after moving its production environment into the public cloud. In many cases, Simondson blames reseller and vendor sales execs – "experts at spin [who] could easily cut and run after the sale, leaving the customer red faced, and looking for someone who could fix their situation, primarily with little to no budget after their cloud investment was exhausted".
Simondson cautions: "The cloud should never be designed for all-in investment. As any viable business owner knows, it is the merging of known working systems that operate together in synergy, giving a known element of success and reliability. Good IT professionals call this the hybrid cloud".
Do you have your own story of a company reversing out of cloud or redefining their public cloud strategy? Leave your comments below.