Cloud computing's IT relief valve

More enterprises that move to cloud computing do so to augment rather than replace their existing IT

Most systems that deal with heat, water, and steam have a relief valve. This mechanism can release steam or liquid to deal with an overload in the system, typically to prevent pressure from getting too high. This relief is needed to keep the system from failing altogether.

In the world of IT, we have a similar need.

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From time to time, the compute and storage demands exceed the capacity of the system, and we either have to add capacity (at high cost) that will sit idle most of the time or refuse the applications requiring the resources. The latter is typically not an option. So how can we release the pressure on our infrastructure, keep costs under control, and satisfy all application processing demands as well?

At the Cloud Connect conference last week, Neal Sample, vice president of architecture at eBay, gave a great talk on how eBay uses cloud computing to augment its existing capacity. In essence, eBay uses a public cloud to provide on-demand compute and storage resources as needed, thereby handling spikes in processing without requiring eBay to maintain idle hardware and software.

This is the elastic nature of cloud computing: the ability to allocate and deallocate resources as needed. However, in the context of a hybrid cloud architecture, it becomes even more compelling because it lets IT leverage the hardware and software that's already paid for while avoiding the purchase of additional hardware and software. Instead, IT turns to the public cloud for on-demand capacity requirements.

This is a killer application for cloud computing: using a rented infrastructure to deal with spikes in processing requirements. Indeed, as Sample put it, the cost of the public clouds eBay uses could be four times what the company is now paying, and eBay still would save a great deal of money.

This augmentation approach is successful if the following are also true:

  • It is an augmentation strategy rather than a replacement strategy. Most enterprises will not toss away their existing hardware, software, and data centers to move to the cloud, as those dollars are already spent. Advising a "dump the data center for the cloud" strategy is a sure way to become a job seeker.
  • IT remains in control. It's all about retaining control of processing and data, while outsourcing to the clouds for occasional needs.
  • The costs are easily justified, considering both the benefits and the alternatives. In other words, if the cloud costs more than having idle capacity or if the prep time needed to access the on-demand cloud is too high, think again.

Do you have your relief valve installed?

This article, "Cloud computing's IT relief valve," originally appeared at Read more of David Linthicum's Cloud Computing blog and track the latest developments in cloud computing at For the latest business technology news, follow on Twitter.