's vaunted new cloud 'elasticity' is so 1999

Elasticity -- old-fashioned load balancing -- is nothing new for IT, even if cloud providers are now discovering it

Cloud providers love to talk about how elastic the cloud is. But what does that really mean?

In truth, less than you might think. Elasticity is really about load balancing, or moving processes among servers to support a changing processing load -- also known as scaling. Some piece of software acts as the director, distributing processing to best use the power on hand. In the case of cloud computing providers, this could be within the server farm located in the same datacenter or perhaps between many datacenters that are geographically distributed.

The premiere provider of elastic cloud computing service is Amazon EC2. However, most cloud computing providers offer similar auto-distribution and scaling mechanisms. The idea is to provide their customers with on-demand and automatic scaling, thus allowing them to spend more money as needed, scaling the application processing load up or down in line with demand.

[ Get the no-nonsense explanations and advice you need to take real advantage of cloud computing in the InfoWorld editors' 21-page Cloud Computing Deep Dive PDF special report, featuring an exclusive excerpt from David Linthicum's new book on cloud architecture. | Stay up on the cloud with InfoWorld's Cloud Computing Report newsletter. ]

If this sounds like something that's not at all new, you're right. As F5 Networks' Lori MacVittie rightly points out:

The notion of elastic load balancing, as recently brought to public attention by Amazon's offering of the capability, is nothing new. The basic concept is pure infrastructure 2.0, and the functionality offered via the API has been available on several application delivery controllers for many years. In fact, looking through the options for Amazon's offering leaves me feeling a bit, oh, 1999. As if load balancing hasn't evolved far beyond the very limited subset of capabilities exposed by Amazon's API.

Thus, I often smile a bit when I hear someone talk about the "revolutionary elastic capabilities" of cloud computing. It's cool. It provides huge value. But it is not at all new. Sorry guys.

As I've stated a few times here, cloud computing is not about providing new approaches to technology -- it's about consuming traditional technology in slightly different and more efficient ways. What has changed is that scaling through load balancing on a cloud platform is somebody else's problem, and I'm able to consume that technology through an API and a credit card number. I love that. Moreover, I only pay for what I use, which is typically a lot cheaper than running my own server farm. That's the value of cloud computing.

This story, "'s vaunted new cloud 'elasticity' is so 1999," was originally published at Follow the latest developments in cloud computing at


Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

How to choose a low-code development platform