In the Cloud, Everything Costs Money

I’ve been teaching my daughter about budgeting. I’ve explained that most of the time the money coming in is from only one or two sources – and you can only change that from time to time. The money going out, however, is to many locations, and it changes all the time. She’s made a simple debits and credits spreadsheet, and I’m having her research each part of the budget. Her eyes grow wide when she finds out everything has a cost – the house, gas for the lawnmower, dishes, water for showers, food, electricity to run the fridge, a new fridge when that one breaks, everything has a cost. She asked me “how do you pay for all this?” It’s a sentiment many adults have looking at their own budgets – and one reason that some folks don’t even make a budget. It’s hard to face up to the realities of how much it costs to do what we want to do.

When we design a computing solution, it’s interesting to set up a similar budget, because we don’t always consider all of the costs associated with it. I’ve seen design sessions where the new software or servers are considered, but the “sunk” costs of personnel, networking, maintenance, increased storage, new sizes for backups and offsite storage and so on are not added in. They are already on premises, so they are assumed to be paid for already.

When you move to a distributed architecture, you'll see more costs directly reflected. Store something, pay for that storage. If the system is deployed and no one is using it, you’re still paying for it. As you watch those costs rise, you might be tempted to think that a distributed architecture costs more than an on-premises one.

And you might be right – for some solutions. I’ve worked with a few clients where moving to a distributed architecture doesn’t make financial sense – so we didn’t implement it. I still designed the system in a distributed fashion, however, so that when it does make sense there isn’t much re-architecting to do.

In other cases, however, if you consider all of the on-premises costs and compare those accurately to operating a system in the cloud, the distributed system is much cheaper. Again, I never recommend that you take a “here-or-there-only” mentality – I think a hybrid distributed system is usually best – but each solution is different. There simply is no “one size fits all” to architecting a solution.

As you design your solution, cost out each element. You might find that using a hybrid approach saves you money in one design and not in another. It’s a brave new world indeed.

So yes, in the cloud, everything costs money. But an on-premises solution also costs money – it’s just that “dad” (the company) is paying for it and we don’t always see it. When we go out on our own in the cloud, we need to ensure that we consider all of the costs.

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