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Arun Rao

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How the Volcanic Ash Cloud Illustrates the Case for Cloud Computing

Every day, millions of tons of goods are shipped from ports in Asia

Reuters reported last week that the ash cloud over Europe and the resulting disruption in airline schedules and has caused a huge backlog in supply chain shipments from Asia. Every day, millions of tons of goods are shipped from ports in Asia and backlogs of several days will put a huge strain on manufacturers and distributors not only in the region, but around the world.

This means data processing systems will be strained with huge data volume in the next few weeks. If system utilization was already running at 95% capacity, as are most over-optimized environments these days, they will need additional / elastic capacity to handle the load, or risk impacting shipments and manufacturing lines.

This situation, with its immediate business consequences and short-term nature, is the best use-case yet for Cloud deployment (Private or Public) within an Enterprise IT environment.

Let's say that we have implemented the basic Infrastructure cloud and have our ERP running in (either a Public or Private) Cloud on virtual machines. Every server deployment obviously costs license fees and support overheads - so our intent is (as with a physical deployment) to keep the number of CPUs utilized at a minimum. Therefore, let's say that we are currently running at 90% peak utilization. Usually, a 10% head-room is enough to handle normal "burst" loads; and in case of seasonal highs or other abnormal load situations, (worst case) processing slows down. Such delays are usually within SLA agreements - and business impact is negligible.

But when spikes are extraordinary and expected to last longer than usual (such as in this situation), the need of the hour is to add temporary capacity. In our Cloud environment, deploying additional servers would as simple as creating new copies of virtual machines. This would obviously add cost, but only temporarily.

Once the requirement is fulfilled, the additional capacity can be taken out just as easily without any need for decommissioning hardware.

Such situations are not exclusive to the current volcanic eruption, but typical during any kind of wholesale disruption immediately following a natural disaster. This situation simply provides a very good example.


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Arun Rao is a seasoned technology executive based in the SF Bay Area.