Be Careful What You Ask For

by  \  24 May, 2013 \  2:29pm EDT

In the 70’s, Toyota unveiled a great ad campaign that began with the phrase, “You asked for it, you got it.” Little did I know that nearly 40 years later the slogan would be truer than ever when applied to the cloud. For the dangers of building applications on clouds without true decoupling of the application from the underlying service provider screams, “you asked for it, you got it”!

What really got me thinking about this was a recent article I read in TechWorld, (Report: Amazon building $600M cloud for CIA) in which reporter Brandon Butler reports on the CIA’s recent contract with Amazon Web Services to build a private cloud for the government agency at a cost of $600M over the course of the next ten years.  In his article, he writes, “AWS has virtual private clouds (VPC), which are infrastructure as a service (IaaS) resources dedicated to specific customers, but it does not have a product for customers to deploy AWS-like clouds on customers own infrastructure.”  Building applications in this scenario is nothing short of vendor lock-in. Forever.

While this is a great business model for Amazon, it is questionable how this lock-in approach benefits the government in the long-term.  In direct juxtaposition to this approach, a proper “managed” cloud operating model drives infrastructure independence and workload mobility — even for applications that have no current intention of running anywhere else.

Though an enterprise might want to run on Amazon today, it doesn’t mean that this will ALWAYS be the case. Laws change, relationships change, people change, costs change, budgets change, technology changes: Everything changes. And in a world of such rapid change, it is simply irresponsible to take advantage of a cloud provider like Amazon for supposed “cost savings” and then spot-weld applications into it forever.  When things change — which we all know they will — the government could very well incur exhaustive costs down the road when they choose to move their welded applications to another operating model.

While the contract was lauded by the GAO as making sense in an environment of shrinking budgets and sequesters, the short-term benefits to the CIA should not be lost to the long-term implications of this lock-in model.  Just like the Toyota commercials, the government is busy looking at their shiny new purchase, and not long-term maintenance costs.

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