It’s probably the most commonly-cited upside benefit of cloud computing so it’s worth considering in its own right. If nothing else, a benefit without a need is pointless (and too many cloud services solve problems that don’t exist). So…
Do You Need It?
Many customers tell us things to the effect of: “we’re a stable business with no seasonality so why do we need cloud bursting?” – and that’s perfectly fine. Sometimes, cloud hosting is just the most function-rich, cost-effective and reliable way of hosting your website or application. So you might not even need elasticity. But sometimes it’s nice to have capability in a solution that you don’t need – yet – lest you need it in the future.
It will inevitably be some short-term capacity problem, as discussed elsewhere on UP. This is a major determinant in choosing (a) the right vendor and (b) the right “type” of cloud offering. If you are looking at a very substantial, 100s or 1000s of VMs, burst, there are only a few public cloud players who can handle that sort of scale. If your requirements are smaller scale, then your options are broader with smaller providers and “managed hosting” players possessing the capability.
For How Long?
Closely related to scale questions are time questions. If you are talking about very short-term needs, e.g. days, hours or even minutes, that limits your options – it’ll inevitably be the largest players with a public cloud offering. If your requirements are longer-term, e.g. weeks or months, then B2B focused providers and private/virtual private clouds become more feasible.
Can You Manage It?
Elasticity of cloud is a fantastic thing, especially if you are in a B2C market or industries like retail, leisure, hospitality, media, etc, and you need the burstability of a cloud product. However, management is another challenge that will often help you to determine both supplier and solution. At one extreme, you may be experienced with cloud services, understand your capacity needs, and feel confident with taking an unmanaged product and managing it in-house through a supplier portal. At the other extreme, you may have no desire to do any of it yourself, instead you want a supplier to provide a managed service to a business-driven SLA. Providers have the same extremes – some have only online self-service and others offer only managed services, with most offering some granularity in between. You need to decide what’s right for you – potential suppliers can’t make that decision on your behalf.
What Does the Future Hold?
If we knew what the next 18 months held, we’d be amazed at our own foresight. If we knew what the next 3 to 5 years has in store for us all, especially in technology, we’d be rich. That’s the beauty of cloud – shorter-term contracts, elasticity and flexibility allows us to cope with the unknown changes that lie ahead. It’s also worth ensuring that any potential supplier has a valid business model and will be able to offer you not just the products and services you need today but has a broad enough range of services and flexible business models to meet potential downstream requirements. Consider what you don’t need, but might tomorrow, almost as carefully as what you know you need today.