The way to greatly reduce cloud computing costs

How a multi-platform cloud environment can reduce costs by providing the right platform for each workload.

hybrid cloud

The way to reduce cloud computing costs is through efficiency. Your organization, whether it is an enterprise or a managed service provider, needs to put in place the right servers/storage/networks to execute specific workloads – and your organization needs to manage those resources properly.

A couple weeks ago I visited Companion Data Services (CDS) – a managed service provider (MSP) that serves the government and the insurance industries. What I saw was impressive: a highly optimized multi-platform cloud environment with strict process (policy and procedures) overlay. According to CDS, its cloud environment is highly tuned for:

  • Cloud application development (including the availability of 70 cloud services that enable developers to easily integrate applications with underlying infrastructure);
  • Performance – with workloads assigned to systems best suited to execute them;
  • Security;
  • Infrastructure integration – enabling seven different infrastructures (such as Linux, VMware and Windows infrastructures) to interact with one another easily;
  • Manageability – with tools for managing systems, applications and databases – and strict processes in place to manage workloads and troubleshoot anomalies;
  • Billing and metering (not just measuring system usage – but managing explicitly how much resource usage is taking place all the way down to the application consumption level).

What makes this architecture so impressive is that it blends mainframes, reduced instruction set computing (RISC) machines and x86 servers into a cohesive cloud. Most clouds, whether they are within an enterprise or run by managed service providers, are based on one architecture: x86, which is not ideal for running all workloads. Further, other companies have shown the benefits of adopting a mixed-platform environment, as IBM has done to reduce its cost of computing by $2.3 billion [Disclosure: IBM is a client of Clabby Analytics.]

Other enterprises and MSPs can likewise save really big money by adopting a multi-platform cloud approach; in fact I estimate that enterprises can reduce their cost of cloud computing by 30-40% by using the multi-platform approach with strict process overlay. And MSPs should do some math: adopting a multi-platform cloud will provide a major price-for-services advantage over MSPs that choose to run their clouds on x86-only architecture.

Why multi-platform?

Why is the use of a multi-platform approach such a big deal when it comes to reducing cloud computing costs?

Because some workloads run better on some processor/system designs than others. For instance, the mainframe microprocessor “stacks” work for rapid execution – making the mainframe processor an excellent server for processing transactions. And a mainframe has a very large input/output subsystem that offloads the processor from having to deal with large volumes of transactions – enabling the processor to focus on processing real work instead of communications traffic. Some RISC servers can process up to 8 threads of work per core (as opposed to 2 threads per core on x86 architecture) – making RISC servers particularly adept at processing big data extremely efficiently.

Further, because RISC servers can do more work per core, fewer servers are needed to process work – and fewer software licenses are required (this can save an enterprise thousands if not millions of dollars in software costs per year).

In short, assigning the right workloads to the right processors/servers result in huge efficiency advantages that translate directly into huge CAPEX and OPEX savings.

Don’t overlook the security benefits

As I described in this Computerworld blog, most cloud security providers do not offer security service level guarantees. But CDS reports that security is built into its cloud-as- a-service – making the CDS cloud (known as CDS Cloud Companion) a secure environment across all seven infrastructures that it serves. The company also says its Cloud Companion makes heavy use of mainframes, the most secure commercial computing environment in the industry, and the only server to ever achieve an EAL level 5+ rating.

For customers who want extremely tight security, a multi-platform MSP can host those applications on mainframes (CDS uses its mainframes to secure CICS and zLinux Web applications). For customers whose applications run under other security umbrellas, a multi-platform MSP can host those applications on other server platforms. For instance, if a potential customer would like to deploy/move their existing applications, which uses Microsoft AD or any LDAP security model, a CDS cloud should be able to host them.

The process overlay – a major advantage

Likewise, don’t overlook the advantage of having a tried-and-true enterprise-grade process overlay when building a bullet-proof cloud environment. CDS Cloud Companion intends to offer that with access to well-established processes wherein people know exactly what their role is, where some processes are heavily automated to reduce human management labor costs, and where policies and procedures are in place for application development all the way through to problem determination and troubleshooting.

Billing and metering

How much can your organization save by moving workloads into a multi-platform cloud environment? There are dozens of tools available to help measure computing costs – and many enterprises have their own methodologies for doing so.

Likewise, CDS has its own billing and metering tools. CDS reports that they can measure the exact cost of running an instance in a deployed cloud environment (including if it is deployed for a specific application) and can granularly measure system resource utilization and human management labor costs.

For MSPs that make their money on tight margins due to competitive pressure, this ability to know exactly what it will cost to run applications would be an advantage.

Summary observations

When I look at most cloud architectures I see rampant inefficiency. I see system inefficiency due to the use of x86 servers for all workloads. I see process inefficiencies due to lack of infrastructure integration between x86 silos (I see Hyper-V, VMware, Citrix and other organizational silos that do not seamlessly share information within a cloud). I see management inefficiencies such as the use of too many humans to manage large populations of distributed servers – as opposed to using fewer humans to manage tightly-controlled centralized servers. I see underinvestment in management software, and too few cloud processes that have been automated.

To bring this chaos under control, a well-integrated, a multi-platform cloud computing environment is required – along with solid people/process/procedure overlays for the management of a cloud environment.

This is what CDS is claiming it now offers our industry. It will be interesting to see if enterprise executives grasp the importance of multi-platform clouds to reduce enterprise computing costs, and it will be interesting to see if MSPs recognize the major competitive advantage that can be achieved by moving from x86-only clouds to multi-platform/process overlay cloud environments.


Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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