Why Cloud? ( & Chicken Rice Saga )

Disclaimer:- This note was written by me ( Mayank Nauni) in my personal capacity. The opinions expressed in this article are solely my own and do not reflect the view of my employer or my preference towards any of the OEMs.

How often we’ve heard this question “Why Cloud?”. It was raised during one of my recent sessions with my mentees, who are from different backgrounds and are transitioning into the cloud technology. The question was plain and simple, why do we need cloud at all, what was wrong with the traditional IT, it was doing good, wasn’t it?

There are dozens of answers available on the internet for this question, but most of them are too technical and the mentees were unable to relate to it. So, I wanted to walk them through the history of traditional IT challenges that lead to the birth of cloud, as they say necessity is mother of all invention. To simply the answer to the question, “Why Cloud?” and to visualize the value of cloud, I had to walk the mentees through the journey, so here we go, I quoted an example of Chicken Rice Seller, it will resonate more with the attendees from Singapore but you can choose a cuisine of your choice as an example.

Let us imagine a pre-cloud era, the chicken rice seller is doing good business, very popular locally. He or she observes the eCommerce boom triggered by the smartphones and 3G adoption, people are using smartphones to order stuff online. That makes the chicken rice seller think, that he or she should be a pioneer in this domain and ride the first adoption wave. The seller decides to launch a portal wherein people can order chicken rice and other popular condiments such as chili sauce and spices.

Just a reminder, we are talking of pre-cloud era, else it is very easy for a food seller or a hawker to simply onboard on the popular food ordering platforms, which are by the way largely powered by cloud as well.

Now the seller, will have a buy a server or a desktop to host his or her portal, design a portal perhaps pay a designer to design it onetime for them. Get a switch, a router, a firewall to host it, perhaps to minicomputer closet to keep this stuff. Let us say all these peripherals costs them 10K $ one-time charge plus a recurring cost of 200$ for maintenance plus internet, that is not cheap and can be a bit taxing for small business owner.

Now the portal goes live, and in a few months, 30% of their total chicken rice sales starts coming from this hosted portal. The user base starts growing and the problem starts, the website would often crash as it wasn’t made to cater to high demands. Worse case, during the Chinese New Year, the sales grow multi-fold and the website is not able to cope up at all and crashes which results in negative customer sentiment and off course poor sales. In order to maintain the customer satisfaction, the owner has to immediately scale up their infra horizontally or vertically which means either buy more servers to distribute the load evenly or add more resources such as memory or CPU to the existing servers. It will definitely take them sometime to get it done while their customer satisfaction scores keep dropping. When the spike in demand goes down, the hardware is still there but not offering a good return on the investment.

Since the infra has become more complicated by scaling up, the seller has to hire specialized IT resources to take care of their hardware environment, that may add a minimum of 2000$ monthly recurring cost. But hold on, what was the seller’s goal, he or she is supposed to sell chicken rice and IT infra is just supposed to be an enabler to achieve their goals, but now IT, despite of being a major contributor in their sales has become a liability due to inherent limitations and complexities introduced by scaling out the architecture.

How different would this be, had it been on the cloud. Cloud has some fundamental benefits.

Capital-expenditure Free (Pay as you go model): The chicken rice seller could simply start hosting their website on cloud without paying any one-time charges. So, they save the 10K$ here right away.

Reduced IT maintenance cost: Since the seller do not need to worry about the underlay hardware which is hosting their portal, they need to pay for the annual maintenance charges for the hardware and recurring charges for the internet. The seller would instead pay for the resources that are being consumed on the cloud now. The monthly recurring charges of 2000$ for the engineer who was taking care of the hardware is no longer needed. The engineer now can focus on creating value adds to the seller’s portal instead.

Elasticity: Now during Chinese New Year, due to a sudden spike in the demand, the seller just has to leverage the elasticity or auto scaling that cloud provides. Which means, you use more resources when you need them and release them when you don’t and the best part is that you get charged for the time you used the resources.

High Availability: Cloud natively provides you high availability, so the seller is saved from potential outages that might have faced due to hardware issues when they were hosting the portal themselves.

This was it, I hope you liked this example. I also published a YouTube video on this ( embedded below). I shall be using this example in my forthcoming videos to describe various services in cloud. Do share the topics in the comments that you would want me to simplify in the forthcoming videos.


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