nephophobia. Part of Speech: n. Definition: a fear of clouds. Etymology: Greek nephos ‘cloud’. dictionary.com
If you haven’t been completely overwhelmed with the hype surrounding Cloud Computing, chances are pretty good you are living under a rock (and not reading this blog!). Here at Highgroove, we’ve avid users of the cloud because it lets us spend our time building kick-ass Ruby on Rails apps instead of replacing hard drives in servers.
That said, there is something pretty suspicious about the cloud. I’ve always owned servers at a colo as it is reassuring that I can go kick/hug them as needed. If something breaks and drops off the network, my datacenter is a short bike ride from my house and I can be on a console in a few minutes. All that Amazon will tell you about their cloud is that they have a few datacenters in a few different places, and that your virtual servers could drop out of existence at any time without warning!
Working at Highgroove, my fear of the cloud has somewhat dissipated. Chef lets us quickly and easily spin up servers in the cloud. Seriously, it’s a one liner:
knife ec2 server create "role[super_sweet_app_server]"
The vast majority of our customers are in the cloud on Amazon EC2, Rackspace Cloud Servers, Engine Yard App Cloud, Rails Machine, etc, and most of the time everything Just Works. It’s easy to add capacity to heavily loaded applications, and this approach lets us do agile things that wouldn’t be possible without the cloud like refactoring production architectures. This is pretty nice! Until it isn’t…
I needed a couple of Amazon EC2 instances last week for a project in a particular availability zone, and it was out. That fancy one-liner knife command refused to run, and no additional capacity was available there for getting done what I needed to do. I had to push back that project, work on something else, and it took over 24 hours for capacity to become available again. Faster and cheaper than buying new physical servers, but it’s pretty frustrating when you’re used to instant gratification.
Also, with Amazon and some other providers, there is no guarantee that your virtual server won’t just disappear. This is a blessing in disguise because it forces you to architect applications in ways that tolerate failure, but for small customers that only need one lightly loaded cloud server, the cost-benefit equation doesn’t always allow it.
My Nephophobia is mostly in remission, but I’m not selling my rack of servers any time soon.