Cloudy Olympic Games (part 2) – from 0 to 7 billion in 17 days
Everybody involved in cloud computing will know, or have been told about the benefits it brings in IT cost, resilience and location. The most mentioned benefit has always been that cloud computing allows for scaling up (and down) the necessary IT resources, depending on the demand of the users.
With the Sochi 2014 Olympics we have a unique opportunity to see this scaling benefit taken to the extreme because the official games websites have all been implemented using cloud computing technology. And with an expected visitor count of 7 billion over a period of 17 days we can expect massive scale up and scale down activities in the underlying infrastructure and application layers.
Just as I mentioned in part 1 of the ‘Cloudy Olympic Games’, very specific aspects of cloud technology play a role in allowing the websites to cope with this variation in load.
One of the most important aspects is the difference between scale up versus scale out; each having its own benefits and drawbacks.
In a scale-up scenario you increase your capacity by adding processing power and memory, in essence using ‘bigger’ hardware. Benefits include aspects like having to run less servers, lower impact on cooling and power consumption and easier to implement. Also the licensing cost of the software is generally lower.
In a scale-out scenario, you would opt to split the workload among more servers. Benefits include an almost limitless scalability and easier down-scale scenarios.
But most of all, in deciding between the two scenarios, we need to take cost into account the point at which it becomes economical unrealistic to ‘just buy a bigger machine’ in order to facilitate the peak capacity, while the average capacity needed is much lower. In addition, in today’s agile and mobile world, prediction the load on a specific date and time becomes totally impossible.
However, even when scale-out is much better tailored for cloud computing, we also need to be aware of the drawbacks; a higher license cost, bigger footprint in power and cooling and a more complex IT management landscape are some aspects that come to mind.
Scaling for events like the Olympics is challenging and most likely has the biggest variation in the shortest possible time – a true test of cloud computing’s most talked about attribute. It will be very interesting to see how it is perceived by the visitors of the Olympic websites.