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Conquering Cloud Fears

Humans fear the unknown and other things that make us feel less safe and secure. The darkness of a bedroom at night is a good example. No matter how old you are, the fear that something may be under your bed likely gets you once in a while. Don’t believe me? Try this tonight: Lay on top of your bed, let your leg dangle off the side, and then try not thinking about what’s not under your bed. You'll see what I mean.

In my career, I’ve seen many examples of how people fear new things, especially new technology. A major example was virtualization, especially when it came to database servers. It took some doing, but we’ve conquered those virtualization fears. Today, the idea of a virtualized database server is the new normal, and physical servers are in the minority.

But say the word “cloud” aloud in the office and watch how the blood drains from your co-workers faces as if they have seen what’s currently hiding under your bed.

There are three main reasons why people fear new technology:

  1. Something is unknown
  2. Loss of control
  3. Becoming obsolete

Cloud computing is in our face promising all three things at the same time! It’s a big unknown: A NULL in the sky promising to reduce administrative overhead and costs, and do more with less people. No wonder there has been widespread panic when it comes to cloud technology.

This is especially true for database servers. Here are a handful of reasons I have heard from database administrators (DBAs) on why they cannot use the cloud:

  • Security: “I don’t know where or how the data is stored or secured.” Often times, these are the same DBAs that allow their server tapes to lay around their cubicle for days on end, or have even laughed at those times when tapes recovered from the offsite service have belonged to a different company.
  • Performance: “I don’t have as much ability to fine-tune the performance to make applications run faster.” And yet these admins are often running their applications on hardware that is three years old and software that is even older, despite knowing the performance benefits newer systems would give them without any coding changes.
  • Support: “I can’t just call the cloud provider to tell them to check on the server because it seems to be a little slow.” This means the burden of support is on the admins with little to no experience, forcing them to learn something new or be replaced by someone who already knows.

All these reasons and others frequently given against cloud adoption are more emotional than technical. That is what fear does to people. So how do we get around that fear? Understanding, that’s how.

Figure 1:

Take the time to really do your homework and apply rational, logical thought -- removing emotion from the equation as much as possible -- to understanding how the cloud impacts you and your infrastructure. Then you’ll realize that in all likelihood it doesn’t eliminate your ability to secure or ensure peak performance, but it might change how you go about it.

For example, when I talk with other database and server admins, I find the “lack of control” to be the single biggest hurdle to overcome. If a DBA has made a career around tuning workloads to run on spinning pieces of rust (i.e. traditional hard disk drives), the idea of moving to something new is likely to be met with resistance. The key is to implement tools that will allow you to maintain some mastery over the systems in your control. Sometimes, these tools will be the same ones you’ve come to know and love, although sometimes they may be altogether new.

It’s no different than if I were to hand you a flashlight when you go to bed, you know, just in case something is there.