The cloud is all the rage today. For online business owners and startup entreprenurs, the cloud is often pitched as a low entry cost solution to many scalability challenges. Just throw your web application into the cloud and pay as you grow.

But does the cloud deliver? According to researchers at the University of New South Wales, the cloud may not be all that it's cracked up to be. When put to stress tests, cloud computing solutions offered by Amazon, Google and Microsoft showed some weaknesses.

Stress tests that simulated 2,000 concurrent users connected to applications hosted on the Amazon EC2, Google AppEngine and Microsoft Azure cloud computing solutions did confirm that these "cloud services scale up and respond dynamically to...demand" but also revealed inconsistent performance. For instance, according to researcher Anna Liu, response times during the tests varied by a factor of 20 depending on the time of day the testing occurred. Not good.

The tests also revealed that the various solutions were uniquely suited to different types of applications. AppEngine, for example, appears best suited to simple applications, as "none of your data processing tasks can last any longer than thirty seconds".

In all cases, Liu found that "none of the platforms have the kind of monitoring required to have a reasonable conversation about performance". She noted that most of the tools offered by Amazon, Google and Microsoft were useful to developers but not to business users.

Obviously, reputable individuals have not claimed that cloud computing is an end-all and be-all solution. But the University of New South Wales research does add more weight to the argument that most of the cloud computing solutions out there have relatively narrow sweet spots and some significant limitations. For most online businesses and startups, simply throwing an application into the cloud isn't necessarily a good, cost-effective strategy because in many cases, the type of dynamic scalability offered by cloud computing solutions is unnecessary and scalability without consistent performance is of dubious value.

Photo credit: Kables via Flickr.

Patricio Robles

Published 21 August, 2009 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

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Comments (4)


Deri Jones, CEO at SciVisum Ltd

Certainly, testing the traffic capacity of a cloud based system has a bunch of challenges - we  covered exactly this in August's copy of our web performance newsletter 'Web App.titude'

But the Cloud is of course here to stay, and we're certainly seeing growing interest in running load tests for organisations making their first forays into using the cloud.

It seems like the not-huge companies, the pure-internet-play retailers, are furthest down the cloud route - one I met with this morning said explicitly that they want eventually to get rid of the their data centre altogether: no more managing of servers per se.

Maybe moving to the cloud will make it easier in some organisations for more decisions to be made by eCommerce and marketing folk: rather than currently where sometimes because IT teams have their 'hands on the engine' they somehow end up getting the deciding vote.

But the range of cloud offerings out there, mean that not all are equal - and the comparison of web performance vs costs is not always an easy spreadsheet table exercise.

How about a straw poll -  is using the cloud something your company is discussing? and discussing it not just within the IT team?


almost 9 years ago


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almost 9 years ago



The statement "useful to developers but not to business users" is a bit confusing. 

almost 9 years ago


Riaz Kanani

"For most online businesses and startups, simply throwing an application into the cloud isn't necessarily a good, cost-effective strategy"

Completely disagree - especially for startups. When given a choice between at least thousands of pounds of upfront costs as well as significant co-location fees; using the cloud is a no brainer.

That doesn't take away from your point on performance; reliability and monitoring (and I would add security). There is no question that this is still an immature area but over time all these 3 areas will improve; some could argue as well that performance is not an issue though I have no hard figures on that - only what I can see - Twitter moved from using its own systems to the cloud (and I assume its own systems as well) in early 2008. Anyone who was on Twitter before that should remember the constant downtime.

almost 9 years ago

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