back to article Cattle that fail, not pets that purr – the future of servers

Microsoft, Amazon, Google, others all telling us to move server loads to the cloud. Most of us with on-premise servers haven't designed things in a cloud friendly way and - call us old sentimentalists - have heaped time, love and workloads on our tin. Thus, today, we talk of such servers as “pets” while cloud providers talk of …


  1. hplasm Silver badge


    The future, or at least this version of it, sounds boring.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Gods!

      I like boring. Leaves me time to do interesting.

  2. gv

    Every silver lining has a cloud.

    For every benefit, there's a cost.

    1. tr1ck5t3r

      Re: Every silver lining has a cloud.

      Cloud providers will hack your systems until you move to the cloud, then they setup rival businesses, cherry pick your best customers, coerce suppliers to match the best prices and basically put you out of business, or steal your IP.

      Only the rich elites could come up with a blue sky way of taking over the world, whilst you are financially cleansed out of existence!

      Got a mortgage to pay still?????

      Plus they can shut down dissent even more easily as all communication moves even further online, and now your business is in their hands.

  3. Mage Silver badge

    Cloudiness: No Silver Lining

    Unless it's for a temporary test or the Internet public to access, outsource to the "cloud" is madness. Even for public facing server loads, the database, financials, stock etc should be in house, only the web server in the cloud.

    Otherwise, given the automatic patching, lack of transparency on security and backup and increasing monoculture, a cloud based apocalypse will come.

    What happens when all ATMs, POS, Mobile Billing is on Cloud and it "goes down" due to an inept patch of edge routers or load balancing servers or actual servers on a Friday evening?

    It's the plot of a believable book, "No Silver Lining" where one character likens the Cloud to potatoes, which allowed massive cheap food production and then population growth, but then famine, not just in Ireland but many countries. Monoculture.

    Hence Cloud & Apocalypse icon.

    The Cloud operators need to make profit. Right now they are in market acquisition mode, hence the pricing.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Cloudiness: No Silver Lining

      The same thing can happen with tin. Indeed, tin could have a better chance of a Failsafe Failure.

      1. Domquark

        Re: Cloudiness: No Silver Lining

        "The same thing can happen with tin. Indeed, tin could have a better chance of a Failsafe Failure."

        No, not necessarily. I have tin out there which can (and has) better(ed) any cloud solution for uptime. I have one client with 2 custom built servers which have logged 2 hours downtime in the last 7 years - and that includes 1.5 hours for moving the servers from one room to another! We all see the stories (some here), where something has happened that has taken out the cloud provider. Whilst the in-house tin just keeps chugging along, enabling the workforce to continue working. There are many more "potential points of failure" with the cloud compared to in-house tin.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Cloudiness: No Silver Lining

          "where something has happened that has taken out the cloud provider."

          The ENTIRE cloud provider, INCLUDING the secondary storage located in another city? How do you handle failover if your entire block loses power all night and you don't have a second server outside the blackout zone?

          1. Domquark

            Re: Cloudiness: No Silver Lining

            Remember the Adobe farce of 2014? Their Worldwide operation was offline for over 24 hours. Many EU users were left swinging in the breeze for almost a week! Adobe had multiple sites and still everything failed.

            My point is that the cloud CAN fail, just like any in-house tin. And, as I pointed out, cloud-based systems have more potential points of failure. Like someone taking out the local exchange and trashing everyone's broadband. Or power failure. Or someone hacking the cloud provider. It's all happened before.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Cloudiness: No Silver Lining

      Clearly - faults happen with the big cloud (eurgh, I hate the word) providers, just remember the DynamoDB brouhaha.

      However - a few random thoughts:

      CFOs like predictability, i.e. Opex vs Capex.

      Can you guarantee your bit barn will run close to capacity and be cost efficient?

      You will never lose electricity and have power from different substations (ok. Global Switch 2 and Harbour Exchange have shown it can happen to big bit barn)?

      That £$ XX,000,000 storage array used well enough to justify the price?

      That you will have enough spares or good support contract to alleviate that patch which managed to irreversibly bork the firmware as well as the easily reversible OS on your edge router?

      You have 3-site environment for stretched cluster and witness?

      On the flip side - not saying there aren't some small(er) professional outfits who can make it work!

      But they can have the same issues you pointed out as the big hyperscalers can, even if they are as good.

      Time to stop denying the fact the inevitable will happen.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Cloudiness: No Silver Lining

        "Time to stop denying the fact the inevitable will happen."

        You mean the cowboy with the back-hoe who takes out all your comms just down the street?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Cloudiness: No Silver Lining

          That the hyperscalers will be selling more and there will be consolidation in the other end of the market.

          Most of the smaller players will either consolidate or vanish.

  4. ShowEvidenceThenObject

    Preaching to the converted

    I'm a sysadmin. I have to work with tin, but I will work with cloud.

    For now, because of the apps, and cost of running these apps in the cloud, tin is still in. However, there are plenty of cloudy app developers out there. Will most businesses engage, change and take risk to enable this move? Not if at all possible, or not quickly.

    I'm not a complete sociopath because I still need to interact with the parts of the business that are not. Well, not until they get promoted to management, anyway.

    1. TRT Silver badge

      Re: Preaching to the converted

      I'm a firm believer that most data management is best done with web/cloud apps. Creativity stuff... that's not so easy.

  5. Voland's right hand Silver badge

    If it is a pet that changes the nature of the game

    A shared open plan office in Western Europe is a sterile featureless desert where all pets have been banned upon a Consluttant advice and Health and Safety Order. The hired goons have come and eutanized Greebo (the office cat), emptied the office fish tank into the toilet and even replaced all plants with agile motivational posters. There is occasionally a single exemption in the form of a half-dead contracted out "low allergen" specimen in reception.

    After that they also dare tell us that we have an issue with team bonding and social skills. The office pet like it or hate it is a phenomenal stress relief and/or team bonding center.

    So if we continue the pet analogy, removing ALL IT pets out of the office is counterproductive. It is no different from that consluttants "modern managerial practice raid" which emptied the fish tank into the toilet. You have to leave one or two so there is a stress relief and team bonding point. Sure, you cannot have a horde of cats roaming an office. There is, however, a clear psychological benefit in having one to keep the place from going into a sterile desert mode.

  6. chivo243 Silver badge

    Where I started

    The servers were named after Cities, Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Denver or something out of mythology, Zeus, Phoenix, Hercules, Atlas and so on...

    If we go to the cloud I guess it's time to name all of our servers Tibanna01 etc...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Where I started

      My last full-time IT gig, all the names were boring and functional, so one beery Friday evening I really had to rename the poor things, the server names became a mixed bag of Celtic/Romano-Celtic gods, oh, and the requisite Mythos beasties.

      13 years on from my departure, a quick check of the DNS and the Mythos names still survive...Iä! Iä! Cthulhu fhtagn!

    2. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

      Server names

      Obscure, all alike, difficult to spell minerals. Not mine; someone who left the company abruptly. For all I know he came to work stoned :-)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Server names

        " For all I know he came to work stoned :-)"

        You say that like it's a bad thing?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Server names


          " For all I know he came to work stoned :-)"

          You say that like it's a bad thing?


          I guess if he didn't mind the chat with HR about the being drunk or drugged policy up whilst at work, and he was having a good time, I guess it could be a good thing.

          If on the other hand he fancied being usefully employed then maybe no ...

  7. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    "the ability to change services in a way that you may not like, and have no control over"

    Thank you for putting that down in black and white. It is high time some PHBs start reading that more often.

  8. jMcPhee


    Having done some recent testing on cloud based replacements for local implementations, we came to the conclusion that cloud performance of realtime applications is crap.

    And that's with the cloud providers trying to grab market share by not caring about profitability. Imagine what will happen when they have to make money.

    If Spot01 is a snail, this will probably work.

  9. phuzz Silver badge

    Even if your business decides to go all in on "this cloud thing", there'll still be old Rex down in accounts, running some obsolete bit of software on NT4, that is essential to the department, but has no budget for it to be moved, or migrated. It might be running on an old Compaq desktop, and the PSU might have started buzzing two years ago, (and is getting worse), but you'll never be allowed to touch it.

    Or more likely, you'll have a replacement all set up, fully patched, backups scheduled and tested, modern hardware all redundant, with hot spares available, but the department will baulk at the hour of downtime that will be required to switch over, and so they'll keep putting it off indefinitely.

    Why yes I am bitter, how can you tell?

    1. thegroucho

      Just make sure you have number of backups and copies of all the emails stipulating how critical this replacement is.

      Also make sure you send all of the above to the shareholders when the company makes the news.

      Or the media if you feel angry and slighted.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      So there's no way you can go OVER accounting's head and get them to dictate terms? To perhaps migrate it to a VM somewhere at least (that way the NT4 install can be preserved)?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        So there's no way you can go OVER accounting's head

        I'm not sure you understand the power hierarchy of most companies..

  10. LDS Silver badge

    How big the clouds can become before...

    ... an hailstorm begin?

    I mean, like everything things start nice and relatively small. You are a valued customer, and there's usually enough resources for your workloads. But as more and more customers are added, you become just a number among many, and resources may start not to be enough for everybody, while competition may shrink the margins.

    Then you'll face the choice of becoming a valued "premium" customer (if you pay a lot of $$$$$$$$$$$$$$), or you will be just a (cash) cow among the cattle, and your workloads will be moved to more crowded, less reliable nodes (probably offshored them too to cheaper countries, and running on older hardware...) - and you'll contract will tell you so - and you'll have no way to change it but paying a lot more. Understanding issue will become difficult because smoke curtains will be deployed to hide the problems, as usual.

    After all, that's what already happened with the big supplier like IBM and HP(E). When the "computer business" was relatively small, you got excellent service and good value for your money - then when it became large, and competition required to cut costs, what you get was what many of us experience everyday. Telco services and airlines are other examples.

    Are we sure the cloud will be different?

    I'd be very careful, and plan carefully what it's best served from the cloud, and what is not.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    For all of this push to the cloud no one talks about security.

    Security comes in many forms.

    1) is the data in the cloud safe from hacking or governments wanting access?

    2) are your critical applications going to survive someone cutting through the cable to the bit barn?

    3) can you guarantee that your cloud data will always be available when you want it?

    4) is the cloud provider going to be there for as long as your data?

    These, and others, are all things that need to be considered when thinking of moving to the cloud.

    1. David Harper 1

      Re: Security

      These are all valid questions. In information security circles, they are conveniently summarised by the mantra: Confidentiality, Availability, Integrity. These are the three critical attributes that you want your data to have, whether in the cloud or not.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Security

      Link to the bit barn failing?

      You mean - you do not have DR/failover/etc plan?

  12. hellwig Silver badge

    License Costs

    I think Oracle's decision to go after cloud hosted customers shows a major flaw/issue with the Cloud. The Cloud works great for free or unlimited license software. It becomes a pain in the ass when you have very restrictive licensing agreements with your vendors.

    1. Down not across Silver badge

      Re: License Costs

      It becomes a pain in the ass when you have very restrictive licensing agreements with your vendors.

      Like with EC2 where you pay full license per vCore (if hyperthreading is not enabled, and 0.5 license if it is) which is really just a Xeon thread. While running on your own hardware you need 0.5 licenses per Xeon core (the two threads counts as "1 core") according to Oracle's Core Factor Table

      So effectively you pay double the licensing on EC2 compared to running on your own hardware.

  13. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    It's not the server that matters, it's the data on it. Your cattle have just been slaughtered; where are the stock management, orders, accounts, payroll...?

    1. Tom 38 Silver badge

      Thats the entire purpose (and challenge). That data is resiliently held, so you can kill one cow, but as long as you maintain the herd, you'll always have milk. Going from pets to cattle is not simply putting servers in the cloud with boring names, its taking technological steps to ensure that adding/killing servers does not lose data or require deep knowledge or effort.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        And then what happens when they go after the cowboys instead, allowing the entire herd to be rustled?

        1. yiorgos

          Considered splitting your herd between two or more green fields, operated by more than one group of cowboys?

          There are orchestration tools that will work with dissimilar cloud technologies to make this even easier.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            But there are still only so many ranches in operation. Small enough a number to be able to target ALL of them or simply wait until one buys out another in the struggle to compete.

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        "Thats the entire purpose (and challenge). That data is resiliently held, so you can kill one cow, but as long as you maintain the herd, you'll always have milk."

        What happens if there's a cash flow problem, the cloud fees can't be paid for a couple of months and the whole herd gets slaughtered? You may have exchanged CAPEX for OPEX but suddenly that OPEX starts to gain priority over a lot of other stuff.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Cash flow is gonna affect you no matter what. If not cloud fees then the electric bill and other subscription fees and utility bills.

          1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            "Cash flow is gonna affect you no matter what. If not cloud fees then the electric bill and other subscription fees and utility bills."

            You'd be paying those anyway. This is yet another set of costs to add to those, one that might even have to take priority.

            1. Charles 9 Silver badge

              Not necessarily. With fewer servers on site sucking up the juice and making your HVAC work its compressors off, your electric bill would drop. Depending on the other things you wouldn't have to pay (because you may not need to lease so much space and so on), it could more than offset the cloud costs. It depends.

              1. Naselus

                " it could more than offset the cloud costs."

                Rule of thumb: it doesn't. Few people have found cloud migrations actually reduce their costs over time - I ring about 10 years out of an on-site server in front-line duties, and over that period a cloud-based alternative costs about 3 times as much (including all setup and running costs).

                There's good reasons for going cloud; price is almost never one of them.

  14. Yugguy

    Say goodbye to your jobs

    It's only one step from the cloud provider hosting your servers to them also doing what you do, but cheaper.

    Fucking cloud.

    1. Flakk Silver badge

      Re: Say goodbye to your jobs

      My former boss never said it, but I was fairly certain the only way that the enormous OPEX increase from moving everything to IaaS was going to balance out was to make one of the engineers redundant. I hated that.

      My main gig for the past several years has been that of security practitioner. Lately, I've started bulking up on security compliance skills, because it seems that many companies are starting to outsource their practitioner staffs. If I'm not needed to do the job, then at least I can make sure that those doing it are doing it correctly.

      I guess my point is that we do well for ourselves if we try to adjust with the times. I will always miss my big, beautiful racks of humming tin, but wish as I may I don't think those days are likely to return.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Say goodbye to your jobs

        "but wish as I may I don't think those days are likely to return."

        Of course they will. They tell me even flares are coming back into fashion. And IT is, to a surprising extent, a fashion business.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Say goodbye to your jobs

      IT jobs have been constantly evolving.

      Fact of life, as is the home lab and constant recertification.

      Now go and learn some GO (pun intended), Python/Ruby, Docker/Kubernetes, AWS/Azure, etc, etc.

      1. Yugguy

        Re: Say goodbye to your jobs

        I know son, I've worked in IT for 25 years.

        I don't want to be a programmer thank you.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Say goodbye to your jobs

          Is that 25 years in IT supposed to make me take notice?

          To respect you?

          To think that number of years in IT = expertise?

          I was born in the early 70s so my sympathy for you is exactly zero.

          I do not bang on how many years I have worked in IT, neither should you.

          HTFU and start studying!

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Say goodbye to your jobs

          And stop patronising by calling me 'son'.

          People like you give bad name to older IT workers.

  15. DJV Silver badge


    "In the 1990s, it was commonplace for the single IT guy to name their servers after planets"

    Damn, found out at last!

    Well, almost - my WiFi is called Saturn, and many of my servers and computers have named after moons such as Ganymede, Europa, Callisto, Titan (a very big box!) Mimas, Dione, Hyperion, Prometheus, Daphnis, Kari, Pandora, Pallene, Tethys and Enceladus!

    Before that some early ones were called Ermintrude (it was a Gateway!) and Zebedee.


POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2019