Feb 24, 2012

How do you address capacity planning when you are evaluating moving to cloud computing?

Traditionally, capacity planning was essentially looking at new servers funded by applications able to achieve capital investment funding. With a move to the cloud, the assumption is that needed resources will be available on demand. In my mind, this results in less analysis and insight as to total possible demand per application, and could result in a lack of insight into potential total demand. I could easily see the number of servers provisioned skyrocketing as the number of applications increase, which I assume is pretty much inevitable given that cost of applications will be lower and it is relatively easy to obtain resources for each application. In light of this, how can capacity planning keep pace with reality so that there is some kind of accuracy and predictability so as to avoid the problems of inefficient use and high resource pricing to application groups?

I think one approach that translate pretty easily from traditional capacity planning to capacity planning for cloud resources is to essentially limit the amount of resources available by decree. That sounds a little imperial, but if your organization is pretty small, it can work. To effectively enforce it, you are going to have to channel all request for approval. Probably a more effective approach for a larger business would be to establish resource costs and apply a chargeback to each groups operations budget based on actual cost of the resources. Putting a direct cost on taking advantage of the "unlimited" capacity offered by the cloud can help check the inclination to use resources willy-nilly. It isn't quite the same as traditional resource planning, but it adds expense predictability.
Here are some capacity planning resources that might help.

Capacity Planning in the Cloud

A Measured Approach To Cloud Computing: Capacity Planning and Performance Assurance

Cloud success secret: Flexible capacity planning

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