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Don’t let buzzwords drive your cloud architecture

Buzzwords drive the IT industry, always have and always will. This is true whether you are dealing with structured programming, object-oriented programming, client/server, distributed objects, enterprise application integration, data warehousing, and service-oriented architecture. Now it’s cloud computing with all its related buzzwords. We tend to chase advertised trends.

This industry-wide practice led me to coin the term “manage by journal,” where the freshness of a concept or term becomes more important than the actual value applied. Today I call it “buzzword oriented architecture” or BOA. The problem with this approach is that it tries to solve a problem by forcibly fitting a specific solution, regardless of the fit. In other words, you “know” the answer before you really understand the problem.

The overuse of containers and container orchestration these days provides some of the best examples of BOA. While containers and container orchestration are powerful approaches for turning net new and existing applications into more valuable and scalable workloads, they are not one size fits all application or system. This is the most common mistake I see today, as companies spend twice as much to modernize a workload that didn’t really need to be contained, all because someone wanted to put containers on their CV.

Why am I mentioning it now if it’s a known and old problem? I see BOA powering most cloud architectures these days, with companies paying the price for costly mistakes. As I mentioned here, these architectures “work”, but because they operate at a much lower level of cost efficiency, companies typically spend two to three times more than a better optimized solution. Just look at container misapplications for many examples of this costly problem.

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The Wall Street Journal recently reported that company executives say their costs have risen as they have moved to cloud computing. Because? Cloud computing did not fail the business; those who created the cloud solutions failed in business. Instead of finding the most cost-effective and optimized cloud architecture, they took a BOA approach that started with answers before there was a clear understanding of the questions.

I have created many IT architecture concepts and buzzwords in my career. The danger arises when those concepts and buzzwords are misapplied and we mistakenly blame the concept, not the person who misapplied it. While this is frustrating, the most significant impact is that we do not meet business expectations. As IT professionals, we must provide the most optimized and cost-effective solution possible with all available technology.

Most people mean well. However, many IT staff lack in-depth cloud knowledge or cloud optimization expertise, or the time and money to acquire that knowledge. The speed at which we can implement cloud solutions these days amplifies the BOA problem. BOA is often less efficient and therefore leads to much higher cloud bills. Additionally, cloud systems charge in ways that reward resource-efficient systems. This is why most companies don’t realize their early ROI for cloud computing. Take the time to look beyond the buzzwords.

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