Interesting discussions here at Gartner’s Data Center Conference in Las Vegas. While discussing the importance of economies of scale to cloud providers, I pointed out that economies of scale is a double-edged sword.
While enterprises tend to have many (often hundreds, or even thousands) IT services that they provide, cloud providers tend to have only one, or a handful, but provided on huge scale. Standardization makes automation much easier, and certainly makes economies of large scale very attractive. But what happens when a “service” suffers a decline in demand? For an enterprise, diversification makes this much less of an issue – usually, a decline in one “service” will be made up by growth in another. The capital expense risk is real, but not huge. But what about a cloud provider that focuses on just that service?
Economies of fail.
Megaproviders in the cloud are not immune to economic declines, or changing demand. One of the benefits of cloud computing for end users is transferring their own capital risk to cloud providers. Doesn’t this sound an awful lot like the mortgage crisis in the U.S.?
For cloud providers to be successful, they must protect themselves. As much as possible they must find corollary markets for their services that are not directly related to their core service market – without abandoning the simplification and standardization that enables automation and economies of scale.
Potential customers of cloud providers should be very aware of a cloud provider’s business risk, and protect themselves. Cloud provider resiliency, market diversification and stability should be selection criteria. Remember: a provider cannot be too big to fail – in fact, some providers might become so big and so focused that failure is inevitable.