Sergio Navarro


Any Similarity Between Cloud Computing and Nuclear Power?

Posted on June 1, 2011 at 10:55 AM

It is very extended the comparison of the electric grid with cloud computing to explain the benefits of adopting cloud computing, This comparison tells us that as in the industrial age, where factories passed from producing their own electricity to consume it from third parties as they were doing with other commodities, now in the information age, computing is going to be provided as a cheap commodity instead of been provided by local servers which has an expensive maintenance for a company. This parallelism is very sensible, however, maybe we have reviewed this comparison only to the extent that cloud sellers were interested in.

In this post what I propose is to extend the comparison in order to look for similarities between the life cycle of power plants and the life cycle of SaaS (Software as a Service) in the cloud.

All of us know the advantages of nuclear power and SaaS in the cloud which can be synthesized on these ones: A very low maintenance cost, "robustness", high scalability.

A counterpart of the SaaS in the cloud can be proprietary software running in our local machine. It shares characteristics with home power plants like solar power plants and in general any source of energy you can produce locally in the place you consume its service. Its main advantage is its predictability as you do not depend from external decisions to know for how many time are you going to have available the same software for using it.

Looking the list of advantages it is easy to decide that SaaS offers more advantages than traditional software. Just like nuclear power SaaS is cheaper and cleaner than any other source of energy, then, why do not embrace SaaS without more doubts?

Well, I mentioned SaaS shares Nuclear power disadvantages, then it should not be as robust and safe as was told to us in the past. If we bypass nature catastrophes what's the other problem which tackle nuclear power plants?: It is the cost of disposing its nuclear waste and the unknown cost for the people living on its surroundings. In fact, a big part of these cost is not taken into account for the sake of providing a "cheap energy". Then, what happens with Saas? it does not produces any waste as far as I know, or does it?. Well, I am going to call waste to a software which has lost commercial interest for the company who produces it.

If the abandoned software is a traditional life cycle software the company can decide to do not support any more this software. The good news for the company are it will have a 0 cost for them. The good news for the user are he can continue using this software as it is as much time as he wants.

However, what happens if the company who provides you a SaaS decides the software you are consuming is not commercially viable? If they want to maintain this software to their customers it will have a cost to maintain the service. So, the most likely is you lost the software because the company don't want to assume the cost of its maintenance. I call this "software dispose cost".

In conclusion the cost of losing the software you are using is the cost you should evaluate when you have to take a decision to use a SaaS service or a tradicional one. So, at the end the forces to measure the convenience of a nuclear plant or the use of a SaaS service are very similar: practical forces vs long term responsability forces.

Finally, just to thank to all the cloud sellers who used electrical grid to explain the benefits of the cloud, their sample was better than they never would thought because it also explains pretty well the drawbacks of the cloud.

Related and more interesting references than this aloud thought:

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