My love affair with the cloud

08 November 2014

It was last Monday afternoon that it suddenly dawned on me. The feelings had been brewing ever since I first laid eyes on it: all that resource at a click of a button, who wouldn't be swept off their feet? But it was then, after yet another day of seeing it in all its glory, I finally admitted it. I'm head over heels in love with the cloud.

"What changed?", I hear you ask. Well, it was a pretty normal day, in all honesty. We'd spun up an instance or three, and I was looking through some backups to locate some data to restore.

It was slightly complicated by not knowing exactly when the data had been removed, so I embarked on a binary search across a few dozen backups to locate it. Easy peasy in AWS: grab a snapshot of an EBS volume, create a volume, mount it, check it, rinse and repeat. My mind drifted back to a previous job where I'd once had to ask another team to restore a backup of their system for me into a test environment. It went something like this:-

Me: “Can you restore last week’s backup?”
Them: “Sure, I’ll get the operations people to do that. Will let you know when that’s done, tomorrow.”

Tomorrow

Me: “How’s it looking?”
Them: “Ah well, the ticket’s still in the queue. They should be able to get the tape back from the off-site facility in 3 days.”

Three days later

Me: “So… about that restore.”
Them: “There’s been a bit of a problem. The restore from backup failed. We’re going to restore from the previous day’s backup”
Me: “Ah, ok. How long will that take?”
Them: “It’ll be another 3 days; they need to go get the tape.”
Me: “Well, I guess we’ll have to wait”

Three days later... again

Me: “Bet you’re getting fed up with my phone calls.”
Them: <nervous laugh>
Me: “So?”
Them: “That restore failed, too. They’re going to try the previous day’s backup.”

A few backups later, it finally worked. Total time: about 2 weeks. Total time to do this in the cloud: 1/2 day.

Disclaimer: of course, what I've just done with AWS could all be done in a physical environment with online backups but it would require custom software, effort and, in a big company, lots of arguments about shredding costs across departments. Cloud providers such as Amazon give you this out-of-the box with the smallest amount of configuration so, not only is everything there ready to use at the get-go, you don't have to have the discussions justifying the cost of all that extra software; all you pay is for the extra disk usage.

*** A very slightly modified version of this originally appeared on our company blog. Picture credit (cropped): Carmen Eisbär



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