Cloud elasticity is one of the most important features of cloud computing, and a major selling point for organizations to migrate from their on-premises infrastructure. But what is cloud elasticity exactly, and what are the benefits of cloud elasticity? Below, we’ll discuss everything you need to know about elasticity in cloud computing.

What is Cloud Elasticity?

Cloud elasticity is the process by which a cloud provider will provide resources to an enterprise’s processes based on the needs of that process. Cloud providers have systems in place to automatically deliver or remove resources to provide just the right amount of assets for each project. For the cloud user, they will be given enough power to run their workflows without wasting money on any supplied resources they don’t need.

To explain elasticity in the cloud, let’s look at the example of storing and running an application in the cloud. An application needs a specific environment to run, including computing power, virtual machines (VMs), and storage space. Because the cloud is elastic, you will only be given the assets needed to run that application. If you require more VMs to run different applications, you’ll be given those instances when you implement the new applications, but not beforehand.

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Why is it important?

Without Cloud Elasticity, organizations would have to pay for capacity that remained unused for most of the time, as well as manage and maintain that capacity with OS upgrades, patches, and component failures. It is Cloud Elasticity that in many ways defines cloud computing and differentiates it from other computing models such as client-server, grid computing, or legacy infrastructure.

It helps businesses avoid either over-provisioning (deploying and allocating more IT resources than needed to serve current demands) or under-provisioning (not allocating enough IT resources to meet existing or imminent demands).

Organizations that over-provision spend more than is necessary to meet their needs, wasting valuable capital which could be applied elsewhere. Even if an organization is already utilizing the public cloud, without elasticity, thousands of dollars could be wasted on unused VMs every year.

Under-provisioning can lead to the inability to serve existing demand, which could lead to unacceptable latency, user dissatisfaction, and ultimately loss of business as customers abandon long online and take their business to more responsive organizations. In this way, the lack of Cloud Elasticity can lead to lost business and severe bottom-line impacts.

Benefits

  • Increased flexibility when workload changes: Cloud elasticity represents a radical departure from the days of on-premises computing, in which organizations had to plan for unexpected demand spikes in advance by purchasing more resources than they would usually need. Businesses that take advantage of cloud elasticity don’t have to worry about the “Slashdot effect,” in which their website is suddenly unavailable during a traffic surge.
  • Improved resource allocation with a “pay as you go” cost model: One of the major drawbacks of on-premises computing is that you pay the same amount for your hardware and software, no matter how much you use it. Cloud elasticity enables a “pay as you go” cost model, in which you’re only charged for the resources that you consume.
  • Improved fault tolerance and higher availability: Cloud elasticity makes it easier for organizations to enjoy fault tolerance and high availability for their infrastructure and applications. For example, servers that are on the verge of failing can be automatically cloned before they go down, helping to minimize downtime as much as possible.

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The Cons of Cloud Elasticity

  • Finding the right talent: Cloud elasticity makes your day-to-day life easier, but it also adds complexity to your IT infrastructure behind the scenes. If you don’t choose a fully managed solution, you need to have access to the right technical talent to ensure that it’s dealt with correctly. This means finding cloud developers, engineers, and architects who can help implement cloud elasticity and integrate it with the rest of your workflow.
  • Learning curve: While cloud elasticity sounds good in theory, there’s a not-insignificant learning curve involved before you can use it effectively and start enjoying the benefits. Employees may need to familiarize themselves with new programming languages, cloud environments, automation tools, and other software.
  • Security issues: Although most IT leaders agree that the cloud is generally secure, cloud elasticity can throw a wrench into your security workflow. Elastic systems may only be running for a limited amount of time, which means that you’ll have to rethink how you perform incident response, root cause analysis, forensics, and audits.
  • Risk of vendor lock-in: Large public cloud providers such as Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud Platform, and Microsoft Azure all have offerings to help customers employ cloud elasticity – but these offerings also come with the risk of vendor lock-in. You might find yourself entrapped by the “golden handcuffs” of the public cloud, seeing the benefits of leaving but ultimately unable or unwilling to do so.

How elasticity affects cloud spend

The capabilities of the cloud are invaluable to any enterprise. But at the scale required for even a “smaller” enterprise-level organization to make the most of its cloud system, the costs can add up quickly if you aren’t mindful of them.

Scaling up your cloud instances at a time when you don’t need to is an unnecessary expense that leaves you with idle resources. This is commonly called overprovisioning. Conversely, failing to scale up when business needs dictate that you should do so, known as underprovisioning, also becomes costly: If your infrastructure can’t handle high levels of application traffic from cloud users, high latency and outages may occur. These issues will need IT mitigation, taking their attention away from more productive responsibilities. And if such failures become common, you might even lose customers.

When you have true cloud elasticity, you can avoid underprovisioning and over-provisioning. Moreover, the efficiency you’re able to achieve in everyday cloud operations helps stabilize costs. Cloud elasticity enables Software as a Service (SaaS) vendors to offer flexible cloud pricing plans, creating further convenience for your enterprise.

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Cloud Elasticity vs Cloud Scalability

Cloud elasticity is sometimes confused with cloud scalability, often because they’re used interchangeably or talked about in the same sentence. Scalability refers to the growing or shrinking of workflows or architectures in pre-built infrastructures without impacting performance. Both elasticity and scalability are important for cloud users. They need to be able to grow their workflows to match their enterprise’s needs while also knowing they have the correct amount of resources to do so.