Is the iCloud using AWS and Azure? So what if it is…

While doing some of my early morning reading today I stumbled across an article on DataCenterKnowledge.com that reported that people have been watching HTTP traffic and it appears that Amazon AWS and Microsoft’s Azure Cloud were being used in some way to support the iCloud data center in North Carolina.  (See full article here).  I don’t know if Apple is using these other Cloud service providers or not.  What I will say is…who cares?  Let me explain why before the Macista’s out there filet me for defending this in the event that it turns out to be true, because there are a LOT of news stories out there calling this a HUGE black eye and embarrassment for Apple.  With all due respect, I disagree.

Let me be transparent for a moment and remind you that I proudly work for Dell in the Data Center Solutions team.  You know…the people that do really cool things with Cloud and Hyperscale.  At Dell, we like to say two things about the Cloud that I think apply here.  First, our working definition of Cloud Computing is “A style of computing where dynamically scalable and often virtualized resources are provided as a service.”  To go along with that there are some characteristics we like to see in a Cloud, but I will only mention two of them here.

  • Unlimited processing and storage
  • Elastic; scale up on down as needed

When Apple built this new data center to support the iCloud offering there had to be some assumptions made.

  • How many users will we support (pretty easy to guess that one)
  • What will our growth rate be
  • How much data are we talking about per user
  • What type of data do we want to support moving forward
  • How much do we want to spend upfront
When you don’t know the answers to all of the questions, there is a realistic chance that you are going to experience some over / under spend and architecture issues.  My point in this is that if Apple can save some money and take advantage of existing Cloud infrastructures while it gets a feel for some of the unknowns (even though they have plenty of money), why wouldn’t they do that?  I know I sure would, and I talk to customers every day that should do just that rather than jump in with both feet without any kind of pilot or PoC.  Again, I am not saying that Apple doesn’t know what they are doing.  I am sure they have this all planned out.  I just believe there are some unknowns that need to be ironed out before they expand too far.
So…what is Apple IS using Amazon’s AWS and *gasp* Microsoft’s Windows Azure to power parts of their Cloud?  At Dell, we believe that Cloud Computing is about evolving IT to enable greater responsiveness to business needs while at the same time, driving greater efficiencies.  By taking advantage of existing Cloud processing and storage for parts of the iCloud, Apple is giving its users a greater response to their needs while keeping their own costs down while they mature the product and get some reality behind the numbers before (I assume) moving their services in-house.
This really is a great example of how the Cloud can work for any business as they strive to offer their customers (internal or external) greater services and efficiencies while at the same time investing their resources in a targeted way.  

Until next time, I see you in the Cloud!

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