Are you the dumb money in the Cloud?

Another paper came out measuring the performance diversity of Cloud VMs within the same advertised type. Here’s the paper (PDF), here are the slides (PDF) and here is the video (this was presented back in June but I hadn’t seen it until today’s post in the High Scalability blog). Once again, the research shows a large discrepancy. The authors assert that “by selecting better-performing instances to complete the same task, end-users of Amazon EC2 platform can achieve up to 30% cost saving”.

I’ve heard people describing how they use “instance tasting”. Every time they get a new instance, they run performance tests (either on CPU like this paper, or i/o, or both, depending on how they plan to use the VM). They quickly terminate the instances that don’t perform well, to improve their bang/buck ratio. I don’t know how prevalent that practice is, but clearly the more sophisticated users have ways to game the system optimize their consumption.

But this doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It necessarily increases the likelihood that less sophisticated users will end up with (comparatively over-priced) lower-performing instances. Especially in Clouds with high heterogeneity and which have little unused capacity. It’s like coming to the fruit salad at a buffet and finding all the berries gone. I hope you like watermelon and honeydew.

Wall Street has a term for this. For people who don’t understand the system in details, who don’t have access to insider information and don’t use sophisticated trading technology: the dumb money.

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