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Cloud elasticity:
What is elasticity
in cloud computing?

Author: Shane Schick

Successful businesses know they risk disappointing customers and hampering their growth if they allow their resources to be stretched too thin. Cloud elasticity has become a powerful way for these businesses to avoid that in their IT infrastructure and applications, helping ensure they're ready for anything.

Consider a company that receives a sudden influx of orders to its e-commerce site, for example. This influx might indicate that customers are reacting positively to a marketing campaign or a new product launch. However, the unexpected demand could strain the site to the point where customers can't make purchases or even search for items they want.

Cloud elasticity can prevent workload issues from dragging a site or application down and creating a risk that customers will take their business elsewhere. So, what is elasticity in cloud computing?

What is elasticity in cloud computing?

Elasticity is best defined as a cloud computing service's ability to dynamically adapt to meet an organization's changing demands. This could include growing the capacity of a cloud-based system's central processing unit (CPU), for instance, or its storage resources or memory. Elasticity allows an organization to scale a cloud-based service up or down quickly and cost-efficiently.

Without elasticity, organizations would always have to know in advance when their capacity needs might change, which is difficult. It would also likely require their IT departments to manually provision or deprovision resources based on fluctuations in demand the moment they occur. A company might also need to invest in costly backup infrastructure that would be available "just in case."

One of the sectors where elasticity becomes transformative is retail, where cloud computing powers the point of sale (POS). Elasticity could also help streaming services that experience sudden popularity for a new video or album, or even a school district that needs to manage major events like registrations.

Why is cloud elasticity important?

Cloud elasticity not only avoids resource constraints but also works almost entirely autonomously. Using monitoring tools, a business can expand storage or memory capacity at the precise moment it needs it. Once the demand for computing resources dies down, a business can reduce this capacity.

This provides organizations with the ability to optimize their costs because they aren't overpaying for computing resources they aren't using. This affords companies the opportunity to direct those savings to other parts of the business.

Even more importantly, cloud elasticity helps businesses quickly adjust to dynamic market needs and helps give IT departments greater confidence that applications and infrastructure will support business requirements. It also helps avoid any disruptions that can have a negative effect on the customer experience and company revenues.

How do network-as-a-service (NaaS) solutions support cloud elasticity?

The availability, speed and performance that companies want don't come from cloud computing services alone. Many of the same benefits and attributes are principle to network-as-a-service offerings that are deployed as part of a more holistic IT strategy.

NaaS does not treat all traffic the same, much as cloud elasticity adjusts resources based on how they're consumed. Companies that use NaaS can customize and even prioritize traffic depending on what's best for the business. This could include the bandwidth available for specific applications, users or both.

Though some network components have a fixed cost regardless of the vendor involved, NaaS bandwidth on demand capabilities allows organizations to scale up and down with the same speed and agility that's associated with the "elastic" powers of the cloud.

Becoming a more adaptive enterprise makes it possible to set more ambitious growth targets and achieve them, even if it means grappling with unforeseen events. Talk to a managed service provider to better understand how NaaS can build upon the elasticity cloud computing provides.


Is elasticity the same as scalability? +
  • Technically, scalability may not be dynamic and more frequently refers to increasing workload capacity without affecting performance or requiring more human operators.

How does a cloud-based system know when elasticity is needed? +
  • Most providers offer system monitoring tools that track resource uses and possible constraints.

Is elasticity only offered by a specific company? +
  • No. It's a common characteristic that many public cloud providers offer.