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The Cloud - A Lego Analogy

May 30 2016

Written by Mark Ogden

This week I am presenting to a room full of business leaders on The Cloud - Understanding, Opportunities and Challenges. Even though I have a non-technical background, I can still get caught up in the technology speak, making it difficult to achieve understanding on some of the key messages regarding cloud computing. I have been thinking about different analogies I could come up with to try and better explain what cloud computing is, and how not every cloud is created equal. In this sense, I think Lego bricks do a pretty good job.  

Let's think about cloud platforms as a pile of Lego bricks; providing the building blocks that can be put together in many different ways. All cloud providers provide you with enough bricks that you can use to rent computing power; the basic idea of cloud computing. 

For those of us that either grew up with Lego, or built things with their kids, you know that your imagination was only limited by the amount of bricks you had available to you. It is this simple premise that is the difference between the global leaders in cloud computing and those that make up the numbers.

Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure give you more bricks to play with, allowing you to do so much more. Additionally, new bricks are being added to the collection almost every day. This means that you can not only build and use traditional IT infrastructure, but also data analytics, Internet of Things (IoT), machine learning and the list keeps growing. This is where our most advanced clients are already playing. Because of this, they are generating a competitive advantage over the traditional approach as the cloud is simply better, both in performance and cost.

Recently in South Australia, there has been publicity regarding the opening of a new $30M data centre known as YourDC ( To me the location of this data centre is of interest, but not relevant. It is the building blocks it provides that are of most importance. This got me thinking about the other key differential of cloud providers - how easy is it to put the bricks together.

Last year I brought my son a Lego car for his birthday. Knowing that it would fall to me to put it together, I made sure I chose one where the instructions looked easy enough for me to handle! Searching through cloud providers can be like this, where some provide easy to follow, step-by-step instructions. Others provide your worst IKEA experience! We find that what can take us less than an hour in one cloud platform, could take more than a day in another.

I read somewhere recently that five years in technology is like two generations. That holds very true, especially for those of us that purchased a flat screen TV five years ago (or maybe don't remember this, as that can get a little depressing)! The global leaders in cloud computing have already come across and solved the problems that newer entrants are only now experiencing. This means that not only are their instructions simple to follow, and do what they say they will do, but they are also adding new and exciting bricks all the time to build even greater outcomes.

When we review a cloud provider we try and answer the following two questions:

  1. How many Lego bricks do you get and what can you build with them? 
  2. How easy are they to put together, and do they come with good instructions? 

For us, AWS & Azure rate highly on both counts. Given that they are the two leading providers globally, this should not be a surprise. In a cloud ecosystem that can provide confusion and misunderstanding, choosing the right platform can be the difference between a pathway to competitive advantage or false hope. That is the reason why we see it being such an important decision to get right. I would value any feedback or comments you have on this analogy and if you think a worthwhile one to use.

Mark Ogden is the CEO of Comunet.