Why I'm on the fence about cloud computing

Posted 10 months ago | Originally written on 24 Jul 2023

I've always wanted to run my own servers. The first 'server' I bought was a €20 PC with 2GB RAM, which I attached to my home network and set up as a webserver. I was able to SSH home from work and fool about but did not do anything more than that. This was in 2014 before I had ever encountered cloud computing. At that time, I recall trying to find ways to host Django applications; Google offered AppEngine to run Django projects but I didn't pursue it since I did not imagine the ongoing costs would be worth it, however low. Incidentally, I recall also fooling around with heroku. I set something up which seemed to run but I never proceeded beyond that. Thereafter, I had a million emails telling me to migrate but never really bothered.

After leaving Ireland, I set up the old PC at home but this time was bugged by the public IP changing with every restart of the router. This meant that such changes would make the server inaccessible. I did come across some clever solutions which would run a server that would communicate with a remote server every time the IP address changed. Eventually, I implemented my own solution but knew that the best solution would be to simply have a static IP to the router.

In the meantime, my collection of 'servers' grew from the initial cheap PC to a couple of PCs each with 8GB of RAM running multicore CPUs. I bought them at a work auction for at most £20 each. Thus, I so far had incurred roughly £50-60 in hardware costs with no ongoing costs except the monthy Internet bill, which I would have to pay anyway even if I had my applications hosted externally. In effect, I have no operating costs for running my servers.

When I first encountered offerings by Google and Amazon, I was petrified that a 1GB machine with hardly a CPU to write home about would be billed at around £5 a month. Such a machine could hardly do anything useful. In any event, the question that bothered me was: why had we ever needed Xeon and Octa-core processors if I could string together a couple of 1GB machines? Had the wool been pulled over our eyes that servers must be beefy machines? The more I played around with the cost calculators the less sensible it seems to pay for cloud. By the time you are on to decent machines, even comparable to my humble servers, you're paying odds of £60 per month. On the other hand, eBay is choke full of old servers as well as decent old PCs which one can set up as servers. You'd be getting the exact same compute, right? I'm yet to find out why I should use a Xeon over an ordinary CPU. Apple's ditching Intel to end up with (at the very least) unbelievable power consumption stats suggests that we may have been living under a lie for a very long time.