On the twenty fourth of April 1949, the children of the United Kingdom rejoiced as the wartime rationing of sweets (candy) finally ended. Four months later rationing had to be reintroduced. This is an important lesson for those of us involved in the evolution of cloud, orchestration and self-service infrastructures.

I’ve just returned form Las Vegas where F5 were participating in the ‘Gartner Data Center, Infrastructure and Operations Management Conference’ (try saying that after a few mojitos). As well as  participating in a fun panel discussion, getting to talk to some of our customers and partners while doing my turn on our stand and playing the awkward straight man to Peter Silva’s one man charisma show while filming for the F5 YouTube channel , I was able to attend some of the speaker sessions. I particularly enjoyed a session on building private and hybrid clouds from Tom Bittman (@tombitt), a Vice President and Distinguished Analyst at Gartner. As you might expect, it was packed with information, advice and direction. One small tidbit, almost mentioned in passing, really resonated with me. Understand your unmet IT demand before opening the floodgates of self service. I think it’s true to say that for many parts of an organization (including within the IT department itself), the provision of IT infrastructure never really happens as fast as anyone would like. Once you turn over the ability to provision servers, storage, networking, and application services like load balancing or acceleration to the people who actually want to consume the infrastructure, you had better be ready to meet their needs, because their consumption of your infrastructure could wreak havoc on your carefully predicted ROI (although most organizations are realizing that a more important benefit of cloud-like infrastructure is agility, not economy). All the agility and efficiency in the world won’t help if a year’s worth of infrastructure spend is consumed in four months. In addition to understanding the organization’s  appetite for infrastructure, you need to let people how much they are consuming by implementing at least ‘showback’ – regular reporting on IT cost apportioned by user.

By understanding your organization’s  potential usage and at least giving them the chance to read the label before they open that second bag of candy, you can avoid repeating what must have been one mighty sugar crash back in the summer of ‘49.