At the end of last week the news in the UK was dominated by the second round of ticket purchasing for the 2012 Olympic games; however I am sure the organisers were not expecting the additional coverage it gained when the Olympic website crashed in the early hours of Friday morning due to high volume of traffic, as the scramble for the remaining tickets began.

With the disclaimer that I have no understanding of the technical issues that occurred behind the scenes leading to these issues, I wanted to bring this scenario in to a question I am repeatedly asked by customers “what is the difference between a website solution and a cloud based solution?” as they both use the internet. If I am correct in what I am saying this point can add further evidence in my answer to this question.

When designing a website, such as one created for the Olympics it would require putting in a whole infrastructure to support X amount of users at peak. In general when designing any type of solution you would be required to think about the actual number of people that will use your solution (the scale), based on this you will decide on how to approach and with what design pattern.

When thinking about building an application to sell Olympic tickets (should they not have used cloud based technology), they would have needed to go through a process of estimating how many people would require access, which you would have thought would be calculated based on the number of tickets available. However this model can usually be wrong and I would hazard a guess that this time they may have got this wrong.

If they would have used cloud technology this would have allowed them to utilise the built in scalability that the infrastructure of Platform as a Service (PaaS) has to offer.

With PaaS the requirement is not to design the solution to accommodate the amount of users, a solution is designed with the ability to be able to scale up regardless of the number of users, allowing the PaaS to allocate more resource to cope with additional traffic when required, meaning you only paying for usage and you will never reach a stage where you run out of resources to handle the requests. I have previously discussed PaaS in further detail PaaS Times – Cloud Development.

It could be that this is not the case and they are using cloud technology but the issue was caused due to another problem, maybe there was a flaw in the design of the system, I’m sure we will never know. I would like to make clear that I am not criticising the Olympics, I am just trying to use this as an example to illustrate a question I receive frequently “what’s the difference between a website that runs on the internet and cloud based solution?”