Fajitas, Chicken Wings, and Cloud Computing

June 22, 2010

Three of Lance Crosby’s favorite things are fajitas, chicken wings, and cloud computing. Believe it or not, there is a common thread between all three. See if you can figure it out.

First, let’s consider fajitas. What are they? Well, the only true fajita is beef outside skirt steak. Everything else is just grilled meat that you stuff in a tortilla. For many years, the outside skirt steak was a “throwaway” cut often given to vaqueros as part of their pay <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fajita> . I know a man who grew up in a family of migrant farm workers, and in his youth they would visit slaughterhouses to ask for free throwaway cuts. They often got fajitas.

Back in the ‘80s, the retail price of fajitas skyrocketed. Tex-mex restaurants suddenly made that cut of meat popular. Then, in 1988, a treaty with Japan allowed the Japanese to import American outside skirt steak without the usual 200% tariff. Thus, 90% of our outside skirt steak winds up in Japan. Bottom line, a previously unutilized throwaway cut of meat became a gold mine and boosted the utilization of a side of beef. Consequently, when you order fajitas today, you usually get some sort of substitute beef <http://www.dallasobserver.com/2009-06-18/restaurants/so-what-exactly-are-you-eating-when-you-order-fajitas-in-a-tex-mex-restaurant/1> , not true outside skirt steak.

Next, think about the lowly chicken wing. I just saw an ad for a local chicken wing place offering their “boneless” chicken wings for a special low price. These aren’t really wings. They are pure white tender boneless chicken breast strips – what you would think is the premium cut of a chicken. The fine print on the ad says that bone-in wings may NOT be substituted for this promotion. Huh? You can’t sub a worse cut of meat that’s mostly bone for a premium cut that’s all meat and no bone?

As it turns out, the demand for the formerly throwaway cut of chicken wings has driven up their price such that boneless breast strips yield a higher profit margin <http://www.abc3340.com/news/stories/0310/711570.html> than the bony wings. Once again, a formerly thrown away item becomes a gold mine and allows for higher utilization of the whole bird.

Finally, let’s add in cloud computing to this puzzle. When dedicated servers are used, they each often perform a single task, whether it’s an email server, a web server, an application server, a database server, etc. Such servers frequently have a resource utilization rate of less than 20%, which means that 80% of the server’s processing power is thrown away.

Enter cloud computing. When done correctly, cloud computing increases the utilization rate of each individual server and turns the formerly thrown away processing power into a gold mine. This allows for more efficient capital investments and a higher return on assets.

So what’s the common thread between fajitas, chicken wings, and cloud computing? You’ve probably already figured it out. All three have taken something that previously was almost worthless and thrown away and turned it into something valuable and highly demanded by boosting utilization.

SoftLayer plans to take this to another level later this year when we release BYOC – Build Your Own CloudTM. You’ll then be able to tailor your processing power to exactly what you need. Just select the amount of RAM, number of processors, storage space, an operating system, select hourly or monthly billing, and go. You don’t pay for resources you don’t need or use, and we have less unused processing capacity in our datacenters. It’s a win-win for our customers, our company, and the environment since power and real estate will be used more efficiently.

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