Metaphors are common in tech. They help explain new concepts to the masses in familiar terms. The most common cloud metaphor? Pets and cattle – often used to underscore how users should think differently about infrastructure and application design patterns in the cloud. The phrase was first publicized by Randy Bias (more good reading on the topic is here and here).



Cloud-native apps — in the enterprise and otherwise — are almost exclusively run on instances best described as cattle. Why the term cattle?

  • Cattle are given numbers
  • They are similar to other cattle
  • When one gets sick, you get another one

Instances that are cattle can be quickly destroyed and replaced thanks to automation and modern application architecture.

Startups tend to use cattle for their flagship IP, with SaaS products to run their IT ops.

Go even further, and platform-as-a-service offerings like Cloud Foundry abstracts the management of cattle away altogether.


Exploring Kittens

In contrast, VMs that are pets are given names, and cared for extensively in the hopes of a long and happy life. Pets are more common in the enterprise world, where there’s an incumbent application portfolio that’s broad, diverse, and highly fragmented.

  • Pets are given names like
  • They are unique, lovingly hand raised and cared for
  • When they get ill, you nurse them back to health

IT pros have pets in on-premises virtualized deployments, in managed apps, and traditional hosting products. For example: an on-premises hosted ERP application. To run this yourself you need an application expert, and you need to have anti-virus, backup, restore, archive and a bunch of other products installed on or near your servers – thus making it a very important pet that’s attention-hungry to boot

Caught in a Stampede?

Pets don’t get a lot of time and attention from the tech press. Pets power relatively boring steady-state enterprise workloads that do the mundane work of keeping things running.

Enterprises deploy cattle to help them transform their organization with new apps. But pets are top of mind for IT as well. After all, everyone is dramatically reducing the time and capital spent managing on-premises data centers. These data centers chalk full of… you guessed it, pets. These pets need a new and better home.

Pets Meet Cattle…Cattle, Pets

The future is not pets vs. cattle in the octagon of cloud; enterprises must support both, until legacy apps are retired.

In the meantime, managing pets and cattle in the same interface offers lots of benefits. As such, this co-existence is the goal of our flagship feature in the latest CenturyLink Cloud release.

Pets get a boost with our new self-service VM Import capability. Users can now import an OVF image – from a VMware environment - into any CenturyLink Cloud data center.

They can then manage that new VM in the Control Portal, alongside their existing machines (read our requirements and this Getting Started KB.

This feature gives pets a new lease on life, able to survive outside the shrinking on-premises data center world. They are now first-class citizens in our public cloud, offering users a single place to manage their cattle, new pets, and pets from years gone by… until of course cattle have been created to replace them.

Finding better and faster ways of moving pets to our cloud is a big priority for us, because it matters to our customers. VM Import is just the start of this effort to dramatically accelerate the move to cloud for our customers.

In addition to new tools like VM Import, CenturyLink also provides workload evaluation services, cloud strategy and migration assistance. Our teams are willing and able to help you manage your new herd of cattle and your existing pets - get started today and see how your pets like the fit of CenturyLink Cloud.