From the Blogosphere
How Cool is the Cloud?
The promise of the cloud is that everything is easy and portable
Sep. 8, 2009 05:45 AM
Seven years ago we set out to build a technology that would solve the immense problems faced by business in adoption of technology. If you are not familiar with those problems, you need to familiarize with the now canonical Standish Groups’ Chaos Report, which among other things documents only a 32% rate of software projects completing successfully.
Soon after, “Web 2.0” emerged, and this was also cool. Essentially, this meant that many technologies would be opened up over the web for access by other technologies, leveraging very standard and common methods of interaction. Such concepts as XML and SOAP opened up new worlds for accessing large and complex software applications via relatively simple mechanisms. As a small software developer, we could now expend minimal resources to access one of the world’s largest geo-data repositories (google maps), to transact on the world’s leading online marketplace (eBay) and to ship via one of the world’s leading shippers (FedEx). Best of all, as a Platform provider, we could provide all of these capabilities to non-programmers using our tools! This was cool.
Several years ago as an ISV, we also became early adopters of VMWare’s server virtualization product line. Recent releases have even included a free version of their flagship ESX product line called ESXi, and this brings tremendous value to small business customers. Once installed, ESX allows the creation of many “virtual servers” on a single piece of hardware, and facilitates the installation of “virtual appliances”, essentially an entire software stack, into those virtual servers. Maybe even more impressively, it also allows for a deep level of management and portability of those appliances onto other ESX or any OVF formatted location. Being able to package an entire application stack as an appliance and make it portable, while removing many aspects of hardware support from the equation, was and is very cool.
Today, we are an early cohabitant of “The Cloud”, thanks in no small part to our adoption of all of the cool cloud enablers mentioned above. But to understand how cool cloud computing really is, you first have to understand that the cloud is still in its infancy, and already, it’s a cool kid. It’s kind of like that ten year old who hangs around with friends that can drive.
The promise of the cloud is that everything is easy and portable. When you provision a new server, you can decide where you want it to sit… GoGrid? Amazon? Behind your firewall?...it’s up to you. And with just points and clicks, you can move them later if you change your mind, data and all. You can perform simple ramp ups of storage, processor and memory, or more sophisticated ramp up’s by adding new servers to a cluster. Provisioning those servers is always simply point and click, and all things complex about the underlying software stack is handled for you. It won’t be long at all before you won’t even have to know what a “cluster” or “RAM” physically represents…you’ll just buy it if things are running slowly.
And, there’s so much more. Imagine having a one-click choice whether your data files are uploaded to your server…or sent directly to Amazon S3 for cheap, efficient storage? Imagine choosing a host, based on SLA and price, with a single click? Imagine pointing-and-clicking to select a data backup and archival plan that most closely suits your needs?
And, in the cloud, you will access a plethora of features and services a la carte. Access a 5GL Platform as a Service so you don’t even have to be a programmer to build and deploy sophisticated applications, or to speed up your deployment timeframes if you are a programmer. Spin up a development environment, import some baseline functionality, customize it, tie into some web services to do anything from shipping to currency conversion to mapping, and roll the entire package out to production for your company to benefit from.
So, again, how cool is the cloud? The cloud will empower legions of people to do things they never had even a remote chance to accomplish prior. The decreased timeframes for deployment coupled with dramatic empowerment of people represents a transformative productivity gain globally. It builds on a host of incredible technologies that have been pioneered over the last decade or so, and it brings them all together, once and for all, under a common umbrella. Using the right tools, even non-programmers will be able to produce results that would pleasantly surprise the authors of the Chaos report referenced above by bringing in new functionality on time and on budget.
The last decade has seen a lot of cool evolution in technology. The cloud is what brings it all together, and really puts it to work efficiently and easily. That’s how cool the cloud is.