Cloud computing … is it up in the sky or down on Earth?

One phenomenon (actually I don’t know how to call it or to find an apropiate name for it, maybe the metaphore nailing a jelly to a wall is still valid here) closely related to Web 2.0 is cloud computing. The definition on Wikipedia states that cloud computer is actually the development and use of computer of technology based on the Internet… personally I don’t think that this is telling too much since a large section of the computer technology is growing based on the Internet. I can go farther by saying that the utility of computers (from small embedded systems to PC’s) outside Internet boundaries, is going to decrease to zero.

Again I’ll have to refer to, one of the most intersting resources that I’ve found so far.

One of the first that Christopher Barnatt is doing in his article is comparing and tracing the differences between Web 2.0 and cloud computing. As he says Web 2.0 is making new forms of online connections between people, services and applications, whilst cloud computing is the detachement of computing resources from any even notional location.

To put it simpler, with my own words, Web 2.0 is about establishing online communities, sharing videos and music, writing blogs, broadcasting yourself on youtube, editing wikipedia articles, whereas cloud computing is using web tools from Zoho, like (Writer, Sheet, Show), or from Salesforce, or from Employease or from Google, instead of installing Microsoft Office package on your computer.
Also when simply accessing you email account on Google or Yahoo or MSN, or whatever, “you’re getting into the cloud”.

At some moment in time Christopher, in his video, puts an equal sign in between cloud computing and computing utility. If, on top of this, we add John McCarthy’s words at the MIT Centennial in 1961:

If computers of the kind I have advocated become the computers of the future, then computing may someday be organized as a public utility just as the
telephone system is a public utility… The computer utility could become the basis of a new and important industry.

many uncertainties (“little clouds”) will dissapear and we can “enjoy the clear sky”.

Concerning cloud computing things are more that illustrated above, actually the existence of tools like Google Reader or Zoho Writer is one key aspect of cloud computing, namely software as a service. One of the problems nowadays concerning local application software is that you, as a person, have to pay same price (well … there are Enterprise Software and also Sandard Software Editions, at different fees, so “same” is not quite “same” 🙂 ) as a company, another thing is that you’ll need to install the software locally and for that you’ll need some minimum hardware requirements, useless to say that the software may rely on many other dependencies which, on their turn will give other headaches. After this you’ll need to maintain the software by upgrading it and depending on the license type you’re not allowed to distribute the software to a third party. In one word, after buying the license, if this is the case, you are God for that software, everything starting from respecting the agreement with the company (I am referring here to that piece of text that few of us are reading it and which has at the end a tick button where you agree with terms and conditions) to uninstalling the software (or its loss of existence on your local machine), falls into your responsibility. When talking about software as a service slice of the “cloud”, all the things enumerated above vanish, you shift your activities from your desk to some servers’ rooms.

Let’s take all the aforementioned things one by one! Buying the license – actually it is not mandatory to be into the cloud to avoid the costs of a software purchasing. This was overreached two decades ago, when Linux and free software phenomenons came into existence, but also earlier as Richard Stalmann himself claims that he wrote free software long before Linux kernel 0.0.1 appeared. OK, so you get the software at 0$ expense (even this is a completely misunderstood and misinterpreted opinion about stuff like free software, open source or GNU, if you’ll watch Revolution OS movie, and I strongly encourage you to do so, you’ll see there some “gurus” explaining this) but this helps you saving some money, but you can’t avoid all the headache which will follow, installing and administrating it. Here is given an alternative definition of Saas, on-demand software, you use it as long as you need it, and at much lower costs. Me (as a company or as person) if I want to deliver some services/products to some other guy (company or person), I just “enter the cloud”, meaning that via a web browser I’m accessing some pre-installed software, I am doing my job and at the other end, the second party, the “other guy”, extracts the results.

Few people nowadays are using local email clients, only those working in the corporate environment are using local email servers and local email accounts, in order to exchange data with other companies, but the majority has a Gmail, or Yahoo or MSN account. Maybe it is a common sense problem to use an online email service rather than a local one, because of the heavy burden of emails that need to be preserved and can eat up your local space and because security is not a major issue (if we’re talking about personal emails, or it is but it is up to you to choose the appropriate email hosting service).

Why not going one step farther than this? Why not extending the cloud to other applications than email clients? But for companies producing SaaS software where is the profit coming from, is it from personal users ? definitely not, is it from other companies that want to reduce their IT costs ? Yes. I’m starting to speak like a guy who wants to sell SaaS software, maybe this guy from Salesforce is much more persuasive than me. What are the reasons that stop CEO’s moving into the cloud: security and privacy ( cannot completely trust something that is running somewhere else and don’t have direct access ) and also to get locked into some “cloud vendor services”? but Nicholas Carr’s interview will give you a clearer idea about these concerns.

Enough with SaaS, let’s get to its counterpart, Hardware as a service. Ok, so you do not want to complicate with software maintenance, you prefer to rent some tools, but what if you “do not like” to buy neither the hardware and there would be a possibility to rent it. Then you’ll enter in HaaS part of the cloud and meanwhile you’ll became customer for Amazon, Rackspace and 3terra (just to give some examples). Each of them provide a cloud infrastructure, Amazon has EC2,Rackspace has Mosso and 3terra has AppLogic. Let’s just take Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud and say some words. This is a web service able to produce some virtual computing environments, meaning hardware resources (which they call instances) plus operating systems (amazon machine image) along with the needed software platforms. Here you’ll find more details, about the way it works, what types of instances they offer you, which underlying operating systems and software is available and how much will it cost you. Actually EC2 is just one of the web services that Amazon offers.
You can find them on Wikipedia.

How it works when using EC2? I will let you to find yourself the answer, this guy might help you a lot (there is a variant soundless, in case music is bugging you).

In conclusion which are the pros and cons of cloud computing? Pros: reducing IT costs (some of the cloud tools are even freely distributed, but some of them can be rented, here comes a Con: calculating variable monthly costs of using the cloud), fast start-up (small business can start quicker by having an easier budget calculation scheme, only spending is the monthly subscription fee, no unexpected fees), it frees your floor in your company, no need to have servers rooms, getting rid of maintaining complicated software stacks

Cons: insecurity and lack of privacy, must have an Internet connection, decreased speed (an external Internet connection is slower than a local one), you may be forced to stick with some few “Cloud vendors”, which can decrease in number but increase in computing capacity and resources, big players who already started to “acquire parts of the clouds” as Google, or Amazon are …


2 Responses to Cloud computing … is it up in the sky or down on Earth?

  1. payday loans says:

    Thanks to save sharing information. I’ve written and shared my thoughts more this on my blog.

  2. Pingback: software as a service terms and conditions | SOFTWARE

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