Sunday, March 22

Breaking down 'The Cloud'

A few weeks ago I attended the 2009 SaaS summit in San Francisco and there seemed to be some confusion about the how the term "Cloud" should be used and what it means. The panelists and speakers presented and discussed how the word is used and the different meanings that it can have. I was not satisfied with any of the answers and decided I needed to write a post with about a single definition of the "Cloud".

The problems seems to stem from the fact that the term "cloud" has been used for so many things. There seem to be two main ways that people are using it today that cause confusion:

1) Computer Cloud - This could be any cloud computing service such as Amazon, GoGrid, AppEngine, etc. 


2) Cloud Application - In my opinion this is another way of saying Software As A Service, and includes, Google Docs, etc.

It gets a little confusing when people say "On the Cloud", or that they are going to move their application "to the cloud". Does that mean that they are going to move to a virtual cloud infrastructure or that they are going to provide a SaaS? 

This is how I break it down:

Cloud can be defined as any technology service that a user can plug into which provides something without the user's knowledge of the infrastructure that supports that service. 

Some examples - 

(1) a software application (i.e. SaaS): you can log into the application and use it but you have no idea what the code looks like or how the servers are configured. Some examples are Google Docs or

(2) a virtual server environment: you can get on the server and add code to it, but you have no idea what the server looks like or the bandwidth/power/rack environment around the server. Some examples are Amazon Web Services, GoGrid, or AppEngine

(3) any other service where you cannot see behind the curtain. 

Think about it. It is a cloud. Something that is not definable and is given the universal term that is completely amorphous and only visible from the outside. I am not exactly sure where the term Cloud came from (in the technology sense). Back in the days it was used as people were trying to describe the Internet and System administrators (and people attempting to draw the Internet) would invariably draw a bunch of servers and lightning bolts and then that big cloud in the middle. 

Some people do not like the term, but I don't mind it so much. My advice for anyone that wants to clearly communicate using this word, is to add something in front of it or after it to clearly define the service that you are referring to, such as 'computer' or 'application'. Whatever you do, get used to it - whether software or infrastructure, the Cloud is the future. 

Tuesday, March 3

How to Save $250,000 by Migrating to the Cloud

How much time and money do you spend on your infrastructure to keep your apps and other systems running? Do you have under-utilized servers? Do you have system administrators on staff that are only required in emergencies or when something needs changing? Moving your systems into the cloud can drastically reduce inefficiencies and the cost of running your infrastructure.

Zoopla, a UK based real estate site, saved £200,000 pounds (approx. $260,000 USD) in its first year of operations by using Amazon Web Services (AWS). Using AWS meant no data centers, no sys admins, no network equipment, etc.
“We learned that even with a decent-sized systems team that maintaining your own hardware platform is a time-sink and to do so within a tight budget can result in big constraints on responsiveness & flexibility,” Kain (co-founder) comments.
True, true.
“The cycle of procuring and installing servers or upgrades can be a distraction, especially when you’re busy trying to make the company grow,” says Kain. “It’s very difficult to anticipate hardware demand under those circumstances, and the cycle of negotiating discounts, ordering, waiting for delivery, installing/configuring software, scheduling data-centre time to install the physical hardware – it’s a drain on a growing start-up with tightly-controlled costs. And that’s just server growth – unanticipated hardware failures can have a terrible impact on productivity.”
If this sounds familiar, you need to talk to us. We will make you as happy and stress free as Zoopla, and then some. Remember, we stay up all night so you don't have to.