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Resources to get upto speed on Cloud Computing May 24, 2010

Posted by ranjitn in Uncategorized.
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After a short hiatus I am back to pursuing my passion of seeing cloud computing make a meaningful impact for businesses.  High tech company executives have been chastised for confusing users about this paradigm.  Rightly so because many existing products were renamed as cloud computing products.  In defense of the high tech companies, the fact is that cloud computing is not a revolution but an evolution;E commerce has been around for more than a decade.  Some of the ideas such as virtual desktops have been around for several years.

So what is different now? One big difference is that we now have more reliable networks, be it data or voice.  More Users have broadband connections and have come to depend on the network. Cloud computing is an evolution where users are willing to use compute power in the network, using various access devices including smart phones.  It is still a change from the past because users need to trust the cloud computing service provider to render services without interruptions, and secure all personal data.  In the past, service interruptions were due to disk crashes or virus attacks on the personal computer.

A friend recently asked me how she could get up to speed on cloud computing, and which books would help.  My initial instinct was to say there are no books, but then I went to check on Amazon.  Sure enough there were no less than 293 books on “cloud computing”, several available for pre order.  The books reminded me of blind men describing an elephant.  This is not to demean their efforts in anyway, because I would explain it in a way my thinking has been shaped over the years. Books should help us synthesize the collective thought process and define the common vocabulary where there is a consensus.  Since this is such a big and emerging topic, it takes time for the dust to settle.  NIST, a US government agency had to step in and provide a definition of cloud computing we could agree on.  Analyst firms like Gartner and Forrester have variations of this. 

In the information age and with a topic as fluid as Cloud Computing it is imperative to keep in touch with daily news and blogging.  I have found the following to be great sources.

a) Gigaom  http://gigaom.com

b) Phil Wainewright  http://blogs.zdnet.com/SAAS

 c) Sandhill.com http://www.sandhill.com/

d) Cloudbook.net http://www.cloudbook.net/

 e) And to top it all (no pun intended) Guy Kawasaki’s new venture “Alltop” – a news aggregator.  http://cloud-computing.alltop.com/

f) Google groups – cloud-computing@googlegroups.com

– Ranjit Nayak

Convergence of Telcos & IT January 17, 2010

Posted by ranjitn in Uncategorized.
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The convergence of Telco and Information Technology. For some reason the convergence is not an recognized as an obvious trend. I first saw this notion in a research study by IDC. The research indicated an intersection of the two industries and hence opportunities. As a person on main street (nice terms for Not a Pundit) I see that my telco has added new services such as Satellite TV. One identifier I have seen for such telcos is CSP ( Content Service providers).  Last week I saw another article about Telstra the Australian Telco which reinforced the notion of convergence  (http://www.billingworld.com/articles/telstra-integration-on-demand-smb-market.html)

I was at the Management World conference in Orlando in 2008. Although one of the keynote speeches did go into Amazon’s cloud services and intrduced Web 2.0 services to attendees, the average attendee did not see how online services were related to the services telcos offered. A very knowledgebale senior technical staffer even asked what “SaaS” was, and admitted that he had just heard about “Salesforce.com”.

Economic situation good or bad for SaaS (Cloud) January 17, 2010

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This is a topic being discussed far and wide. And the politically correct answer is it depends! One look at this article (http://www.mercurynews.com/business/ci_11130755?nclick_check=1)  on the San Jose Mercury and the ambivalence is evident.

The logic favors SaaS companies in an economic downturn. Buyers do not incur capital expenses, instead they incur a recurring expense which is accounted for as an operational expense. A recent survey by ScanSafe confirms this sentiment. We have counter arguments from none other than Larry Ellison. I for one do expect that SaaS companies will do well, but then seeing is beleiving!! Surveys and opinions can only go so far.

However there is some truth to the argument that in general, SaaS companies will have lower revenues due to the economic downturn as all investments are put on hold. This is very disturbing because even good investments will now be stalled. The CFO’s mantra in uncertain times is cash conservation.

A blog post by Phil Wainewright even suggests that an acceleration of the SaaS market could be disastrous for the software industry.

Why is cloud computing attractive? January 17, 2010

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Until the 90’s, most software applications were written for mainframe use. In the 90s, personal computing and client server applications began their dominance. The 90s also saw the rise of the internet and a networked globe. Today, the pendulum is swinging back to server centric computing, much like the mainframe era. Software complexity contributes to this trend. Maintaining software by applying patches is cumbersome and time consuming. Personal computers, unlike data centers, are not very secure and reliable. There are several cases of laptops with classified data being stolen or lost. Users losing important data due to hard drive crashes and lacking any backups is not uncommon. Individuals and small companies cannot afford the time or manpower needed to maintain IT resources.

How are SaaS and Cloud computing related? January 17, 2010

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With the terms “Cloud computing” being used so often, like many, I pondered on its relationship to Software as a service (SaaS). Are they synonymous? If not, what is the overlap? To add to the confusion analysts, reporters and vendors, have their own definitions. For instance Gartner calls it “hosted software based on a single set of common code and data definitions that are consumed in a one-to-many model by all contracted customers, at any time, on a pay-for-use basis, or as a subscription based on usage metrics” http://www.gartner.com/it/page.jsp?id=496886. According to internet news “Software as a Service may also be referred to as simply hosted applications” http://inews.webopedia.com/TERM/S/SaaS.html. The second description implies that a software vendor could get a hosting company to host an instance of the software and voila, you have SaaS. The question is how is this any different from an ASP (Application service provider). Now the pay-for-use can be construed to be a monthly subscription fee and this is different from the pay-for-use we see in our electricity utility bills or cell phone bills. So let’s see how Salesforce.com the poster child of the SaaS industry fits in to the definition. Yes, there is a hosted solution, and yes they charge a monthly fee ( up front). They also charge a different subscription fee based on the features available for use. However, there is a significant characteristic which differentiates salesforce.com from an ASP – multitenancy. This means salesforce.com does not create a new instance of the software installation for every new customer.

Cloud computing on the other hand seems to have originated from the hardware side of computing. The terms “utility computing” and “grid computing” immediately come to mind. The following blog by Geva Perry, on gigaom.com, contrasts utility computing from cloud computing http://gigaom.com/2008/02/28/how-cloud-utility-computing-are-different. In summary he says “Utility computing relates to the business model in which application infrastructure resources — hardware and/or software — are delivered. While cloud computing relates to the way we design, build, deploy and run applications that operate in an a virtualized environment, sharing resources and boasting the ability to dynamically grow, shrink and self-heal.”

Based on this description of Cloud computing, it is clear to me that SaaS vendors must adopt the cloud computing paradigm which encompasses concepts such as linear scalability, multi-tenency, self-healing, high reliability and virtualization, in order to deliver customer value. As such, SaaS is software delivered using cloud computing infrastructure. Cloud computing infrastructure includes all the hardware and middleware components needed to satisfy the pre-requsites listed above.