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Cloud Expo: Article

How Cool is the Cloud?

The promise of the cloud is that everything is easy and portable

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.

During our journey, we encountered many cool things. From the beginning, we were early adopters of the LAMP stack; Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP. Further, we were able to leverage all sorts of open-source tools like WYSIWYG controls, time and date management libraries, an amazing JavaScript library called jquery, parsers, ftp servers, email and so much more. These things greatly accelerated our time to market.  Open sources was and remains really cool because it provides practical solutions to complex code problems.

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… GoGridAmazon?  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.

More Stories By Treff LaPlante

Treff LaPlante has been involved with technology for nearly 20 years. At WorkXpress, he passionately drives the vision of making customized enterprise software easy, fast, and affordable.

Prior to joining WorkXpress, Treff was director of operations for eBay's HomesDirect. While there, he created strategic relationships with Fortune 500 companies and national broker networks and began his foray into the development of flexible workflow software technologies. He served on the management team that sold HomesDirect to eBay.

During his time at Vivendi-Universal Interactive, Treff was director of strategy. In addition to M&A activities, Treff broadly applied quantitative management principles to sales, marketing, and product line functions. Treff served as the point person for the management team that sold Cendant Software to Vivendi-Universal. Earlier positions included product management and national sales trainer for Energy Design Systems, an engineering software company. Treff began his professional career as a metals trader for Randall Trading Corp, a commodities firm that specialized in bartering and transporting various metals and coal from the then-dissolving Soviet Union.

Treff received his MBA from Pepperdine University and a BS in chemical engineering from The Pennsylvania State University. http://www.workxpress.com

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Most Recent Comments
gdavismcf 08/26/09 05:11:00 PM EDT

For anyone looking for a good definition of what exactly this Cloud thing is, check out our recent blog.

What is really exciting about the Cloud and Web 2.0 evolution is that how it is bringing complex technology to the mainstream in a big way. Just a few years ago a collaborative 5GL platform like WorkXpress did not and almost could not have existed. The accessibility of viable Cloud infrastructure and dramatic increase in web service interconnection, much of which Treff alludes too is what makes this possible.