Computing escapes from the Computer; turns to Cloud.

August 16, 2011 § Leave a comment

Dec 2010: I was asked to write an article introducing Cloud Computing to undergraduates having absolutely no idea about it, and make it interesting.
Shivery nights, hot coffee, and numerous drafts later, this is what I came out with:
(and it got rejected! to know why, read along! ..and let me know too! 😛 )

Need hardware, storage, software, an OS, or any other sort of applications, services for your computer?
Do not fret. The cloud has come to your rescue!
Or let me change that a little. You will find all that you need at the one place you always knew you could rely upon- the Internet.

No, I wont be introducing the topic of Cloud Computing.
For the simple reason that it is not something new that we do not know about and have to understand
It has been there for quite some time now and we have been using it throughout. Yes you have too.
Have an email account? Ever used Google Docs before? …Or Microsoft Live or for that matter any other web-based application?
Yes it is that simple.
And I rest my case. I have nothing else to say.
After all how much ever I try I could never replace the hundreds of expert write-ups on cloud computing available on the internet.
This was my first draft.
I read it again. What had I done?
I had successfully made the reader realize that cloud computing is nothing complicated and very close home- but this is not even the tip of the iceberg.

Iceberg: the rest of it. Including the ‘Cloudy’ parts

An elephant in a room of blind men
I couldn’t find a more precise definition for the term.
You and me being the blind men see just a fraction of the giant and perceive it as per our needs.
I mean, have you used all the technological plug-ins in that latest advanced software you installed? Have you actually used it other than when you had to make that major project of yours?
It’s not just you; research shows that the average person doesn’t use more than 85% capacity of their computer applications! To think of it in another way you pay for nearly 6 times what you actually use!
What a waste!
What if software were services too- use whenever you need to and to whatever extent; don’t pay for what you don’t use!  Oh and have the added advantage to use it anytime, anywhere!
The cloud being the enormous Elephant comprises of all this and much more:
IaaSkePaaS, SaaS. hai!
Lol, no I haven’t sidetracked.
These are the kinds of services provided under Cloud-Computing!
IaaS: Infrastructure as a service
Providing Hardware, OS, Software, Storage and Network- Everything as a service
·IBM Blue house
·Amazon EC2
·Microsoft Azure Platform
·Sun Parascale, etc
PaaS: Platform as a service
Providing and Hosting of a development platform containing Middleware, Integration, Messaging, Information, and Connectivity
·Google App-engine
·IBM Virtual images
·CastIron, etc
SaaS: Software as a service- the most familiar of the three
Providing Applications, Plug-ins, and Services online
·Gmail, Google Calendar
·MS Office Live
·Payroll, HR, CRM
·IBM Lotus Live, etc

The Virtual in Real
Who said completely Virtual Workspaces could only exist in Sci-fi movies?
No I am not the one saying that, these people are: (Sorry don’t remember their names but I do remember what they said, so here it is)
1.   I don’t have any commercial property, anywhere. Yet contact the details (of my London office) on my card and my receptionist answers, a secretary calls upon me and our finances our looked into by my own accountant!
No I am not dreaming. I own an office, a real one- virtually!
2.   I couldn’t imagine my eyes when I saw three long-lost college friends of mine at an international conference after 20 long years! Those two days were like a nostalgic trip down life. Now we are back at our homes at four different corners of the world! But now we have our very own ‘adda’ just like old days where we meet, talk, show photos and enjoy together every day- virtually!
3.   The first time it happened I was completely devastated; after all I had lost all my memory! The second time, I thought I was being thoughtful when I created a backup on the external HD, but when that dropped off my hand on the cruise last summer…! But this time round I am totally safe. I have a backup where no one can destroy it- virtually!
4.   Yeah sure mister, you cannot wait a minute more and you need all the documents and details within the hour, the world will end the next second; especially because you know I am sitting right across the world from you! Urgh!  You know what I am getting out of this hassle now! This way you can go through whatever data you want at any point of time, and anywhere in the world! Yes now I store and manage everything my way- virtually!
5.   I just bought my first computer, but with so many operating systems to choose from- Windows 7, Mac OSX, Ubuntu, Redhat, Fedora; I was going mad (even their names confused me!). Every expert had a different view.
In the end I decided- I wanted a mix. No I am no millionaire, or his spoilt son for that matter, I just happen to have an internet connection!
And that’s how I created my new workspace- virtually!
Cloud computing has indeed made virtualization a reality today.
It helps deliver optimized resources, on-demand utilization, flexibility and scalability among other things which makes it a boon for businesses and people in general.
Having a writer’s block
I ended my second draft here. I read it. Hmm. So by now I had ‘clouded’ my readers’ vision. The iceberg had been exposed (hopefully). The question now: why did the Titanic crash into it?

About the Titanic Affairs, Clouds and Hoopla

Titanic Affairs and why they chose to c(r)ash in
Today’s titans- businesses, big and small, have chosen to cash in on Cloud Computing. And if all of them are doing it there have to be obvious reasons. Here are some of them:
1.   Costs reduce. When I buy only the service I require rather than the whole product for usage at some point, I am bound to have lesser expenditure.
2.   Up-scaling become easier. When all my resources are on an unlimitedly expandable platform like the internet, and I do not require an intake of infrastructure, scaling up production and visibility becomes so much lesser cumbersome.
3.   Efficiency and quality increases. When my resources are taken care of by specialists from around the world, I get the best of what I need thus not only improving the standard of my work but also speeding up efficiently.
4.   Innovation is encouraged. Because of specialised software managed on an international platform, new upgrades and innovations are regularly taken up and the business stays technologically update which in turn improves functioning and encourages further development.
5.   Wide choice. A cloud offers me a wide choice in the functions that suit me better, resulting in higher effectiveness.
6.   Change can be easily incorporated. As all data is at a single place and digitalised, it is easy to bring about changes in the same, and track them along the way.
7.   And well many others, obviously.
But it’s also very clear; there are currently unanswered questions and inherent challenges -even some major risks- in adopting cloud computing for minor applications and non-critical business systems. Notably, these include security of enterprise data that is stored in the cloud, risk of loss of control over cloud resources run and managed by someone else, and of course reliability.
In fact, cloud computing holds the potential to dramatically change the businesses that adopt it, even if the technologies are only used for minor functions.

Clouds inside my head-Titanic and otherwiseIt just keeps getting cloudier!
But does using a cloud-based infrastructure service always mean sending your precious data to a third-party?
No it need not. You may create your very own Cloud!
What we had mostly been talking till now about were the most visible examples, such as Amazon EC2, Google App Engine and Microsoft Azure- services called Public Clouds, meaning that they operate outside your firewalls and operated by the companies which own them. They do not really belong to you.
But perhaps that’s also the best thing it provides us- a way to avoid purchasing and managing hardware and software thus making it easy to us and our pockets.
A Private or Internal Cloud, on the other hand, is owned by you yourself. Though it doesn’t ditch hardware altogether, it’s all about creating dynamically available resources based on a highly virtualized, tightly integrated, converged infrastructure- all my needs within my system!
So what is the right choice?
Both actually
Take a look at a Public Cloud. It’s easy to start up and convenient to use. It also does not worry me about its cumbersome infrastructure as it already has one. It is simple- You simply go to the provider’s web site, order a service, and pay for only what you use.
But then you also lose a certain amount of control over it. What if the provider does not use the exact security, privacy, and compliance mechanisms that you require? Although you do get a menu of services and service-level agreements to choose from, your pricing options are limited. And the worst part, everything that could go wrong is out of your hands!
Turn around and look into an Internal Cloud. You have more control, can stick to your very own tried-and-tested mechanisms and can work just how you used to, without feeling beholden to a third-party! In fact you can reap benefits of the IT infrastructure you’ve already built, though it may require additional capital and skills. And the best part, you can also offer your internal cloud to others as a public cloud and earn revenue!
Clearly, Internal Clouds are becoming increasingly more popular because they offer a higher degree of flexibility, compliance, security, transparency and control that Public Clouds typically don’t.

That is it. I have told you everything!
Not quite. I have only given you a brush with the topic. Any attempt to cover it fully would have resulted in nothing less than a book; if not an entire volume (I imagine I am exceeding my word limit already anyway)!
But I am sure while reading the article (god, wasn’t it tiresome?) you must have thought at least once as to why, why this supposedly-always-been-there-technology was staring up at you today?!
Looking back at the time I had been told to write this piece, here is your final set of answers:

The Hoopla
There once came a time when paper disappeared and the mighty Computer took over the business world. Everything got digitalised. – A major revolution I would say. And a boon for all I see: it’s easy to use, edit, manage and best of all cost-effective! Wait a second- Cost-effective? Hadn’t I said just a while ago that we pay nearly 6 times excess??
Coming back to what I was saying; Computerization created a wave of change. Business became faster and more and more deals started happening on the move. And if small ventures became fast you can only imagine the pace the titans were slipping into.
Soon, desktops disappeared too -replaced by laptops, palm-tops, USB drives, etc. But then that wasn’t enough either. With international relations and business gaining momentum, even these gadgets seemed bulky and heavy (despite them getting smaller and slimmer daily)!
And then no one could afford to use outdated software if you want to stay in the competition! As if that wasn’t enough, you would think the latest technology made things simpler, it did surely, but now engineers were needed to get them functioning, customizing, updating, even using sometimes!
Sounds like time for a new revolution: The Rediscovery of the Internet as a Service!
The logic was simple: What you need already exists with someone somewhere in the world.
The medium was better: Whatever disputes may happen among countries, the one thing that binds the whole world together- the Internet.
The impact was the best and it gave this world of titanic business affairs a reason to cheer!
The new boon for all I see: it’s easy to use, edit, manage and best of all cost-effectiveAs of today!!

Just have a minute and want to know what I am talking about?
Cloud computing is using the internet to access someone else’s software running on someone else’s hardware in someone else’s data centre.                                                                      Lewis Cunningham

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