Life in the Cloud

by CXOtoday Staff    Nov 22, 2010

Sachin DuggalThe words “cloud computing” have been more over used than the “I’ll do it in morning” excuse that we all told our parents (or still tell our better halves) but unfortunately as with most things that become a “fashionable” word; they sound fantastic but the meaning is nothing short of a vague idea that stems from Hotmail to Facebook to Twitter to Salesforce.com. Sachin Duggal, president and CEO of Nivio, takes us through the first steps of the journey that we will make to discover what is the future of the “cloud” and how exactly this will impact us.

So let’s get a little technical – what does it really mean?

Quite literally the “cloud” is a nickname of sorts for the Internet (a large inter-connected network of computing devices that have a pretty standard way to be able to communicate with each other) – the reason I believe it was called the “cloud” is quite simply because no-one really needs to know what is happening in it but we just know something is happening.

Cloud computing” is therefore the idea of using the Internet to do our work; or more specifically using the power of the servers/computers connected by the Internet (the “cloud”) to do our work. In a more technical description; cloud computing is about decoupling the very notion of having a computer with memory, processing and storage all in that not-so-pretty white box sitting at your home; the notion that computing can be made like electricity (which not too long ago moved from being a generator in the home to a standard supply over a standard cable (sounds a little like the Internet no?)). Thus the notion, more succinctly, really means using the applications, processing, memory and storage of “far-away” machines that can be rented on demand and as required.

But they said it was Cloud computing….

Join the club of tens of millions of people who believe they are avid cloud computing users; let’s get back to basics a little here. If we accept that cloud computing is where the actually computing is happening in the cloud (Larry Ellison’s vision of the networked – pc or our (Nivio) vision of the CloudPC) then what we have really seen today is cloud storage and cloud distribution of applications… the idea that storage is centrally kept so you don’t need to keep it with you (and you can access it anywhere through any Internet-connected device) or applications that you can use from the web browser but they are still computing in the browser (GoogleDocs, Zoho, etc are all applications that actually work on your local machine and use the Internet for storage / distribution)

So what’s the big deal – it’s still cloud no?

Well yes it works from the internet but if I likened it to electricity again - cloud storage is like having lots of space that is geographically spread yet connected where you can store the oil to run generators. Cloud distribution is the idea of having oil delivered over a “pipe” to the house generator but the real work of production is done in the generator

Cloud computing would be the current mechanism where you have a wire coming into the house that anything that needs it can be plugged into – in this analogy the Internet is the electricity cable, the electricity grid is the cluster of computing servers.

In the last decade we have seen clear prominence of one and some of two (web 2.0) was more of this; however what we have really not seen is a clear mass market consumer cloud computing offering that offers users the utility model of computing (anytime, anywhere and on any device).

A little blue sky’ing or is it already happening?

So let’s evangelize about the future, starting off by highlighting the issues people face with the current computing framework:
-

Software

* expensive capital item
* going out of date
* no legal short use period mechanism

Hardware & Maintenance

* forever going out of date
* nightmare migration to the next
* viruses and spam
* stops functioning / data loss
* requires an engineering degree

User Experience

* complicated and confusing
* not at all intuitive
* too much rigidity; locked down to a single machine

And guess what – this was a similar issue that electricity generators faced before it become a centralized service, the cloud computing model in its true form would solve these problems and many more.

So the future is where you can get Adobe Photoshop for one month, you get it through the Internet and it “computes” on remote servers (the grid) – as a user you are not troubled by minimum specification or having to install it – you simply execute it and it gives you a time- slice of the applications and enough processing /memory power to ensure it is running in ideal situation. Imagine a future where when you save anything its automatically online and shareable with only a few clicks and finally where everything is on rent and the local “set-top” box what we call the “CloudPC” is a sub $100 device that just requires the internet to work.

Some more direction changes are also to come in the online storage market which remains highly saturated with a hundred providers each trying to do their own thing and none getting passed 1 or 2 million users. What you will see is a new provider emerges that mixes 1 and 2 to provide the small business community with an affordable alternate to piracy; provide storage to the user (not like Amazon’s model such that it is rented out to ISVs) and the user can permission applications (deskop by default but online apps) to access this storage so you keep your files in only one place and they can be accessed anywhere.

We have only just touched the power of the cloud – the future is big and bold!

(the author is the president and CEO of Nivio)