Cloud Computing

I’ve been seeing much press lately about cloud computing. This was once again brought to mind by the cover story on the latest issue of Business Week, “Google’s Next Big Dream, Imagine What You Could Do With The World’s Mightiest Computer”, Dec 24,2007. Cloud computing is a somewhat complex topic, and there is certainly much hype and announcements that run ahead of capabilities (a.k.a vapor-ware). BUT, large companies with immense resources are throwing their weight behind the concept. Essentially cloud computing is a utility available to anyone who can plug in via the Internet.

How many of us generate our own electricity? Not many of us, because our friendly electrical utility companies can do it much more efficiently and cheaply than we could. So we outsource this function and buy their services.

Today, computational utilities are not really available to all but the largest Institutions who have the funds to operate their own datacenters. For example, if you need to store relational data to run an application that powers your business you have essentially 2 options, Excel and a relational database. The former is a great single user solution, and the latter can be made to work for all the rest – web applications, ERP solutions, enterprise reporting, compliance record keeping, etc., etc., etc. The problem is that running a large database comes with significant overhead. You need servers with large disc capacity, you need RDMS licenses, you need a database administrator, you need to back up your data, and you need to monitor performance.

Wouldn’t it be great to just buy your database capacity like an electric utility? Pay for what you need? And leave it to the utility to handle all the operational work such as running, monitoring, and backing-up the servers?

For many companies, both large and small, the answer is yes. For example, Amazon as part of their Web Services Offering ( offers the “Simple DB” service. Very reasonable pricing is based on machine usage, storage, and bandwidth consumed. There is a simple to use query language for creating tables (domains) and inserting and retrieving data. And if you absolutely must have a complex data model, you can run whatever database you desire using Amazon’s EC2 compute environment. The utility is there for you to use on a pay-as-you-go model. You can focus simply on consuming it.

Other companies with big-time plans for cloud / utility computing include Google, Yahoo!, IBM, and Microsoft. The technology to support this capability has arrived -consider for a moment the advances in software languages and engineering methodologies, OS virtualization, ubiquitous broadband networks and access, and browser technologies. Yes, it is a bit like the old mainframe days of old. But this time around it’s going to be sold in a highly competitive, pay-as-you-go environment – and this changes everything.

I’m excited about working with our clients to figure out creative ways to use these services. Via these utilities even small companies can have access to Enterprise quality computing capabilities.

I welcome your comments.

Mike Brannan.