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Cloud Computing

Cloud computing is not as new as some would like to make it sound. The first version of cloud computing was launched back in the late 90’s and was called ASP for Application Service Provider. I was involved in the first ASP to achieve a worldwide customer base and to have a successful IPO at TeleComputing, a startup/turn-around based in Oslo, Norway. The second version of cloud was called Software-as-a-Service, or SaaS. I was the COO of Raindance Communications, one of the first to offer software solutions providing audio, data, and video conferencing as a pay-as-you-go service. I most recently founded and launched an enterprise retail software company to be the first to offer real-time, enterprise retail systems (including MobilePOS, POS, Store Ops, Inventory Management, Pricing, Promotions, Customer Management, Perpetual Inventory, and Enterprise Management) as a 24/7 cloud solution to support a F500 grocer in production.

Cloud is maturing now and will be around far into the future as a popular software model, due to its cost effectiveness and ease of implementation. Cloud computing is not for every application and will not replace traditional enterprise systems in banking, health care, and many other markets. However, cloud systems are ideal for most solutions, especially when mobile computing is a requirement. Smartphones, tablets, and notebooks are the new personal computing platforms dramatically outselling traditional desktops. Gartner reports that 1 billion mobile devices have been brought into the corporations over the past three years. These mobile platforms become more robust with every new release but their real value is as the front end, or convenient, personal interfaces to powerful backend services that are provided via cloud computing.

Cloud computing can be confusing because of how loosely people use the term. There are three elements to true cloud computing, but solutions that contain only one or two components are often referred to as cloud. The architecture of a cloud software service is not traditional client/server, but is based on new Internet protocols and standards that focus application development around a centralized service model that is easy to update and maintain and can be accessed anytime, anywhere from mobile devices. Cloud is also an infrastructure model designed around the concept of shared, centralized hardware that is secured, supported and maintained as a service, much like the electrical grid we all take for granted. The third component is a pricing model where, like ASP and SaaS, the idea is to transform pricing from a traditional license-to-own model to a service that you pay for either as you use it or on a recurring schedule, such as a monthly charge.

Many large corporations own and maintain their own infrastructure, and will continue to do so, but they want the other benefits of ease of deployment and upgrades that cloud architectures offer. These implementations are often called private clouds, but a private cloud implementation can be hosted at a service provider’s data center as well.

While cloud has many advantages, it is important to recognize that it opens many new doors to security risks that must be carefully evaluated and addressed. Cloud computing is causing the transformation of traditional data centers into a more open and flexible role as service centers. All of the large telecos of the world who have built and run massive data centers for decades are now transforming those once very proprietary, closed facilities into cloud computing service centers. Verizon’s acquisition of Terremark for more than a billion dollars is a great example of this transformation.

Cloud computing will become even more popular as we move into big data, since very few will be building data centers with the capacity to support a zettabyte of data. Massive shared environments like social networking are ideal cloud implementations for many reasons, so as we see social networks grow in number and capacity, we will also see cloud computing grow. Mobile is another big driver of cloud computing because no matter how fast our smartphones and cellular networks become, battery life and disk space alone will drive mobile users to connect to more and more cloud solutions where server farms can provide massive databases, memory and processing power just an applink away.



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