For the better part of the last decade, Amazon has enjoyed the benefit of being the only real choice for independent programming in the cloud.
There is now a growing number of different vendors and options for taking advantage of this new type of service delivery. As cloud computing continues to generate information technology headlines, vendors are aggressively promoting the many benefits it can provide.
Other major companies now venturing into this type of service dellivery and unveiling their platforms include Google (NASDAQ:GOOG), Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT), and most recently Hewlett-Packard (NYSE:HPQ).
With companies like Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) opening the mobile computing flood-gates, this type of service delivery is only scratching the surface of its future potential.
Service delivery in the cloud entrusts centralized services with your data, software, and computation on a published API over a network. It can be described as software as a service.
The leader in these cloud based platform delivery services is currently Amazon Web Services (AWS). Originally launched during the Summer of 2002, AWS was created to provide online services for other web sites or client-side applications. It continues to hold the title of my personal "best of breed" for independent programmers in the cloud.
AWS delivers a set of services that together form the oldest, most reliable, scalable, inexpensive computing platform in the cloud. Favorites among AWS include heavyweight EC2 and S3.
Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) is a web service that allows for size changes in compute capacity in the cloud. It is designed to make web scaled computing developer friendly. It's user friendly interface allows you to obtain and configure capacity with minimal obstacles.
It also provides complete control of your computing resources and lets you run on Amazon's long-standing computing environment. EC2 changes the economics of computing by allowing you to pay only for capacity that you actually use.
EC2 has proven its worth in many real-world scenarios, including the building of a 30,000-core HPC cluster on EC2 and a separate EC2-based cluster that ranked in the world's Top 500 fastest supercomputers.
Amazon S3's primary function is Internet storage. It is also designed to make web-scale computing easier for developers. S3 provides a simple web services interface that can be used to store and retrieve any amount of data, at any time, from anywhere on the web.
It gives any developer access to the same highly scalable, reliable, secure, fast, inexpensive infrastructure that Amazon uses to run its own global network of web sites. The service aims to maximize benefits of scale and to pass those benefits on to developers.
Azure is Microsoft's venture platform into the cloud. It became commercially available in February 2010. The main function of Azure and other similar platforms is essentially to build, host, and scale web applications through corresponding data centers.
The platform consists of various on-demand services hosted in Microsoft data centers and commoditized through three product brands. Microsoft has published plans to offer the Windows Azure Platform Appliance, which can be hosted in non-Microsoft data centers.
Another goal of Azure is to provide developers who want to write applications that run partially and/or entirely in a remote data center with a platform and set of tools.
Advantages of Azure
- Azure is a zero maintenance solution. This means once your application is deployed Microsoft takes care of the software patches and backup.
- This may make Azure more cost effective than other Platforms over the long run. There is a cost to maintenance with other platforms especially EC2.
- Scalability with Azure is seamless. Adding additional machines is as simple as changing a value in the configuration file.
- Completely integrated with Visual Studio.
- Cloud speed continues to increase relative to competitors
- Initially more expensive than other platforms.
- Other platforms have been around for quite some time and have become familiar with people. They may be reluctant to change to something different.
The Google App Engine (GAE) platform is intended to aide clients in developing and hosting web applications in Google-managed data centers. The service is free up to a certain level of consumed resources.
Fees are charged for additional storage, bandwidth, or instance hours required by the application. It was first released as a preview version in April 2008, and came out of preview in September 2011.
Last month, Hewlett-Packard finally announced its plan to debut its cloud platform in early May. I do not know much about this platform as it is not commercially available yet.
At the foundation of cloud computing is the broader concept of infrastructure convergence and shared services. This type of data environment allows enterprises to get their applications up and running faster, with easier manageability and less maintenance, and enables IT to more rapidly adjust IT resources (such as servers, storage, and networking) to meet fluctuating and unpredictable business demand.
Cloud computing is, indeed, quite revolutionary. It allows the term computing to take on a whole new reality and become a utility in the sense of the word, like electricity.
Cloud can generally save money but it also has its risks and innate complexities. An example is if the WAN goes down so does your company. Putting all your personal information onto this type of service delivery also creates a new privacy risk.