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Clouducation 101: Consumers, Web Developers & Businesses

Like Salesforce, PaaS services are scalable – you pay for what you utilize

By Salvatore Poliandro, FortressITX Dir. Of Datacenter Operations

Let’s recap: In the past two weeks we have covered the following material:

  • Who I am
  • What my background is
  • Why I love everything IT
  • What the Cloud is
    • What the Public Cloud is
    • What the Private Cloud is
    • What the Hybrid Cloud is

It’s a lot. As such, if you need a refresher, here is Clouducation 101: Hi! I’m Sal and Clouducation 101 pt 2: What is the Cloud?

Last week I ended with a question: How does the Cloud affect me as a consumer, as a business owner and as someone working for a business – ex. a mobile app developer? Let’s jump right in.

How does the Cloud affect me as a:

-          Consumer

As a private consumer you have options within the Cloud. For the normal person the Cloud means a variety of Internet based services are at your fingertips; some of those services are free and some are not. It should be noted, the vast majority of private consumers use the Public Cloud.

For example everyone uses a personal email client. From Yahoo Mail, to MSN Hotmail to Google’s Gmail, everyone uses a personal email client. Whether you know it or not, by using that personal email client you love so much, you are tapping into the power of the Cloud. By using a service like Gmail, you are accessing email services provided to by a host company (Google in this case) which stores all your data in a Google Datacenter and makes it available to you via the Internet. This type of service, known as SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) is as it sounds – it is software supplied by a host company to consumers via the Internet. Again, you might not think about it but all of the most popular email solutions are all Cloud based SaaS.

So let’s dig a bit deeper than free email Cloud solutions. Sure you like sending email and keeping in contact but you also like to be entertained. For this you need to spend a little bit of money – let’s say ten dollars per month. Ten bucks per month isn’t a lot yet it grants you access to the collected works of the entire film world. That’s right, for ten bucks a month you can stream as many movies and television shows you desire straight to your laptop or mobile device with a little SaaS called Netflix. For the vast majority of people, Netflix is the most publicized form of the Cloud. It is SaaS. Netflix, like Gmail, stores all their data in a controlled datacenter and streams it to consumers via the Internet. The only difference between Gmail and Netflix is Netflix charges for their Cloud based solution. Communication is free, Russell Crowe is not.

So, we have communication and entertainment covered but you are more than those two things. You have a job. Maybe you run a company. This brings me to our next section:

How does the Cloud affect me as a:

-          Business Owner

So, you operate your own business. For argument sake, let’s say you operate a domestic shipping company operating out of NYC yet dealing with clients all over the country. To run that company you need certain tools to track clients, add them to newsletter mailing lists, maintain all financial contracts etc. You need what is undoubtedly the most popular business Cloud solution, Salesforce.

Salesforce has revolutionized how companies do business. It has taken the entire on paper model of tracking a client and digitized it on a virtual platform. Every interaction you as a company have with a client can be tracked and stored via Salesforce. Just like Gmail and Netflix, Salesforce is SaaS. The information is kept in an offsite datacenter accessible via the Internet. Moreover, like Netflix, Salesforce costs money on a monthly basis. The service will run anywhere from $5 per month to $250 per month. The range in price brings in a concept I have not touched on yet in this article – scalability. Like Netflix, you can choose how much of the service you want to use on a monthly basis. This ability to choose and constantly change is the definition of scalable. You pay for what you use. End of story.

As a small to medium size business owner the Cloud has provided you with the tools you need to run your business the way you want to. However, to fully get the job done, your employees also need the proper tools to develop web applications and constantly perfect your company website. Traditionally, this meant constantly buying new software on an annual basis so your onsite web dev could continue to do his job with the most up-to-date technology on the market today; it goes without saying this yearly expenditure was expensive. Well, luckily for you, this is no longer the case because you have PaaS on your side.

How does the Cloud affect me as an:

-          Employee

As a web developer you need the tools to keep your company website running and to further develop your company online presence. To get this done, you need PaaS.

PaaS (Platform-as-a-Service) is the Cloud’s answer to onsite annually paid for web dev tools. PaaS is software tools (operating systems, storage, hardware) hosted by a Cloud provider which can be utilized for a determined fee. The solution allows web developers to access tools via the internet to create applications, programs, software etc. Prominent examples of PaaS are GoogleApps, Force.com, Bungee Connect, LongJump and WavemMaker. The benefits of PaaS are simple:

  1. Create and develop applications, programs, software, mobile apps anywhere there is an Internet connection.
  2. Web dev’s can test created applications via the Internet before they go live in a .dev environment.
  3. OS features can be altered and patched with great frequency by the provider
  4. Real time collaboration between web dev’s regardless of geographic location
  5. Shorten ENV (Environment Variables) setup and IDE (Integrated Development Environment) timescale.

The shortening of ENV setup and IDE timescale is important to note. Normally the time spent setting up ENV and IDE is spent as boring downtime in which nothing happens aside from the setting up process. For the web dev, this time is a nonproductive period which is almost never accounted for by a non dev manager who has tasks and goals to meet. The importance of eliminating this start period is simple: as a web dev you are expected to simply open up a notepad and start coding. Your boss expects this. By drastically shortening ENV setup and the IDE timescale, you can get to your coding responsibilities and keep your boss happy at the same time.

Like Salesforce, PaaS services are scalable – you pay for what you utilize. Although the vast majority of employees are not concerned with the cost of the services he/she uses to get the job done, for the small business owner, PaaS i.e. the Cloud, provides an easy and cost effective solution to constantly purchasing new software development tools.

Now that we have that down, it’s important that we begin to talk about more real world applications of the Cloud as they pertain to the hosting business. To do this, next week’s entry will aim to answer the following question:

Can the Cloud save you time while managing your web hosting company?

See you in a week.

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