Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Understanding Cloud Computing – 5 – SaaS

In my previous posts on IaaS and PaaS, we covered the building blocks of Cloud Computing. SaaS is the top most layer in our cloud computing stack that rides on top of the power unleashed by the Infrastructure and Platform layers to really deliver value to consumers and enterprises.
SaaS or Software as a Service is quite a buzz word these days. Why so? Is it a new concept?
Not really. SaaS is about hosting a software application on a server and allowing users to use it via Internet connected computers from anywhere in the world. The user need not install the application to start using it on his computer. He/She can just access it as a service over the Internet. Web based email is a basic example of SaaS.
Other more recent examples include photo editing that certain website allow, word document to pdf conversion, Google word processing, spreadsheet applications, etc which you can access through a simple Internet browser and more. If SaaS had been around for so long, then why the buzz now?
Several reasons can be attributed to it
SaaS as a business centered concept
SaaS as a concept has worked successfully for individual centered applications but not business centered applications. There are both technology related and business related reasons for this. While SaaS applications like e-mail, office suites, etc have taken off quite well, business related SaaS applications like CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software, sales force automation software, payroll applications, procurement, logistics software have only started gaining traction now.
Why so?
Technology has matured
  • New software design and delivery models allow multiple instances of an application to run at once
  • Internet bandwidth costs have dropped significantly to allow companies to buy the connectivity necessary to allow the remotely hosted applications to run smoothly
  • Media rich AJAX based UIs that do not go for a full page refresh when you click on a button.
Business customers are realizing the benefits SaaS can offer
  • Delayed deployments and high Total Cost of Ownership are forcing CIOs to look away from the traditional software delivery format.
  • Business customers are frustrated with endless cycles of buying software licenses, paying for maintenance contracts, unresponsive helplines, costly upgrades, etc.
  • Pay-as-you-go benefits
  • Easy add ons
  • Easy ability to switch vendors if current vendor is unresponsive to business problems
  • No software maintenance headaches
And add to this the early successes that the world is seeing in early pioneers of SaaS like Salesforce.com, WebEx, Digital Insight, etc. The model has proven viable. We need to wait and see how the trends in SaaS unfold.

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Friday, May 11, 2012

Click and Pick your next set of car tyres online

A Noida based startup has launched ChangeMyTyre.com, a online portal to help you research and pick your tyres from an assortment of tyre vendors. No more a need to get restricted by the vendor your local tyre shop promotes.

The best part of it is that you can order online, choose to get it delivered to any of the major cities and get them fitted and tyres aligned for free at their centers.
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Thursday, May 10, 2012

What should I read next?

Everytime I am done reading a book, I start looking for some book in the same genre that can take me to the next level. I pester friends who have read the book to suggest some new thing that I can feast upon. I scour libraries, friend's personal book collections to see if something interests my current frame of mind.

Now I can relax for I have the Internet to my rescue. I recently discovered a Internet tool that just made my life easy for me. Aptly named "What Should I Read Next?", the service allows you to key in the name of the book or the author to get a list of the books that you can read next. The service also suggests the name of the book you read in case you cannot recall anything more than a few keywords that make up the title.

The site developers say this
"The service produces recommendations based purely on collective taste: when items are entered into the same favourites list, they become associated with each other. The more often particular items appear on different lists, the stronger that association becomes. Purely and simply, it represents mass opinion about items. Over time the recommendations should get better and better as the database grows."

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Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Top 8 Indian Online Book Stores

Dedicated to all my book-aholic readers....a list of the top 5 Online Book stores in India

  1. Flipkart - www.flipkart.com - Top of the mind recall store for books. What started off as chiefly a book store has today transformed into selling a lot of other category stuff. However, it still happens to be my first stop shop to lookup the latest books and not to mention the steepest discounts.
  2. uRead - http://www.uread.com/ - I love uRead mainly because they have the best real estate utilization of their home page where the maximum number of titles hit you. They also have a real time dynamic Google map integrated app that shows titles being purchased in real-time.
  3. BookAdda - http://www.bookadda.com/ - These folks allow you to create a virtual book shelf that can be shared on Facebook. It displays the books you have purchased/read recently. A cool ego-booster!
  4. Oxford BookStore - http://www.oxfordbookstore.com - A decent online store that complements their offline physical stores.
  5. Landmark - http://www.landmarkonthenet.com/ - Similar to their physical stores, LandMark, the Chennai based store chain sells both books and other stuff  on their online store.
  6. Crossword - http://www.crossword.in/ - With 83 physical stores, Crossword started in 1992 has run into a bit of trouble in the brick and mortar  format and is downing the shutters in a quite a few cities. However, their online store is elegant an dmakes for a pleasant book search and purchase experience
  7. Rediff Books - http://books.rediff.com/ - Boasts of 3.5 million titles online with the familiar Rediff look and feel.
  8. Indiatimes Books - http://shopping.indiatimes.com/books/ - A run of the mill online book store I should say. 

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Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Understanding Cloud Computing – 4 – PaaS

Platform as a Service corresponds to the second layer in my analogy of cloud computing to your commonplace desktop at home.
PaaS – Platform as a Service is akin to an operating system that allows application developers, programmers and the like to install their language support systems, write and test code, package and distribute and finally deploy/install them to render the apps usable by end customers.
Cloud - PaaS
The difference lies purely in the ‘as a Service’ aspect. The platform in the case of cloud computing context is not tied down to a Operating System – rather it is something that is hosted on the cloud and available on demand to developers and programmers via any machine connected to the internet. The developed requests the environment and the same gets provisioned to him over the cloud.
PaaS also follows the 4 tenets of Cloud Computing.
Examples of PaaS platforms include Azure from Microsoft, SalesForce’s Force.com, Google’s AppEngine.
We will explore SaaS in our next part in this series.

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Thursday, May 03, 2012

Understanding Cloud Computing - 3 - IaaS

The Infrastructure layer of cloud computing is the base foundation of cloud computing. This is the layer that triggered off the thoughts of true cloud computing.Additional hardware purchased by divisions of companies that remained unused must have prompted other divisions to request for this hardware on a temporary basis. That action is what sparked off the thought of subscribing to hardware on demand and not buying and owning it.

Hosting companies that provided space on remote servers took the first step in this direction. They were prompted more from the need for the servers to be exposed to public at all times unlike enterprise servers that are within the firewall. This also freed up enterprises from having to invest and maintain open-to-public servers. They just put up their websites and related public consumable data onto these hosted servers. 

It was exactly 5 years ago that the next big step in IaaS was taken. It was by a company named Amazon (more famous for it online book store). AWS or Amazon Web Services (started in July 2002) announced the availability of its EC2 - Elastic Compute Cloud offering in August 2006. EC2 allowed users to rent out computing power and pay for it by the hours of usage. EC2 allowed for users to load their applications onto Amazon hosted infrastructure and EC2 related services allowed for scaling up or down the needed computing and storage power based on the consumption of these applications.

Today you have a whole set of companies trying to match what AWS brought to the market. GoGrid, Rackspace, Akamai, etc are among the few top ones. 

You could safely say that the current trends and gung-ho around cloud computing had its seeds sowed back in 2006. In our next post, lets dive into Platform as a Service facet of Cloud Computing.

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