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Is Cloud Computing taking off?

Everybody is talking about cloud computing these days and honestly looking at the trend’s slope I won’t be surprised to hear soon even pickup lines inspired by this new paradigm. Every now and then it is almost natural to ask ourselves one simple question – why? Is it because of some sort of worldwide conspiracy or is it the fact that this new paradigm adds real value to both the technical and business worlds? Although it is impossible to exhaustively answer these questions in a single article I will try to get to the bottom of a more approachable one – how does the value of cloud computing looks like in the real world.

Allow me to stretch your imagination for a second. How would you approach the following problem with your tech tool belt of choice? Using the Twitter API, persist 500.000 tweets from the Public Timeline in the shortest time possible, at a minimum cost (i.e. cash, effort, beers) taking into consideration one major constraint – Twitter’s rate limiting policy allows a maximum of 150 anonymous IP-based requests per hour, which means that since a request retrieves a max of 20 tweets, the mission could be accomplished in the best case scenario in ~167 hours, which is approximately a full week using a single machine. But what if we could use 2 machines? How about 40? Yes, 40 machines with 40 different IPs accessing the Twitter API like crazy would get things done in about 4-6 hours. Of course, you may ask yourself at what cost? Twitter Zeitgeist did this using Windows Azure at a cost of 2 bucks an hour. That’s $12 for ~400MB of data representing a half of million tweets. Just to put it in perspective, that’s about 7 beers in Romania and 4 in Holland. In other words that’s the cheapest, most effective way to solve that problem using a technology that’s accessible to everyone. In a nutshell that’s the power of cloud computing today.

Of course, this is just a simple example, but the list goes on and on starting from simple problems like the one above ending with more complex ones, like in the case of NASA or Siemens.

Peter Mall and Tim Grance of NIST took a shot at defining the concept and I tend to fully agree with them. In their vision cloud computing is “a model for enabling convenient, on demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction”.

This is a milestone since it really grasps what cloud computing has become in the common perception of both consumers and suppliers. In comparison with past definitions and visions, its proof to the fact that cloud computing is evolving into a mature concept which already took off in several enterprises around the world. If you don’t believe me, just go and ask Steve Jobs why did Apple chose Windows Azure for their iCloud storage needs. The same question goes for Pixar, Netflix, Pfizer, Xerox, VeriSign, 3M or Virgin Atlantic. It won’t really matter who will answer because in the end the conclusion will be the same – cloud computing makes sense when you need highly available scalable solutions at a low cost. That is the value that makes it a worth-to-understand concept.

Grail Research stated in their “Cloud Computing: Fact versus Fog” report, citing MarketsAndMarkets that by 2015 the cloud market will grow 26% reaching a staggering $121,1 billion – this makes a lot of sense if you just imagine how many SaaS applications are out there ready to vaporize into the cloud to leverage new growth opportunities and how many will start up due to the new possibilities cloud computing offers (virtually $0 upfront investment to support a state-of-the-art IT infrastructure).

Without a doubt, Cloud Computing is taking off and this is good news for everyone – the media, Microsoft, Amazon, Google, Jerry from accounting and best of all, its excellent news for service companies like Yonder who will become the Airborne Division of the IT Industry, getting all the new paratrooper-products at 3.000 meters altitude into the cumulonimbuses. In the meantime pack your gear, train yourself for action and prepare for D-Day.

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