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Cloud Computing Panel

I’ve just attended a panel session on Cloud Computing in Newcastle, which gave several points of view on the uptake and applicability of Cloud. The discussion covered Sofware as a Service (e.g; SalesForce, EMailCloud), Platform as a Service (e.g. Google App Engine, Arjuna) and Infrastructure as a Service (e.g. Flexiscale, Amazon EC2).

The optimistic view, taken by the majority of the panel, was that we are on a journey towards cloud computing becoming the norm for business computing. Duncan Mactear of 4Projects sounded a more cautious note; his company provides SaaS for the construction industry but does not use cloud; instead their servers are hosted in a third-party data centre. To which Tony Lucas of Flexiscale pointed out that 10 years ago, similar companies weren’t even using hosting services.

Sarat Pedirela of Hedgehog Lab, an ISV, pointed out that the appropriate infrastructure will depend on the type of application. Currently, Hedgehog use cloud for non-critical applications where the load varies greatly, such as downloading media files or running software configuration tests. Steve Caughey of Arjuna suggested that Cloud will be useful for any application where you can’t predict the demand. Ross Cooney of Rozmic agreed and added another example, of intense computations that can be sped up by running them in parallel.

All the panellists agreed that startup companies can particularly benefit, because they don’t need to install and run their own IT infrastructure. By way of contrast, Tony explained that some large companies have financial systems that can’t cope with variable IT costs; they want a fixed bill known in advance.

Trust was raised as a key issue. Several panellists opined that interoperability was the best answer to this; then if your provider has problems, you can switch your application to another. Rozmic run their EmailCloud application on both Amazon and Flexiscale, switching between them when one has problems. The downside of this is that it is currently expensive to implement applications for multiple providers, although some companies (such as CohesiveFT and Rightscale) are providing systems to aid this process.

All in all, it was an interesting and useful discussion. The session was arranged by Codeworks, with sponsorship from Flexiscale and Amazon.

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