What is Cloud Computing?

I like to start a new discussion thread to discuss the definition of cloud computing and repost some of my ealeir comments here.  Once we agree the definition of cloud computing, then we can have a more productive discussion in 2011!

I like to share my cloud experience and hope some of the examples can illustrate what cloud computing really is.
 
Exchange Online
When I check my email from my iPad browser, I guess no one would argue if Exchange Online is a cloud computing or not.  It is a cloud application.  But what happen when I check email from my Outlook 2010?  Is Exchange Online still a cloud application?
 
SharePoint Online
If my clients use Office Web Apps to open a document that is stored on my SharePoint Online library, again everyone would agree it is a cloud application.  But when I use Excel / Word / PowerPoint to save documents to my SharePoint Online library, is SharePoint Online a cloud application?
 
TV / Movie / Music
If I watch TV series / movie on my iPad browser, a lot of people would agree it is cloud application but what about Apple TV?  Or When I steam movie to my Xbox from Netflix?  How about when I use my iPhone to steam music from my local phone provider?
 
Newspaper / Magazine
I subscribed to a lot of newspaper and magazine and I can read from my browser as well as Windows Client / Mobile Apps which provides extra features.  Same argument!  Should we only consider them as cloud applications when we use internet browser?
 
Database
Has anyone used SQL Azure?  It is a cloud database service offered by Microsoft.  Recently, my client said his 8 years old SQL server has a lot of problems but he can’t afford to replace it with new hardware / software.  I suggest him to migrate it to SQL Azure but he didn’t have the need / budget to migrate the associated desktop application to web application.  So all I did was to help him to migrate his data to SQL Azure and changed his database connection to the new location, i.e. on the cloud.  Is this a cloud application?
 
Market Data System
How about Reuters, Bloomberg and other market data services provider?  They need heavy clients and sometime even special hardware but massive data is coming via internet.
I can go on and on but the reality is a lot of cloud applications can be accessed from browser as well as Windows client / Mobile Apps or even game console.  I can order pizza from my PS3, is this cloud application?
 
What is your definition of cloud computing?

-- Regards,
Andrew Chan.

Comments
garyturner's picture

Technically, this...

garyturner | | Permalink

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cloud_computing - but the definition of it, while important, is only briefly interesting.

It's what it enables which is probably relevant to readers of this forum.

I'd imagine the main constituencies are:

  • Accountants in practice.
  • Accountants and financial professionals in industry.
  • Bookkeepers.

There are the universal benefits:

  • No software or data to install or manage and maintain locally.
  • Typically a pay-as-you-go purchase.

For accountants in practice and bookkeepers..

  • Removal of the IT management burden, multiple installed packages, data conveyancing, upgrades.
  • Ability to work on multiple clients accounts data live from one system.
  • Which in turn makes more time available to either service more clients or offer more services to existing clients.

 For accountants and financial professionals in industry - not my domain. 

philipdc's picture

Where does cloud computing fit in?

philipdc | | Permalink

As the project leader of TurboCASH Accounting, with 110 000 users in 80 different countries, I wrestle with the concept of cloud computing daily. If you are familar with the industry at the low end, then you will know that playing in the SME market is a game of cat an mouse with Sage and Intuit at the centre and the rest of us skirting around the sides, sniping at pockets of users. Cloud users is one of them.

TurboCASH was one of the first vendors to introduce a cloud offering along with GoPC.net - the result was underwhelming. This had lead me to the conclusion that the demand for cloud accounting is much less than it would be hyped to be.

At the risk of sounding like one of those old "green Screeners" still using Command prompts, for me the dominant factor is still whether an app is "sentient" or "transient".  Transient apps like writing a cheque or ordering a Pizza are suited to the Cloud. Sentient Apps like Batch porcessing or bankreconciliation are suited to Desktop apps.

This leaves the accounting system sitting firmly on the users terra firma and merely interacting with Cloud sub systems that "deliver Transactions" to the accounting package.

I would be interested in the comments of the memebrs of this group, for whom I have the highest regard. Do you think this strategy is suicidal?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

-- "No one possesses the less because everyone possesses the whole of it. He who receives an idea from me receives it without lessening me, as he who lights his candle at mine receives light without darkening me" - Thomas Jefferson

garyturner's picture

Things change

garyturner | | Permalink

Hi Phillip

The space in which cloud apps are developing is maturing very quickly to easily encompass process intensive tasks like bank reconciliation, so I don't see the same limitations as there may have been three or four years ago.

I believe we'll see a much bigger shift to the cloud in the coming twelve months as it matures and gains respect not just as an alternative model to on premise where early products suffered in comparison with mature on premise apps, but as functional equality is obtained (or surpassed) then cloud apps, specifically those of interest to this group's readership, will begin to draw distance from their predecessors.

Like any new technology, there are market adoption phases through which it must travel; and therefore the tiny minority adoption thus far of cloud computing does not signal that it has or will fail to gain broad acceptance, rather it's the rate of its adoption which is the telling metric.

Our company, Xero, has gone from having no customers four years ago to almost 30,000 and 100,000+ users, all on the cloud. While some might argue that 30,000 paying customers is but a drop in the ocean, the underlying organic growth rate in customers and revenues compares favourably with the largest on premise vendor in the UK, Sage.

Sage's software revenues have shrunk by 20% since 2008 and while I would take care to highlight that this is not directly attributable to cloud computing (I merely use it to make a point about on premise versus cloud vendor growth rates), by extension it does suggest that there is more to cloud computing than niche solutions.

chanpangchi's picture

We are pleased to announce that TurboCASH 4.4 seems to be workin

chanpangchi | | Permalink

Hi Philip,

When I visited your website, the first sentence I read was "We are pleased to announce that TurboCASH 4.4 seems to be working!"  My first impression is you are not so sure about your own product.  

I am an independent IT consultant who recently started my own business and one problem I found was that I only know technical stuffs and this was a major weakness.  I have to learn many things, from marketing, sales... etc.  I know a lot of good IT guys; they developed great products but with poor results.  Technology was not the issue but other business reasons. I can see at least 1 way cloud can add value to your product.  Let's say you provide free online storage as well and TurboCASH users can use both Windows and web clients to access their data online.  Their data is secured and accessible anywhere, anytime.  The users can have everything free on 1 condition; they have to enter some non sensitive information, e.g. postal code, demographic information.  They don't have to disclose their person information, name, birthday, exactly address...  If you have 2% of London residents use your product; how many marketing company would come to you and buy the consolidated information?  How much useful information you can have with data mining. You probably can guess what I do.  I help my clients to transform data into SUCCESS, i.e. accurate, consistent and timely information.

-- Regards,

Andrew Chan.

philipdc's picture

TurboCASH. Xero and the Cloud

philipdc | | Permalink

Good to meet you Gary I have been wanting to make contact with someone from Xero for some time. I am sure there are deals that can be done. I see both of us as having complementary rather than competing systems. Sage and Intuit have both online and Desktop offerings.

You underplay your growth figures. By their own announcements, both Sage and Intuit acknowlege that the market for new users grows at 3%. But while 30 000 is an admirable number ( it is not an easy thing to get 10 000 users),  it does not signal the arrival of cloud computing, but rather the opposite. Given the capital outlay by Xero against that of TurboCASH which has achieved double the number of users with nearly zero in capital investment, it leaves me with the conclusion that users still really want desktop accounting solutions. The guys at NetSuite also talk as if cloud computing is a "Given".

Here in South Africa there are a number of offerings, but simply little to no takers. Similarly the open source online systems seem to carve out niche user bases.

 

-- "No one possesses the less because everyone possesses the whole of it. He who receives an idea from me receives it without lessening me, as he who lights his candle at mine receives light without darkening me" - Thomas Jefferson

Nope

Accountsportal | | Permalink

I think thats a slightly disingenuous argument Phillip.

1. South Africa has crap broadband in general, so of course 'cloud' is not going to be big there. Yeah, its better than it was, but compared to developed markets its way behind.

2. Xero charges money for their product, you dont (other than 'services')

3. Xero has been going 4 years, you have been going for quite a while longer than that.

There is a place for both cloud and desktop. But, there is no doubt that cloud is growing much faster than desktop, both in accounting as well as other apps.

philipdc's picture

Open Source is developer centric

philipdc | | Permalink

Thanks for the comments Andrew. If you have any specific ideas, I would be interested to follow them with you. An open source project is very different from the proprietary ones. It takes some getting used to. A typical proprietary vendor uses 500 staff and 3000 consultants to manage 100 000 users. I have one staff (me) and a community of collaborators. My job is to make each of those collaborators be as important as I am. We have one overiding and dominating message for the users - the software is free.

In answer to the points you brought up:

1) I have a great deal of confidence in TurboCASH, so much so that we will run our developement in public. Don't confuse an open source project's full disclosure with quality. A simple half hour spent installing and running the demos on TurboCASH will show that we are world leaders in SME accounting. There are very few vendors with a base in excess of 100 000 users and none with the geographical reach that we have- one compile - muliple operating systems - 25 languages - 80 tax regimes.

2) I too started with a technical background (I have been a while in dev). I have recently made a concious decision to focus on marketing. The reason being that it is relatively easy to attract techies to open source, I want to focus now on bringing in a broader group - business people in particular.

3) Data mining is very interesting to me. We have had over 1 Million Downloads, yet only 150 000 resigistrations and only 110 000 of those have "stuck". So we have the same kinds of problems on adoption and attrition that Sage and Inuit (And Xero) have. No need to look at 2% of London public, the SME accounting market is large enough. The world market is 10 Million, Sage and Intuit have 4 Million Each, the rest of us share the other 2 Million. Only Tally and MYOB have bigger bases than TurboCASH. (I exclude China, Japan and Korea)

I am agnostic to technologies. I am fosuced on aquiring homogeneous users. as long as deployment remains simple and universal, I am interested in examining any technology.

4) No need to specualte about "Some corporate user paying for 2% of London" - Each of the 8 Million SME customers "owned" by Sage and Intuit is worth $1000 each -  no speculation required, you can calculate this from the financials of both groups which are very similar. As the user bases go down the price per user drops so MYOB and I would guess even Xero have capex values that value their users at around $500.

So a data mining exersise in this market is very simple : get a base of homogenous users to enough momentum and the value of those users approaches the market value, the buyers are too numerous to list. Finally this brings me to my original point of joining this discussion, there is a cost of aquiring these user bases. As far as I can see from my reading of the numbers, cloud users are no more valuable to have than desktop users. If these users actually want desktop apps and not cloud apps, then it is far cheaper to aquire desktop users and come out at the a point far higher thant the 30 000 users that Xero have achieved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

-- "No one possesses the less because everyone possesses the whole of it. He who receives an idea from me receives it without lessening me, as he who lights his candle at mine receives light without darkening me" - Thomas Jefferson

philipdc's picture

Not up for sparring

philipdc | | Permalink

I am not up for sparring here. There may well be an opportunity for Xero and TurboCASH to cooperate. I am not in competition with Xero - I have NEVER personally encountered a customer that had to make the choice between TurboCASH or Xero. The market leaders are Sage and Intuit. Lets keep that in perspective.

As I said to Andrew I am technology agnostic. We have a cloud implemetation of TurboCASH, a few variations of it in fact. Its not the technology, but the take up that bothers me. If it suits you to beleive that Cloud accounting systems are dominating, who am I to stop you. From my perspective it is not that clear.

The TurboCASH Base in Holland (started 4 years ago) is now over 20 000. The US is one of our largest sources of downloaders, so I don't buy the arguments of bandwidth, developed nations or time line. The world is flat. This is what troubles me. It is in the high bandwidth countries where the take up of TurboCASH is largest, but not as a cloud app- as a desktop app.

We offer TurboCASH for free simply because we can. There are no tricks or catches to this. There are two different approaches to growing market share - one is to raise expernal capital and use it to aquire the user bases (this is the strategy of most of the vendors). The downside of this approach is that it leads to a situation where you have external parties wanting to get paid. So  before a Sage or an Intuit user enters a transaction, his first action is to pay a tax to the shareholders. Same I guess with Xero. Now becuase we are able to deliver TurboCASH at zero cost, this should not be held against us, thankfully the users don't hold it against us. In fact that is not true. Some of them do hold it against us that it is free. For those users, we are happy to charge them.

Which brings me back to the original topic. If the game is to aquire large user bases, otherwise why would we be here inthe first place? Then is the cloud a distraction or an opportunity. I am no longer sure that your opinion is objective. I may be that the situation you are in mitiages that you HAVE to sell cloud systems. If you are not entirely correct, then there may well be an opportunity for Xero and TurboCASH to cooperate.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

-- "No one possesses the less because everyone possesses the whole of it. He who receives an idea from me receives it without lessening me, as he who lights his candle at mine receives light without darkening me" - Thomas Jefferson

philipdc's picture

This is intersting

philipdc | | Permalink

DatabaseHas anyone used SQL Azure?  It is a cloud database service offered by Microsoft.  Recently, my client said his 8 years old SQL server has a lot of problems but he can’t afford to replace it with new hardware / software.  I suggest him to migrate it to SQL Azure but he didn’t have the need / budget to migrate the associated desktop application to web application.  So all I did was to help him to migrate his data to SQL Azure and changed his database connection to the new location, i.e. on the cloud.  Is this a cloud application?

Andrew this is interesting to me.

This is an architecture that I have not looked at - our cloud offereing have been based around Terminal Services and NX. What if the database is places inteh cloud and the App is simply a Windows app working as a desktop client. This woudl then give you remote and distributed sharing of the same acocutngin data set. Is this viable?

Would you be able to set this up Firebird SQL? Firebird is the underlying Database for TurboCASH.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

-- "No one possesses the less because everyone possesses the whole of it. He who receives an idea from me receives it without lessening me, as he who lights his candle at mine receives light without darkening me" - Thomas Jefferson

daveforbes's picture

Turbo cash

daveforbes | | Permalink

I assume of the 80 countries contributing to the 110,000 users of TurboCash, UK contributes very little. If there is a significant market share then it is not reflected in the uptake by accountants. I say this because we have had no requests to import data from it into our final accounts package. This may be because although there is no licence fee, open source software does in general have a tendancy to be a little fiddly to get going - www.accountingweb.co.uk/item/180517  which is the diametric opposite of cloud "installation free" software. If you have a high charge out rate, time is money ! Clearly to have 110,000 users it must work - so perhaps investing some time in streamlining the setup procedure would be worthwhile.

philipdc's picture

installation

philipdc | | Permalink

Hi Dave - I am not here to sell TurboCASH - I do that all day long on Google - I am here to discuss the issues of cloud computing with fellow professionals.

Following the TurboCASH uptake rate is really simple. Daily downloads are reported per country on our sourceforge site and our users registerations are reported live on the front page of our web site, 30 today so far, 204 this week, 855 this month. Currently Downloads  run at between 2000 to 5000 per week, of which around 10% come from the UK.  This week was 2046, with 224 from the UK. All done oin the "cloud" right? See the reports yourself here: http://sourceforge.net/projects/turbocash/files//stats/map

Installation is critical. It makes up half of the effort on the TurboCASH  project. Our strategy is 1 compile, delivery to 25 languages and 80 countries. That makes for one hell of an installation script. I know, I work the team that works  on it personally. I am fairly knowlegeable on the accounting market and I know of no other vendor that does that. You can accept that it may make installation of a specific case a little more difficult, but it is worth it for the universality.  We could simplify by making country specific instalaltions, like Sage or Intuit, but we would lose our speed of delivery.

However I think we are getting side tracked here. Andew's original Post is to define what "Cloud Computing" means.

Under my understanding of  "Cloud Computing", products like Xero and Quickbooks Online are simply Web Apps retreaded by the marketing department to be "Cloud Apps".  If we are going to use the wider definition of Cloud, then we are all already in it. TurboCASH without the Internet would be nothing. A simple analysis of our web traffic shows us to be as busy traffic wise as Sage or Intuit, companies with thousands of employees. So clearly we use the web to our advantage. Our releases may not be instantly delployed, but though source forge mirrors, 100 Gb per day is not uncommon in our delivery.

The question I pose is - is a desktop app like TurboCASH that gathers its cashbook transactions from online banking or its orders from a web shop any less of a cloud app than a web app like Quickbooks Online? If you actually want to run the app itself online, it is a simple matter to load it onto a Virtual server. We did that two years ago on GoGrid and GoPC.net - the problems was not the technology, the problem was that users were indifferent to adopting it.  

My issues with the cloud are not technical, but simply does help me accomplish my goal of getting a big fat slice of the SME Accounting market? I live off disruptive technology. I would far rather be scrambling to beat SAGE to be the first on on the cloud, but that is wishfull htinking. I have been battlig Sage since David Goldman and I gave presentations at Softsel in the Heathrow Penta. The reality is that 98% of users still use desktop apps to do their accounts and 80% of those users belong to Sage and Inuit, and for those of us that spend our days trying to wrest away that market share, cloud computing may be a distraction for the real business, which is a lot less romantic - namely changing desktop users,who don't want to pay their licence fees.

 

 

-- "No one possesses the less because everyone possesses the whole of it. He who receives an idea from me receives it without lessening me, as he who lights his candle at mine receives light without darkening me" - Thomas Jefferson

Richard Messik's picture

What is Cloud Computing

Richard Messik | | Permalink

 Hi Andrew, The definition of Cloud Computing has changed somewhat over the years but I still think that the simplest one is the "Hotel" Test...if you can walk into an Hotel lobby anywhere in the world and access your data and applications - without the need to download any plugins etc - then that is truly Cloud Computing.

There are many different definitions out there but to me that sums it up.

chanpangchi's picture

Data = Gold Mine

chanpangchi | | Permalink

This woudl then give you remote and distributed sharing of the same acocutngin data set. Is this viable?

If you own the accounting data of a particular industry at a specific city, how much information that you can retrieve and sell?  You know their buying pattern, expense model...  Their supplier would definitely interest and same as the industries itself who would know if they are above or below average.

For example, if I am a distributor of coffee bean in Toronto, Canada and if you have 5% of coffee shops using Turbo Cash in Toronto.  Do you think I would be willing to buy some marketing information from you?

I don't care if TurboCash is Windows clients or web clients; if data is on the cloud, then I can have anywhere, anytime access.  Microsoft would handle the data maintenance better than a lot of SME and ready for disaster.  We have a lot of cloud expert on this discussion forum and I have no doubt that they can share with you what benefits cloud can give to your users.  It is also scalable!  If your client base suddenly double or even triple, then you just add more instances.

Don't know how you market the cloud version but it is maintenance free, anywhere and anytime access (most SME owners work 24 hours a day in office and home).  Of course, I would suggest that you add a backup utility so that they can have a local backup copy.  Since you already have a huge customer base, why don't you email  them a survey and ask them what their concern is.

Unfortunately, I have never worked with Firebird so I cannot comment on it.  But Microsoft also have Windows Azure, you may want to find out from them if you can install Firebird on it.

http://www.microsoft.com/windowsazure/windowsazure/

If you think data on the cloud can add value to your business, then you may want to take the bullet now and migrate to SQL server or other cloud database.

 

-- Regards,

Andrew Chan.

chanpangchi's picture

LinkedIn

chanpangchi | | Permalink

I know it is off topic but you may also want to market your product on LinkedIn, an online professional networking platform.

-- Regards, 

Andrew Chan.

anthonymellor's picture

Me too

anthonymellor | | Permalink
chanpangchi's picture

Hotel Test

chanpangchi | | Permalink

Hi Richard,

Yes, a lot of people suggest similar definition.  However, I think the future of cloud computing is not from desktop and laptop but on smartphone and tablet.  Yes, both smartphone and tablet support internet browser as well but most online services providers (cloud providers) also provide mobile apps which gives us better user experience. For example, I can read my Financial Times on the browser but I prefer to use its mobile app on my iPad.  But this is only my penny worth suggestion, hope to hear more feedback from the group.

Personally, I also restrict myself not to use public computer or open WiFi network for security reason.

-- Regards,

Andrew Chan.

DuaneJAckson's picture

Hotel Test is for SaaS, not Cloud

DuaneJAckson | | Permalink

 The "Hotel Test" is the same as the "Touring Test". See http://blog.kashflow.com/2009/05/01/saas-the-touring-test/

I agree that's a valid test for SaaS, but I don't think it's a test for "Cloud"

anthonymellor's picture

now that's a very interesting twist.. that Saas and cloud are di

anthonymellor | | Permalink

I thought that to be cloud computing one must be using software as a service - or in reverse, if one is not using software as a service then it's not cloud computing.

So that's where I am at; in which case, what defines the difference?

 

 

 

and even I noticed the touring test has a wonderfully apt link to Turing, seems to me that the removal of all the physical computing hardware from our daily lives and its assignation to places elsewhere, where we can acecss it by whatever is the latest access technology, is a watershed worthy of some association with his name. One step away or even at the very door of Startrek's "Computer.." (this is a reference to the access methodology, for non trekkies, in case there are any non trekkies here.) Maybe thought access is the next step.. as we do have voice access, though in its infancy.

 

DuaneJAckson's picture

"SaaS" and "cloud" not synonyms

DuaneJAckson | | Permalink

I've been trying not to get involved with this thread. I don't think we'll reach a consensus on what does or doesn't define cloud.

However, i do think that the terms SaaS and Cloud are not interchangeable.

SaaS is a software delivery and business model.
Cloud isn't

I used to think SaaS was a subset of Cloud (with P[latform]aaS, D[ata]aaS, etc being other subsets - along with a load of other stuff that isn't anything as-a-service). Now I'm not so sure.

It depends on how cloud is defined.

KashFlow is definitely a SaaS application. I'm not sure if it's "cloud" though. It's all on servers in the cloud. But it's dedicated hardware. To some, cloud computing must involve virtualised hardware and elasticity. We don't have that.

guyletts's picture

One size doesn't fit all

guyletts | | Permalink

I think Duane’s right to be circumspect about this debate. Does it really help us to labour the precise definition of ‘Cloud’? Surely no more than it would help to define ‘on-premise’ – for example, does an on-premise app cease to be so as soon as it incorporates cloud services?

Let’s just agree a reference (Gary Turner has suggested one, the hotel test could be an alternative) and move on.
Then it just boils down to choosing what you like. Yes there are trends and the world is changing, but there is never a ‘one size fits all’ solution in this market – different technologies deliver different combinations of benefits that appeal to different people in different circumstances with different outlooks. There’s not going to be one right answer that suits everyone. That’s why segmentation is so important in marketing.

Philip - I wonder whether that’s at odds with the base of ‘homogeneous users’ you seek? If we agree segmentation is important then isn’t your task to set out simply and clearly the value and characteristics of your offer to help people decide whether its characteristics fit with their needs?

End customers, for the most part, don’t care about (and don’t want to have to wade through) the finer points of the underlying technology. They care about what it helps them achieve – through a product’s functionality, performance, flexibility of access, reliability, support, value, security, privacy, scalability, availability of skills and risk. And then they will add in other preferences of what they do and don’t like based on their own (and their friends’) experiences.  Very often an accountant's recommendation trumps all of these.

Some will choose SaaS, some Citrix, some on-premise, some paid-for, some free...but they really appreciate it when they can compare and contrast and choose easily based on things they do understand.

daveforbes's picture

Another vote for "The touring test"

daveforbes | | Permalink

I think for most people "cloud" means the same as "saas" which means the same as "it passes the touring test", certainly when it is used as an adjective to describe application software for accountants.

The "touring test" seems a good basic definition - can it be put somewhere prominent ?

John Stokdyk's picture

I'm listening

John Stokdyk | | Permalink

As Frasier Crane might have put it...

I notice on another thread that there was a request to compile some of the regular "what is Cloud" material into a prominent place on the site. I'll get on to this in the New Year - and begin work on documenting the available apps in more detail.

Thanks all for your contributions during 2010, and here's to more enlightenment on the subject in 2011.

Saas and Cloud are not the same thing

stuart.lynn | | Permalink

I have to agree with Duane in that SaaS and Cloud are not one in the same... However, the Market is being conditioned (confused) by some SaaS vendors who are leveraging the Cloud bandwagon for the benefit of their own product. I'm not necessarily saying there is anything wrong with that, after all that is what Marketing departments are paid to do, but I admire Duane's honesty for calling it as it really is here. 

The Cloud is much much bigger than SaaS and the majority of applications running in the Cloud today are not pure play SaaS, unless of course you limit your thinking to one or two SaaS vendors 'private' clouds.

SaaS applications (some but not all) tick the cloud box, but so do many AppStore type mobile applications that access information and services on the cloud. Then you have the online gaming industry who agruably make much more use of the cloud today than the business sector. 

I like the simplicity of Richard Messik's hotel test for SaaS, but for me it doesn't work for cloud...  no doubt the debate will run on and on..

Easier transition from SaaS to Cloud ...

JC | | Permalink

does elastic = scaleable or is it inextricably associated with virtualisation

would KashFlow become elastic (& virtual) if moved to Amazon (EC2) etc

'.. You use an API call to "create" a server and install your software on it. Everything works like a real server, and if you need more power, you call the API again and request another server. If you no longer need the extra power, you shut the extra servers down (with an API call) ..'

'.. Elastic computing is the result of recent improvements made in the area of virtualization, which is the execution of multiple operating system entities on a single hardware ..'

So virtualisation is a means to an end (enabler) and not the end itself

Ergo - KashFlow could in theory potentially become 'Cloud' by moving provider but under these same conditions could TurboCASH or any other on-premise app become 'Cloud'; it seems unlikely

Frankly it has got to the stage where one can argue about this indefinately when there are actually more constructive ways forward than an abstract debate - we need to move on

PUREaccountants's picture

My Penny's worth

PUREaccountants | | Permalink

 This seems to be a much more interesting conversation then some last year. 

To me as a layman the point of Cloud is simple - to be able to access my data from a website regardless of device or browser. As an avid fan of Apple and Xero this works well. Except that some of the graphics do not show due to Flash - a secondary and so far none issue for me.

Where I have a problem is when Cloud also covers remote desktops. A great way of deploying and managing IT but no real movement on the old mainframe systems. That is not cloud, its terminal services. And yes I understand that the accounting systems such as Xero/Kashflow are no doubt built on SQL servers, with multi user/session licences etc.

Cloud has to do the following. Be device and browser agnostic. The software has to be able to integrate with other applications. So with regards to the Accounting Profession, I want my Xero data to be available in my Accounts Pro & Tax Software via API, not download, upload hassle. 

The same can be said for my documents, I should be able to generate these from any device, any platform and save them to my Box.net/dropbox account without the download/upload issues. 

I understood that the point of the internet in the first place was to share data, information. The Web gave us the ability to deliver "sites" that mere mortals could interact with and now we are reaching a point where data is truly shared. Not just by emailing, links etc but by the development of API's. 

In the ultimate cloud environment I should be able to spend my entire working day with my iPad not once having to load a piece of software or have to worry about which format I generate a file.

PUREaccountants's picture

Oh just one thing

PUREaccountants | | Permalink

 Gary, can we have box.net integration with Xero please!

PUREaccountants's picture

Cloud V SaaS

PUREaccountants | | Permalink

Duane, you make a good point between SaaS and cloud.

I think I agree with you in the fact that cloud is a system whereby some form of virtualisation is involved, in terms of elasticity. Cloud services should be flexible to clients demands, supporting bursts in activity etc.

As with where SaaS you are talking about physical dedicated servers running the LOB software such as Kashflow. This I imagine is essential as you are able to monitor physical requirements of your customers and plan in advance for computing power.

Under these definitions could we say that Cloud Infrastructure would be ideal for delivering large scale desktop deployments as the computing power fluctuates as programmes are started, email flows and documents created. 

I think for the average end user the fact that the service is delivered via the web, in easy to understand www. stuff it would be classed as Cloud.

Perhaps cloud just sounds sexier, well Microsoft are "betting the company on it", "whatever it is".

PUREaccountants's picture

W7 & Flickr

PUREaccountants | | Permalink

Andrew, can't you already do this on the iPhone, iPad?

Yahoo seem to me desperate to get in on any action they can but are about a billion years behind. Who actually uses Windows 7 mobiles? Surely the contest is iOS, Android and Blackerry? The Win Mobile was crap when it is was first launched and as far as I can see is still useless. 

challisc's picture

Public vs Private Cloud

challisc | | Permalink

Interesting to see the range of views and perspectives. Defining “cloud” is tricky.

As Manager of this Discussion Group, I’m happy to use as broad a definition as makes business sense.

Taking an end-user perspective, what is the key distinction between cloud computing and on-premise computing?

For cloud computing, it’s that the server-side processing and any related data storage is hosted and managed by a third party, usually on some form of shared, public basis. (This is as distinct from traditional private outsourcing, usually only relevant to larger organisations).

There are three key affects to end-users of third-party hosting in this way:

  1. A new set of benefits, such as no system to manage, worldwide access and improvements in disaster recovery
  2. A different set of management issues, including continuity of usage, data location and change in day-to-day management control
  3. A change in the commercial basis to some form of subscription (sometimes free), instead of capital expenditure

The method of hosting therefore makes best practical sense in defining cloud computing for end-users. The precise technology used is secondary, given the management and commercial aspects are very similar. To pick up on points made by others above:

  • In practice access to the hosted systems is usually via the internet, although as time goes by new methods may arise, especially for hi-security applications
  • Access to the server application is usually via a web browser. But if access to the central application is via some other mechanism, such as a down-loaded app on a smartphone or iPad, I can’t see why this shouldn’t still be regarded as “cloud” and “Saas”.
  • Whether techniques such as virtualisation are used is only of interest to an end-user if they add/subtract benefits or change the risk profile

In this context, SaaS is indeed a subset of cloud, providing packaged Software as a Service. There are other forms of cloud computing, usually relevant to larger organisations, notably:

  • Platform as a Service (PaaS) – allowing development and deployment of bespoke apps
  • Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) – where the end-user provides the software to run on the host’s system

But What About The “Hotel/Touring Test”?

In the mid90s I was involved with an on-premise system that could be accessed via a web-browser via the public internet. This would have therefore passed the “hotel test”. But was it “cloud”? These days it would be an example of “private cloud” – cloud-like systems that are hosted on-premise (or with a private outsourcer).  

Conversely this means that the definition of cloud computing above, relating to shared systems hosted with a third party, is known as “public cloud”.

Mention has been made in other posts of the Cloud Industry Forum and its new Code of Practice. Their definition of cloud computing, relating to “public cloud”, is “Remotely hosted IT services of any type, including, but not limited to, multi-tenanted services accessed via the Internet”

This definition is consistent with my comments above. As a simple concise concept, I’m happy to adopt this definition for purposes of this discussion forum. There may be times to discuss “private cloud” opportunities and issues. But this definition provides a focus on “public cloud” services, which will be of most relevance to most people in this discussion group.
 

chanpangchi's picture

WP7 and Flickr

chanpangchi | | Permalink

Hi PUREaccountant,

I think MS was totally lost its direction in last few years e.g. Zune, Kin Phone, Vista, WP6.5, IE 6-8 and even Office 2007.  But I was hoping to use this news to illustrate what cloud computing may be. 

Windows Azure is cloud computing; at least this is what MS want it to be.  However, we need to install an apps in order to use Flickr.  Is Flickr a cloud apps?

-- Regards,

Andrew Chan

chanpangchi's picture

Great works

chanpangchi | | Permalink

Chris,

Thank you for your great effot to summarize the definition of cloud computing.  Hope this can be the foundation of our success in our future discussion.

-- Regards,

Andrew Chan.

PUREaccountants's picture

Flickr - Cloud?

PUREaccountants | | Permalink

Andrew,

I think Flickr could be defined as cloud as the process is web driven. Even though I might have to install an app on my iPhone, ultimately nothing actually happens on my phone (not really) it simply pulls data from the web. Where the photos are stored is also irrelevant to me, but I guess comes to whether it is public or private cloud. 

Flickr must be public cloud then.

Again I believe that the defining part of cloud is not where the physical servers sit or whether they are virtualised, but actually that one does not have to physically start up my computer with WinXXX to use it. I should be able to access it regardless of device or browser. 

Again hosted desktops in my opinion do not count. Why? Because you are relying on MS/Linux/Mac software to run your programmes. Cloud should be accessed by apps and websites only. If it cant run there then it isn't cloud.

Genuine Cloud Apps to me are Xero, Kashflow, Box.net, DropBox, Zoho Google Apps. These ultimately can all be connected to each other (via API) and not one of them requires a PC. 

Maybe thats the definition (really simply put for marketeers) software that doesn't require a PC.

Richard

carnmores's picture

New years resolutions

carnmores | | Permalink

give up navel gazing

leave the escoteric to the aesthetes

how long is a piece of string anyway

petersaxton's picture

Dilbert

petersaxton | | Permalink

 http://dilbert.com/strips/

If the strip changes it's dated 07/01/11

mkcdavies's picture

Cloud computing is not about technology, it's about the user exp

mkcdavies | | Permalink

The "Hotel/Touring test" is proof of something being accessible from a computer that you've never used before.  It's a reasonable test of 'Martini' accessibility (anytime, anywhere...), but it doesn't show up the other advantages of cloud computing.

To me, cloud computing is about being able to use my applications and data from wherever I am, via the most appropriate device.  It gives me maximum flexibility and efficiency, it makes it easy for me to use the appropriate style of access depending on where I am (e.g. Windows applications on the PC at my desk, iPad or iPhone apps on the move or at home).  It also makes it easy for me to organise and share things with others.  Services such as Dropbox, Issuu, Flickr and YouTube are good examples of how easy it is to store things in the cloud and share them with others.

Of course, because it's cloud computing, I don't worry about maintaining hardware or software, in fact I have little or no knowledge of the infrastructure that's required to make it happen, it just happens automatically.  Applications installed onto particular devices (for example, iPhone apps) use the cloud to store and access the data.  Software updates are no issue at all because they flow down automatically from the cloud when available.

Things are much different for me today than they used to be, because I store a lot of things in the cloud that previously had to be maintained locally.  And I have one set of consistent information that's synhronised across all of my devices.  For instance, all of my contacts (of which there are a lot!), all of my internet bookmarks, all of my to-do lists, all of my ad hoc notes, all of my e-mail, some of my pictures and videos.  From a business standpoint, we can store literature and other documents in the cloud and made available to others too.  So we save time and money by, for instance, not having to print brochures any more.

Moving to the cloud has also opened up a whole new world of applications which make information and tasks easier to manage.  Evernote is a great notes app, for instance.  Hootsuite and Flipboard are superb for organising social media, an area I had reservations about because of the tidal wave of information that might hit me.  These tools make it easy to manage multiple social media channels and organise the vast world of Twitter into a rich news-media-like style that focuses on the topics that interest you.

One of the most remarkabke things about using cloud computing is the number of good quality solutions that are available for free or very little cost.  In the past it would have cost thousands.  But today I receive many of these services and applications for free, others I pay for.  But even those that charge are so cheap that I really don't have to think about the cost.  I just downloaded the iPad version of the "To do" app for £2.99, less than a pint of beer.

Cloud computing has opened up a whole new world and I will never go back.  I am sure that the same is true for a lot of people and in the (not too distant) future the vast majority of people in the developed world are going to be conducting their lives and businesses using cloud computing.  That's why my recommendation to others is to start using it, even if only in a small way for now.  See where it takes you, I think you'll enjoy it and you'll be protecting your future livelihood.

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