[Update: 2-23-09: ZDNet looks at the Red Dog in the Blue Cloud, a little bit more about Microsoft’s Azure and the dog that hopes to hunt there.]
“The RoR community spans hundreds of sites and thousands of user groups because the tools are easier to use and more agile.”
First there was the cloud. And everything in the cloud was good.
An then came the ASP model, sometimes referred to as hosted applications. Now more commonly called SaaS, for Software as a Service. Salesforce is the poster child of SaaS. You can buy into Salesforce’s online services and now with hundreds of “salesforce authorized” vendors you can pick and choose the additional services you want. Salesforce has even launched “The Force” which is basically a framework for building applications on top of Salesforce’s Cloud and having access to their resources and connectivity with other Salesforce developers and customers. But I am jumping ahead.
So more recently the industry started referring to Cloud Computing
™ as the new paradigm. Sounded like the original web paradigm to me, but hey, let’s look into what Cloud Computing ™ is all about.
Cloud 1: initially the Cloud was simply a big group of servers where you could store and run your website or email programs. Hosting companies like Rackspace, still call them managed hosting, but the sexier term is definitely Cloud Computing.
Cloud 2: is more about processing power and distributed bandwidth and storage. So in addition to getting a server farm you get some hardware and software goodness that allow you to run your mission critical applications across hundreds of servers at once, providing redundancy and dynamic scalability, when that is necessary to cover the traffic load. Google’s Apps and their new development platform, is of this variety.
Cloud 3: tries to blend the best of 1 and 2 and offer something more holistic that combines the scalability of numerous on-demand servers AND then adds a “platform” for application development or deployment. And as a whole this system is then supported by the technical infrastructure of the “cloud” rather than the company. So if you move your computing requirements into Cloud #3, theoretically you will lower your IT overhead significantly.
So the challenges for clouds #2 and #3 are not unlike the challenges a managed hosting company (Cloud #1) has been facing for 10+ years.
1. Convincing the business customer that their data is safer and will maintain a 99.999% uptime.
2. Giving the backup responsibilities and server maintenance duties to a vendor.
3. You don’t need to own the server.
4. You don’t need to keep the data inside your firewall, we can protect it, better and cheaper than you can.
But Cloud #3 also commits you to a development platform.
Recently asked about concerns I might have about moving a major project onto Azure (Microsoft’s Cloud #3) my first response was why. Why would I want to do it?
Of the developer friends I run with, open source applications and open source development “platforms” are where the excitement is. While I am sure there are .NET circles of passion, the Ruby on Rails, or Python communities seem to be where the momentum is. WordPress and Drupal are evolving quickly with the combined development cycles of thousands of users and programmers. Google Analytics, while not exactly open, has open API’s allowing a growing community to assemble and evolve reporting and analytics packages that are low cost and flexible.
And everyone on the closed side of the development world will continue to struggle to keep up. How many developers would Omniture or Coremetrics need to employ to match the power of the combined Google Team and the adjunct open source Google team?
It’s an open world out there. Free tools to work on a closed system verses free tools to work on an open system. A system that is not OS dependent or processor dependent or language dependent. And saying you are going to build a community around the development environment is a lot different than watching the community develop itself around a better freer environment. The RoR community spans hundreds of sites and thousands of user groups because the tools are easier to use and more agile.
And the marketing budget for Ruby on Rails is… ZERO.
Update for clarification 2-23-09: I was not meaning to compare Azure and Rails as similar platforms, but merely making the case for Open rather than Closed development environments, cloud-based or OS based. In defining Azure, Microsoft makes it clear what they intend their cloud to be, an extension of everything Windows. Here is a screen shot from their dev conference back in Oct. 08 when they were unveiling Azure.