Author Archives: Luchi

What Successful Businesses Have Been Developed By Providing SaaS, PaaS and IaaS

What Successful Businesses Have Been Developed By Providing SaaS, PaaS and IaaS

We have written quite a few articles about the 3 most significant service models it presents, SaaS, PaaS and IaaS. Yet the thing that makes understanding these models difficult is the fact that there are so very few examples of companies that are actually making a successful business out of providing one or all of these services. And it is so difficult to find a palpable example for each category because most of these service providers are focused on the business market so, as individuals, we don’t really have the chance to interact with them. So let’s look at some of the most successful companies in each category and see what they can teach us about them.

Big Names in SaaS

Some of the biggest names in the Software as a Service model include NetSuite Inc, and Open Table Inc and Real Page. Net Suite was the first to come up with an SaaS ERP solution, way before SAP and Oracle ever thought of doing it. They may be oriented at the business sector but their vision is one of the key pieces of the cloud. Open Table is the dream of every husband who forgot to make dinner reservations on that one important night because they work with more than 20000 restaurants to provide real time online dinner reservations. They make their money from the restaurants rather than the clients and that is another huge plus of the cloud business. Real Page is a property management solution managing more than 6 million rental houses. They are basically the perfect example of an unstoppable cloud based business.

Big Names in PaaS

When it comes to Platform as a Service model there are some names that we have all heard of and others that only key programmers and businesses know of, but their revenue and importance of the market are huge. Amazon is actually one of the biggest names in PaaS with their Amazon Web Service, AWS. They already have a toolkit for Eclipse, a package that lets developers create Amazon resources called Cloud Formation and many cloud based database options. Sales Force is another great example of a PaaS with its two main products AppExchange and Heruko. Their products are extraordinary that they were able to help build and install 3000 apps in less than 24 hours.

Big Names in IaaS

Although not very well known to the general public IaaS businesses do provide some of the most interesting services that could actually be used by individuals just as well as by some businesses. For example Bluelock provides companies the ability to build public, private or both cloud services and it further allows companies to monitor just how much money they are spending. That is definitely a service that most of us are going to need in the near future. GoGrid is a pure-play cloud service offering Xen based IaaS and working to deliver a third party platform where its clients will be able to trade their own software products.

By Luchi Gabriel Manescu

The Cloud, Week In Review: November 30th, 2012

The Cloud, Week In Review: November 30th, 2012

This week, Google and Amazon have brought forth new goodies for consumers that are going to make our lives even easier than before. And the privacy of the data we are going to use through their services may receive a new level of privacy security if a bill proposed by Patrick Leahy will be passed.

Google Drive Attachments Raised to 10 GB

Google has risen this week the maximum attachment size to 10 GB of data. It is a natural upgrade seeing how users have been uploading huge files to their Google Drive accounts and sharing them with everyone they needed. Now Google has simply created a seamless integration of its 2 services, Google Drive and Gmail and users can send directly through their email. In actuality the Google Drive account is the one being used and this is both an advantage and a disadvantage. It is an advantage because the files are stored on a data center and are thus very easy to download. But it is also a disadvantage because it makes for a very lovely trap: when you will attempt to upload anything above the 5 GB storage that comes for free from Google Drive you will have to buy the extra space, thus receiving the Google upgraded service for $2.49/month.

Amazon Launches a Data Warehouse Service RedShift

For most individual users it is almost impossible to imagine data gathered on such a monumental scale that it simply cannot be analyzed. And yet there are companies that need to buy the services of a data warehouse to report and analyze their data. However, this service used to be so expensive that the small and medium companies could not afford it and were forced to through away almost 90% of their data. But the new Redshift service that is integrated in the Amazon Web Services has been lunched in a scalable model that allows companies to choose exactly how much they are going to spend. What’s even more tempting is that even when using the maximum petabyte Redshift cluster users will pay less than $100 per year.

Google Avoids Webmasters Tools Disaster

Google is constantly trying to improve the level of service they provide their users so it is a statistically inevitable that they would do a blunder from time to time. This week they reactivated several obsolete Webmasters Tools user accounts. By doing this they have given former employees access to sensitive data of companies they were no longer working with. The issue was solved in time but it has put a rather unfavorable highlight on the integrating services they are providing. Having access to one service means users will automatically gain access to any number of other services like Google Docs, Analytics and even AdSense.

New Privacy Bill to Be Brought Up

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahyhas brought up a bill that will increase the level of privacy internet users currently have. According to the current law state and federal authorities may access any email that is older than 6 months. The new legislature argues that electronic communications are as private as any personal letter and should enjoy the same level of privacy. Even so a federal judge’s subpoena can allow law enforcers to access any email they want as long as they can show a reasonable suspicion of crime. So, if passed, the new law may raise security standards to a new level but not so high as to make our private lives truly private.

Predictive Software May Be the Way of the Future

Jeff Hawkins, one of the most famous lecturers in neuroscience, has co-founded a big data company called Numenta. However the extraordinary thing about this company is that it does not look the trillions of data that have been gathered by companies for years. Instead it uses Hawkins theory on how the brain works to work on stream of real-time information from sensors. The system called Grok is still in a limited release form but it is already delivering results that surpass traditional benchmarks like revenue, machine servicing and optimal purchasing mixes.

By Luchi Gabriel Manescu

Some Main Reasons Why Companies Are Moving To The Cloud

Some Main Reasons Why Companies Are Moving To The Cloud

A recent survey has showed that 70% of Australian companies are planning to increase their spending in cloud services. The trend may be very strong in Australia but it is mirrored on a bigger or smaller trend all over the world and we are starting to see more and more companies abandoning the more traditional local software and storage solutions for their cloud alternatives. The reason for the move vary from country to country and from company to company but a eventually they do come to several common denominators.

Lower IT Costs

The biggest reason why many companies choose to make the move to the cloud is the opportunity to lower the capital expenditure or CAPEX. This brings two benefits that need to be considered. The first is that the initial investment is for the exact services or storage that the company needs but both of these features can be very easily increased because of the scalable computing feature of the cloud. The second benefit of lowering the CAPEX on IT is that companies can allocate more funds to research and development so, with the rapid development of the cloud we can expect to see also a faster growth of innovative products and projects.

The Move Frees Up Other Resources

The second advantage of moving to the cloud is that, besides freeing up part of the financial resources, there are other resources that are no longer dedicated to maintaining a complex on site IT structure.

What exactly those resources are depends from one company to another but there are a few commonalities. The IT experts are now freed to tackle more customer related parts of the business thus providing a seamless experience for both company employees and customers. Also the higher management specialists no longer need to focus their time on dealing with IT issues since these are taken care of by whatever cloud services providers are working with the company.

Cloud Services Are at an All Time Maximum

One of the biggest reasons why it was so difficult for cloud services to be adopted by companies was the fact that they were a relatively new technology and it had not track record. However the technology has finally reached that critical point where there are enough providers that basically any need a company may have is covered by someone in the cloud. Also there are so many competitors in every niche that have found the perfect way to use cloud services that those who still chose to stand back risk falling back.

SaaS Offers Undeniable Opportunities

The most common cloud services used today is the software as a service model (SaaS). We are already seeing Google and Microsoft battling it out for a piece of the office suite needs but there are even more services that SaaS provides. And companies moving to the software as a service solution are already seeing lower upfront costs, permanent access to software, basically care free upgrades and automatic integration with the in house systems.

By Luchi Gabriel Manescu

Not Sure About The Security Of Your Cloud Data? Build Your Own Cloud!

Not Sure About The Security Of Your Cloud Data? Build Your Own Cloud!

When it comes to personal use the cloud has always stood for a comfortable means for storing your most valuable data in an online server where you could easily access it from any internet terminal. It also represents a place where you and your family can access the same pictures, movies and documents at any given time. But, despite the increasing security measures, there are still a lot of people who do not trust the security of the cloud with their more private data, although they would still like the ability to share that data with their family and loved ones.

And for the families that leave in one place there are now several solutions allowing them to have a personal family cloud independent of any online resource. We are talking about what is basically a smart hard drive capable of working under its own power, not being connected to any PC, and that interacts with the family’s wireless router. It can be accessed by any computer that knows the router’s password and it can automatically back up important data for all the computers in its range.

Of course the major problem with this system is the fact that the users still need to be in range of the wireless network in order to access data on the hard drive but there are many third party apps that can allow an administrator to share information from the hard drive online. Obviously this raises again the question of online security but since your personal data would not be saved on a dedicated server it will be safer from the attacks of hackers who usually go for thousands of user accounts at once. What’s even more important is the fact that your particular IP address is usually randomized and so it is even more difficult for a hacker to target a specific person.

Still there are several drawbacks to the system, particularly in terms of the cost. The usual offer from producers like Western Digital is $150 for a 1TB hard drive and the prices only go up. Just to give you an idea of what that means there are several online storage companies like BackBlaze who offer unlimited storage space for $3.96 a month if you pay for a 2 year membership with them. Of course, there are those that will argue that you cannot count on your data’s security no matter the online service and so the extra money you would be paying are worth the effort but if you are not very worried about the data you would be backing up than it is definitely cheaper and safer to go with them.

In fact the biggest worry that a home cloud represents is that, like anyone piece of hardware, it can break down and you could lose all of your data. And for that reason either using a RAID hard drives configuration or a cloud service are still the only choices we have. Perhaps the only real solution is a combination of the two services thus creating the possibility to enjoy the best of both worlds.

By Luchi Gabriel Manescu

SnapLogic: Tackling The Complex Features Of The Cloud

SnapLogic: Tackling The Complex Features Of The Cloud

SnapLogic: Tackling The Complex Features Of The Cloud

The very concept behind the development of the cloud is based on user friendly apps that allow for a much broader range of functionality for people who don’t really have anything to do with the IT world. And when SnapLogic was first developed in 2006, it became instantly famous because it took even the few technologically challenging aspects of interacting with the cloud and made them accessible to non-IT specialists.

The very concept was perfectly symbolized by the snap technology integration that would allow even the HR department of a company to integrate their legacy on site software with the services the company owned online. However the system does have its drawbacks, as many IT specialists pointed out, since those issues were the ones keeping them from doing their job. So even though the snap connections provided do allow integration of many cloud services like Amazon S3, CheetahMail, Google Apps, Oracle, SAP and NetSuite, they cannot guarantee the 100% uptime that dedicated IT departments are responsible for.

So the latest SnapLogic release called “Enterprise Integration Platform” was actually designed to provide the higher degree of control that the IT departments require. The new platform could be regarded as a pace offering to the specialists but it also provides some long needed upgrades that should make life easier for most of the users.

Probably the most sought after feature that has been integrated in the new platform is the rollback function that allows users to go back to a stable configuration if one of the integrations or updates they have implemented is creating problems for the system. And for those situations or workstations where the users are completely uncomfortable with handling IT issues there is also a “smart shutdown” feature that prevents new integrations from being started until other, already started integrations are completed.

Another feature that should eliminate downtown completely is the ability to mirror metadata across multiple active servers. In simple term this means that even if one server should fail at any given time every bit of information that it contained already exists on another server that is already active and able to pick up the slack. So from a front office point of view there should not be any interruptions in the workflow while the IT specialists handle the hardware or software issues.

But the ultimate change is in the web based interface that now allows administrators to perform user management tasks across the web. So, for companies that work out of multiple locations, there is no need for separate IT departments, since every task can be handled remotely over the internet. This also means that, were company policies allow, the IT specialists will be able to work from home even if that means working from another country.

Ultimately, the point of the cloud is to make life easier for its users and, with the latest updates in the SnapLogic system, the life of the IT specialists has also been made easier. And because of that they will probably prefer the SnapLogic system whenever they will need to integrate the onsite features of an office with the cloud services that they are using.

By Luchi Gabriel Manescu

Phase Two Of The Cloud Revolution Is Well Underway

Phase Two Of The Cloud Revolution Is Well Underway

It began with the biggest inbox storage available on the market and it grew to 5GB of free server storage but it did not stop there. We are talking, of course, about the host of services that Google has brought to the PC world. And now they have the upper hand in the fight with Microsoft’s Office Suite as they are trying to move in the space of cloud computing. Office 365 is one of the latest Microsoft creations aimed at delivering the same type of productivity we have enjoyed from them for years but through online apps.

But, while in the real world Microsoft Office is still the undisputed champion, in the online app environment, Google is by far the favorite since their products are free and offer basically the same functionality and aesthetics.

However, the fight between these two giants is certainly going to last for many years to come and we are already seeing an entire host of online services being built on top of the current Google offer. BetterCloud is one of the most successful developers to take advantage of an already existing online app and provide a better customer experience through their service.

They have noticed that, while the Google Apps front end experience was nearly perfect, the administrative support was somewhat lacking. Not that it does not exist, but every function is hidden somewhere under the sub-menu of a menu. So what their FlashPanel does is to provide administrators analytics options for every document that their team uploads.

The Flash Panel is meant to be used in concert with the Apps Butler. It is a chatbot with whom the users can communicate over Google Talk and ask it to perform a number of basic functions. So, for example, if a manager would like to send a message to everyone in their team he could simply use his smartphone to connect with the Apps Butler and ask it to deliver the message.

And for those who are not quite familiar with every functionality of the BetterCloud or what Google Apps can do there are over 100 videos on the AskTheGooru part of the Better Cloud site detailing each functionality of either tool.

BetterCloud has certainly went all in betting on the success of Google Apps and, seeing how they have grown from 300,000 beta testers of the Flash Panel in late July of this year to 2.75 million users this month, we can certainly conclude that they have managed, not only to be a part of the Google Apps success, but also to built upon it.

And the future looks great with a new release of the Flash Panel. This time it will also bring administrative rights to its users. The team at Better Cloud have noticed that companies have a difficult time controlling which one of their documents are being publicly shared or internally. And so their future release will allow the manager to restrict sharing privileges of the other users and will also be able to tell, at a glance, what documents can be viewed and by whom.

The entire BetterCloud suite is certainly worth the install and it is a great thing that it is free for now. We are probably going to see a premium edition or other monetization tricks being installed now that it has been able to gather such a following.

By Luchi Gabriel Manescu

The Rise And Fall Of The Zmanda Empire

The Rise And Fall Of The Zmanda Empire

There are two kinds of online businesses: those that grow to buy other businesses or those that grow in order to be offered as tasty morsels to the first class of businesses. And until somebody buys them out or they become as titanic as Microsoft you cannot know which is which. Zmanda was founded in 2006 and is one of the companies that are a part of the second category. It was a cloud backup software company and it was recently bought by Carbonite, although the terms of the deal are not known. Still by this acquisition Carbonite has not only taken an important step towards showing its market value but has also created admirable conditions for its future development.

Zmanda offered a series of open source cloud backup tools like Amanda and Zmanda Recovery Manager for MySQL. They had open partnerships with Sun, MySQL and, through their Zmanda Cloud Backup software, with Amazon and Google. Zmanda cloud backup was one of the first software solutions that allowed users to back up their data on the Cloud although they did not provide the storage opportunities themselves. For that they had developed the partnerships with Google Cloud Storage and Amazon S3 service. Their most brilliant feature though was the ability to backup data for Microsoft SQL server, Exchange Server, Oracle, SharePoint, MySQL and PostgresSQL on virtually and platform including Linux and Solaris.

Carbonite, on the other hand, is an online backup service provider that has been able to grow steadily since the company was founded in 2005 despite the fact that they do not provide any free storage opportunity. However they were able to corner the market by being the first company to provide unlimited backup space for a fixed price. Until now they have focused on individual users, home based professionals and small businesses. However in August 2011 they went public raising $62.5 million in its offering and we are just now getting to see how they have started to use that money.

By acquiring Zmanda, Carbonite have taken the first step towards broadening their services. They are planning to use Zmanda’s ability to backup server and databases to expand on the services they are currently able to provide for small and medium businesses. In return, current Zmanda customers are getting access to Carbonite’s Business cloud services.

So is the change in management really that dramatic? Not really! Both companies’ clients are getting an enhanced service than the one they used to and the transition is being done as smoothly as possible. Chander Kant, former CEO of Zmanda, is free to develop a new company or product and now has the financial backup to do that comfortably and Carbonite has grown just that more. And yet the change in management can give pause for reflection about the purpose of most cloud services we are currently using. Zmanda users will certainly feel a change in the way their services are provided and there will be very little they can do about it so the one lesson we can take from this is to always try to partner with the kind of companies that grow into giants and not into food for giants.

By Luchi Gabriel Manescu

Is the Office 365 University Suite Really Necessary?

Is the Office 365 University Suite Really Necessary?

We are all used to doing things a certain way and sometimes even the smallest digression from that pattern means that we will not feel comfortable with the new situation. In the case of the Microsoft Office suite the simplest thing like the continuous word count in the lower left corner that MS Word displays or the way Excel has a specific style of formatting the cells, can be the reason why many people have not moved to the free alternate program Open Office. And, even though the day when MS Office will be a free program for personal use is nowhere in sight, a recent announcement from Microsoft has made it just that little bit more affordable.

In an attempt to popularize the Office 365 Suite, Microsoft will be offering the student version for $79.99 starting from the first quarter of 2013. For those not familiar with the Office 365 concept, it does not refer to the latest desktop/laptop release but to the Cloud version of all the apps that you would normally associate with MS Office. So now, instead of installing Office on your personal computer you will open your favorite program like MS Word or Excel on a webpage from any computer you may have handy at the moment. It does not need to have any support on your hard drive but Microsoft strongly recommends that you use the online apps in concert with the computer based program.

And this is really where the student offer gets really enticing because for your $80 you will receive not only access to the web based apps but also a 4 year license for 2 computers running the hard drive installed version of MS Office. In the student rendition you will get access to Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, OneNote, Access and Publisher and several more goodies that will certainly make the investment worth your while. In addition to everything you could want or hope from a Microsoft offer you also get 20 GB storage on Skydrive in addition to the 7 GB that any Skydrive user gets for free and 60 Skype “worldwide minutes”.

If you do the math, and don’t worry Microsoft have already done it and are already bragging, it boils down to a $1.67 per month subscription. And, considering what you get for it, it does sound like a very good deal. However, as it stands today, the offer does beg the question: do students really work so hard that they need the online version of Microsoft?

There are many studies out there suggesting that Facebook is a more arduous concern for students than their studies even when they are not on vacation. And if they are not on vacation, and thus away from their computer, why would they go online to work on their school projects? Of course, for Microsoft, bundling the two systems in their cheapest offer was a brilliant move because, even if a student only needs to use the online version once every year during the 4 year license, once it expires, they will likely invest in an offer that has the exact same features next because they have gotten used to it.

By Luchi Gabriel Manescu

CloudTweaks Comics
Cloud Infographic – Cloud Public, Private & Hybrid Differences

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Cloud Infographic – Guide To Small Business Cloud Computing

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Cloud Infographic – The Data Scientist

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Three Factors For Choosing Your Long-term Cloud Strategy

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