Category Archives: Cloud Computing

Choosing A Cloud App? Look For a JSON-based API

Choosing A Cloud App? Look For a JSON-based API

Look for a JSON-based API

If your company isn’t already using a cloud-based business application, there’s a very good chance that they will be in the next year or so. What makes me so sure?

  • IDC reports that cloud-based application revenues will reach $67.3 billion by 2016
  • Cisco’s Global Cloud Index reports that global cloud traffic will be two-thirds of all data center traffic by 2016

So if your company is looking for a new, or even a replacement cloud-based business app, you’re probably also thinking about how it will integrate with your existing application environment. That means you’ll need to take a very close look at the application’s API (Applications Programming Interface) – and how it will exchange data with other business applications.

Today, the two most common data interchange formats for API’s are:

  • XML (Extensible Markup Language) – a format that was derived from Standard Generalized Markup Language (SGML)
  • JSON (JavaScript Object Notation) – derived from the JavaScript scripting language

JSON

JSON-API

XML has many adherents. After all, it’s a text-based language (that people can read) and it is position independent. However, in almost every respect, JSON’s capabilities match, and often exceed those of XML using a much smaller grammar. And JSON’s grammar can be manipulated either directly or by high quality libraries in practically most of today’s languages.

What else makes JSON as good as, and usually better than, XML in an API?

  • It is easy for anyone (even non-programmers!) to read (easier than XML) and machines can read and write it more easily as well.
  • It has a robust data structure.
  • It often doesn’t require specialized software (XML does) and is built into Javascript and its derivatives.
  • JSON is designed for data exchange, XML for document exchange. XML requires the translation of the data structure into a document. This can be a complicated and time-consuming process. JSON structures by comparison, are based on arrays and records – the essence of pure data.
  • It’s simpler to implement (the smaller grammar makes it much easier and faster to integrated and simplifies troubleshooting as well).

And for those of you with existing XML-based API’s that are concerned about bringing in a new application with a JSON-based API – don’t be. XML vocabularies can be automatically converted to JSON making the transition to JSON simple and uncomplicated.

Maintaining the information flow between business applications is always critical. Every department – from finance to product management – needs access to a common set of data. Data that will help the business grow and maintain profitability.

As your company begins the process of entering the world of cloud-based applications, or looks for a new or replacement “best of breed” solution, make sure to spend time examining the maturity and architecture of the application’s API. Pay special attention to how data will be exchanged with other applications.

Then look for the cloud-based application who’s API integrates the simplest, most efficient data exchange format currently available. The format that anyone or any machine can read, is the easiest to troubleshoot and supports fast implementation and integration. Look for the API that uses JSON for data exchange.

By Andronikos Nedos

Software Architect / Fieldaware

Drilling Through Your Personal Cloud

Drilling Through Your Personal Cloud

Personal Cloud

When people ask the question “what is the cloud?” the usual response centers around the fact that it is an “outside thing” where data is stored. But one of the concepts that can be easily overlooked, yet which ties into the soft, amorphous imagery of clouds in general, is how data is accessed once stored there. Although the computers that store cloud data do an excellent job of saving material, whether as files or objects, the end user – the human being to whom the data belongs – does not necessarily have to be as diligent. It can be just as easy and effective to simply search for a document, or a collection of emails, by a keyword, or a concept rather than store them hierarchically in folder systems.

Over the years it has become easier and easier to find things just by searching. Many users, for example, see no need to create subfolders for documents or email, when a keyword search brings up files from wherever they may be. This represents quite a shift in the approach to managing data, moving, metaphorically from the neatness of a filing cabinet to something more akin to a needle in a haystack – except that finding the needle is easy instead of impossible.

Microsoft Delve

microsoft-delve

This may be why Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella seems so enthusiastic about the release of Microsoft Delve, a personal “find-anything-anywhere” app that promises to revolutionize the way in which accessing documents occurs. As can be seen in this Garage video, Delve (which used to go by the code name “Oslo” – the place of its birth), seeks documents and presents search results in a visually pleasing collection, reminiscent of Pinterest. The “found” documents and files appear with thumbnails of any high-resolution media that are included in the original, and the search parameters can include keywords of course, but also concepts such as “documents that were delivered to me.”

The PR around Delve describes it as “information that can find you,” which points to its machine intelligence that learns your habits and tastes, and presents the most likely offerings to you first.

This is not the first app of its kind to search, find and present your documents in ergonomically pleasing ways, but being a child of the huge Microsoft family, it comes with some pretty strong genes. Currently Delve is free for anyone who has a Microsoft Office 365 subscription.

These interactive, proactive and intelligent approaches to information management take people a few more steps into the future, where the nebulousness of the cloud is actually misleading, and which instead offers direct, personal and highly relevant packages of information just where and when we need them.

By Steve Prentice

IDC Reveals Worldwide Internet of Things Predictions for 2015

IDC Reveals Worldwide Internet of Things Predictions for 2015

Within the next five years, more than 90% of all IoT data will be hosted on service provider platforms as cloud computing reduces the complexity of supporting IoT “Data Blending”

FRAMINGHAM, Mass.–(BUSINESS WIRE)– International Data Corporation (IDC) today hosted the IDC FutureScape: Worldwide Internet of Things 2015 Predictions Web conference. The presentation provided organizations with insight and perspective on long-term industry trends along with new themes that may be on the horizon. The Predictions Web conference series and accompanying IDC FutureScape reports are designed to help company leaders capitalize on emerging market opportunities and plan for future growth. An audio replay of today’s Web conference will be available this afternoon. To access the replay, please visit: http://bit.ly/IDCioTFutureScape2015.

The predictions from the IDC FutureScape for Internet of Things are:

  1. IoT and the Cloud. Within the next five years, more than 90% of all IoT data will be hosted on service provider platforms as cloud computing reduces the complexity of supporting IoT “Data Blending”.
  2. IoT and security. Within two years, 90% of all IT networks will have an IoT-based security breach, although many will be considered “inconveniences.” Chief Information Security Officers (CISOs) will be forced to adopt new IoT policies.
  3. IoT at the edge. By 2018, 40% of IoT-created data will be stored, processed, analyzed, and acted upon close to, or at the edge, of the network.
  4. IoT and network capacity. Within three years, 50% of IT networks will transition from having excess capacity to handle the additional IoT devices to being network constrained with nearly 10% of sites being overwhelmed.
  5. IoT and non-traditional infrastructure. By 2017, 90% of datacenter and enterprise systems management will rapidly adopt new business models to manage non-traditional infrastructure and BYOD device categories.
  6. IoT and vertical diversification. Today, over 50% of IoT activity is centered in manufacturing, transportation, smart city, and consumer applications, but within five years all industries will have rolled out IoT initiatives.
  7. IoT and the Smart City. Competing to build innovative and sustainable smart cities, local government will represent more than 25% of all government external spending to deploy, manage, and realize the business value of the IoT by 2018.
  8. IoT and embedded systems. By 2018, 60% of IT solutions originally developed as proprietary, closed-industry solutions will become open-sourced allowing a rush of vertical-driven IoT markets to form.
  9. IoT and wearables. Within five years, 40% of wearables will have evolved into a viable consumer mass market alternative to smartphones.
  10. IoT and millennials. By 2018, 16% of the population will be Millennials and will be accelerating IoT adoption due to their reality of living in a connected world.

vernon-turner

The Internet of Things will give IT managers a lot to think about,” said Vernon Turner, Senior Vice President of Research. “Enterprises will have to address every IT discipline to effectively balance the deluge of data from devices that are to the corporate network. In addition, IoT will drive tough organizational structure changes in companies to allow innovation to be transparent to everyone, while creating new competitive business models and products.”

The IDC FutureScape report that this Web conference is based on will be published and available within the next 24 hours. To learn more about IDC Predictions and IDC FutureScapes, please visit:www.idc.com/Predictions2015.

About IDC FutureScape

IDC FutureScape reports are used to shape IT strategy and planning for the enterprise by providing a basic framework for evaluating IT initiatives in terms of their value to business strategy now and in the foreseeable future. IDC’s FutureScapes are comprised of a set of decision imperatives designed to identify a range of pending issues that CIOs and senior technology professionals will confront within the typical 3 year business planning cycle.

About IDC

International Data Corporation (IDC) is the premier global provider of market intelligence, advisory services, and events for the information technology, telecommunications, and consumer technology markets. IDC helps IT professionals, business executives, and the investment community to make fact-based decisions on technology purchases and business strategy. More than 1,000 IDC analysts provide global, regional, and local expertise on technology and industry opportunities and trends in over 110 countries. In 2014, IDC celebrates its 50th anniversary of providing strategic insights to help clients achieve their key business objectives. IDC is a subsidiary of IDG, the world’s leading technology media, research, and events company.

You can learn more about IDC by visiting www.idc.com. Follow IDC on Twitter at @IDC.

BYOD Redefines Work-life Balance, But…

BYOD Redefines Work-life Balance, But…

Not Everyone Buys It.

The new status symbol of the rat race is the personal device. Not the company issued laptop, but the device, whether smartphone, tablet or laptop that the individual prefers – the one that likely contains both work and personal apps; the one that keeps the IT people up at night wondering what hidden evils it may contain.

The propensity for carrying personal devices, known collectively as “bring your own device” (BYOD) has led to a degree of personal freedom that itself is a double-edged sword; people are free to work where and when they want, but in so doing, their mobility has tied them even more closely to their work, obscuring the divide between work and life, and creating as many logistical problems as it solves.

BYOD Studies Reveal

A recent DELL study reveals that the practice of BYOD varies widely around the world, with some countries embracing the concept, while others push back. According to the study, China, the UAE and the US are hot zones, with an active acceptance of the culture of work-life integration, and with employers who are supportive of this.

Countries such as Canada, Brazil and Russia lag in taking on the work approach due to security concerns, lack of infrastructure, or lack of money to actually purchase the devices, respectively. India is another fast-growing economy that thrives with BYOD.

john-delaney
John Delaney

For some European employees the issue is simply one of “who pays?” An IDC Europe report released in 2014 suggests that many employees expect the employer to provide a mobile device for work. Quoted in CIO.com, John Delaney, associate vice president of mobility at IDC states, “There’s a cultural expectation here that your employer will provide you with the tools you need to do your job. You don’t expect to have to buy it yourself.

But the same BYOD approach cannot be said of Germany, for whom the policy of unrestricted access to work at all hours runs counter to a long-established policy of work-life balance. According to a report in NPR.org, managers in companies such as BMW and Volkswagen are forbidden by law to contact employees on vacation, and this ban stands a good chance of expanding to a ban on contacting employees after work – part of a comprehensive anti-stress regulation package intended to tackle the burnout, health problems, decreased productivity, psychological problems and stress-related pain cited by more than half of the German workers who applied for early retirement last year.

Long-standing traditions such as automatic 4-week vacations for new hires in Germany and Sweden, or siestas for Spanish workers are giving way to the pressure to remain globally competitive and “on” 24/7.

Giving employees access to their devices makes this “permanent uptime” all the more possible.

By Steve Prentice

Smart Homes: Will Apple or Google Win the Battle?

Smart Homes: Will Apple or Google Win the Battle?

Will Apple or Google Win the Battle?

The Apple versus Google war has already raged across PCs, smartphones, tablets, wearable tech and software. The latest battlefield looks set to be the smart home. Juniper Research forecasts that the smart home industry will grow from $33 billion in 2013 to $71 billion in 2018 – meaning that the victor in the latest fight between the two tech giants will have won a fertile new ground. 

The Juniper report found that nearly 80 percent of smart home revenues will be derived from entertainment services. They believe that the emergence of content providers such as Netflix, LOVEFiLM and Amazon Instant Video, in conjunction with smart televisions, set-top boxes and games consoles means no single stakeholder is likely to be able to dominate – but that won’t stop both Apple and Google from trying. 

apple-tech

Both companies have already been making moves. Earlier in 2014 Google acquired smart thermostat and carbon monoxide detector maker Nest for $3.2 billion, while Apple took the opportunity to introduce HomeKit – a home-automation platform for smart devices. Although both ideas are still in their earliest phases, the end-game is clear – the two businesses both want to have control of the foundation for home automation devices which are connected to the internet of things. 

Apple Strategy

Apple’s growth strategy for HomeKit is broadly similar to its HealthKit approach. While HealthKit collects data from fitness apps, wearable devices, and medical records onto a single unified dashboard, they want HomeKit to become a universal hub for smart homes. The firm has already unveiled seventeen partners for its new technology, including Broadcom, Philips, Honeywell and Belkin. Some of these partners have already unveiled HomeKit-compatible devices like smart lightbulbs, locks, fans, thermostats, garage doors, and power outlets. Apple has also added HomeKit support to Apple TV, thus paving the way for the set-top box to be used as a hub for connected devices. 

Google’s reasons for investing in Nest are similar, but their approach differs. They already possess the world’s largest search engine and the world’s most widely used smartphone operating system, tying the two together with Google Now. Nest will be integrated into Google Now, consequently allowing users to control their smart devices with voice commands. The company has said that gadgets, cars, and universal remotes will all work with the Nest Learning Thermostat, which will serve as the central hub of a smart home. Companies like Jawbone, Whirlpool, and Mercedes-Benz are all already on-board. Google’s smart home strategy is essentially the same as its smartphone one – establish a standard operating system, then secure as many hardware allies on board as possible while buying out the competition.

Who Wins?

win-battle

As for who will win – it’s hard to say. Google’s weakness is its ever-present privacy concerns. It is almost certain that a company which generates revenue from targeted adverts will face serious questions about putting Wi-Fi-connected webcams and cloud-connected devices in private homes, while researchers at Black Hat hacked Nest in “10 to 15 seconds” in August, raising serious concerns about hijacked smart homes. Apple has a reputation for entering markets later than Google but performing better – Google Wallet and Google Health being two examples. Only time will tell if history will repeat itself.

(Image Source: Shutterstock.com)

By Daniel Price

Google seeks to revitalize advertising through brand lift studies

Google seeks to revitalize advertising through brand lift studies

Google Brand Lift Studies

At a recent technology conference, Google’s vice president of display and video advertising products, Neal Mohan, stated that Google is focused on “cracking the brand advertising nut for digital” media.

Neal Mohan

One of the ways they seek to do this is through new methods that measure how ads perform, such as “brand-lift studies,” which help brand advertisers determine whether digital ads connect with viewers.

According to Vizu, a Nielsen company, brand lift is “the percentage increase in the primary marketing objective of a brand advertising campaign.” This is distinguished from click-throughs, in which people click on an actual ad to learn more about a product. Brand lift can be seen to resemble marketing, in that awareness of a brand eventually leads to purchase, but is a much more subtle and time-consuming process than a simple click-through. It uses data to monitor key variables such as the performance of creative, frequency, media and targeting, and allows for real-time adjustments to be made.

Google suggests that their studies will study data such as “how many viewers recall an ad, their awareness of the brand and their likelihood of buying the product.

The significance of Google’s entry into this market is that its size and reach promise to substantially alter the landscape of online advertising in a way similar to what they achieved with information indexing, and mapping the world through Google Maps.

google-maps

The move towards real-time adjustments of campaigns that Google, Vizu and others could implement would change the strategies behind ads both in terms of content and security. It is expected, for example, that progress in this area will help guarantee that the ads themselves will actually connect with human consumers, rather than bots, eliminating a large portion of the ad fraud that currently plagues the system. Ad fraud consists of many variations of the idea of multiple-clicking an ad, to inflate numbers and to generate revenue through anonymous repetitive clicking.

The notion of being able to modify campaigns on the fly moves the online economy one step closer to real-time ecommerce, in which retailers’ prices are updated in sync with data pulled from competitors’ websites.

With real-time brand-lift it is expected that this more sophisticated approach to connecting with the viewer will do just that – connect – so instead of clicking on an ad, they will retain a memory of the brand and purchase the item on their next shopping trip.

(Image Source: Asif Islam / Shutterstock.com)

By Steve Prentice

5 Surprising Ways Cloud Computing Is Changing Education

5 Surprising Ways Cloud Computing Is Changing Education

Cloud Computing Education

The benefits of cloud computing are being recognized in businesses and institutions across the board, with almost 90 percent of organizations currently using some kind of cloud-based application. The immediate benefits of cloud computing are obvious: cloud-based applications reduce infrastructure and IT costs, increase accessibility, enable collaboration, and allow organizations more flexibility in customizing their products both for their brand and for their audience. But cloud computing is having other effects as well, which have the potential to greatly change how education works, both in online courses and in traditional classrooms.

Here are five surprising ways cloud computing is changing education:

1. No more expensive textbooks. It’s no secret that university-level textbooks are expensive. The cost of textbooks has outpaced the cost of virtually everything else in education, including tuition. As a result, many students are simply refusing to buy them. Cloud-based textbooks can solve this problem as digital content is significantly less expensive than printed content. This levels the playing field so that lower-income students can have the same access to quality learning materials as their higher-income counterparts. Currently, higher education institutions across the United States are piloting an e-textbook program involving 50 publishers and close to 30,000 textbooks.

2. No more outdated learning materials. In the K-12 arena, the problem of expensive textbooks means that many of the materials students are using are outdated. The average social studies book in elementary and junior high schools is seven to eleven years old, which means that the world maps in these books are no longer correct. With cutbacks in school budgets, many districts, especially in less affluent areas, simply can’t afford to replace these outdated resources. Cloud-based materials are easy to update in real time so that students always have access to the most current learning resources.

3. No expensive hardware required. Cloud-based applications can be run on Internet browsers, but most are compatible with mobile devices as well. This means that schools and students do not necessarily need to own expensive computers—a $50 smartphone can access these applications just as well as a $500 laptop. Students also don’t need to purchase external storage devices as there are plenty of companies, like Google, that offer free cloud-based storage.

4. No expensive software required. One of the biggest advantages of cloud-based computing is the software-as-a-service (SaaS) model. Many software programs are now available either free or on a low-cost subscription basis, which substantially lowers the cost of essential applications for students. For example, instead of purchasing a single Microsoft Office student license for $140, students and their families can purchase a cloud-based subscription for five computers and five mobile devices for only $10 per month. Even better, they can use Google Docs for free. Institutions can also save big by using SaaS applications—traditional learning management systems can cost upwards of $50,000 or more, but cloud-based learning management systems like ProProfs’ Training Maker are available starting at $60 a month with no per-user fee.

5. Reaching more, and more diverse, students. Cloud computing opens up a world of new possibilities for students, especially those who are not served well by traditional education systems. For example, until education moved online, the options for adult students who didn’t finish high school were very limited—now these students can earn their diploma or GED online. There are many other types of students for whom a traditional school environment simply doesn’t work, and these students now have many options for pursuing alternative forms of education.

In these and other ways, cloud computing is not only reducing costs, but also creating an environment where all students can have access to high-quality education and resources. Whether you are an administrator, a teacher, a student, or the parent of a student, now is a great time to explore how cloud-based applications can benefit you, your children, and your school.

By Sameer Bhatia

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