[This is Ben Cochran again writing for Scott while he is on Sabbatical.]
For years now, languages, tools and platforms have been making the creation of web-based services easier and more robust. Some of these are IIS, Apache, Tomcat, Java, .NET, WCF, PHP, Ruby on Rails and the list goes on and on and …
Until recently deploying and hosting these services had been difficult and expensive. This is because any service of value needs to be dependable. Otherwise, who would use it? I personally have come to expect web services to be highly available. For example, I love on-line banking, but if my bank had flaky on-line services, I would change banks without thinking twice. Thankfully, that is not the case for my bank.
Cloud based services are generally a collection of connected dependent systems that include storage, databases, security, auditing, monitoring and more. The whole system is only as reliable as the weakest link. Traditionally, making these services reliable required lots and lots of hardware. Each server needs to have redundant power supplies, redundant disks, redundant network, redundant load balancers and redundant storage. Then the data-center that houses all this equipment needs to be redundant. Does this sound a little redundant? With all this equipment, hardware failure is inevitable, requiring teams of IT people to keep everything running smoothly.
The result is that many companies think twice about building scalable reliable services. Companies that do have the needed IT infrastructure are often times not flexible enough to try out new ideas. They require a retooling to support different and out of the box services. All of this makes the cost of exploring new web based services expensive and risky, for many too risky to try the next crazy idea.
This is changing! With cloud hosting services from companies like Amazon, Microsoft and Google providing the backend systems on an as-needed bases the initial cost is a fraction of what it was. For example, servers, load balancers, network, reliable backed up storage and databases are rented by the hour or gigabyte. Instead of buying truckloads of expensive redundant hardware in hopes that a new cloud service idea is successful, companies can spend almost nothing to try out new ideas. If the new idea takes off, the backend systems scales up for the demand. Companies need only pay for resources that are actually used.
Labs had been experimenting with new and interesting cloud services like:
and more recently http://labs.autodesk.com/technologies/trials/
What new cloud services are useful to you? What are your crazy ideas?
- Ben Cochran