Tag Archives: cloud computing

CloudCamp: Cloud-computing (un-)Conference – 3 Sept

CloudCamp http://cloudcamp.org/pune is coming to Pune this Saturday (September 3rd)! Sponsors include not only big companies and organizations like IBM, Microsoft, but also Pune-startup PubMatic.

CloudCamp will have a mix of invited speakers and barcamp style last-minute speaker. Talks include:

  • “Integrating Public/Private Cloud” by Vijay Sukthankar, Cloud Computing Leader at IBM
  • BigData use in Advertising by Anand Das of PubMatic
  • “Platform-as-a-Service” by TBD of Microsoft
  • “CloudWorkshop – Does your app belong in the Cloud?” by Larry Carvalho of RobustCloud

For a detailed schedule and other information see the CloudCamp website. The event is at VITS hotel, near Balewadi Stadium, from 9:30am to 4pm.

Fees and Registration

This event is free and open for anybody to attend. Please register here

Apple iCloud – Hype Cycle or Tipping Point for Cloud Computing?

(This article by Amit Naik, an architect at BMC Software, tries to separate out the facts from the hype regarding Apple’s recently announced iCloud offering for the benefit of readers)

Any Apple announcement from new products/services to the Worldwide Wide Developer Conference (WWDC) is often hotly anticipated by the media and the Apple faithful alike. The WWDC 2011 held on June 6th this year was no exception. Steve Jobs (Apple CEO) took the stage to make a whole slew of announcements; most notable among them was iCloud, Apple’s vision of consumer centric cloud services.

Before the ink was even dry on the announcement, iCloud began to be touted as a Windows Killer , as a copy of Android Services, as the next big thing, attacked as not even having to do anything with cloud computing and even got Apple sued. By time all is said and done, gallons more ink will have flowed (or hundreds more blog posts will have been created) regarding iCloud. This post is an effort to separate the Facts from the Hype and provide some overall context on the implications of iCloud in different areas.

What is iCloud?

iCloud is Apple’s vision of a omnipresent cloud connection in all Apple devices that will seamlessly act as a sort of a “super synch” for different Apple applications. However it has a lot more features than just a remote storage mechanism such as DropBox. Let us look at this in a bit more detail:

(Note that as of today, iCloud is in private beta. The full public release has rather amorphously been defined as “in the Fall”. So everything that is known about iCloud is in the form of press releases from Apple/Developers given early access to it.)

Apple iCloud expected usage

There are 9 default services or (Apps) in the free version of iCloud:

Contacts – Your contacts will be synced to the cloud and shared between all of your devices.

Calendars – Calendars in the cloud supports calendars in the cloud, shared calendars and calendars pushed to all of your devices.

Mail – The new Mail service will include an @me.com account.

iBooks – your book purchases and places are stored across your devices.

Backup – Daily backups of your apps, music, camera roll, app data and more over WiFi.

Documents in the Cloud – You can download your documents, and edit it on multiple devices.

App Store – Your apps can be downloaded right to your new devices.

Photo Steam – A new built in feature will move your photos to the cloud so that you can easily share them with others on any Apple Device.

iTunes in the Cloud – Shows you all your songs, albums and artists you have purchased and download to your device. These are limited to only items purchased from iTunes to begin with.

Each iCloud consumer will be given a free 5GB of storage capacity for their mail, documents, and back-ups. A really interesting feature of the service is that for music, apps and books purchased from Apple, and the storage required by Photo Stream doesn’t count towards this 5GB total.

For the PhotoStream service, Apple will store the latest 1000 photos long-term while every new photo taken from any device will be stored for 30 days.

Apple really seems to be shooting for two things with iCloud:

  1. Ubiquity: All iPods, iPhones, iPads that can be upgraded to iOS 5 and all Macs (MacBooks, and Desktops) with OS X Lion will be able to avail of iCloud. This will be at least tens of millions of users if not more. There will also be a Windows client (Windows 7 and up no XP support) that will support iCloud on non Apple desktops.
  2. Simplicity: As presented, the iCloud service looks like it falls into the “Just works” category with minimal user meddling. If Apple can really pull-off this vision the simplicity would be the real killer feature of the service.

Is it cloud computing?

In a rather grumpy post Carl Brooks wrote: “Apple iCloud is not cloud computing.” He went to deride as “Nothing but Streaming Media”. (He has since updated his post to clarify that it has more capabilities).

Let us address this issue “Is Apple iCloud cloud computing?”

YES it most certainly is cloud computing.
Take a look at the figure that I created recently that shows a simplified cloud computing stack.

Cloud Computing Stack

iCloud clearly fits in the top two layers – SaaS and the Client layer.

However there are those that define cloud computing more narrowly as “On-demand Infrastructure (IaaS) or Platform as a Service” in which case, No, iCloud is not strictly cloud computing from this angle. Keep in mind that by now the term “Cloud Computing” or “Cloud” has become so diluted as to be essentially meaningless, so the question raised is in-fact a very relevant one.

What are the challenges Apple faces?

The first and biggest challenge that Apple faces to iCloud is history. This is the fourth time Apple has tried its hand at internet services after failing in its three previous attempts. It first launched iTools way back in 2000 followed by .Mac and its most recent attempt was MobileMe. All the previous attempts were duds and Steve Jobs Apple CEO even admitted it on stage when he was announcing iCloud, calling MobileMe “not our finest hour”. The problem is rather simple – if used correctly the service should fade into the background and be seamless – but Apple is a master at splashy well-designed hardware and “just works”, well thought-thru software, neither of which directly align with iCloud. So the trick of getting it right will all be in the execution.

The second and somewhat lesser problem might be that Apple has underestimated the actual amount of data that its consumers will want to push thru iCloud. Steve Jobs took some pains to address this issue by showing slides with pictures of huge data centers at WWDC (Screen grabs):

Apple iCloud Data Center

And sleek next-gen hardware:

Apple iCloud Datacenter Hardware

Apple is also aggressively investing in building datacenters, so, time alone will tell on this front.

Who is the competition?

Apple is essentially in a three horse race at this point with Consumer Cloud Services. The first and most obvious competitor is Google.

Google’s Android OS has provided much of the functionality of iCloud, namely

GMail and the related contact manager; Google Calendar, Google Docs, where you can view, edit and collaborate on Office-style documents, Picasa for images, Google Books and Google Music, and the Android AppStore.

In a way, iCloud is complete validation of Google’s strategy of Cloud hosted data and consumers with multiple endpoints such as Android based cell phones and Chrome Books. The one difference is that Apple touts “Apps” as the consumption medium of choice Google focuses on the browser as the ultimate medium of consumption. Google and Apple are now locked in bitter fight for consumer’s data and both are using the Cloud as the weapon of choice.

The Second challenger is the dark horse Amazon. Amazon has become the de-facto leader in the “traditional” Cloud computing space. It’s EC2 and other Amazon Web Services (AWS) offerings are the leaders in the IaaS space. What is not as well known is that it is also quietly ramping up its consumer cloud services strategy. The recently announced Cloud drive is just the start with rumored plans for Amazon branded Tablets, Amazon will be in a position to challenge Apple all across the cloud stack for dominance.

The biggest consumer name missing from the list? Microsoft. It was late to the Tablet space after Apple revitalized it with the launch of the iPad. It was unsuccessful in the mobile phone space until its recent moves towards Windows 7 based phones. This is the challenge it must now confront to be relevant again in the Consumer cloud services space.

What are the likely implications?

At the launch of the iPad 2, Steve Jobs had famously declared that we are in the Post-PC era, implying that consumers had moved on from PCs and were ready to embrace more portable devices as their main computers. The iCloud vision would seem to make that a reality.

Earlier, whenever you purchased an iPhone/iPad, the very first thing the device would prompt you to do was sync with iTunes on your PC/Mac. With iCloud this will no longer happen, just type-in your credentials and you are synched with all your data and apps – truly a Post-PC experience.

Another obvious result of this announcement is a phenomenon I like to term “Consumerization of the Cloud”. This announcement is likely to associate the words “cloud computing” with Apple in a very sticky way in the minds of regular (non-tech) consumers. The next time one of us says we work in cloud computing, one sure question is “Is that like the Apple iCloud thing?” As if the cloud hype was not high enough already, this announcement has undoubtedly pushed it to stratospheric (cloudy) levels. However the positive side of this is that Cloud Computing will now become much more main stream than ever before.

About the Author – Amit Naik

Amit Naik works as an Architect with BMC Software. He builds performant cloud solutions with a focus on heterogeneity and monitoring across different virtualization and provisioning vendors in the cloud computing space. His main focus is the Architecture and Design of BMC solutions with emphasis on building highly-scalable systems with REST and other SOA interfaces.

Amit has a Bachelor’s degree from College of Engineering Pune and a Master’s degree from Purdue Univ., West Lafayette. He has more than 15 years of experience in the IT industry, much of it in the USA, across a variety of Technical and Techno-Managerial roles.

Call for Speakers – IndicThreads Conference on Cloud Computing

Pune’s http://IndicThreads.com, which organizes various conferences in Pune every year, has a call for speakers for their 2nd Conference On Upcoming Technologies to be held on 3rd and 4th June 2011 in Pune. The theme for this year is again Cloud Computing.

Look at these PuneTech posts (article 1, article 2) to get an idea of what last year’s conference was like. Look here for slides of all the talks last year.

If you’re an Industry Professional and have any experience with Cloud Computing, you’re encouraged to submit an abstract by March 31st April 10th. The suggested topics are:

  1. Cloud /Grid architecture
  2. Cloud-based Services and Education
  3. Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)
  4. Software as a Service (SaaS)
  5. Platform as a Service (PaaS)
  6. Virtualization
  7. High-Performance Computing
  8. Cloud-Delivered Testing
  9. Cloud Lock-in vs. Cloud Interoperability
  10. Multi Cloud Frameworks & APIs
  11. Monitoring Cloud Applications
  12. Data Security & Encryption On The Cloud
  13. Elastic Computing
  14. Cloud Databases
  15. Private vs. Public Clouds
  16. Cloud Scalability
  17. Cloud Analytics

But don’t be limited by these choices.

Click here to submit a proposal. Remember the deadline is 31st March… and all you need to submit at this time, is a one paragraph abstract.

Event Report – CloudCamp Pune

This report of the CloudCamp that was held in Pune last weekend, is a guest post by Chirag Jog, CTO of Clogeny Technologies

CloudCamp is an un-conference where early adopters of Cloud Computing technologies exchange ideas. With the rapid change occurring in the industry, we need a place where we can meet to share our experiences, challenges and solutions. CloudCamp, encourages end users, IT professionals and vendors to participate and share their thoughts in several open discussions. Cloudcamp is organized in cities across the world .

CloudCamp Pune was held on 5th Feb 2011, hosted at Persistent Systems. The chief organizers were Shreekanth Joshi, Persistent Systems and Larry Carvalho, RobustCloud. The event was sponsored by Clogeny (only local/Pune-based sponsor), Netmagic, Trillion IT solutions, Microsoft Azure, Hexagrid and Tropo. NASSCOM was the in-kind sponsor.

The camp drew around 400+ registrations and around 150+ folks showed up for the conference making it the 3rd largest camp after Brazil and London. Larry Carvalho, was the coordinator on-stage.

Lightening Talks

As it typical of any event held in Pune, the crowd trickled till around 1045am and the event kicked off officially at 11am. Larry spoke first about Cloudcamp in general followed by which we had a bunch of lightning talks by all the sponsors. Persistent first spoke about the potential challenges customers will face while they try to migrate to the cloud. Trillion Tech followed talking more about the work Trillion Tech does than Cloud Computing. Interestingly they have deployed their private cloud offering in the US Federal Department of Treasury. Microsoft gave their regular Azure pitch where now folks can deploy non-.NET apps as well (like PHP/Python or Java based apps). Microsoft made quote: “SQL Azure is the only Relational DB in the cloud” – which is highly debatable. Clogeny, then gave their lightning talk about products they are working on namely building hybrid clouds and automated deployment platforms. Finally, Netmagic spoke about their Cloud offering. They aim to solve the compute problems of all India. Companies like Tata, Manipal Univ and India Infoline are some of the big customers the recently funded Netmagic have on their roster.

Suhas Kelkar, BMC representing NASSCOM gave a nice lightning talk about the UID project. One of the aims of the UID project is to provide “Identity as a Service”. Anyone around the world should be able to identify an Indian based on biometrics in less-than-2-seconds using a massive data de-duplication engine.

Larry gave 20:20 talk i.e. 20 slides in 20 secs per slide about general Cloud Computing concepts. Any Cloud solutions provided should be “OSSM” (pronounced awesome) – On demand, Self-Serviced and Measured. He explained basic Cloud Computing terms like PaaS, IaaS and SaaS

Cloud Computing Unpanel

Larry mentioned that he had heard complaints in the past that Indian Cloudcamps are less interactive and audience participation is really low. He tackled this problem very well with an un-panel discussion. Here is how it happened. He asked folks who were cloud experts to raise their hands. Around 15 or so raised their hands. He got all of them to come down to the main stage. After that, he started asking audience to “ask questions to these cloud experts.” He took down around
15-20 questions on white sheets of papers from the audience.

The “cloud experts” then answered all these questions. Some of the questions asked were about security concerns in the cloud, vendor lock-in, developer’s role, how to choose the right solution and so on. This was a fun session nicely organized by Larry ensuring audience participation.

Some of the questions asked and their answers:

  1. Security in the cloud: Security in the cloud is no different than securing your data centre. Ensure your network and host level firewalls are locked down and all communication is secure.
  2. Vendor lock-in: Everyone talks about the marriage but no one talks about the divorce i.e. moving away from a vendor. Design your applications properly so that migration from one vendor to another vendor is easy. One of the “cloud experts” mentioned how by designing a proper hibernate layer, they were able to move their Java application from Google App Engine to Amazon’s EC2 in a day. Design is the key.
  3. Application development for/in the cloud: Experts spoke about how quickly they could develop massively scalable applications using force.com’s platform-as-a-service.
  4. Making the right choices: Experts spoke about evaluating different offerings in terms of features and cost. Do a small POC before doing committing to a any vendor.
  5. Storage/Databases in the cloud: There are all sorts of databases (relational and non-relational i.e NoSQL ) available in the cloud which provide redundancy and consistency. e.g. Amazon’s S3, RDS, SQL Azure, MongoDB and so on.
  6. Will Network/System administrators lose their jobs? This was the question of the day raised by a lot. The answer is that your datacenter will become virtual but it will still exist and need regular maintenance. Platform-as-a-service solutions don’t provide a silver bullet that you can junk all your hardware capacity for that. You will need IaaS like Amazon EC2, Netmagic and that needs maintenance regularly.

Breakout Sessions

Post lunch, there were quite a few breakout sessions based on the audience questions asked before lunch. Larry himself conducted a session on Security in the Cloud. Janakiram MSV from Amazon, conducted a session on Migrating Applications to the Cloud. I attended Janakiram’s session. He spoke about his experiences in evaluating and then migration applications to the Cloud.

Some takeaways from Janakiram’s session:

  • Capex can go down significantly, but Opex needs to be tempered by revenue.
  • Steps to migrate into the cloud:
    • Do a cloud vendor assessment: Choose which vendor suits your current and future needs.
    • Do a simple Proof of Concept.
    • Migrate the data: Choose which part of the data (images, binary blobs etc) can use NoSQL databases and which parts are relational and need a Relational Database application.
    • Migrate the application: Either “forklift” the entire application and run it as-in the cloud or use a hybrid approach.
    • In the hybrid approach, some of your application’s context remains local while some is in the cloud and they communicate via shared queues or similar such ways.
  • Use Cloud vendor’s value added services besides compute and storage: eg. Leverage EC2’s queuing solution i.e Simple Queue Service instead of implementing your own.

  • Tweak as per the need: After running the application for a while in the cloud, keep tweaking your application for optimal use for resources.

I attended Netmagic’s demo. Netmagic gave a demo of their current cloud offering which is currently in beta. Similar to other popular cloud vendors, Netmagic lets you create Windows/Linux servers on the fly, connect them to remote storage, provides network level firewalls and provides proprietary software load-balancers. The UI was clean and easy to understand. Their SLA guarantees an uptime of 99.993%. Currrently, their solution looks very robust especially in the Indian market and there will offer a complete offering soon with APIs and connectors.

We (Kalpak Shah and myself) personally held a breakout session for developers and their role in the cloud. The main questions asked by developers were around “What and how do I develop in the cloud?”

The answers:

Application development fundamentally remains the same for the developer. You write code in Java, Python, .NET or any of your favorite languages. What changes is the environment in which is deployed and its use cases. e.g. If you want to host your Java Web application, instead of buying space from a hosting solution provider, deploy it directly into Google AppEngine (GAE). GAE will host it for you and scale up/down as per load. e.g. If you want to use scalable storage, your application will need to use a NoSQL storage solution like Amazon’s S3. The developer’s role here is to understand how to use S3’s APIs. Hence the developer would need to design and develop his application leveraging these “cloud” technologies.

Furthermore, the developer also would need to think “cloud” and design with multi-tenancy (a software application is designed to logically partition its data and configuration, and each client sees a custom version of that application) in mind for his Software-as-a-service offering. eg. Gmail or Facebook.


Larry closed the session by thanking the sponsors and participants. There was feedback about what all can be improved in the future. Key suggestions were: having talks about cloud basics in the beginning, having good net connectivity (for demos), and a post conference beer party (to ensure folks stick till the end).

All in all, CloudCamp is definitely a great un-conference if you want to learn about cloud, if you are an expert and what to share your experiences and knowledge, and if you have products to showcase.

The next CloudCamp in India is in Delhi (12th Feb) and Chennai (19th Feb).

About the Author – Chirag Jog

Chirag Jog is the CTO at Clogeny Technologies where they work on innovative ideas across the cloud computing stack. He, along with the CEO drives the overall strategy of the company. He is passionate about everything “cloud” and around it. He is an ex-PICTian.

Top 5 things to worry about when designing a Cloud Based SaaS

(This article on things you need to be careful when designing the architecture of a cloud based Software-as-a-Service offering is a guest post by Mukul Kumar, who, as SVP of Engineering at Pubmatic has a lot of hands-on experience with having designing, building and maintaining a very high performance, high scalability cloud-based service.)

Designing a SaaS software stack poses challenges that are very different from the considerations for host-based software design. The design aspects for performance, scalability, reliability of SaaS with lots of servers and lots of data is very different and interesting from designing a software that is installed on a host and is used by that host.

Here I list the top 5 design elements for Cloud Based SaaS.

High availability

SaaS software stack is built on top of several disparate elements. Most of the times these elements are hosted by different software vendors, such as Rackspace, Amazon, Akamai, etc. The software stack consists of several layers, such as – application server, database server, data-mining server, DNS, CDN, ISP, load-balancer, firewall, router, etc. Highly availability of SaaS actually means thinking about the high availability of all or most of these components. Designing high availability of each of these components is a non-trivial exercise and the cost shoots up as you keep on adding layers of HA. Such design requires thinking deeply about the software architecture and each component of the architecture. Two years back I wrote an article on Cloud High Availability, where I described some of these issues, you can read it here.

Centralized Manageability

As you keep on adding more and more servers to your application cluster the manageability gets hugely complex. This means:

  • you have to employ more people to do the management,
  • human errors would increase, and
  • the rate at which you can deploy more servers goes down.

And, don’t just think of managing the OS on these servers, or these virtual machines. You have to manage the entire application and all the services that the application depends on. The only way to get around this problem is to have centralized management of your cluster. Centralized management is not an easy thing to do, since every application is different, making a generalized management software is oversimplifying the problem and is not a full solution.

Online Upgradability

This is probably the most complex problem after high availability. When you have a cluster of thousands of hosts, live upgradability is a key requirements. When you release a new software revision, you need to be able to upgrade is across the servers in a controlled way, with the ability of rolling it back whenever you want – at the instant that you want, across the exact number of servers that you want. You would also need to control database and cache coherency and invalidation across the cluster is a controlled way. Again, this cannot be solved in a very generic way; every software stack has its own specificity, which needs to be solved in its own specific ways.

Live testability

Testing your application in a controlled way with real traffic and data is another key aspect of SaaS design. You should be able to sample real traffic and use it for testing your application without compromising on user experience or data integrity. Lab testing has severe limitations, especially when you are testing performance and scalability of your application. Real traffic patterns and seasonality of data can only be tested with real traffic. Don’t start your beta until you have tested on real traffic.


The more servers and applications that you add to your cluster the more things can fail and in very different ways. For example – network (NIC), memory, disk and many other things. It is extremely important to monitor each of these, and many more, constantly, with alarms using different communication formats (email, SMS, etc.). There are many online services that can be used for monitoring services, and they provide a host of difference services and have widely varying pricing. Amazon too recently introduced CloudWatch, which can monitor various aspects of a host such as CPU Utilization, Disk I/O, Network I/O etc.

As you grown your cluster of server you will need to think of these design aspects and keep on tuning your system. And, like the guys at YouTube said:

Recipe for handling rapid growth

    while (true)

About the Author – Mukul Kumar

Mukul Kumar is the Co-Founder & Senior Vice President Engineering at PubMatic. PubMatic, an online advertising company that helps premium publishers maximize their revenue and protect their brands online, has its Research & Development center in Pune.

Mukul is responsible for PubMatic’s Engineering team and resides in Pune, India. Mukul was previously the Director of Engineering at PANTA Systems, a high-performance computing startup. Before that he was at VERITAS India, where he joined as the 13th employee and helped it grow to over 2,000 individuals. Mukul has filed for 14 patents in systems software, storage software, and application software. Mukul is a graduate of IIT Kharagpur with a degree in Electrical Engineering.

Mukul is very passionate about technology, and building world-class teams. His interests include architecting scalable and high-performance web-applications, handling and mining massive amounts of data and system & storage architecture.

Mukul’s email address is mukul at pubmatic.com.

Choices in Cloud Computing and What’s Right for You

(This is a live-blog of a talk given by Kalpak Shah, at the Indic Threads Conference on Cloud Computing, held in Pune on 20/21 Aug 2010. Since it’s being typed in a hurry, it is not necessarily as coherent and complete as we would like it to be, and also links might be missing.)

Kalpak Shah is the founder and CEO of Clogeny, a company that does consulting & services in cloud computing. His talk is about the various choices available in cloud computing today, and how to go about picking the one that’s right for you.

These are the slides that were used by Kalpak for this talk. Click here if you can’t see the slideshow above.

Kalpak’s definition of a cloud:

  • If you cannot add a new machine yourself (i.e. without making a phone call or email), then it’s just hosting, not cloud computing
  • If you cannot pay as you go (i.e. pay per use) it is not cloud computing
  • If you don’t have APIs which allow integration with the rest of your infrastructure/environment, then it is not a cloud

Kalpak separates out cloud infrastructure into three parts, and gives suggestions on how to choose each:

Infrastructure as a service

Basically allows you to move your local server stuff into the cloud. Examples: Amazon EC2, Terremark vCloud, GoGrid Cloud, Rackspace Cloud

You should check:

  • Support and Helpdesk. Is it 24×7? Email? Phone?
  • Hardware and Performance. Not all of them are the same. Amazon EC2 not as good as Terremark.
  • OS support. Which OS and distributions are supported. Is imaging of server allowed? Is distribution and re-selling of images allowed? Not everybody allows you to save the current state of the server, and restart it later on a different instance.
  • Software availability and partner network. Example, Symantec has put up their anti-virus software for Windows on EC2. How many such partners are available with the provider you’re interested in? (EC2 is far ahead of everybody else in this area.)
  • APIs and Ecosystem. What APIs are available and in what languages. Some providers don’t do a good job of providing backward compatibility. Other might not be available in language of your choice. EC2 and Rackspace are the best in this area.
  • Licensing is a big pain. Open source software is not a problem, but if you want to put licensed applications on the cloud, that is a problem. e.g. IBM Websphere clustering is not available on EC2. Or Windows licenses cannot be migrated from local data center to the cloud.
  • Other services – How much database storage are you allocated? What backup software/services are available? What monitoring tools? Auto-scaling, load-balancing, messaging.

Kalpak has put up a nice comparison of Amazon AWS, Rackspace, GoGrid and Terremark on the above parameters. You can look at it when the PPT is put up on the IndicThreads conference website in a few days.

Platform as a Service

This gives you a full platform, not just the hardware. You get the development environment, and a server to upload the applications to. Scalability, availability managed by the vendor. But much less flexibility than infrastracture-as-a-service. You are stuck with the programming language that the PaaS supports, and the tools.

For example, Google AppEngine. Which is available only for Python and Java. Or Heroku for Ruby + Rails.

PaaS is targeted towards developers.

Software as a Service

This gives you a consumer facing software that sits in the cloud. You can start using the software directly, or you can extend it a bit. A business layer is provided, so you can customize the processes to suit your business. Good if what is provided fits what you already want. Not good if your needs are rather different from what they have envisoned.

Examples: Sales Force, Google Apps, Box.net, Zoho

Storage as a Service

Instead of storing data on your local disks, store it in the cloud. Lots of consumer adopton, and now enterprise usage is also growing. No management overhead, backups, or disaster recovery to worry about. And pay either flat fees per month, or by the gigabyte.

Examples: Mozy from EMC. Amazon S3. Rackspace CloudFiles. Carbonite. DropBox.

Comparing PaaS and SaaS

Some choices automatically made for you based on development language and available skill sets. Python + Java? Use Google AppEngine. Ruby on Rails? Use Heroku. Microsoft shop? Use Azure.

Other ways to compare are the standard ones: size of vendor and ecosystem maturity. Tools, monitoring, connectors, etc. e.g. AppEngine has a Eclipse plugin, so if your developers are used to Eclipse (and they should be!) then this is very good. Another question to ask is this – will the vendor allow integration with your private cloud? Can you sync your online hosted database with your local database? If yes, that’s great. If not that can be very painful and complicated for you.

Interesting Private Cloud Platforms

These are some interesting private cloud platforms

  • Eucalyptus: open source IaaS cloud computing platform.
  • VMWare Cloud: Partnered with Terremark. Expensive but worth it.
  • Appistry: Allows installing of the platform on Amazon EC2, or in your private data center. Allows application deployment and mgmt, various services across the stack IaaS, PaaS, SaaS. Integration with SQL Azure, SharePoint, Dynamics CRM. Visual Studio development and testing. Supports multiple development languages.

Database in the cloud

You can either do regular relational databases (easy to use, everybody knows them, scaling and performance needs to be managed by you). Or do NoSQL – non-relational databases like SimpleDB (Amazon), Hadoop (Yahoo), BigTable (Google). They’re supported and managed by cloud vendor in some cases. Inherent flexibility and scale. But querying is more difficult and less flexible.

Business Considerations

Licensing is a pain, and can make the cloud unattractive if you’re not careful. So figure this one out before you start. SLAs are around 99.9% for most vendors, but lots of fine print. Still evolving and might not meet your standards, especially if you’re an enterprise. Also, if SLA is not being met, vendor will not tell you. You have to complain and only then they might fix it. Overall, this is a grey area.

Pricing is a problem – it keeps changing (e.g. in case of Amazon). So you can have problems estimating it. Or the pricing is at a level that you might not understand. e.g. pricing of 10 cents per million I/O requests. Do you know how many I/Os your app makes? Maybe not.

Compliance might be a problem – your government might not allow your app to be in a different country. Or, for banking industry, there might be security certification required (for the vendor) before the cloud can be reached.

Consider all of these before deciding whether to go to a cloud or not.


IaaS gives you the infrastructure in the cloud. PaaS adds the application framework. SaaS adds a business layer on the top.

Each of these are available as public clouds (that would be somewhere out there on the world wide web), or private clouds that are installed in your data-center. Private is more expensive, more difficult to deploy, but your data is in your premises, you have better (local) connectivity, and have more flexibility. You could also have a hybrid cloud, where some stuff is in-house and some stuff in the public cloud. And if your cloud infrastructure is good enough, you can easily move computation or data back and forth.

Kalpak Shah Headshot
Kalpak Shah, CEO of Clogeny, gave a broad overview of the various options available in cloud computing infrastructure, platforms and software, and the questions you need to ask before you choose the one for you.

About the Speaker – Kalpak Shah

Kalpak Shah is Founder & CEO of Clogeny Technologies Pvt. Ltd. and guides the overall strategic direction of the company. Clogeny is focused on providing services and consultancy in the cloud computing and storage domains. He is passionate about the ground-breaking economics and technology afforded by the cloud computing platforms. He has been working on various cloud platforms including IaaS, PaaS and SaaS vendors.

You can also follow @clogeny and @kalpakshah on twitter.

Event report: POCC session on cloud apps for your startup

This is a live-blog of the Pune Open Coffee Club session on use of cloud apps for your business. Since this is being typed as the session is in progress, it might be a bit incoherent and not completely well-structured, and there are no links.

Pune Open Coffee Club is an informal group for all those interested in Pune's startup ecosystem. As of this writing, it has more than 2700 members. Click on the image to get all PuneTech articles related to the Pune Open Coffee Club

This session is being run as a panel discussion. Santosh Dawara is the moderator. Panelists are:

  • Dhananjay Nene, Independent Software Architect/Consultant
  • Markus Hegi, CEO of CoLayer
  • Nitin Bhide, Co-founder of BootstarpToday, a cloud apps provider
  • Basant Rajan, CEO of Coriolis, which makes the Colama virtual machine management software
  • Anthony Hsiao, Founder of Sapna Solutions

The session started with an argument over the defintion of cloud, SaaS, etc., which I found very boring and will not capture here.

Later, Anthony gave a list of cloud apps used by Sapna Solutions:

  • Google apps for email, calendaring, documents
  • GitHub for code
  • Basecamp for project management
  • JobScore for recruitment (handles job listings on your website, and the database of applicants, etc.)
  • GreyTip (Indian software for HR management)

Question: Should cloud providers be in the same country?
Answer: you don’t really have a choice. There are no really good cloud providers in India. So it will be outside.

Question: Are customers ready to put their sensitive data on the cloud?
Audience comment: Ashish Belagali has a startup that provides recruitment software. They can provide it as installable software, and also as a hosted, could app. However, they’ve found that most customers are not interested in the cloud app. They are worried about two things: a) The software will be unavailable if internet is not available, and b) The data is outside the company premises.

Point by Nitin Bhide of BootstrapToday: Any cloud provider will take security of your data very seriously. Because, if they screw this up even once, they’ll go out of business right away. Also, as far as theft of data is concerned, it can happen even within your own premises, by your own employees.

Comment 1: Yes, the above argument makes logical sense. But most human beings are not logical, and can have an irrational fear and will defend their choice.

Comment 2: This fear is not irrational. There are valid reasons to be unhappy about having your sensitive data in the cloud.

Comment 3: Another reason why this fear is not irrational is to do with CYA: cover-your-ass. If you put data in the cloud and something goes wrong, you will be blamed. If you put the data locally and something goes wrong, you can claim that you did everything that was expected of you. As long as CYA exists (especially in enterprises), this will be a major argument against the cloud.

Question: Does anybody use accounting packages in the cloud?
Answer: No. Most people prefer to stick to Tally, because of its compliance with Indian laws (or at least its compliance with Indian CAs). There doesn’t seem to be any online alternative that’s good enough.

At this point there was a longish discussion about the availability and uptime of the cloud services. Points made:

  • Cloud app providers have lots of redundancies and lots of backups to ensure that there is no downtime
  • However, there are enough instances of even world-class providers having downtime
  • Also, most of them claim redundancies, but give no guarnatees or SLAs, and even if they do give an SLA, you’re too small a player to enforce the SLA.
  • Also remember, that in the Indian context, downtime of the last mile of your internet will result in downtime of your app
  • Point to remember is that an app going down it not the real problem. The real problem is recovery time. How long does it take before it comes back up? Look at that before choosing upon your app.
  • It would be great if there was a reputation service for all cloud apps, which gives statistics on availability, downtime, performance etc. There isn’t right now, and that is a problem.
  • Remember, there is an economic cost of cloud apps that you will incur due to downtime, but also remember that there are definite economic savings too. For many startups the savings outweigh the potential costs. But you need to look into this for yourself.

Question: What kind of cost savings can a startup get by going to the cloud?

Nobody had concrete answers, but general points made:

  • Can you really afford to pay a system administrator who is competent, and who can administer a mail server, a file server, a this, and a that? There were some people who said that while admins are expensive in the US, they are not that expensive in India. However, more people felt that this would be expensive.
  • All significant large cloud services cost a very tiny fraction of what it would cost to do it yourself.
  • It is not a question of cost. As a startup, with my limited team, I wouldn’t have time to do this.

Basant Rajan points out that so far the discussion has been about either something that is in the cloud, or it is something that you do entirely yourself. These are not the only options. There is a third option – called managed services, or captive clouds. He points out that there is a Pune company called Mithi software that offers a whole bunch of useful services that they manage, on their machines, in your premises.

Question: What about compatibility between your apps? If the recruitment app needs to talk to your HR app are you in trouble?
Answer: The good ones already talk to each other. But yes, if you are not careful, you could run into trouble.

Some Pune startups who are providing cloud based apps:

Pune startup BootstrapToday provides an all-in-one solution in the cloud for development:

  • Source code control (using SVN). All the rest of these services are home grown.
  • Wiki pages
  • Bug tracking
  • Project management
  • Time Tracking (coming soon)
  • Project Tracking (coming soon)

Pune startup Acism has developed an in-house tool for collaboration and project communication which they are making available to others.

Pune startup CoLayer has been around for a long time, and has a product for better collaboration within an enterprise. It is like Google Wave, but has been around for longer, and is still around (while Wave is not).

Pune startup Colama offers private clouds based on virtualization technology. They are currently focusing on software labs in educational institutions as customers. But this technology can also be used to create grids and private clouds for development, testing and training.

Recommendations for cloud apps:

General recommendation: if you’re not using Google Apps, you must. Mail, Documents (i.e. Office equivalent functionality), Calendar.

Bug Tracking: Jira (very good app, but expensive), Pivotal Tracker (only for those familiar with agile, suggested by @dnene), Lighthouse App (suggested by: @anthonyhsiao), Mantis.

Project Management: ActiveCollab (self hostable), DeskAway, SugarCRM on Google Apps (very good CRM, very good integration with Google Apps, has a learning curve).

For hosting your own cloud (i.e. bunch of servers with load balancing etc.): Rackspace Cloud is good but expensive. Amazon Web Services is cost effective, but has a learning curve.

Unfortunately, due to time constraints, this part of the session got truncated. Hopefully we’ll have some more time in the end to pick this up again.

IndicThreads conference pass giveaway

IndicThreads will give a free pass to their Cloud Computing conference that is scheduled for 20/21 August to the best blog or tweet either about this POCC event, or about Cloud Computing in general. The pass is normally worth Rs. 8500. To enter, tweets and blogs should be brought to the attention of @indicthreads on twitter, or conf@rightrix.com. This PuneTech blog is not eligible for the free pass (because I already have a pass), so the field is still open 🙂

Cloud apps for software development and for your business: POCC discussion – 7th Aug

What: Pune OpenCoffee Club meeting on use of cloud applications in your work
When: Saturday, 7th August, 4pm-7pm
Where: Symbiosis Institute of Computer Studies and Research, Atur Centre, Model Colony. Map.
Registration and Fees: This event is free for all to attend. Please register here

Pune OpenCoffee Club - POCC Logo
POCC is an informal group of the Pune Startup ecosystem. It contains more than 2500 people who either have their own startups, or want to start one, or provide some service (or funding) to startups. Click on the logo to find all punetech articles about the POCC. Thanks to threenovember.com for the POCC logo.

Sharing experiences with cloud apps

Do you use cloud apps in your work? Pune Open Coffee Club invites cloud app users, practitioners, enthusiasts and experts for the next POCC meetup, where we will discuss how a business can make gains by pushing processes into the cloud. This can be for both development (e.g. source code control) or support services (e.g. HR, customer support).

We will discuss apps that can be used for development, like:

  • Online version control
  • Bug tracking
  • Project management
  • File Sharing and Collaborative workspaces

and support apps like:

  • Hosting (eg. AWS, Google App Engine)
  • Payroll Management
  • Company Accounts
  • Customer Support, CRM, Ticket Management
  • Marketing and Conversation Monitoring

and of course, any other apps that people want to talk about.

We will invite members of the POCC community who have experience with such apps to share their experience. DOs and DONTs. Tips. Best practices. We will also invite Pune startups who have products in these spaces to give short product pitches.

If you have concerns or questions, you can expect to find answers from people who’ve been successfully using such apps for a few years if not more. If you have strong objections to using such apps, you should come to warn everybody about those. If you have a soft corner for a particular app that you just love, you should come to convert everybody.

This is your chance to meet people in the Pune tech and startup community who are using, or are interested in cloud apps. Be there.

Call for speakers – IndicThreads conference on Cloud Computing

IndicThreads, the Pune-based organization that is best known for its annual Java conference that happens in Pune, is now diversifying and holding conferences on other areas of technology. The next conference is on Cloud Computing, and will be held in Pune on 20 and 21st August.

indicthreads logo small
The call for papers is out and the deadline for submissions is 31st May – actually, it’s a call for speakers – because you’re only required to submit an abstract now, and a slideshow just before the conference. Submitting entries to conferences like this is, we believe, a good way for Pune’s tech professionals to get visibility for their work, and a good way to get into a paid conference without having to pay the fees. Hence, if you’ve done any work in cloud computing, or virtualization, or Software-as-a-Service, or if you know enough about one of the related fields to be able to give an overview talk, you should submit an abstract.

For IndicThreads’ previous conference (on software quality assurance), we had given a list of reasons why you should strongly consider being a speaker at that conference. You should re-read that post, because most of the reasons continue to apply.

Suggested list of topics

Topics include but are not restricted to the following, stated in no particular order –

Diagram showing three main types of cloud comp...
Image via Wikipedia
  1. Cloud /Grid architecture
  2. Cloud-based Services and Education
  3. Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)
  4. Software as a Service (SaaS)
  5. Platform as a Service (PaaS)
  6. Virtualization
  7. High-Performance Computing
  8. Cloud-Delivered Testing
  9. Cloud Lock-in vs. Cloud Interoperability
  10. Multi Cloud Frameworks & APIs
  11. Monitoring Cloud Applications
  12. Data Security & Encryption On The Cloud
  13. Elastic Computing
  14. Cloud Databases
  15. Private vs. Public Clouds
  16. Cloud Scalability
  17. Cloud Analytics


Submit your entry here.

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Training session on Microsoft Azure

What: A full-day event by the Pune (Microsoft Technologies) User Group (PUG) on Windows Azure
When: Sunday, December 13, 10am to 4pm
Where: Venue details will be mailed to registered participants
Registration and Fees: This event is free for all. Register here


Click on the logo to find all punetech articles about Pune Microsoft Technologies User Group Events

The theme of this training is to allow the participants to understand the value proposition of Windows Azure. And hand holding to deploy applications on the Azure platform. All participants will get a certificate of completion.

To be able to understand this session you need to be familiar with the

This event is free, but you need to register: http://www.qsitglobal.com/qsitmailers/november_2009/azure/azure_ugform_nov30.htm

Venue details will be mailed to registered participants.

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