One Way to Avoid Becoming the Next Kodak

As a boy growing up, my first camera was a Kodak Brownie—easy to use and, for that era, it took excellent pictures. It was somewhat expensive for a 10 year old because of the costs of film purchase and photograph development. Overall, however, I was a happy customer who would eagerly look forward to picking up my photos at the drug store.

Of course, there are no simple answers for why one of the most prestigious companies in the world has found itself having to file for bankruptcy. We do know that one of the first order effects was their inability to shift the center of gravity of their business. New technologies were adopted by their customers that in fact eliminated the cost of film while significantly reducing the cost of development. All the while, the company continued to be in denial about how big the impact would be on their business.

We can only imagine the internal discussions that must have occurred relative to any endorsement by Kodak that digital photography was the future and that they themselves would develop and sell the worlds best digital cameras and printers. The Kodak film people would obviously and immediately do everything possible to prevent that from happening. Just imagine Kodak’s large investment in film manufacturing plants, equipment, and distribution! As a result, they continued with their former core strength of promoting film while developing mediocre digital cameras. Furthermore, their strategy missed the shift of photography and photo software into smart phones, with an eventual even bigger impact on their core market.

Today, there is a technology shift that I believe will be even more profound than the changes brought by digital photography. That is the advent of Cloud Computing. We are all watching advancements occur at a breakneck pace. Initially it was all about virtualization, but we are now seeing very powerful software development tools as well as applications being hosted in the cloud. The result is a new generation of functionality at costs that in some cases are a factor of 10 to 100 times lower than those hosted on traditional servers. In addition, there is unparalled user access—laptops, tablets, smartphones everywhere! Consequently, all these new cloud-based applications come with an entirely new user experience.

The next generation of Kodaks are today convincing themselves that the Cloud will have limited applicability and therefore they can take a “wait and see” attitude, moving to endorse and adopt when they are sure it is real. What I can say with certainty is that by the time they come to that realization and have to analyze the business impact of dismantling infrastructure and a large IT organization, it will be too late. Their competitors who have moved quickly to adopt the Cloud will roll over them with not only significantly better IT cost structures and associated efficiencies, but with a better ability to focus on their businesses and a stronger and growing connection to their customers.


When Did Lawyers Become Technologists?

The current cloud computing debate centers on whether the Public Cloud can be trusted.  Can IT infrastructure start with a private cloud and migrate later?  The private cloud advocates cite concerns such as security, control and adherence to compliance requirements as their primary reasons for not utilizing the public cloud. Clearly, cloud security is in question. But who should make the decision within your organization?

Crayon_Lawyer1
I was amazed to have an attendee at a major industry conference tell me: “his lawyers would never let him use the public cloud”.  My question was –“when did lawyers become technologists?”

Cloud Paradigm Shift

It is universally recognized that there is a major paradigm shift occurring driven by the new usage based pricing model of Cloud Computing.  Just 5 years ago SaaS was perceived as not being financially viable.  Indeed, the Public Cloud has become one of the primary approaches to utilizing mission critical applications.

CIOs around the world are now including Cloud Computing in their future planning. They are trying to determine which Cloud environments should be adopted that make the most sense for their infrastructure requirements. Leading CIOs are allocating resources to determine the most cost effective and scalable cloud investments.

Cloud Phobias and Facts

The fact is that a lot of the fears regarding public clouds are coming from those who do not understand technology.  It’s important to know the facts.

The largest companies in the industry are investing billions of dollars in creating cloud platforms that include state of the art hardware, networking and security. These companies include IBM, Microsoft, HP, Rackspace and Amazon.

The private clouds cannot possibly invest enough money to remain competitive with the capabilities and security that are available in public clouds. In addition as a result of economies of scale, public clouds are the leaders in establishing and implementing compliance standards.

This is also an industry where it’s really all about the applications and solutions. There will be a far more extensive SaaS application catalogue available for the public cloud than for a portfolio of private clouds all of which have implemented their own custom stack.

Let’s face it, application developers have always followed the money…


Messaging in a Box… err, Cloud?

Connecting-the-world-transparentConnecting applications and systems takes time, involves a lot of people and requires training and deployment costs. What if it wasn’t that bad? What if you had an application messaging solution “in a box”? What if that box was a Cloud that allowed you to scale quickly and reduce costs?

Sounds great and it is!

That is what we have been working on here at Cloak Labs and we are proud of the best service that allows you to connect disparate software applications on and off your network in an easy to install, scalable, and cost-effective way.

The Cloak Labs service provides IT Managers and Administrators with a pre-built application network that resides in the Cloud and enables a network to be established in hours in some cases. Traditionally, if someone wanted to establish a connection between two systems, an IT administrator or manager would have to build a network between the two applications and implement an interface engine in the middle in order to allow the two endpoints to communicate.

Let’s review some of the challenges here:

  1. In order to connect two applications on or off the network, personnel needs to be allocated to build those connections,
  2. Hardware will need to be deployed to support the connection(s), also requiring more person hours to deploy, maintain and update,
  3. Connections are rigid, allowing for only point-to-point communication,
  4. In order to implement any value added services, either a 3rd party application provider will need to be brought in, or a RYO (Roll Your Own) solution will need to be built. Either way, this will require more support and more costs,
  5. If the systems do not reside on the same network, it will be difficult to get trading partners to accept connections coming into their network for all the reasons above.

Let’s see how Cloak Labs provides an easy-to-deploy solution to solve this problem:

  1. Cloak Labs is a service so no person hours will be need to be contributed to support the network,
  2. As a service, there is no hardware for the end-user to purchase or support,
  3. Cloak Labs provides a small software client that interfaces to applications, encrypts messages and routes them through the appropriate channels,
  4. Cloak Labs’ service allows disparate applications to communicate without the need for an interface engine,
  5. Cloak Labs provides file-level tracking, guaranteed delivery, and a variety of other built-in value added services, enabling IT managers to meet compliance and avoid customization costs,
  6. Cloak Labs provides reporting tools to increase management’s visibility into application network performance and costs,
  7. Since Cloak Labs is easy to install, bringing up trading partners on and off your network is easy and can be done in as little as 20 minutes,
  8. Cloak Labs leverages the Cloud to scale with usage and provides users a cost-effective, pay-as-you-grow pricing model.

Contact us to learn more about how your organization can build meaningful application interfaces with CloudPrime.


Cloud Computing: A History and Perspective

As a company that leverages Cloud infrastructure to provide cost-effective, scalable and secure application messaging services, I get a lot of questions about how we make the Cloud secure. Before I address this question, I figured it would be interesting to first take a look at the history of Cloud computing. I ask forgiveness in advance for all my gross-oversimplifications.

Grandpa Simpson Yelling at Cloud

The Early Years

Cloud computing first started being described in the 60’s when the pioneers of ARPANET envisioned that people all of the world could connect and access data from each other over a network. Having an interconnected “web” would provide the foundation for distributed computing. Further, John McCarty, a noted computer scientist, proposed the idea of “computation being delivered as a public utility.” (ComputerWeekly.com, March 2009), much like it is used today.

Through the 80’s, the concept of a client-server model for operating applications and platforms within an enterprise began to take root and lay a foundation for what we recognize as “the Cloud” today. Client-server systems require that one computing appliance, ideally with a great amount of computing power and capacity, would be able to serve multiple clients (PC’s, terminals, etc.) around the world. One famous example of this in the 80’s was BITNET which connected IBM mainframes in order to send electronic mail to academic institutions around the world. (A brief history of the internet, Internet Society, 2010)

Emergence of Cloud Computing

Although the idea of a “Cloud” infrastructure was seeded in the 1960’s, it was not really until the 1990’s that we saw any semblance of Cloud computing the way we know it today. In the late 90’s, SalesForce pioneered one of the first SaaS (software as a service) CRM applications and boldly labeled their innovated business model as “The end of software” since you did not have to purchase and install an application locally.

Although it appeared that SaaS based software models would be the future of how we used and interfaced with applications, these applications were still hosted in server farms or locally by the companies that published the software. In 2006, Amazon.com launched a new service that would change how we thought about hosted computing and helped catapult Cloud computing into the spotlight.

Cloud Computing Evolved

Amazon’s EC2 environment gives developers and software publishers a way to access what seems like unlimited resources in a “pay for what you use” model. This combination of low cost and scalable server resources made it possible for developers with very little money to develop applications and publish them (very quickly!) for the community to use. While this was a great milestone for developers and just about anyone who has ever used the internet, many people, businesses, and experts did not believe that the Cloud could provide the security and reliability needed to run enterprise grade applications.

While Amazon provides a paid public service (much like the one anticipated by John McCarthy), many users of the Cloud leverage what is called a “Private Cloud”. This generally means that the host of the distributed computing center has created a cloud environment but its resources are not made publicly available. Bringing the Cloud internally allows managers to have more control over security and maintenance, instead of relying on a provider. Private Clouds help satisfy many of the concerns IT Managers and CIOs have around security while allowing them to take advantage of the benefits of Cloud computing. Eric Knorr of InfoWorld has a great article here discussing “Private Clouds”.

Cloud Computing Today

Today, there is a wide range of options for developers and publishers of software when evaluating which Cloud provider they will use to host their applications. Companies like Microsoft and IBM have started offering services providing their customers with “elastic cloud” environments that promise services that are scalable, easy to access, and inexpensive to use. Seeing more and more large players, as well as small and medium size boutique cloud providers enter the market is a signal that more and more companies are adopting the Cloud as an acceptable infrastructure for hosting their data and applications.

CloudPrime Leverages the Cloud

Cloak Labs is a service that leverages* the Cloud for many of the same reasons any other business might. The Cloud provides a scalable, cost-effective and on-demand environment through which we can provide our application messaging services. When people ask how it is that we can leverage the Cloud when it is not secure, the answer is two fold:

  1. We only work with Cloud providers that can pass SAS 70 type II compliance, and
  2. Cloak Labs encrypts all messages over the network, making all data traveling through and stored on the Cloud completely secure

Having an infrastructure that can scale as you grow allows our business to provide a rich and robust service without you incurring large up-front costs or expensive service fees for transferring data between local and hosted applications. You can learn more about Cloak Labs and our services by visiting http://www.cloudprime.net

  • Cloak Labs runs in the Cloud. An overview of the CP Messaging Topology can be seen here.