Endless possibilities in the cloud

It was interesting the other day to read an online piece on 10 Technologies That Will Change the World in the Next 10 Years. Perhaps not surprisingly, the cloud was the third technology mentioned in this overview.

We’ve already got video and music being accessed and stored in the cloud, the general expectation is that the cloud will soon extend to ‘endpoint devices’ (read: mobile):

  1. Voice search on Android phones – A good example is the voice search on the Android phone which sends sends the query to the Google cloud to decipher and to return results.
  2. More intelligence built into communication devices –  Think for example about using the cloud to facilitate real-time translation or location based technologies.
  3. Rise of services to protect privacy and security – Having more services based in the cloud almost automatically means an increase in the number of cloud-based solutions available to protect devices against malware.
Main learning point: I feel like I’m continuously discovering new possibilities with respect to cloud computing, whether it’s real-time translation or tracking mobile users 24/7. The cloud is without doubt one of those areas that will keep developing and that I hopefully will learn a lot more about.
Related links for further learning: 

http://www.networkworld.com/supp/2009/ndc3/051809-cloud-faq.html

http://www.networkcomputing.com/wan-security/229500450

iCloud: what’s all the hype about?

This week saw Apple launching its iCloud music streaming and online data storage service. It will enable users to instantly access any song purchased on iTunes on any device. Anything downloaded from the iTunes Store will be made available on all your Apple devices for free.

In addition, for $25 a year, iTunes Match will take every song from your iTunes library – including those songs ripped from your CD collection or downloaded ‘elsewhere’ – and store them on Apple servers in the cloud.

Users will thus be able to download any of their (up to 20,000) tracks stored in the cloud onto their iPad/iPhone/Mac/PC without spending hours transferring the music across.

Since the official introduction of iCloud at the annual Apple Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) earlier this week there has been a quite of hype about it. But what is it all about, what makes iCloud different from any of the other cloud based services?

  1. It’s Apple! – By default, every WWDC is looked at with much anticipation, by developers and users alike. However, Apple cynics see iCloud as yet another way to tie customers further into the Apple eco-system.
  2. It includes non-iTunes purchased songs – iTunes Match will enable users to store any songs ripped from their CDs or downloaded/purchased elsewhere.
  3. It has two advantages over its main competitors – Unlike iCloud’s competition – Amazon’s Cloud Drive and Google’s Music Beta – Apple seems to have agreements in place with most of the major music labels and publishers. More importantly, Apple has the complimentary hardware that the likes of Amazon, Google or Dropbox don’t have. If you already own a Mac or an iPhone it does make a lot of sense to use iCloud and to sign up for iTunes Match.

Main learning point: I now have a better understanding of what all the hype has been about. Apple has launched a free cloud-based storage service that promises user friendliness and the end of worrying about licensing and digital rights. However, for iCloud to fullfil its promise I believe it all comes down to uptake and web access: “will users buy (into) iTunes Match?” and “will iCloud eventually become accessible via the web (and not just via Apple devices)?” It will be interesting to see whether (a) Apple customers are willing to move their music libraries to the cloud as well as pay for iTunes Match and (b) whether Apple will launch iCloud web apps in the near future.

Related links for further learning: 

http://www.readwriteweb.com/mobile/2011/06/icloud-for-developers.php

http://techcrunch.com/2011/05/31/apple-icloud/

http://www.zdnet.co.uk/blogs/mixed-signals-10000051/jobs-reveals-apples-icloud-new-itunes-ios-os-x-lion-10022638/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ICloud

http://www.wired.com/gadgetlab/2011/05/apple-announces-icloud-steve-jobs-wwdc-keynote/

http://thenextweb.com/apple/2011/06/07/a-storm-ahead-for-apples-icloud-where-are-the-web-apps/

http://www.appleinsider.com/articles/11/06/01/icloud_preannouncement_leads_wall_street_to_expect_big_things_from_apple_at_wwdc.html

7digital improves its Android app and takes on mighty iTunes

7digital is stepping up to compete with iTunes by updating its Android app to include an in-app music download store along with acting as the default Android phone music player.

The past couple of weeks I’ve been learning a lot about innovative music businesses venturing into new partnerships and trying to make the most of their APIs. It is interesting to see how 7digital is now challenging iTunes, even going a step further by having the app sync with 7digital’s digital music locker feature so that tracks previously purchased from the service can be re-downloaded to a user’s handset.

This is what I learned about the full features of the new version of 7digital’s Android application:

  1. Access to 7digital’s catalogue of 14m MP3 tracks.
  2. Optimised mobile delivery.
  3. Ability to access and sync tracks stored both locally on a user’s device and in 7digital’s cloud locker.
  4. Users can browse music by genre and new releases and search for artist, track or album names.
  5. Playlists can be created and managed within the application.
  6. 30 second previews of all tracks are available before purchase.

Main learning point: the latest version of 7digital’s Android application must be seen as a significant milestone within 7digital. It partners with a wide range of companies (think Blackberry’s PlayBook and Shazam) and this new Android all-in-one music player cum download store will in my view prove to be a further boost to their offering to both existing and future partners.

Related links for further learning:

http://eu.techcrunch.com/2011/05/04/7digital-opens-its-music-download-store-to-android/

http://blogs.7digital.com/blog/2011/05/04/7digital-brings-mp3-downloads-to-android/

http://techcrunch.com/2011/05/03/ipod-meet-spotify-itunes-say-hello-to-your-future-rival/

The cloud saga continues: IBM tries a different approach

This ‘storing data in clouds’ thing keeps fascinating me. Maybe because the cloud seems so intangible and yet so appealing to a growing number of providers and corporate clients alike. In a recent post I looked at the flexible nature of cloud based computing, making large scale and complex IT infrastructures redundant. However, particularly large business customers still seem reluctant to adopt cloud computing, fearing a complete loss of control over their data.

In a recent move, IBM decided to start selling its cloud computing products through its “Services” division. Rather than just providing a technical solution, IBM will now be able to offer bespoke services to its clients, helping them to overcome their initial fears with respect to cloud computing. The focus of Erich Clementi, who heads up IBM’s cloud computing operation, is on different customer use cases and needs (i.e. large corporates).

Part of IBM’s new ‘cloud proposition’ is to sell individual services from its data centres that could be integrated into a company’s existing IT systems. This will leave companies in control of their IT system and their data. Microsoft has recently implemented a similar change to its cloud strategy through an upgrade of its Azure platform.

The main things I took away from IBM’s revised approach to cloud computing are:

  1. Companies will retain control over their IT – Rather than trying to encourage companies to relinquish control over their data to IBM to be stored and processed, IBM now enables companies to retain (full) control.
  2. IBM introduces ‘two-way traffic’ – IBM will now sell bespoke services from its data centres which can be integrated into companies‘ IT systems.
  3. This move by IBM is mostly strategic – the ‘teething problems’ inherent in cloud computing such as security and data portability, have not yet been resolved by the various providers and this new approach by IBM does not seem to resolve any of these issues.

Main learning point: cloud computing represents a really big and important shift in the way companies and individuals treat data storage and data management. To overcome corporate reluctance to handing over data control, providers such as IBM and Windows have started integrating their cloud services with corporate IT systems, thus creating more of a ‘two-way‘ relationship.

Related links for further learning:

Financial Times – “IBM in cloud strategy revamp”

http://www.ibm.com/ibm/cloud/

http://www.advertisertalk.com/ibm-and-european-partners-to-pioneer-new-storage-cloud-architecture-17089.zhtml

http://gigaom.com/2009/08/16/ibm-plans-cloud-service-to-take-on-microsoft-google-salesforce/

http://www.advertisertalk.com/ibm-and-european-partners-to-pioneer-new-storage-cloud-architecture-17089.zhtml

Moving to the cloud

This morning I looked for some more information on the “TMA” that French Connection is developing. I haven’t yet been able to work out what “TMA” stands for but I understand that it is a system which will enable French Connection to link and integrate between its different channels and devices. More importantly, I found out that this platform will be based in the “cloud”. This made me think about what that means: what happens in the cloud?

At the most basic level of understanding, I learned that cloud computing is Internet based. Until the introduction of cloud computing, data and applications could only be hosted on physical client-servers. Storing data in the cloud changes all that. The cloud makes things accessible through a web browser. It thus makes it easier and quicker to provide scalable data or applications. Users typically don’t have to worry about the “back end” of the cloud computing architecture, which comprises various computers, servers and data storage devices.

Particularly small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs) seem to be in favour of cloud computing since it saves them the expenditure involved in the more traditional IT infrastructure setup. But also big businesses like French Connection and Universal are increasingly hosting their often complex (and data-rich) eCommerce systems in the clouds. These are systems that regular users can interact with. Well-known providers of cloud based services are Amazon, IBM and Oracle.

In short, the main things I’ve learned about cloud computing so far are:

  1. Cloud computing provides a viable alternative to large-scale and expensive IT infrastructures.
  2. It provides users with easy access to data and other virtualized resources.
  3. As a result of the flexible nature of cloud computing, data or software can be provided on demand.

Main learning point: I’ve learned about the basic workings of cloud computing. As time progresses, cloud computing will be offered in a variety of shapes and sizes. The key underlying principle is that the “cloud” makes physical client-servers redundant. The flexibility inherent in cloud computing is probably its biggest selling point. In future posts I will look into cloud-based service platforms and related security issues.

Related links for further learning:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cloud_computing

http://www.ebizq.net/blogs/agilization/2010/05/taking-your-first-step-onto-the-cloud.php

http://www.infoworld.com/d/cloud-computing/what-cloud-computing-really-means-031

http://searchcloudcomputing.techtarget.com/sDefinition/0,,sid201_gci1287881,00.html

http://www.bcs.org/server.php?show=conWebDoc.37517

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/10097450

http://www.venda.com/ecommerce-ecosystem/comprehensive-ecommerce-solution/comprehensive-ecommerce-solution.html