Using Cloud Computing to Test, Develop and Innovate

by Michael Sheehan on April 26, 2012

in Cloud, General, Opinion, Social Media, Tech News

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Are you using cloud computing yet? If so, that’s great. If not, what is holding you back? Do you know enough about it? Do its capabilities confuse you? Have you not found a good use for it? I would guess that you are using cloud computing without even knowing it.

As I work in the cloud industry, I get to see the trends as they happen and what innovative ways people are using the cloud to drive business success. Honestly, I think that developers and companies are only just starting to tap the vast potential of cloud computing. While many of the early cloud adopters of (gasp) 3 years ago most likely now have fully vetted out business plans, products and services that hinge on the elastic scalability of cloud infrastructure, for example, we now are seeing the next round of innovators who are living and breathing the tech industry revitalization via the successes of their peers and colleagues.

red-zeros

And the business possibilities are only growing because of the successes of others. Think about social media, social sharing and community services that appeared a few years ago (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest and the like). Also think about longer established product and service delivery sites like Amazon or Netflix. Those have communities tied to them as well. As these services grow, their data store of user preferences, likes, purchases, and interactions grows as well, exponentially, in fact. In order to accommodate this huge influx of social and personal data as well as to build recommendation engines and inter-networking with social data, new technologies are coming to light (think Big Data, for example).

weed-grass-cloud

So why am I suddenly in the weeds here and not up in the clouds? It’s important to map out some of the trends that I’m seeing in the cloud space and how people are using technology. But developers and innovators do not operate in a vacuum. They need inspiration. They need ideas. And they need lots and lots of coffee. What they don’t want are hurdles to overcome, like figuring out an infrastructure solution. That’s one place where the cloud is important. It’s there, ready to be consumed, ready to scale and ready to be pushed to the limit. The sky’s the limit with clouds, right?

But I want to talk about a use case for cloud computing that I’ve seen to be extremely popular and one that you don’t immediately think about: Test and Development environments. Trial and error is such an important process when developing or creating…well…just about anything. If you don’t try something, you will never succeed with it. This is true when writing, painting, building, composing and crafting solutions. We have all been trained to collect our thoughts before jumping in headfirst, regardless of the situation. Most people do this; it just depends on how risk adverse you are. I, for example, tend to write out my articles with mental preparation only. I have a subject, I create a title, I get the theme and then I just go with it, circling back at the end to fine tune things before publication. Artists work in the same way; they spend countless hours doing studies, testing colors, materials, application and a plethora of other tests and tweaks before they work on their final masterpiece.

drawing

Developers, entrepreneurs and innovators do the same thing. They start with an idea, get it on paper and then simply begin the execution of their vision. So once they get to the point of having to create something out of nothing, they need infrastructure to do so. If they are a small business, a start-up or an individual working in their garage, I’m guessing that they don’t have too much room for experimentation, nor a capital budget to play with. And that is where cloud computing is so powerful. It provides these businesses with the canvas to paint on, the scratch paper to scrawl out their ideas, a pile of wood or metal from which to build a structure or a pen to compose their thoughts into flowing phrases and paragraphs.

“Disposable Infrastructure” as I like to refer to it, gives small business (and large) the ability to create, test, tweak and destroy complex architectures, while only spending a minimal amount of capital (and effort) in the process. You build it, use it and tear it down when you are done. That is the beauty of the cloud. And, metered, usage-based billing allows you to keep your budget intact and tight. Many cloud providers offer you trials or pay-as-you-go plans. This means, you could even potentially develop locally and then spin up a cloud environment, put your code, apps or what have you, in that cloud environment and test it out in a near real-life environment. You can load test the architecture, open it up for others to try and continue to iterate as you fine-tune your project. You can save environments for later, branch out with a different experiment, and then roll back to a different instance (assuming your cloud provider allows you to store server images or environments).

And the nice thing is, as I mentioned, you can fully destroy and delete your environments probably in just a couple of clicks of the mouse so that you can start from scratch, OR, you can promote your architecture to be a full production system. I have seen companies do this. They launched their product as a private alpha, got feedback, tweaked the design, launched as a beta, received more success and then converted (or copied) that architecture into a fully public-facing environment. Many of these same companies then continue their development cycles in tandem within the same cloud but on infrastructure within that cloud dedicated to Test and Dev.

So hopefully you can see the importance of this use case. It provides businesses and individuals and easy way to innovate, iterate designs and code, and control their costs in the process. You really wouldn’t want to do this on hardware that you bought or signed a yearlong contract to use (or under-use). And you definitely don’t want to have to worry about power, security, cooling, bandwidth and other headaches associated with doing it yourself.

idea

The nice thing about cloud computing is that it frees you up to focus on your ideas, your business, your vision and your success, while letting someone else worry about the infrastructure powering your product or service. The cloud encourages innovation. And I wouldn’t be surprised if the next Facebook or Google comes from a few people starting up with just some ideas, lots of coffee and plenty of clouds to power their success.

This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet.

HTD says: Use the cloud to create, innovate and succeed!



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