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Is there an engine in the cloud?

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When you think about what makes a car function, what comes to mind? A few may say you need gas to get from point A to B, wheels to put the car in motion, seats to sit in and a steering wheel to maneuver the vehicle, as well a body to protect you from the outside elements. Most important, however, would be the engine. Without all the important pieces of machinery, you would have nothing more than a nice looking shell and no way to place the vehicle in motion.

How does the engine of a car relate to the concept of cloud? I will try to make a few analogies. Let’s take a look at the engine and the meaning of what that word.

The dictionary gives the meaning of the word engine as:

  • a machine with moving parts that converts power into motion
  • a thing that is the agent or instrument of a particular process

Wikipedia says the following: “An engine or motor is a machine designed to convert energy into useful mechanical motion”

So what do cloud and an engine have in common? And what exactly is cloud?

By some definitions, cloud or cloud computing is described in the following way:
Cloud computing is a model for enabling ubiquitous, convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (like networks, servers, storage, applications, and services) that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction.

Now, in cloud there are things that help a business function, much like an engine in a car. With cloud, an organization can deploy resources when they need to have certain business applications used. Different kinds of platforms can be run on the cloud. You have software as a service (SaaS), platform as a service (PaaS) and infrastructure as a service (IaaS), all of which have different functions to the user, much like an engine. You can have a V8, V6 or turbo charged.

Now, let’s take a look at what makes up an engine. At the very basic level, an engine has the following:

  • Spark plugs – The spark plug supplies the spark that ignites the air/fuel mixture so that combustion can occur. The spark must happen at just the right moment for things to work properly.
  • Valves – The intake and exhaust valves open at the proper time to let in air and fuel and to let out exhaust. Note that both valves are closed during compression and combustion so that the combustion chamber is sealed.
  • Pistons – A piston is a cylindrical piece of metal that moves up and down inside the cylinder.
  • Piston rings – Piston rings provide a sliding seal between the outer edge of the piston and the inner edge of the cylinder. The rings serve two purposes: They prevent the fuel/air mixture and exhaust in the combustion chamber from leaking into the sump during compression and combustion and they keep oil in the sump from leaking into the combustion area, where it would be burned and lost.

These are all necessary parts to keep your engine functioning properly. Missing some or all of these parts could mean a trip to the salvage yard for the vehicle.

In cloud, there are many applications that can be deployed to allow an organization to run effectively. I will just touch on a few. Using applications from the cloud could in fact allow your organization to run better and have a tremendous cost savings. By not giving a look at the potential opportunity benefits, it could mean a loss to your organization.

There are many applications that can be run from the cloud.

  • CRM Software – Manage customer information, automate marketing, and track sales through the pipeline.
  • Email Marketing Software – Automate email marketing and relationship building, while optimizing message delivery.
  • Web Hosting and Ecommerce – Everything you need to do business on the Internet. This includes web hosting, CMS systems, Message Boards, Shopping Carts and more.
  • Public Sector, Compliance and EDI – Certain industries have standardized rules that must be strictly followed by all parties. Thankfully, you can leverage cloud applications to simplify inter-organizational communications and ensure that you’re following the rules.

By choosing a cloud solution, here are a couple of benefits you could see:

  • Low cost to entry – not as expensive as traditional on premise computing. Sometimes there are no upfront costs.
  • Scalability – there is an elastic feature whereby when you need more of a resource you can obtain it. When you need less, you can scale back.
  • On Demand – Whenever, wherever, however.
  • Software license fees / renewals – No yearly renewal fees for software licenses for every user the provider of the cloud applications manages that process.

Now, let’s look at the benefits from choosing a certain engine in a car:

  • Higher performance – High performance vehicles may give a better driving experience for the owner.
  • Better gas mileage – Smaller engines or fuel efficient engines (Hybrid) may offer fewer trips to the pump. Some vehicles that are gas and electric powered can get 50 to 60 miles to the gallon.
  • Lower fuel costs – Keeps some of your dollars in your pocket because the engine doesn’t burn a lot of fuel.
  • Overall cost savings on actual vehicle – Pricing of the vehicle, of your choice can be a big savings (The Smart Car versus The Range Rover).

To sum it all up, it would seem that one could say that an engine might well exist in the cloud. Putting applications in the cloud would allow your business to experience better growth opportunities, economies of scale which ultimately could lead to more innovation in your organization. In essence, a better running organization. By not considering putting some of your applications in the cloud, it may just lead to extra expenses in keeping your organization competitive, thus introducing the possibility that an organization may become sluggish and slow to respond to the needs of the clients they may serve. Just like the engine in the car. If you are not keeping up with the maintenance requirements, your vehicle could not perform and you might just find yourself stranded on the side of the road waiting for a tow truck.

Staff Software Engineer IBM Commerce

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