The Performance Beacon

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If Cloud Computing is The New Destination, Then Where does the Journey Begin?

Which Applications You Should Move to the Cloud

Over the past year, there has been much discussion over the cost benefits of Cloud Computing.  Companies such as Amazon, Rackspace, Google, and SalesForce all introduced Cloud platforms in 2008 that stirred our imaginations and our hopes of a more cost effective and efficient way to deliver Web applications. By virtue of the amount of vendor activity and general buzz, it is pretty clear that Cloud Computing may be the right delivery platform given our current economic environment.  That said, it also has its critics, who site that using the Cloud as a platform for “real world” enterprise applications has some issues.  Many believe that it is unproven in the areas of data security and platform stability and reliability.  But even to critics it remains a compelling alternative.   So, if Cloud Computing is at the very least “a” destination platform for delivering Web applications…what types of applications make the most sense to make the journey to the Cloud?

Cloud Testing vendor SOASTA, has been in a very unique, first-hand position of observing how early adopters of the Cloud have made their decision as to which applications they would move and why.   For the past six months, SOASTA has been Cloud Testing hundreds of Web applications from a wide variety of industries such as consumer products, mobile, social networking, and financial services.   These companies range from small start-ups to the enterprise (i.e. Hallmark, Genentech, Proctor & Gamble, Qtrax, Pelago)—all seeking ways to reduce costs of delivery by using the Cloud.

From this experience, we see the following types of applications as the forerunners in moving to the Cloud:

Sales & Marketing Applications: these are applications that center around a one-time activity such as a marketing campaign for a new product or the preparation for a holiday (i.e. an influx of e-cards or flower delivery on Valentine’s Day).  A recent event that could have benefitted from Cloud Testing was the US Presidential Inauguration. Hundreds of millions of people turned to the Internet to watch the event, causing many site outages or failures.  The characteristics of this type of Web application that make them Cloud-worthy are:
a.    Event-driven, tied to a specific time period or date
b.    Large Load (Scale), Web traffic is unknown and must be met
c.    Variable Load, prone to web traffic spikes or surges
d.    Global, used by a widely distributed audience
e.    Media Rich, employ a high level of dynamic content such as Ajax or Flash and subsequently may require more compute power

Composite Applications: these are applications that typically aggregate data services such as RSS feeds from many sources into one application. Common composite applications include Priceline, NASDAQ and Facebook. The Cloud has proven to be a very a low cost, easy-to-use, aggregation and deployment platform.

Collaborative Applications: these are applications that have many of the same attributes the previous two applications.  These are typically shared or group applications with high potential for scale and spikes in Web traffic, global users, and dynamic content. They often require shared access and availability to large amounts of compute power. Because they are not typically revenue-generating applications, they are ideally suited for a low cost delivery platform such as the Cloud., eBay, Youtube, and some Wikis, fit this category.

The final analysis suggests that every application has unique deployment requirements and that Cloud Computing offers many companies a low cost alternative.  SOASTA’s own application, CloudTest, leverages Cloud Computing to simulate real world Web traffic for testing Web applications and networks. Testing has less of a requirement for secure or portable data than most transaction-oriented applications. It negates some of the common concerns and is ideally suited for the Cloud.  In the end, companies should choose the deployment platform that fits their application’s specific requirements and not judge every application as having the same requirements.

Cloud Computing is quickly establishing itself as a viable delivery platform. The real question remains…for which applications?  Proving once again that it’s not the destination that matters, it’s the journey.   Let the journey begin.

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Tom Lounibos

About the Author

Tom Lounibos

As CEO of SOASTA, Tom brings more than 30 years of experience building early stage software companies, leading two companies to successful IPOs. Tom is a regular speaker at both cloud and testing events, and has become a leading advocate in using the cloud to empower individuals and accelerate changes in how applications are built, tested and deployed. Most recently, Tom served as President and CEO of Kenamea. Prior to Kenamea, he was CEO of Dorado Corp., a financial services software provider. Previous to Dorado, he was EVP of Sagent Technology through its 1999 IPO, entrepreneur-in-residence at Crosspoint Venture Partners, and held executive positions at Digitalk Corp., Knowledgeware (KWI) and Encore Financial Services. Tom also serves on several boards in the Silicon Valley.