Recently spoke with John Rymer, analyst with Forrester. The topic was going to be cloud computing, but Rymer advised that this term, for now at least, has hardly any meaning. That is because anything that is remotely new is being called a ‘cloud solution.’ For now, says Rymer, a more useful and illuminating term is ‘hosted provider.’
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So what is the architect’s and developer’s view of cloud providers, excuse me, hosted providers? Clearly the challenge is to study and recognize what the different approaches are especially good for.
Let’s narrow things down a bit for good measure. Let’s say that the most stark hosted provider plays today are represented by Amazon, Google and SalesForce.com. There is an application development angle to host provider offerings, because they provide (or don’t supply) languages, APIs and other facilities in varied amounts to help those employing their resources.
“It starts at one end with just raw storage computing capacity. That is what Amazon is,” said Rymer, while adding that Amazon can field its provisions via Web services. Like others, he pointed to a massive New York Times file conversion project as a case of raw computing to advantage. With Amazon, said Rymer, you don’t have a program model and DB. “You have to do that on your own,” he said.
Google is different, he said, in that Google has the App engine, the BigTable data store, relates Rymer.
“Google provides a program model. You can only use one language; that is Python. That is fundamentally different than Amazon. It provides more of what a developer needs,” said Rymer. But with the benefit of providing what the developer needs comes the consequent threat of lock-in.
Then Rymer spoke of SalesForce.com and its Force.com interface. “You have Force.com where you have a proprietary language, Apex. It is low level.”
Programmers and architects alike know low-level programming likely means lock-in , but that it also means programmatic power, and. “With ‘Force’ you have richer tools, and also a kind of a access to an application model. It’s good for managing business entities,” said Rymer.
A critical point: As the hosted providers give you more, they put sorts of constraints on what you can do.
In the case of Amazon, said Rymer, again, it is cycles and storage.. The app model that Google offers has benefits, in fact, but would you try to build a transactional system with it? Rymer strongly suggests that the Google scheme is not built for transactional purposes. “It’s designed for search,” said Rymer.
Of course, this is not to be the last word on this topic. We are pretty sure Rymer does not see it as the last word, either. For that matter, it is probably not the end of cloud or the dawning of the age of the hosted provider. Don’t forget that services were the first – and may still be a very worthwhile – way to interface with hosted provider or cloud.