Companies with their head in the cloud

The concept of the cloud is one that has really grown over the past couple of years. To those in the know it is possibly one of the biggest things to hit the development world since the advent of mass home-broadband connections. To others it kind of lurks in the background and is simply the trendy buzz-word of the geek community.

What is the cloud?

The easiest way to explain this is to look to our old friend, Wikipedia:

“Cloud computing is a style of computing in which dynamically scalable and often virtualized resources are provided as a service over the Internet”

One of the most popular and famous cloud providers is Amazon. To simplify it, they basically charge you for what you use in terms of data and in turn you get to back on to their infrastructure.

The benefits:

Their servers are super resilient
Their servers are very fast
The infrastructure is completely scalable
You never run out of space, you just pay for what you use
Bandwidth is immense, and wont be brought down by stumble/digg traffic

In real terms it means as a small development organisation (as an example) you do not need to worry about taking into account the server infrastructure behind your online application. Providing you have a business model that supports the usage of your app then you’re good to go.

What does it cost?

Cloud computing has a relatively low cost in normal use. You pay on a monthly basis for the space you use. You also pay for data transfer in and out, and for the number of requests and manipulation of the data. This all sound a bit complicated, but the figures are quite small. For example Amazon currently charge around $0.18 per Gb of data storage, and similar for transfer. When you look at the infrastructure behind it that cost is not too bad.

Who uses it?

You probably already use site that use cloud computing. If you post images on twitter you may use the twitpic image hosting service. Go to one of your images on there and view the properties of it, you will see it starts with http://s3.amazonaws.com/twitpic/photos/. The image is actually hosted in the cloud, on Amazon’s servers.

Lots of companies are taking on this model in order to rapidly deploy their environments. It is great for them because although their initial traffic is very low, it is completely scalable. In “the old days” you would have to invest up-front for huge servers in anticipation of the traffic you will get 18 months down the line!

The million dollar question!

One thing I have notices over recent years is lots of companies that seem to have a flawed business model. Companies such as Brightkite, an image hosting service combining traditional image hosting with geolocation services (a google map). This company does not charge for it’s services, it’s iPhone app is free. There are no adverts on the site either, so no obvious source of revenue either.

Perhaps Brightkite is looking to build a userbase and then sell out to one of the big boys, or perhaps they will introduce advertising or premium services at a later date, who knows? They are not alone in this though, lots of sites that have sprung up in recent times seem to be “free”. Although cloud computing is relatively low cost, it is not free, so one must wonder what their end-game plan is.

How are they going to turn their good idea into profit?

iPhone 3GS – 2 weeks on

Last month I posted about my first impressions of the iPhone. Having owned  it for nearly 2 weeks I thought I would post my thoughts on what it is like to live with day to day.

Don’t drop the phone!

My first impression of the phone is it feels very very slippery. The smooth screen and the smooth plastic back make it feel like it is going to jump out of your hands. This is not just my opinion, everyone I have passed it to has handled it like it is made of crystal.

With this in mind my first purchase was a leather slip case from Ikonicedge. Without going into details, fantastic product!

Usability

I must say the new 3.0 features are really rather good. Push notification is coming to a lot of my day-to-day apps and it really is welcome. I can have IM+ active and will receive an alert when a new message arrives. I have seen a noticeable decrease in incoming SMS since that has been active, in favour of shooting over an IM instead.

The wifi works REALLY well! When I walk into the house it auto-connects to the wifi network, which is great for receiving calls on skype etc, and great if your house isn’t in a 3G area.

Features and Apps

Just like the adverts suggest, for most things you would need to do day to day there really is “an app for that”. Not all of them are free, but most of them are quite cheap and generally very good quality.

I like the way the app store auto checks for updates, and when I wake up in the morning I click update and several of my apps update to the latest version… slick!

One thing to beware of it I have found myself loading the phone with small cheap apps for 59p, then finding that 59p + 59p + 59p + 59p etc does add up! (yes, to £2.36!)

Addictive!

Oh… my… word… If you want your productivity levels to remain what they were before you bought the iPhone do NOT install games, specifically Flight Control. This is positively the most addictive game I have ever played and I just can’t put it down! You have been warned! BTW, if you buy it (just 59p at the moment) my high score is 74 on the default map.

Phone + email

As a phone it works great. The contacts list is slick, the interface is great and the call quality is fantastic. I can’t fault it one bit. If it had a blacklist feature (you can get this only by jailbreaking it) then it would be perfect.

Email works really well too. I don’t use push email so I have yet to experience that, but the standard 15 minute check works for me. If an email reply cant wait 15 mins then the sender really should have called me! The interface to mail is very nice. There are a few features I would like to have seen like the ability to “select all” or select a group of messages without having to click them individually, but for a mobile app it does the job and does it well.

SMS

The sms functionality is nice too. I used an N95 before which was nothing short of embarrassing… really!!! To have an SMS app that didn’t display the time the message was received, well, enough said about that!

The iPhone deals with SMS’s as conversation threads. When a message is received and you open it you also see the previous messages sent too and from the individual. I tend to send my SMS via JellySMS and clickatell (Internet SMS provider) as international SMS messages are much cheaper that way, consequently I only see half the conversation. For general use though, it works well.

Conclusion

I love the iPhone! Not in a physical way, that would be wrong(!), but as a phone/gadget it really is great. The camera in the 3GS is great (no flash, but you can’t have everything) and there are very few frustrations with it. Battery life would be one I suppose, but the N95 had the worst battery in the world, so even that seems good to me. With normal use it could last a couple of days.

I am still in the honeymoon period with this phone, where I am taking great care of it and making sure it does not get scratched/bashed etc. I imagine this will last a bit longer than it usually does with my phones, especially considering how much I paid for it.

I will no doubt post more updates as I go, but for now I am very happy with my purchase. As a phone is it value for money… hell no… not as a geek gadget does it make me smile when I use it, absofreakenlutely!