When Written: Oct 2008
Microsoft Azure, Google App Engine, Amazon EC2 and Vmware vCloud are all ‘Cloud Computing’ systems. There are others of course but these three are probably the largest players in the field. So what is ‘Cloud Computing’? The idea is that instead of having your own web / application server with all the problems and cost of updating, bandwidth and scalability, you write and host your application to run on one of these ‘Cloud’ systems. The advantages of scalability and reliability are supplemented by many of these services currently being offered free of charge. There is a catch at the moment as many don’t come with any Service Level Agreement since most are still in Beta so trusting your line of business application to such a system would in the words of a colleague: ‘require the wearing of the brave trousers’ .
However there is a lot of talk of computing in the ‘cloud’ in the trade press and many companies are looking to see if they can move their applications out onto this and so take advantage of the lack of hardware needed and the ability to scale the web application easily. Whilst writing this article, Microsoft were announcing at their PDC the integration between Azure (http://www.microsoft.com/azure/default.mspx ) and Visual Studio. The demo showed how easy it was to move a simple web app to a ‘Cloud’ app running on Azure. A simple change of one parameter in a text file would scale the number of instances to cope with a larger demand, although one would guess that this would have an effect on the charging structure. It was great to see a development tool that has the promise to make writing applications for cloud computing easy.
The demos I have seen for Goggle’s offering have been impressive but you are left with the feeling that there is a steep learning curve there. It is another area that is worth keeping a ‘briefing watch’ on because one day the reasons against moving your web application out onto the ‘cloud’ may no longer exist and you should be ready. Just like virtualisation for the desktop has revolutionised development and testing for many of us, Cloud computing could have a similar effect on the server side of things.
I came across an interesting variation to virtualising windows within Mac OSX. I need to test web sites with IE6. I have a Parallels virtual machine with IE6 on but the memory overhead even on this MacPro with 8G of RAM is still a consideration and I need to run windows with IE7 as well as my development tools on it. This is an Open Source application that enables me to run a single Windows application within the Mac OSX environment, thus removing the need to boot up a whole Windows operating system within the OSX like Parallels does just to fire up a single application. This product is called ‘Cross over Mac’ and is built by Codeweavers who are at http://www.codeweavers.com. It will not support all Windows applications but what it does it does do rather well. I can now run IE6 on the Mac albeit with a slightly scary Mac looking toolbar graphics ( see screenshot ).
Article by: Mark Newton
Published in: Mark Newton