This blog is my interpretation of the major service approaches developing in the cloud.
Having started and developed in the cloud Google has no traditional IT base to maintain, support and protect – Google generally offer what I regard as a “pure cloud” service. Google’s offer is described as Software As a Service – the focus is on applications and interfaces rather than data files.
Google’s services are fully on-line (off-line features are being added but are limited), require only a browser and occasionally a browser plug in, they have both free (ad supported) and paid for service. As long as you can get on-line then Google’s service is available free without local dependencies on computer, operating system or application.
Google offer a large portfolio of services including “Office” applications, web sites, blogs, email, calendar, photo storage and sharing, video storage and sharing, a virtual world and a social network.
Below are some of the ones I find very useful
Google Docs Work with “office” type applications – Documents, Spreadsheets, Presentations and forms. Not only are these fully functional applications but they can be shared and collaboratively edited in real time anywhere on the net.
Google sites Create your own web site and a publication point for Google docs, calendar, blogs etc. quite limited in many ways but with good potential.
Having started and developed a massive traditional IT base Microsoft’s cloud service development will be fascinating to watch as it seeks to offer a cloud service while protecting its traditional base. The future of Microsoft is at stake here – if it doesn’t produce a cloud service it will lose income yet of it does produce a cloud service this will “compete” with its traditional Office “cash cow”.
Microsoft’s approach to the Cloud is different to Google’s – an approach which it describes as Software Plus Services. Whereas Google starts and ends in the cloud Microsoft starts with locally installed applications and adds cloud services to these. In this way you still need to buy Microsoft applications and install them on your computer but you can use the cloud to compliment them.
Microsoft’s cloud offer is called Live and while these services can be operated fully on-line the major missing application is an on-line “Office” – Microsoft provide an excellent cloud storage space called Livespace to store data files but you must use a local application to work with these files. The contrast is that Google don’t provide a storage space for files – Google provide applications. Microsoft have plans for a web based “office” for sometime in 2009 but have indicated that this will provide light editing compared to the fully featured local office
Microsoft’s Live Mesh is a good example of how Microsoft are thinking about the cloud – with Live Mesh you can link you local application to the “cloud” so that you can access documents created on one machine from another machine – as long as that other machine has the application and the connection to Live Mesh. In this way Microsoft can get you to buy even more of its software as you need to have the software on each machine you want to “Mesh”!
Yahoo had seemed to lose its way and risked being crushed between Google and Microsoft. Yahoo had seemed to lack vision and direction but out of necessity recent announcements set Yahoo on perhaps the most interesting path of all – I just hope it isn’t too late. Yahoo must realise that they might find it difficult to offer the scale and scope of cloud services that Google and Microsoft could offer. Instead Yahoo has been announcing something that could eventually propel them beyond Google and Microsoft.
With Pipes yahoo provided a glimpse a few years ago of what is possible. The Pipes may have informed their recent work on interfaces and the development of Yahoo APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) – the sort of things that let programs communicate with each other so that you can build one program by making use of other programs. The RSS feed reader is a simple example of this – an RSS feed reader takes outputs from the RSS links you specify from other websites and displays them. Web API’s are the stuff of MASH – the ability to create applications from the interfaces of other applications – to treat the web itself as an Operating system and as programmable.
Yahoo cheekily describe their approach as Browser Plus – like Gears, Silverlight or AIR, this provides Yahoo with a browser based platform for their API vision. I am less interested in the Browser Plus project but more interested in their “back-end” cloud API announcements. Back in the Spring of 2008 at the Web 2.0 expo yahoo announced the Yahoo Operating System (Y!OS) concept to “rewire” yahoo, open it up for developers to access Yahoo programmatically. Since then Yahoo have been announcing an exciting set of Y!OS APIs . There is the Yahoo Application Platform (YAP), The Yahoo Query Language (YQL) and the Yahoo Social Platform (YSP). Yahoo also announce support for Web standards Oauth, OpenSocial. Yahoo have an interesting strategy but they are not the only organisation looking at the “programmable web” Google for example have a highly developed developer community and code offer
Specialised Cloud services
In addition to the large “portal” style services of Microsoft, Google and Yahoo are the myriad of more specialised services such as those below:
Amazon Web Services (AWS)
Amazon Web Services have become something of a powerhouse in compute and storage services. Their Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) is well regarded and offers a scaleable platform to deploy various operating systems and systems software – for example you can provision a Microsoft SQL server database running on Windows server 2003 up in Amazon rather than on your own site. You can also use the Amazon Simple Storage Service (AS3) to store data.
Salesforce have become something of a powerhouse on the area of cloud based Customer relationship management applications and have been extending their platform for more generic application. Of particular interest to me is the recent announcement of Force for Amazon Web Services a relationship with Amazon that would allow you to build an application on the Force service and make use of database or storage services from Amazon.
There is the “pure service” from Google using application services.
There is the Hybrid service from Microsoft using a combination of local and cloud applications and data
There is the API service from Yahoo using programmable interfaces that can be used to build applications from yahoo services and external services turning the cloud into something like an operating system.
There is a place for all the services and you can choose the one that best fits your needs. For me the main interest is with the API service approach and the potential of this to build and “evolve” the next development of the web – the web as operating system – a sort of invisible web!
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