10Nov/100

OpenEntry.com falls in love with the cloud

Daniel Salcedo, founder of Openentry.com and cloud evangelist

In 2008, Daniel Salcedo was ready to throw in the towel on his online Catalog Generator nicknamed “CatGen”, considered one of the original poster child apps of the online e-commerce revolution along with more famous names such as eBay in the late 1990s.

Eleven years earlier he sat down and wrote the functional specs for CatGen as part of his broader vision to democratize global trade by harnessing the power of Internet.

Specifically he wanted to provide a tool that made it easy for SME networks in poorer regions to aggregate their members’ individual catalogs into a branded online marketplace that emphasized visibility, credibility and trust.

The next several years brought recognition and investment, including a huge personal donation from Jeff Skoll, at the time Vice President for Strategic Planning at eBay.

jeff skoll, ebay

Jeff Skoll saw early on the potential of Salcedo's OpenEntry.com system

Harnessing a worldwide network of developers, the CatGen System was originally aimed at the World Fair Trade Organization but grew into something much bigger, soon encompassing commercial business networks, private, and pubic institutions.

Yet even as CatGen matured so did the complexity and cost.

“Our server was a pain in the neck and I was constantly dragging one of my Russian programmers out of bed to solve some crisis,” said Mr Salcedo.

“While CatGen was conceptually sound, operationally it was killing me. I could not get creative. I was constantly fighting fires.”

It was while commandeering a team of data entry personnel during his stint for the 2008 Obama Presidential campaign that he stumbled upon the wonders of the Google cloud system.

The online collaborative tools allowed grassroots organizers and volunteers to upload, share and distribute centralized information in quick easy steps at virtually zero cost.

He realized these online tools had evolved into sophisticated collaborative aids for data presentation, storage and sharing.

“I went back to my Russian programmer and asked him how long would it take to migrate everything we had on our server to the Google platform. He came back 48 hours later with a prototype,” said Mr. Salcedo.

Like a giant blender, Mr. Salcedo’s team sliced and diced the cloud offerings including image albums, checkout gateways, spreadsheets and documents into simple powerful interfaces for artisans to upload catalog data and images at low costs no matter whether they resided in Rwanda, Vietnam or New York.

This re-genesis under the cloud platform was the driving force for re-launching CatGen as OpenEntry.com in 2009.

openentry.com catalog systems

OpenEntry.com international catalog showcase

The new version now uses Google tools and servers while further consuming Amazon’s EC2 Cloud Computing facility for the network market builder, which requires more intense data storage firepower.

“Before the cloud, it was it was costing us $18k per month and we now are paying Google zero. I am also paying Amazon less than $100 per month. Instead of my heavy duty Russian programmers I have a few Nepalese developers who are costing me almost nothing.”

Cheap, feature-rich cloud hosting services are set to grow at a massive pace during the next decade offering a broad range of uptime, security and cost benefits.

Hosting providers like Virtual Internet report that in addition to gaining improvements in overall performance, customers who select a cloud platform may save up to 70% in annual hosting costs with zero downtime.

Further flexibility comes with the ability to upgrade RAM and processor with ease when required and add disk space in a matter of seconds.

Mr. Salcedo firmly believes that cloud-computing services are the future of the I.T. industry.

“We originally designed this system for the world fair trade organization and its globally distributed body of grass roots groups.”

“But since we have launched on cloud computing we have so much bandwidth horsepower that we can offer this to any mainstream business anywhere.”

9Nov/100

Website sneak preview

The sneak preview has arrived!

As promised on our facebook and twitter pages about a week ago, we were going to give you a sneak preview to the look and feel of our new website.  The objective is to make the site easier to read, add more information, add social media and add product information depth.  And when the site has launched you will see that we have done just that.

 So this is a snapshot of our home page.  I hope you like it as we have invested many man hours coming up with what we believe it just the right balance that represent everything that is Virtual Internet web hosting.  We are always interested in your feedback, so if you would like to leave some comments, please do so attached to this post.

So what else is happening at VI I hear you ask.  Well we are doing some exciting things with our product portfolio.  I really would like to be able to share this information with you, but unfortuntely I cannot.  But we will slowly leak information out leading up to the launch in January 2011.

All the best,
UK2 Marketing Team

4Nov/100

The benefits of cloud computing to the e-commerce industry

Within 10 years, 80% of all computing, storage, and e-commerce done worldwide may take place in the cloud predict analysts, in what’s been termed the third phase of Internet computing in the modern era.1 

This paradigm shift highlights 2010 as a watershed year in the rising supremacy of cloud computing and mobile devices in reshaping where and how information (and applications) is accessed.1

The first phase of computing combined software and operating systems into one terminal allowing basic communication through devices such as email.

The second phase allowed the user to connect to the World Wide Web containing millions of websites, which in the mid-1990s saw Internet usage increase 100-fold in just two years. 

In the present third phase, everything will live in the cloud – including your data and software.   Further, by 2020, there could be in excess of 100 billion devices and sensors accessing these remote data centers in the cloud. Only a small amount, approximately 1.4 billion, will be personal computers.

The progression away from the mainframe to personal computers is now being superseded by the dual arrival of the Smartphone and cloud computing.

In each step the underlying structure of computing has become more distributed.

This has profound implications for how consumers, vendors and suppliers will interact inside the e-commerce channel over the next decade.

Defining a cloud service
The term “cloud computing” has been hotly contested, drawing both derision and praise from different sectors of the I.T. community. At its core, the term refers to the outsourcing of data centers and application services to a remote provider under a pay-as-you-go contract.  This ‘metered’ approach lowers costs and reduces complexity, simultaneously allowing the business to consume additional services “on-demand”.

Worldwide Public IT Cloud Services Spending by Category

Worldwide Public IT Cloud Services Spending by Category

This virtualization of server infrastructure –- sharing one server as if it were several –- allows for huge cost savings and economies of scale.2

Hybrid models are also possible whereby a business may build its own private cloud and temporarily access additional public cloud services if it so requires.

An example of this could include an e-commerce site, which leverages further cloud services to deal with the effects of a successful social media campaign without having to upgrade its infrastructure.3

However, the term cloud computing does have further meanings in addition to those defined above.  These include Software as a Service (Saas), Platform as a Service (Paas), and Infrastructure as a Service (Iaas).

In simple terms, SaaS refers to an end user accessing a remote product or e-commerce service over the Internet.   These could include a remote CRM such as Salesforce or a data center offered by Amazon Web Services.

PaaS is geared towards developers who wish to deploy applications in the cloud and don’t want to get involved with the server infrastructure. The Google apps store is an example of this.

The final version, IaaS, allows developers maximum interaction with the underlying server infrastructure including, but not limited to, deploying back-office applications on that remote environment.  4

As of 2010 the SaaS model is the most dominant and widespread cloud variant in the marketplace.

Benefits to e-commerce

Trust
One of biggest challenges facing e-commerce pioneers in the early days of the web turned out not to be a technical problem, but a human one: Trust.5

It took time to build trust into their networks and establish a set of online credentials that made buyers feel comfortable initiating an online purchase.

With the advent of cloud computing, existing businesses and startups can immediately leverage the trust built into established cloud systems such as Google, Amazon and Salesforce.  A business can now point out to its customer base that their technical platform is managed and secured by the best cloud engineers in the world.

Cost Savings
Cost is generally one of the primary reasons for moving a business application or data center to the cloud.   While there may be a low cost associated with developing and deploying an e-commerce application, the parallel need for hardware and bandwidth may turn out to be expensive.

Generally, a cloud-based initiative on a virtualized server may save a company 80% of the costs normally associated with a traditional e-commerce roll out. 6

Speed
A company may be able to roll out an e-commerce application five times faster than before and begin selling immediately on the remote platform.

Scalability
Often referred to as “elastic”, these cloud services allow a business to scale quickly and support seasonal spikes in demand or those triggered by special promotions.8

Security
Securing applications, physical facilities and networks is a critical consideration.  Many cloud vendors complete third-party certification, including ISO 27001 and SysTrust audits. VI has been audited in for ISO 9001 and ISO 27001.  Further security measures are implemented at the application, facility and network levels including data encryption, biometric screening of personnel and certification through third-party vulnerability assessment programs.7 

Interoperability
The explosive growth in cloud ecommerce offerings in the next few years will also see an increase in the ability to share information between clouds and communities of clouds.  Leading-edge cloud vendors will offer a standards-based framework, which allows programmatic access for users, partners and others who want to leverage additional functionality from within the cloud.

Conclusion
The term cloud computing is no longer an industry buzzword and signals a transformational shift in how business data and e-commerce applications will be stored, accessed, shared, and transacted online.   

In tandem, mobile applications and services will be provisioned from the cloud offering a myriad of ways for the end user to engage e-commerce operations.  

The arrival of cloud computing is in many respects equivalent to arrival of the Internet in the 1990s and fulfills the maxim prophesized by Google CEO, Eric Schmidt in 2006, when he declared “the network will truly be the computer.”8

References
1. “The Cloud, the Exaflood, and the Internet of Things--Preparing for the
Next Digital Revolution.” Michael R. Nelson
http://cirs.georgetown.edu/105256.html Center For International Studies,
12 April 2010
2. “The Many Layers of the Cloud,” Dana Gardner
http://www.ecommercetimes.com/rsstory/67344.html E-commerce Times
22 June 2009
3. “What is AWS” http://aws.amazon.com/what-is-aws/ Amazon Web
Services, n.d.
4. “The Many Layers of the Cloud” Dana Gardner
http://www.ecommercetimes.com/rsstory/67344.html E-commerce Times
22 June 2009
5. “Visibility, credibility, and Trust,” http://www.catgen.com/EN/trust.html
OpenEntry.com, n.d.
6. “Is your e-commerce operation ready for the cloud,” Bill Loumpouridis
http://www.ecommercetimes.com/story/Is-Your-E-Commerce-Operation-
Ready-for-the-Cloud-68408.html?wlc=1287930353 19 October 2009
7. “ISO 27001 certified security” http://www.salesforce.com/platform/cloudinfrastructure/
security.jsp n.d.
8. "Don't Bet Against the Internet," The Economist, Eric Schmidt, Google
CEO, 2007

3Nov/100

Dell extends cloud services with “Boomi” acquisition

dell moves into the SaaS cloud by buying Boomi

In the last 24 hours both Mashable and TechCrunch have reported that Dell has acquired Software-as-a-Service company Boomi whose flagship product, AtomSphere, is geared towards simplifying and smoothing out the transfer of data between cloud-based and on-premise applications.

This comes hot-on-the-heels of Dell’s recent announcement that it had partnered with Microsoft to roll out the Windows Azure Platform to its customers and confirm its new status as a Platform-as-a-Service provider in July 2010.

Both these developments confirm the intensifying efforts by software companies and hosting providers to roll out cloud services that promise lower costs, reduced complexity and faster development cycles for their customers.

Mashable also reports that the purchase of Boomi dovetails with Dell's plans to deploy new tablets in 2011 powered by the Microsoft Windows Platform rather than Google's free Android OS. In a parting shot to Google, Dell claimed it was easier to build apps on the Windows Smartphone OS.

Dell's Boomi acquisition is set to remove the need for appliances, software or even coding.

Boomi markets the AtomSphere as "self-service integration - fast" with a visual interface that offers easy drag-and-drop features for pre-built connectors and processors.

Interestingly, check out the Boomi AtomSphere Health Dashboard, which mirrors the up-time transparency efforts pioneered by other cloud pioneers such as Salesforce at trust.salesforce.com.

Cloud services -- along with Smartphones, tablets and mobile devices -- are expected to be the biggest game in town over the next decade as analysts predict that 100 billion devices may be connected to the Internet by 2020.

Most of these mobile and tablet users will be accessing data, services and platforms in the cloud.

AtomSphere is the lynchpin of Dell's acquisition of Boomi