Yeah, I know: "Cloud Computing" is one of the more overused, hyped-up buzzwords in play today. It is a concept that started gaining momentum a half decade or so ago and one that many people struggled with at first (myself included). What was it? What did it mean? Did it work? Could you actually use it reliably and cost effectively? There were a lot of naysayers back then; partially related to the fact that it was an immature concept but also partially based out of fear and lack of experience with it. There were a number of companies trying to make the concept work in practice, but the one that accomplished it in the purest sense of the term was Amazon (with AWS).
Five years ago when Amazon decided to start leveraging their extra data center capacity and let anybody with an Internet connection launch their own virtual server, it sparked an infrastructure revolution. At the time we weren't able to take advantage of it at my prior company, because we had a large infrastructure already in place and AWS wasn't mature enough to handle it yet. But with Finch, I made sure we started with cloud computing from day one. Since Amazon is the king on the block, it makes sense to use them. It is only one of Amazon's lines of business, which means it can lean on their other business lines for resources as opposed to other providers who only do cloud computing. I also have familiarity with the company's APIs, so it just seemed to be a natural fit. Since then I have only been reassured that this was the right decision. AWS is approaching a billion dollar business, and according to BusinessWeek their "operation adds enough computing muscle (each day) to power one whole Amazon.com circa 2000, when it was a $2.8 billion business" (read the article) - And that was in March. Imagine what they added yesterday! Since we've started using them, I've also seen an explosion in the AWS feature set and get a constant stream of weekly newsletters pointing out the new and wondrous features they have added. It is definitely a growing, vibrant service.
It's more than just the incredible growth of AWS that gives me comfort however. Choosing to go the cloud computer road with Finch led me to become intimate with the ins and outs of the robust set of features available. I remember my amazement when I first realized I could literally create a fully functioning server out of nothing, complete with storage, load balancing, DNS, backups, and firewall, etc. From that day on, I no longer saw datacenters, racks, data pipes, and air conditioning. I instead now see a blank canvas allowing me to create anything, only bound by my imagination. I am no longer bounded by mundane worries like running out of capacity, or do we have enough bandwidth, or how expensive it would be to add disaster recovery. Adding capacity used to take months: First I had to spend time guessing what capacity I would need a year later. Then I would need to get approval to purchase the hardware and find someone selling it with a good price. A few weeks later hopefully it would show up, and then it would be up to the IT guys to install it into the racks at the data center. The OS and software would have to be loaded, the firewall modified, storage attached, etc. Compare all of that to how we add capacity at Finch now: In a matter of minutes using software and only paying an incremental cost. I think this has tremendously affected the product that we've been able to produce at Finch. We are now free to focus on the features and functionality of the product that will help our clients and are no longer shackled to time intensive bouts of dealing with infrastructure. I'd argue that you could take it a step beyond that as well: Because it's so easy to manipulate the infrastructure, that has led to a higher level of sophistication throughout the entire product that was not possible before.
So yeah, for me, I'm a true believer. "Cloud Computing" is hype that I buy into! I view it as one of the biggest enablers for Finch to produce and deliver the product to our client base. I know Finch will have no trouble scaling and be able to provide a reliable and speedy service to our users by using cloud computing. But the true power is the blank canvas it gives us to create the product!
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