February 24th, 2010 | 3 MIN READ

Finding the Intersection of Cloud Computing and Ecommerce

Written by David Linthicum

David S. Linthicum (Dave) knows cloud computing and Service Oriented Architecture (SOA). He is an internationally recognized industry expert and thought leader, and the author and coauthor of 13 books on computing, including the best selling Enterprise Application Integration (Addison Wesley). Dave keynotes at many leading technology conferences on cloud computing, SOA, Web 2.0, and enterprise architecture, and has appeared on a number of TV and radio shows as a computing expert. He is a blogger for InfoWorld, Intelligent Enterprise, and eBizq.net, covering SOA and enterprise computing topics. Dave also has columns in Government Computer News, Cloud Computing Journal, SOA Journal, Align Journal, and is the editor of Virtualization Journal. In his career, Dave has formed or enhanced many of the ideas behind modern distributed computing including Enterprise Application Integration, B2B Application Integration, and SOA, approaches and technologies in wide use today. For the last 10 years, Dave has focused on the technology and strategies around cloud computing, and how to make cloud computing work for the modern enterprise. This includes work with several cloud computing startups. Dave’s industry experience includes tenure as CTO and CEO of several successful software companies, and upper-level management positions in Fortune 100 companies. In addition, he was an associate professor of computer science for eight years, and continues to lecture at major technical colleges and universities including the University of Virginia, Arizona State University, and the University of Wisconsin.

Those moving to cloud computing are doing so around the promise of more effective and efficient computing. Indeed, cloud computing is not a revolution in computing, but a simple platform change that holds the potential to reduce our need for a huge amount of software and hardware to support our ecommerce systems. However, the intersection is a bit more difficult to find.

First, since this is really the first blog to explore the value of cloud computing within the world of ecommerce, let’s put forth a general definition of cloud computing. For the most part I like to go with the National Institute of Science and Technology, or NIST, who defines cloud computing as having the following characteristics:

  • On-demand self-service.
  • Broad network access.
  • Resource pooling.
  • Rapid elasticity.
  • Measured service.

Cloud computing’s value is the ability to expand access and provision resources as you need them, and then have those resources expand as the application (in this case, ecommerce) needs to expand to support an increasing or “bursty” processing load. In the world of ecommerce where the margins are typically razor thin, the use of cloud computing provides on-demand access to application servers, databases, even middleware as needed. If deployed correctly, the use of infrastructure hosted in cloud providers such as Amazon, Microsoft, and Google, should function as if it’s in your own data center.

While the value proposition of cloud computing is generally clear, the use case for eCommerce can be…well…cloudy. The value as I see it would be in the “rapid elasticity” that cloud computing brings, allowing those who need the extra capacity to get the extra capacity without driving waves and waves of software and hardware purchases, or worse, having to acquire more data center space. When using cloud computing, the extra capacity is on-line and ready for use minutes after you need it, which is perhaps the most compelling reason to leverage a cloud computing model.

Those who move portions of their ecommerce systems to cloud computing have to evaluate their own requirements. I see the need for cloud computing arising when the answer is “Yes” to at least two of the following questions:

1. Do you have excess capacity standing by (e.g., idle servers and databases) for the time when your ecommerce systems need the additional processing power, such as the holidays?

2. Are security requirements around the information you retain and/or process low to medium?

3. Will your business benefit by the preservation of capital?

4. Will cost reductions have a direct benefit when considering the profitability of the company?

It’s interesting to note that the questions above are more about the business benefit of cloud computing than the technological advantages, and that’s the way those who maintain and deploy ecommerce systems should look at them. Clearly the goal is to be more effective and efficient with the same architecture, technology, and deployment models you support today. Perhaps therein lies the intersection of cloud computing and ecommerce.

This post was contributed by guest columnist David Linthicum. David is a cloud computing and SOA expert and author of several books on Information Technology.

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