Mention cloud computing to a business hack and you’re more likely to be given a restraining order than an interview.

“Not cloud computing,” they’ll groan. “But while you’re on the phone, does your client have a life-threatening illness and live in the North-West?”

cloud-vomit

Or something like that. But apart from what’s perceived as massive over-hype, cloud computing’s got real problems. A lot of people don’t know what it means. Even more think it somehow sprang up overnight to save small businesses everywhere, when the reality is that it’s a term describing manifold and incremental changes across decades in how we use IT. The web’s awash with IT companies propagating obfuscating Aascronyms.  But here are the kickers for business – can you feel the bile rising?

Security
It’s pretty clear that companies aren’t going to start whacking up lumping great chunks of mission-critical infrastructure into the “cloud” en masse. They just aren’t going to do it. There are no universal standards in place. And the all-encompassing term “cloud” hides the fact that data is actually stored right here, on Earth – and as Jamie Turner said recently, “you can have as much redundancy as you like at any given site but if it disappears into the San Andreas Fault you’ll be wishing you still had that magic DAT tape.”

The only reason CRM (e.g. Netsuite and Salesforce), for instance, has succeeded in the cloud is because there’s no viable alternative. This has forced people into trying it out. They seem to be happy but nevertheless there has to be a driver for people to take the plunge elsewhere.

Privacy
I’ve already discussed “Twittergate” here.
This is linked to cloud security and there are no concrete answers here either.

Control
This is my favourite. The irony is that often, if you outsource some function to the cloud, the guys who look after that aspect of your business operations actually do a far better job.

They should be specialists in that area, after all. Uptime, for example, is probably considerably better. The only problem, of course, is that when you’re totally in control of your own infrastructure you don’t mind so much about hiccups… you might even discreetly write them off. You might grumble but you won’t start tearing your hair out if something has to go down for a while.

Five minutes of down-time for a cloud-based operation can spell disaster and a reputation in tatters. Businesses need to choose suppliers with a good track record but they also need to accept their lack of control or make sure the service fails over elsewhere in the event of downtime.

Conclusion
“Cloud computing” covers a range of IT practices that really can benefit business. But there are problems, and they need to be addressed intelligently. “Cloud computing” – a dumbed-down blanket term which covers far too many processes – is a phrase which more often than not just gets in the way.

What’s an Aascronym? We’ve all seen them. They keep some IT-types awake at night with annoyance… while others lie awake trying to think what the next one could be. Is it PRaaS? Is it UaaS? Whatever it is, it probably won’t stick.

Not all Aas is Fine Aas
So what’s hot, and what’s not? Which Aascronyms are common currency, and which ones aren’t worth the five seconds it took some small-time software vendor in Belgium to dream up? It’s difficult to formulate any absolutely reliable metric, but I’ve sorted the top ten as-a-service offerings by the current number of Google matches for the term.

server
1. SaaS
Software as a Service; about 2,870,000 Google matches
Software-as-a-Service is the most commonly-known aascronym. It’s no coincidence that it’s also probably the easiest term to understand: it’s simply software such as you would find on a CD, only accessible as a service through the Internet. The standout example in the enterprise space is customer relationship management (CRM) software, with Salesforce and NetSuite both strong offerings. Salesforce has very aggressively promoted its adoption of the tag “Software as a Service” though there are countless examples to be found on the web.

2. PaaS
Platform as a Service; about 1,260,000 Google matches
Platform-as-a-Service providers give developers a starting point from which to develop web applications – and usually an environment in which to sell them. Again, CRM is an easy-to-understand example: both Salesforce and NetSuite’s platform-as-a-service offerings let developers code extensions and sell them to users through the website. In this way a cloud eco-system is created where useful applications float to the top and the actual software-as-a-service application is enriched. (Remember, one of the criticisms of SaaS is its supposed lack of customisation.)

3. DaaS
Data as a Service; about 490,000 Google matches
“Data warehousing as a Service” and “Desktops as a Service” have been put forward as possibilities for “DaaS,” but if the number of Google SERP matches are anything to go by (2,190 and 7,350 respectively) it appears they haven’t caught on. Data-as-a-Service is a huge business need; not only is data and business intelligence becoming ever-important in recession, but the cost of data is generally prohibitive. A new breed of (possibly value-added) data-as-a-service companies are offering access to datasets “as a service,” getting data into applications at once-dreamt-of costs.

4. IaaS
Infrastructure as a Service; about 183,000 Google matches
Infrastructure-as-a-service is the outsourcing of physical infrastructure to the cloud. According to Wikipedia: “Rather than purchasing servers, software, data centre space or network equipment, clients instead buy those resources as a fully outsourced service.” The best-known example is Amazon’s EC2 , or “Elastic Compute Cloud”. The huge advantage with IaaS is the rapidity with which businesses can ramp up their operations – there is less expensive outlay for servers and other equipment.

5. IDaaS
Identity as a Service; about 60,800 Google matches
Identity-as-a-Service aims to devolve user identity and access management into one discrete service. Fischer International are one example of a company with some success in this area. This aascronym might not be used all that much but it’s a solid example of a defined term describing a granular, loosely-coupled function (in other words, a service all in its own right).

6. XaaS
X (anything) as a Service; about 56,000 Google matches
It’s interesting that XaaS isn’t used more. Maybe too many people couldn’t stomach proliferating yet another aascronym purely for the sake of describing aascronyms. XaaS is simply a term for “anything as a service,” coined I believe by Scott Maxwell, whose YouTube video demonstrates the lengths to which the average blogger will go to coin another neologism.

7. EaaS
Everything as a Service; about 44,300 Google matches

See: XaaS.

8. HaaS
Hardware as a Service; about 38,400 Google matches
Hardware-as-a-Service is pretty much the same as Infrastructure-as-a-Service. In fact, type it into Wikipedia and you’ll be redirected to IaaS. This aascronym has probably bitten the dust, pushed out by one of its rivals. I donlt think anyone will be sorry to see it go.

9. AaaS
Anything as a Service; about 33,400 Google matches
See: XaaS.

10. MaaS
Monitoring as a Service; about 14,700 Google matches
We’re really starting to get towards the bottom of the barrel now. I’m losing the will to live.
IT infrastructure monitoring as a service may include vulnerability assessment, log management and intrusion alerting. It doesn’t seem to have caught on so well so it seems that perhaps a lot of companies would rather this was all going on behind the company firewall. My prediction is that upcoming in-house black-box offerings will oust MaaS once and for good. Another problem with MaaS is that it doesn’t lend itself so well to being a granular service in the first place.

The Pretenders

11. CaaS
Communication as a Service; about 10,100 Google matches

We’re at the end of the list now and personally, I think this one is junk. Hasn’t communication pretty much always been offered as a service? Since when did we go out and actually buy phone lines? There’s even a subscription for regular TV. This seems to me to be a term invented by VoIP vendors who are fudging the fact that communication infrastructure has always been provided as a service.The people that are pushing these terms are probably out of luck. Usage is negligible.

These are just as pointless (and noone uses them):
EaaS – Ethernet as a Service
PRaaS – Processes as a Service
UaaS – Uptime as a Service

Conclusion
One trouble with these terms is the inevitability of vendors latching onto a term and remorselessly beating everyone round the head with it until it’s accepted; I could probably be accused of the same thing (in fact, I have!) This is all well and good, but a more worrying habit is the suppression of terms by vendors who have a vested interest in whatever competing aascronym they have trademarked.
Can anyone tell me why DaaS doesn’t have an entry on Wikipedia, while UaaS (Uptime as a Service) and a raft of other equally pointless terms do? I tried correcting the omission myself only to be slapped down by the Wikipedia admins. Ho-hum.

If you have any more aascronyms, please email them to me. I’ll be glad to add to the list. The worse the better.

So the wires are aflame with the news that Microsoft and Yahoo have “joined forces” in a 10-year search and advertising deal.

Search and destroy

Let’s be clear on this one: Microsoft isn’t partnering with Yahoo. It’s devouring it. It’s gobbling it up whole like a party snack before moving onto its next conquest. The argument, of course, is that not having to fund search will save Yahoo “hundreds of millions of dollars.”

Well done. If Nike halted the production of shoes it would save itself hundreds of millions of dollars too. The only drawback being they’d have bugger-all to sell. All of which begs the question: is Yahoo nothing more than a brand?

why-yahoo-question-mark

Yahoo is a husk

Is it an ironic coincidence that “the term “Yahoo” has become synonymous with “cretin,” “dinosaur,” and/or “Neanderthal?”
It seems their misappropriation of Swift’s literary savages has finally come to define them. They’re out of touch; a member of a collective of prehistoric companies that include the likes of AOL, whose search has stalled but just about manages to scrape a revenue through the hillbillies, the half-dead and the Luddites who still use dial-up.

Wrong deal, wrong time

Yahoo chief Carol Bartz said: “This agreement comes with boatloads of value for Yahoo, our users, and the industry. And I believe it establishes the foundation for a new era of internet innovation and development.”

Note the “boatloads of value,” in pointed contradiction to the “boatloads of money” Bartz previously promised to shareholders. Seems that promise was a boatload of (*cough*) bravado. Yahoo’s stock mirrors this disappointment, with share price taking a 7% drop immediately after the announcement. The deal is certainly a far cry from the $44.6bn bid Microsoft made for Yahoo in February 2008.

Microsoft should be pretty pleased

Bing was always a way for Microsoft to acquire Yahoo. But it wasn’t a cheap ploy; they’ve come up with a decent search engine that even breaks some new ground.  It embraces real-time search by incorporating Twitter results and it bundles in other nice touches like video previews straight from the results page. They’ve even chosen the name carefully, making sure it can be used as a verb – “I binged it.” It does, in fact, make Google look a little bit lazy – and out of touch. As well as Wave and Chrome, which mean nothing yet to the consumer, Google’s most recent activity includes, err, adding the pointless ability for users to personalise their search results and … oh yeah, taking Gmail out of beta after five years. Let’s face it – that’s a bit lame, Google. Next you’ll be taking lessons off Ask Jeeves.
Yahoo! is dead. Long live Microsoft.

According to the man who is currently favourite to be the UK’s next Prime Minister, David Cameron, “The trouble with Twitter, the instantness of it – too many twits might make a twat.”

He precursored this comment by saying: “Politicians do have to think about what we say,” a grammatically garbled statement that’s unfortunately more Bushism than insight.

Davidcameron-twitter

Commentators are quick to point out the irony of Cameron’s mocking the early adopters of Twitter when he himself has lost face scrambling aboard every technological bandwagon his aides can find. PC Pro fumes that “Cameron appears to have forgotten that the Conservative Party has its own Twitter account,” though it’s a bit too easy to condemn Cameron out of hand. It seems to me he wasn’t attacking Twitter, just highlighting the fact that this frictionless method of communication must be used with care.

He should probably remember every other communication medium needs to be treated with care too. See the original video here and decide for yourself.

So, ‘fess up. Who still doesn’t “get” Twitter?

This blog post derides Twitter, saying: “Did you lose your minds? Get a job. Are you that bored?” Well, I have a job, and that job’s in PR – a sector where Twitter is invaluable (hey, you can follow me if you like… I’m @PostcodeJim).

The gauntlet has been thrown down and I’m picking it up. Here are five reasons why Twitter’s great. Much kudos to the “PR Warrior” for his great post, which I have stolen from somewhat.

Five things you can do with Twitter right now:

1. Win friends…

Public relations depends on meeting people. It’s ridiculously easy to follow and communicate with everyone under the sun on Twitter. Someone who won’t have time to write a letter or reply to a blog post might send you a Tweet. It’s a lightweight “in” with people. The beauty of Twitter is that it’s a communication medium with very little friction – messages can go viral in an instant because it’s no effort to pass the messages along. The power of that is extraordinary.

2. … and influence people

Twitter is a medium that influences other mediums. Want to make the mainstream? Use Twitter, which has an established aim to be the “pulse” of the internet, and by association, the media.

3. Build your network

Twitter is “networking on steroids”, according to Trevor Young. What is PR without contacts? It’s one person talking to themselves in a badly-lit room. Don’t let that be you.

4. Search trends

Twitter lets you keep on top of current trends quickly and easily, before people have had the time to write any web pages on the subject, and way before Google has the chance to spider it and serve it up on the results pages.

5. Pitch

Hacks and bloggers hang out on Twitter. They do, so tough. Don’t argue with me. Want to talk to them? Get to know them with a few Tweets and make them a pitch. If they don’t like it, who cares? It was five minutes out of your day and five seconds out of theirs.

twitter

The conclusion

There’s so much more to Twitter than meets the eye. Download Tweetdeck or some other utility so you can get the most out of it and start connecting with people: ultimately, that’s what it’s about. You can also share Twitter accounts and schedule Tweets with CoTweet.

Twitter’s just like everything else: you’ve got to have a reason to use it. As far as I can see, there are two main users of Twitter: business self-promoters (PR and the PR arm of business) and self-obsessed individuals (the average consumer or celebrity). If you don’t fall into these two categories, give up. It’s a great invention but for a lot of people, no matter how long you stare at it (and here’s a good video tutorial), no magic is going to come out of the box. If you think it will… Twitter isn’t dumb, you are.

Edit: It’s just come to my attention that Twitter has just launched a “101 for marketers.” If you’re one of the 55% of marketers who don’t know what Twitter is, head on down to class!

Data as a Service can empower your business, or help you develop great web apps quickly and easily.

data

Not everybody believes in the validity of the term “data as a service,” but these opinions seem to be held mostly by academics and niche bloggers who are resistant to “yet another –aaS acronym” (which is understandable, I guess). There is still no entry for the term DaaS on Wikipedia.

But whatever you want to call it, the vendors who are leading the charge for this kind of functionality – data on tap as and when you need it, priced affordably – are calling it DaaS, and as far as I’m concerned, they offer the service so they make the rules. Here’s my top 5, unranked:

StrikeIron

strikeiron

http://www.strikeiron.com/

I believe StrikeIron coined the term “Data as a Service,” positioning itself as a supermarket for data. It seems to me that since CEO David Linthicum (link) left the data reseller has lost its way a little – it seems to offer less datasets than it once did – but this may be a sign of the recession and the huge cost that some of these data providers charge for a standard licence. However they still offer a raft of data and claims its IronCloud platform is “the only comprehensive Web services Delivery Platform that opens up new channels for data distribution and consumption through Web services.”

Jigsaw

jigsawhttp://www.jigsaw.com/

Jigsaw is a bit of an unknown factor at the moment. It’s managed to garner quite a bit of interest through its collaborative infrastructure, “open source” credentials and its mission to “map every business on the planet.” This is worth a look, though it’s nowhere near the size and scope of Dun and Bradstreet’s formidable database. What is interesting is that D&B recently announced an alliance of sorts with Jigsaw, with intention to pull Jigsaw’s 12-million-strong contact database into its own 140-million-business-strong records. In this respect Jigsaw has a fairly limited scope as a DaaS company (and I suspect that even its core offering of a complete company contact database will be one puzzle that’s never finished). Nonetheless, what it’s doing and the way it’s going about it is very interesting indeed.

Postcode Anywhere

PCAhttp://www.postcodeanywhere.com/

Postcode Anywhere has a somewhat misleading name for those outside the US (no, they don’t physically post people code, postcode is Britspeak for zipcode). They started in 2000, essentially building auto-fill web services around addressing data and reselling the functionality and data on. The company now offers a far wider range of services than its name suggests, including demographic profiling and route optimisation. What’s interesting is the company is constantly adding to its portfolio of services, so it truly isn’t “just” an address auto-fill company any more, building other data services on its award-winning platform. It is also bringing cloud computing to government with services like AL2Anywhere, a lightweight but powerful GIS tool.

The Web Service

twshttp://www.thewebservice.com/

Cloud expert David Linthicum recently blogged about TheWebService’s innovation in the arena of Data as a Service. The website is about to undergo a radical change from going the StrikeIron route of “data marketplace” to being a developer-centric hub where users can upload their own data and build web services around it. This is similar to Caspio’s offering; developers can upload their data in Excel or CSV format and TheWebService will host it (this is called “MyTables”). What’s more interesting, though, and what Linthicum noted recently, is the ability to securely bypass your company’s firewall and build web services around *live* data, pumping it from your local machine and through TheWebService’s interface, with auto-generated code making it easy to build web services around your own live data.

TheWebService will be showing off a redesign soon (first pre-release design below) and anyone looking to beta-test the service should email philr@thewebservice.com.

Caspio

caspiohttp://www.caspio.com/

Caspio Bridge is very similar to TheWebService’s MyTables offering, with blogger Bill Ives commending its “flexibility, power, and ease of use.” Network World says it is “polished, performs well, and is competitively priced.” A system designed so you can build web services around your own data, it might not be as technologically accomplished as TheWebService (there is no functionality for building services around dynamic data) it’s certainly easy to get a handle on what they’re offering. Fees are fixed monthly bills, with different caps on the data transfer, according to the pricing plan, as opposed to TheWebService’s pay-as-you-go rates, so users have a choice there too.

In conclusion…

These top 5 all have something different to offer the cloud developer who wants to build in some extra functionality to their website or app. The beauty about Data as a Service is that the price of getting data into the end-user application is typically very low indeed; as companies embrace cloud computing these new ways to empower business quickly, easily and affordably offer a shining light at the end of the tunnel of recession. It’s not just Amazon, Google and Microsoft’s Azure that are making the enterprise cloud interesting. I’m affiliated with Postcode Anywhere and TheWebService, so I know all about the cool stuff they have to offer – and through research/experience I know of a few others – but if you have any more DaaS vendors you’d like to see in an updated blog post just email them to me and I’ll put them on a new list soon.

New design for TheWebService website…

TWS-screenshot

As you can see there will be more of an emphasis on developers hosting their own data, as well as the many benefits of MyTables and MyFeeds. It’s not finished yet (as the placeholder “jellyfox” text indicates) but it should make it a lot easier for developers to get to grips with TWS’s powerful functionality. Remember, it will be open for beta testing soon so email philr@thewebservice.com to get on board.

Is Ask’s marketing strategy a gift or a curse? I think it’s a bit of both. (Whatever the case, my mother-in-law literally thinks there is a real man called Jeeves who answers your questions when you hit the Search button.)

Apparently Scott Garrell, president of Ask Networks, said in a recent interview: “In a very tough and competitive market, we’re holding our own… people don’t talk in keywords.”

Well, my mother-in-law doesn’t, but then she can’t set the timer on the microwave. It’s always 00:00 in that house. It’s like Groundhog Day, only far less interesting and without the inestimable hangdog charm of Bill Murray.

But I digress. Interestingly, Ask.com’s share of U.S. search queries dropped from 4.5 percent in May 2008 to 3.9 percent in May of this year, while market leader Google grew its share from 61.8 percent to 65 percent (according to comScore). Of course, Garrell is quick to point out the search engine handled 486 million U.S. queries in May 2008 and 555 million in May of this year.

Well done, Ask. You’ve cornered the market for idiots who can barely dress themselves.

jeeves

I guess this was mostly from people typing in queries like: “How do I tie my own shoelaces?”

Garrell adds: “We get more queries in the form of a question than the industry average, and we get queries that are longer.”

Of course you do. You’ve branded yourself “Ask Jeeves” and have a big picture of a butler on your homepage. Well done, Ask. You’ve cornered the market for idiots who can barely dress themselves. (However, it might not be all bad – these are exactly the kind of people who’re going to click on the first ad that comes up.)

Surely people have changed the way they use the web so that semantic search is a little redundant? And it’s not even as if Ask have nailed it. There’s clearly still a long, long way to go if this company wants to nail semantic search – and let’s face it, it is a gargantuan task. Yahoo! Answers probably does a better job for any idiosyncratic queries while *any* other search engine will latch onto the relevant keywords in the query and return an answer as good as Ask’s.

They do a bunch of good, useful satellite domains like dictionary.com, and they’re still a presence in the search market – but not for much longer. Ask’s core customer base is a dying breed.

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