Cancer researchers used the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud to create a virtual, 50,000-core supercomputer that ran a complicated simulation for the low, low price of $14,486. The neat thing is that they were able to perform a more detailed and realistic simulation on the cloud-based system than they would have on the supercomputer they actually own.
Archive for the 'Cloud Computing' Category
Back in April, Google updated its Cloud Print service, which allows you to print documents over the Internet from mobile devices. Now you can choose to print a document to FedEx Office locations—after choosing FedEx Office as the print destination, you simply go to any FedEx Office store, enter a code, and the document is printed right then and there. The second new feature is that you can print to compatible Android devices running the Chrome browser (the “printout” will be a PDF document that you view with Chrome).
The Chromebook is a “nothing but the web” laptop that runs Google’s Chrome browser on top of Google Chrome OS. It has the capability to upload and download files to a thumb drive but has almost no local storage. Any programs you run on it must be web applications that can be executed within a browser. With the increasing popularity of the cloud, however, it’s not too difficult to work within these constraints. Note that Chromebooks are manufactured by several different companies, and that Google itself is not one of them.
One of the advertised benefits of cloud computing is high availability and redundancy. Back in April, however, some of Amazon’s cloud storage services suffered an outage that lasted for about three days, bringing down websites of several high-profile customers.
The initial problem was quickly fixed, but oddly enough, the extended outage was caused by the cloud management software attempting to prevent the loss of data. Amazon essentially performed a denial-of-service attack on its own storage servers which took three days to fix.
This event brings up an inherent problem with cloud computing: complexity. As a programmer, I know that error-handling code tends to go untested (or has minimal testing), just because it can be difficult to create the errors necessary to exercise the code, or because it takes too much time and money in a competitive business environment. It’s obvious that Amazon did not test for the type of situation that occurred on April 21st. The linked article makes the argument that cloud computing systems have much more complexity than would the individual systems in a non-cloud environment. So cloud providers, to prevent these types of outages from happening in the future, will have to learn how to better deal with complexity.
Thanks to Josh for this topic.
I went to amazon.com the other day and noticed a front-page announcement about two new services. The first is the Amazon Cloud Drive, an online storage system with 5GB of free storage and the ability to pay for additional space. There are lots of online storage sites, however, and what makes this one different is how Amazon has integrated it with their MP3 store. In addition to the Cloud Drive, there’s also the Amazon Cloud Player, an online music player that works on any Mac, PC, or Android device. It’s tightly integrated with the Cloud Drive—music files stored in your Cloud Drive are available to the Cloud Player. Music purchases from the Amazon MP3 Store can be automatically uploaded to the Cloud Drive, and they don’t count against the 5GB limit.
I like the Cloud Drive because, unlike other free file storage sites, this one probably won’t go out of business. And Amazon has hit on a good concept, allowing you to store your music in a central location that’s accessible from anywhere on the internet. I make a habit of purchasing music from the Amazon MP3 Store whenever possible, so this is pretty useful. No longer is there the possibility of losing my entire music collection because a hard drive fails.
There are, however, a couple downsides. First, the only mobile devices that are truly supported are Android devices. The Cloud player is not “optimized” for iPhones, iPads, Blackberries, and Windows 7 phones. I guess that means you could play the music via a supported browser on those devices, but that it wouldn’t work very well. Second, only MP3 and non-copy protected AAC (iTunes Store) formats are supported by the music player. For those with an older, extensive library from the iTunes Store, this may not be the best way to go (or at least consider upgrading your library to iTunes Plus).
I’m using the Cloud Player right now, and it’s working quite well. No skips or stutters. One final note, I manually uploaded my music library which was a lengthy process. Turns out there’s an MP3 uploader program that makes the initial upload much easier.
Many past efforts to promote cloud computing have failed miserably, but it’s become more popular over the last few years, even here at Chad’s News. The linked articles detail two more steps in the long road towards universal acceptance. The first is Neverware, a way to run a powerful Windows system from a low-end computer. The second is Google’s cloud print, which allows a user to print a document from portable devices such as smartphones.
Thanks to Josh for the cloud print link.
Amazon has added MySQL database functionality to its growing list of cloud-based web services. This could be useful, as you wouldn’t have to migrate your database when you move to a new web hosting company, and upgrading database servers would be a thing of the past. I’m not sure how well it works performance-wise, and there are potential security issues if you’re storing sensitive information. Also, there’s always the possibility that the service will suffer outages that could bring down your operations. So I’m not sure this service will be heavily utilized.
Cloud storage is “a way for enterprises to rely on a third party for their storage needs without having to build and manage their own data storage infrastructure.” Some businesses and individuals have turned to it as a cost-saving measure, or as a way to make data available from any location. The downfall of cloud storage, however, is that you’re totally reliant on someone else to protect your data. There are many ways to minimize the risk of data loss, the simplest of which is redundancy, redundancy, redundancy, but it looks like people in the linked article didn’t take those steps.