Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Agreeing on Cloud/PaaS Principles

Simon Wardley recently posted on his blog, Bits or Pieces?, about his "rules of happiness" when he considers cloud computing. For those of you who do not know, Simon is a pioneer in this space. For several years, he has been thinking, writing and talking about PaaS and the cloud industries. Three or four years ago he and his team at Fotango (which included Reasonably Smart co-founder James Duncan), built what was arguably the world's first Platform as a Service, zimki. Since then Simon has been front and centre in the PaaS/Cloud discussion.

In his post he first mentions some "absolute minimums" that the service must have/be:
  • Readable access to all data, code, frameworks and meta data that may have been created as a result of using the service
  • Secure, scalable, resilient and charged for on an "as use" basis
  • Clearly communicate T&Cs that cannot be changed without reasonable notice, and reasonable alternatives
  • Transparent pricing
Simon then goes on to explain that once a service meets these bare minimum standards in order for him to be happy he applies the following rules (these are direct quotes):

Rule 1: I want to run the service on my own machine.
This enables me to trial out a service before even considering adopting a cloud version and gives me a last resort fall-back option. I certainly don't want to be in an environment where I can't do this for whatever reason, including vendor failure or discontinuation of a product.

Rule 2: I want to easily migrate the service from my machine to a cloud provider and vice versa with a few clicks of a button.
If the test went well then I'll probably consider dipping my toe in the water. Hence I want an easy to use transfer mechanism for my data (including any code or framework elements) from my machine to an external cloud provider and vice versa. I do not want to learn any specialised skills nor require any technical knowledge beyond pressing a button.

Rule 3: I want to easily migrate the service from one cloud provider to another with a few clicks of a button.
If I'm going to use a cloud service then I want a choice in providers and an easy mechanism of switching between alternatives. I do not want to discover that switching only covers half of the service and fails to cover other elements like the storage subsystem or a messaging service.

He ends his post by saying that, "For these reasons, I'm not very happy with most of the current cloud offerings".

After reading Simon's post there was a sense of validation. His bare minimums and rules are all core to our fundamentals at Reasonably Smart. Portability, transparency, ease of use, reliability, security, scalability are what we are building and delivering with the RSP. The only exception could be meeting the "pricing transparency" requirement but that's only because we aren't charging yet. Once we start billing (launch of v1.0), we are going to be billing for consumption in a utility model (pay for use) and our pricing plan will be clearly explained on our new website. See the post on our pricing model.

We realize we have a ways to go to prove out that the fundamentals are consistently delivered. However, we will continue to build the business based on our core philosophy. The great thing is now we can print out Simon's post and put it on the whiteboard as both a reminder and encouragement.

Thanks Simon.

Monday, October 20, 2008

PaaS Channel Strategies

Over the past several weeks we have had many conversations about how to build our business with various people. One of the strategies that we have consistently discussed and are very bullish about is the strategy of building strong relationships with those companies building websites and web apps. In other words, engaging with companies like: design shops, agencies and software consultancies.

We are excited about this targeting strategy because these types of companies have the access to a regular stream of new projects and the budgets associated with them. We are also excited because of the benefit that we can deliver in return. Benefits ranging from speed to market, to added end customer benefit (lower operational costs) to code reusability, and last but definitely not least, a potential recurring revenue stream through revenue sharing, are resulting in interest from most we have talked to date.

One company that we are currently exploring a strategic relationship opportunity with is
BCM. BCM is a large, 11 year old, Mexico based technology consultancy with a broad range of services and a consistently impressive annual growth rate. Last week, after working with Miguel Caron (CEO of BCM International), BCM began helping us develop an application on the RSP. At the same time, the plan is to have their developers evaluate the RSP while they work with it.

The goal of this project is to have BCM identify the types of projects that they deem to be well suited for the platform so that they can leverage its power to deliver those projects more quickly, efficiently and with the potential of generating recurring revenue in future. We are very excited about the early results and thank Miguel and his team for the referrals they have past on to us over the last couple of weeks.

Other companies that we have talked to include: Eric and Sylvain of
iWeb, Stephen Walsh of Sinodev, and Niko Leger and Karim Barbir of PhiVision. Each has provided their own unique and valuable perspective on what we are doing at Reasonably Smart. PhiVision is considering building a relatively simple website on the RSP and the others are looking at how the RSP would benefit (or not) their business.

Fundamentally, the early positive response solidifies our belief that there is an additional method for building a business like Reasonably Smart over and above just driving adoption in the developer community.

Consultancies, agencies and design shops are in our sights and we are going to do our best to capitalize on the opportunity with them.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

All up and running again...

Basically, our hosting provider got DoSd. Once we have funding in place, and our hardware is built out, we won't suffer this again, but for now, you have our apologies.

Working through it...

Just checking a disk and then we should be able to be back on line. Sorry for the delay.


We're currently experiencing a problem at our data center. I'll keep updating this with news until we're back up.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Web2.0 NY Participation -- Better Late...

About 15 days ago, James and I attended Web2.0 Expo and Interop in NY city. We have been very busy since the conferences building our business so, there really has been little time for reflection. However, it is worth a post to quickly recap how these shows acted as validation for our new venture. Over and above just meeting many great people and having several in depth discussions, there were several moments that further solidified our belief that we are definitely onto something big and more importantly, valuable here.

First, we attended a panel discussion called Building in the Clouds: Scaling Web 2.0. Although it was a pretty general talk about PaaS and Cloud computing what was positive was the panel make-up.

The panel members represented the large and the small, the established and the emerging and they all had a singular message...

Cloud/Platform Computing is going to continue to provide more and more value to those who develop and deploy web applications.

The conversation focused on the value proposition of the cloud and many strong points in favour were made. However, despite the bias of the panel, there were also many valid concerns brought to the forefront with guidance for navigating these concerns.

At Interop, I was fortunate enough to catch Peter Laird's talk on The Taxonomy of On-Demand Computing, where he did a fantastic of organizing the mess that is, the term cloud computing. Anyone who is interested in figuring out who sits where in the cloud needs to check out his blog post where he graphically illustrates the industry (unfortunately I do not think he included Reasonably Smart yet - we are eagerly awaiting the October update).

We were also fortunate enough to carve out 30 minutes of Tim O'Reilly's time to bring him up to speed on what we have completed since his keynote mention of us at this year's OSCON in July. He told us to keep him informed of our progress and we certainly will.

There was what could be considered a 'meeting of the minds' when we sat down with Dwight Merriman, CEO of 10gen. 10gen is easily our closest competition in the PaaS space but, this did not stop us from leaving our discussion agreeing to work together moving forward. How, you ask? Well the starting point is to get together to begin defining JavaScript on the server standards. It's a good idea for both of us and funny enough while speaking with Paul Colton, CEO of Aptana yesterday, he also expressed interest. We are targeting late October to kick this project off.

Finally, we were invited to moderate the cloud computing component of Interop's Unconference by Alistair Croll. At its most intense, there were 20 - 25 people hotly debating issues like security within the cloud, the differences between clouds and whether or not it would really be possible to broker the world's excess server capacity.

One thing that nobody was debating... if there is value in the cloud. This, for us, is a good thing.