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Is the Cloud a New System Architecture?

Is it really a technical term or just a marketing slogan?

An article from a member of the qcadoo project (www.qcadoo.com) in which we discuss if the cloud is a technical term or just a marketing slogan. Which technical concepts did this term swallow up and can their synergy be treated as an architecture for IT systems.

First of all what does ‘the cloud’ really mean?

Is it really a technical term or just a marketing slogan?

According to the father of the free software movement Richard Stallman:

It’s stupidity. It’s worse than stupidity: it’s a marketing hype campaign.

You can also find similar opinions on the other side of the barricade. For example CEO of the Oracle Corporation Larry Ellison starts by saying that:

It’s nonsense and water vapor

and it's followed by four minutes of jokes about clueless cloud advocates. :)

But shortly after dismissing the cloud, both move to quite technical arguments. So there seems to be some technical flavor that is carried with the term.

Stallman points out that by buying software or platforms as a service you totally lose control over them. This is true but isn’t this the point of buying it as a service. We just want it to work. We don’t want to maintain and tweak it by ourselves.

On the other hand Ellison's argument is that the cloud is nothing new and we’ve been doing it since the '90s. This also seems to be true. But we think that just now technologies and concepts identified with the cloud became available to the majority of developers and became popularized with the web. That's probably why they got that catchy name.

So what are those concepts that got swallowed up by the cloud?

What can this term mean if a client drops it into your project's requirements?

Here in the qcadoo project we view the cloud as a synergy of the following concepts:

Cloud as a systems architecture

Let’s have a look on the components listed on this image:

  • IaaS – virtual infrastructure capable of auto-scaling and auto-balancing
  • PaaS – platform providers that handle scalable deployments and configuration for the developer by utilizing IaaS providers or their own infrastructure
  • SaaS – software providers that do not require any installation, configuration nor maintenance from its users
  • Marketplace – stores in which users can easily buy and install applications for their devices with one click of a button
  • Web API – open integration points that glue all these layers and are available to other systems
  • Micro-billings – developers and clients pay for just what they use: CPU cycles, bandwidth, modules, features, user accounts, etc.

This looks like a very complete and clean system architecture doesn’t it?

Maybe we can view the cloud as a certain flavor of systems that follow this pattern. If your talking with a client who wants you to develop a cloud app, then this image we show above is actually a good tool to show him. It can help you decompose the term into strict technical requirements and check what the client really wants.

This cloud architecture is actually our long-term vision for the qcadoo MES project. But we think that not all of its components should be general-purpose tools. There are some signals on the web that marketplaces and PaaS are becoming specialized for a certain business sector or usage domain (beside just the user's device). We believe that this may be a sign of Cloud 2.0.

As for the qcadoo MES project our goal architecture looks like this:

qcadoo cloud architecture

The above components represent:

  • qcadoo Framework – which lets you rapidly develop highly modular business web applications in Java and XML. It’s open source, provided as PaaS for qcadoo MES modules and also available for independent commercial projects in a scalable pricing scheme.
  • qcadoo MES – a modular manufacturing management system composed mostly of open source source modules. Preferably sold as an online web application but also available as a standalone application in the Community and Enterprise Edition. Both editions are usable in manufacturing companies. The Enterprise Edition has some additional modules for integration with proprietary systems and equipment.
  • qcooStore – an app store in which you can buy modules for qcadoo MES and solutions for the manufacturing business that are integrated with the system. This is the place where we distribute software build by the projects community and our partner network with services provided from Qcadoo Limited.
  • Micro-billings – all those components will be integrated in a micro billings system in which users pay for just the modules they use and partners earn money from their modules.

As for the Web API, the system does not provide one unified global interface. But we encourage third parties to develop modules that expose the integration points they need.

See more of our vision of the cloud architecture and qcadoo MES in the presentation: qcadoo an open source invasion on the manufacturing business, frameworks PaaS

More Stories By Adam Walczak

Community Manager from the qcadoo MES project.The project aims to produce an open source, cloud-based and modular manufacturing management system. Furthermore an observer of new technologies, system architectures and developer tools. Also a rational open source fan, who views it from a social, business and organizational perspective.

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