“Last Inch” of Cloud Computing
The “last mile” or “last kilometer” is a term in the networking industry describing “the close to end connectivity from a communication service provider to a customer”. Although your infrastructure like backbones is very powerful, your end user experience could suffer if your last mile is not there yet.
For cloud computing, we’ve talked a lot about the data centers, backend servers. What about the end users? Your cloud data center could be very powerful too, but does it mean your users will fully leverage that power? Not necessarily. It depends on how you deliver the service to them.
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Because cloud service is delivered with traditional network, the traditional network “last mile” issue is there as well. You surely need a good, if not better, connection to the network.
Beyond the connectivity, you will need good interfaces for your users to interact with the cloud. Let me go over the “last inch” options here.
Most applications running in cloud have Web interfaces so they work similarly to a traditional provisioning model. For end users, they don’t even know their Web applications live in cloud. And honestly, they don’t care.
Users can also use cloud computing indirectly. The Web servers serving contents to end users can leverage API services for data, messaging, etc., provided by the servers in the cloud.
In either of the case, the performance may be better than traditional model because applications can scale easily in the cloud.
Desktop virtual machines
You can use cloud differently, more than Web based applications. In some cases, you can expose the desktop of your virtual machines to the end users. One simple way is to leverage PCoIP or RDP protocols connecting the OS that runs on virtual machines in the cloud. For OSes that support X-Window, you can export the screen to your local computer. It’s all up to you and the OS.
Another way can occur on the hypervisor level which transmits the video buffer of a virtual machine to end users who need special software, standalone application or browser plug-in, e.g., to render it. It depends on the type, and possibly version, of hypervisor. The advantage is that you can see the screen of a virtual machine even there is no OS installed yet.
With wide adoption of devices like iPhone, iPad, Android, etc. today, consumers have more choices than ever. While you can still use browsers on these devices, you would also like other alternatives that fully leverage native style user interfaces.
In fact, even native style user interfaces could use same protocols as Web applications. It’s just a different way to present same contents.
Multiple Devices One Workspace
When you have desktop, laptop, and several different devices, you would prefer to have one workspace so that you don’t need to sync works among them. The convenience of multiple devices could easily turn into hassles keeping these synced. How to get the convenience and easy management?
You can leverage cloud computing to help. You can save your workspace and data including documents, media clips, and profile, in a cloud so that you can access it anytime, anywhere. We can call it a personal cloud. The key is that applications running in different places can understand ad comply with same data formats.
In some cases, you will need to convert your contents so that they can be easily consumed by different devices. For example, you like high definition video to play as it is on your desktop, but not on an iPhone whose screen is much smaller. Then you need to convert the video to smaller size before it’s screamed to network. Cloud computing is definitely a great help here. A lot of innovations will happen in this area.