From Complexity to Simplicity in the Cloud

The inner workings of cloud computing can be quite complex. That’s why the founders of Dropbox are on the right path—make cloud computing as simple as possible with easy to understand user-interfaces to mask “behind the scenes” infrastructure and connections.

Open up the lid of “black box” cloud computing and what you’ll see is anything but simple. Massive and parallel server farms that never sleep, algorithms worming and indexing their way through global websites, large data sets waiting in analytical stores for discovery, message buses that route, control and buffer system requests, and massive processing of images, text and more on a grandiose scale.

That’s why companies that take the complexity out of cloud computing are thriving. Take for instance, Dropbox, a company that allows users to access their personal or corporate files from any internet connected device. A Technology Review article featuring Q&A with CEO Drew Houston cites the efforts of Dropbox to mask behind the scenes efforts of “having your stuff with you, wherever you are.”

With various operating systems, incompatibilities, file formats and more, Dropbox engineers had to wade through mountains of bugs and fixes to make the user experience as seamless as possible. “There are technical hurdles that we had to overcome to provide the illusion that everything is in one place…and that getting it is reliable, fast and secure,” Houston says.

Looking at Dropbox from the outside, a user only sees “visual feedback” via a folder, icon or the like on his/her desktop. But underneath the hood there’s a whole gaggle of technologies and code that makes Dropbox work. And to create a seamless experience, painstaking efforts are involved down to the tiniest components says Houston; “Excellence is the sum of 100 or 1000 of…little details”.

If information technology leaders plan to bring “BI to the masses”, simplicity will be a necessary requirement to mask the inherent complexity of cloud computing. Ultimately, there are plenty of business users that won’t care how their particular applications are delivered, only that they are carried out with efficiency, reliability and security. Thus, user interfaces designed with clarity, elegance and ease-of-use in mind will ultimately put a “wrapper” on complexity and drive further adoption of cloud computing delivery models.

And it’s also likely that business users will never appreciate the hard work that goes into designing, delivering and sustaining their applications on a 24x7x365 basis, and accessible from any internet enabled device. But then again, perhaps that’s the point. Application availability, security, reliability, simplicity and productivity are now the expectations of business users – it’s best to deliver “in the cloud”exactly what they want.

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