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Using the Cloud: Two Examples

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Most of the discussion about cloud computing has focused on tools, providers, economics, and security. While this focus is appropriate for an emerging technology, it becomes easier to recognize the value of cloud computing when you have actual application examples, or case studies. This month IBM announced two cloud applications: a development-and-test cloud, and an animation rendering cloud.

Nissay Information Technology and IBM announced a joint effort to build a development and test environment on behalf of Nippon Life Insurance. The rational for using the demand elasticity of the cloud for this project is, according to the announcement:

The average enterprise devotes up to 50 percent of its entire technology infrastructure to development and test, but typically up to 90 percent of it remains idle. IBM has seen that taking advantage of cloud computing within development and testing environments can help reduce IT labor costs by 50 percent, improve quality and drastically reduce time to market.

The new cloud environment will allow NISSAY developers to procure new test and development environments in hours - a process that previously could take up to a month.

The new environment uses IBM's UNIX servers, Power Systems and Tivoli Service Automation Manager.

The same week, IBM and Multimedia Development Corporation (MDeC), revealed plans to build an "animation cloud"; hosted by MDeC and used by the emerging graphics and animation industry in Malaysia. Numerous U.S. TV shows and movies outsource graphic rendering tasks to Asia and the MSC Malaysia Animation and Creative Content Centre or MAC3, has a mandate to build the capacity that will allow Malaysian business to capture a share of this market. Construction of the MAC3 Cloud Rendering Farm was completed in April 2010.

Addressing the rapid increase in creative content companies, both within and outside of MDeC and the increased demand for rendering services, MDeC's animation cloud will provide centralized facilities and programs to help Malaysian animators, visual effects artists and multimedia students to bring their ideas to fruition in the digital content space.

The MAC3 center is expected to significantly expand the rendering capabilities of local companies while reducing costs

These two examples of cloud projects confirm the characteristics that companies need to look for when considering cloud-based applications. Volatility of demand ("test environments sit idle 90% of the time") and massive computational needs (MAC3 will allow artists to "complete rendering eight times faster than using a typical workstation) are two key requirements that might best be served in a cloud environment. A third characteristic, truer of the MAC3 than the Nippon Life application, is the need to serve a widely distributed customer base - the MAC3 facility will be used by numerous independent contractors and artists.

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