Friday, February 12, 2010

Cloud Computing, GATE and Text Processing

When a new thing comes along in computing the first thing that happens is that a small and exclusive set of nerds like me get all excited. If the excitement seems likely to relate to the real world in any fashion that might actually generate someone somewhere some money (or can be spun as something that might do so) then the next thing that happens is that the marketing departments of 1001 IT corporations jump in with both feet and start generating acre after acre of turgid prose about how their aged and creaking product line is actually a prime example of Phenomenon X, the Bright New Thing of Computing.

So it has been with software "in the cloud", which is, it turns out, actually quite a good idea in various ways (setting it apart from most new trends in IT). What does the Cloud Computing commonly refer to (now that the sound and fury of the marketing teams has had a chance to settle a little)? Three things:

  • software as a service (SaaS), for example Google Docs or
  • platform as service (PaaS), for example Google App Engine
  • infrastructure as service (IaaS), for example Amazon Web Services and most famously their Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2 -- which probably did most to popularise the term in the recent period)

These three now consitute the new wave: they are one of the main tracks that Google is betting on (SaaS and PaaS), what Amazon continues to succeed with (IaaS), and the grist for a hundred new startup mills (from specific applications like searching US campus sites to infrastructural help for cloud developers).

What does it have to do with GATE? IaaS is particularly well-suited to hosting text processing, which is typically bursty in its computational cost and therefore ill-suited to fixed infrastructure. SaaS is great for the provision of large web applications that are complex to install and maintain (like GATE Teamware). Hopefully this and other cloud offerings will be available on in the not too distant... so watch this space!


1 comment:

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