Cloud Control

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Cloud computing—the hosting of applications in highly efficient remote data centers rather than in-house server rooms—has arrived, and with good reason: It can save money, allows geographic flexibility and even cuts down on companies’ energy consumption. The Seattle startup scene has not only been home to many pioneers of cloud computing, but is now also responsibly leading the charge to make the technology work for businesses large and small.

While the cloud is efficient and even environmentally friendly, its great obstacle is equal access. A global transition to the cloud runs the risk of putting a wedge between firms of modest means and larger companies that have the means and savvy to switch smoothly. Seattle companies have jumped on board to market their skills as middlemen for companies switching to cloud computing.

The architecture of the clouds offered by these firms can vary. Seattle’s Skytap allows users to create “hybrid clouds” with each customer’s security specifications. Symform “reinvents” the cloud by pricing its storage by number of users rather than by data size; it also creates a cloud by networking users’ unemployed local storage and applying military-grade protection.

Some local companies host data in their own clouds and also offer services to help customers transition into the cloud. Opscode lets users write “recipes” to design what they want their cloud infrastructure to look like, and then automates the necessary cloud configuration processes. FiberCloud essentially provides an entire IT infrastructure for businesses of any size, allowing “growth at any speed.”

OpsCode offers regular training classes in its products, and it is hardly alone in educating cloud consumers. Isilon Systems provides a series of worldwide training sessions. Also, the University of Washington announced in early September that it would be offering a nine-month certificate course on cloud computing this academic year. The course is offered both online and in person in downtown Seattle, providing students with “hands-on” practice at building applications and processing data in the cloud.

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