We are increasingly encountering the term cloud computing in software that we use, and hearing it in relation to IOT, Industry 4.0 components and machine monitoring on the shop floor.
What is NOT cloud computing
I have a single PC in my small firm On this PC I have software for accounting, email, making documents, etc. Such software is called standalone software, and the PC is called a client.
I have a 300 PCs in my large firm, all networked on a LAN
On each of these client PCs I have standalone software for accounting, email, making documents, etc. I also have a bunch of Enterprise software on a powerful and reliable central computer called a Server : software for applications like scheduling, finance, HR, CRM etc. Enterprise software runs from the server, can be accessed by anyone in the firm, and whatever they do is stored in large databases on the server.
What IS Cloud computing
Scenario 1: I have a single PC in my small firm, with an internet connection
On this PC I have only have the operating system (like Windows 10) and a web browser. I do not have any other software installed. When I want to use accounting software, I log in to a site on the web, use the software, then log out. I log into different web sites to use software for email, making documents, etc. My data and files are NOT stored on my PC. They are stored somewhere else by the software, God Knows Where.
I have a 300 PCs in my large firm, all with an internet connection
I log into different web sites to use any software: accounting, email, making documents, scheduling, finance, HR, CRM etc. There is no central server in the firm. My data and files are NOT stored on my PC or anywhere within the firm. They are stored somewhere else by the software, God Knows Where.
Where is this ‘God Knows Where’ (GKW) ?
GKW is something called a Cloud server. The server is a very powerful, reliable computer that could be sitting anywhere in the world, connected to you through the internet. The software you are logging into is on this server, and so are the data and files that you create. If you are a single person or a small firm, you are using a small portion of the capacity of the server (e.g., 50 Gb of the 5000 Gb of hard disk space that it has). It’s like you’re living in a flat in a large block of 100 flats. If you’re part of a large firm, your data will occupy multiple servers. Irrespective of your firm’s size, you don’t ever have to bother about these physical aspects of the GKW. As your space and computing requirements change, you are automatically allotted the space required. All this is done by the cloud services provider, like Amazon, Microsoft or Google.
Your server is not sitting alone somewhere, feeling cold and lonely. It’s part of a huge collection of hundreds or thousands of servers in a server farm, in a huge building called a data center. This has strict security, 24/7 power supply, air conditioning (so yes, your server IS feeling cold although not lonely), and very high speed internet, all working 24/7, with very high reliability. Your data is backed up periodically, automatically. Your data is also on multiple mirror servers at multiple locations in the world. If one server fails, another one automatically takes over the job. All of this work – backing up your data, allocation of storage space as your needs change, the mirroring – is happening automatically, without any intervention from you, saving you an enormous amount of work.
So what’s the benefit of the Cloud ? The Cloud allows you to hire software and pay by the month instead of buying it one-shot. This is called Software as a Service (SaaS). Your investment in IT hardware and software reduces. You don’t need an IT team to maintain the hardware and software – it’s all done by the cloud service provider. Your cloud infrastructure automatically scales up or down as your needs change. You get the benefit of the great reliability in the data centers. Your computer hardware and software costs come down. You can focus on your core business instead of struggling with computer infrastructure.
You can implement smart manufacturing on your shop floor for machine monitoring, logistics, scheduling, etc. with just 3 basic Industry 4.0 components, without any IT infrastructure in your shop. This reduces the cost and time to implement, drastically.
Disclaimer: I’m a CNC machining guy, not a computers guy. Till a few months ago I was totally cloud-illiterate, and had to learn this stuff because of our LEANworks Cloud machine monitoring software
that works on the cloud. Please pardon any mistakes, and please point them out in the comments so I can correct them.
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No-nonsense brunch at Brahmins Coffee Bar
I happened to visit a customer’s office in Bangalore, and found to my delight that it was a stone’s throw away from one of Bangalore’s most famous breakfast places, Brahmin’s Coffee Bar (hereinafter called BCB).
Bangalore pioneered a type of restaurant that I call a ‘standing joint’, where you just have chest-high tables where you stand and eat, and there is no seating at all. BCB is one such standing joint, and it’s packed to capacity, overflowing onto the footpath in the morning and evening.
The typical standing joint has a long menu of 20-odd items and also serves lunch and dinner. BCB has a mere 4 items: Idli, Vade, Khara bath (that’s Upma) and Kesari Bath (halwa). To wash this down you have coffee, tea or milk. There’s also butter as an extra, presumably for those rare humans with a shortage of cholesterol, or for humans who feel their arteries are not clogged enough. The idli, vade and khara bath come with only watery chutney, no sambar. Everything tastes great. The chutney is so good that you might run out of it before you eat the main thing on your plate. If this disaster befalls you, then you just have to go to the gentleman sitting in a corner with a large vessel of chutney in front of him, and he gives you a chutney refill, free of cost.
I wonder how BCB survives ? Don’t customers come, look at the menu and say “What, only four things to eat ? And no sambar !” and promptly walk over to a competitor ? On the contrary, BCB has been surviving, and thriving, for the past 50 years.
The plate of idli-vade in the picture is actually mine. Having just one idli instead of the customary two was my feeble attempt at trying to reduce my idli-shaped belly.