Good news from the infrastructure cloud, such as Amazon’s EC2 and S3 services. At the price of $100, you have a cluster with 1000 servers in your hand for an hour. Data center and server configuration? Done. Management and maintenance? Done.
So, the question is “what are you going to do with it?” Now, it’s time to sit back and think about what we couldn’t do before, and what we can do now with this elastic infrastructure cloud.
Many have already discussed applications with seasonal load. For example, you don’t need to target your web server farm’s size to peak load any longer. Rather, you can build an elastic web server farm that automatically scales its capacity following the traffic demand. Or, your company must generate a quarterly forecast that requires a business analytics application with computing power equivalent to a hundred servers. Because you only run it four times a year, three hours each, you couldn’t financially justify purchasing 100 servers for that purpose only. Now, with the cloud, twelve hours multiplied by 100 servers is only $120. (Yes, network bandwidth fee and so on will make it more than $120, but still much better than buying 100 servers.)
I want to introduce the Opportunity Eco-System. This is a place where the software provider and the user can meet safely. It is hosted in a public cloud. Before we get into details, let’s take a look at a typical setup scenario.
Bob is a manager in the quant department of an investment firm. His job is to determine a target price of a mutual fund by running sophisticated pricing algorithms. Like yesterday, Bob received an email that advertises AccuPricer, a new pricing engine. Bob has three strategies: 1) investment is all about taking a risk for bigger return! Try’em out! 2) When it comes to IT, “don’t change until it breaks!” or 3) wait 6 months and see what the reaction from early adopters are. None of them are optimal strategies, though.
Opportunity Eco-system for users
Users can try out new software on pre-configured virtual machines. Yes, you have a practically unlimited resource pool; try multiple softwares from multiple vendors at the same time. Remember “at the same time”, not “one-by-one.” In this way, You can give a new offering a chance without interrupting your current workflow. At the first phase, you can consider the new offering’s workflow as a “what-if” scenario. The Opportunity Eco-system makes this flow seamless.
Now, you are running multiple options for one task in parallel to using the cloud. Therefore, you want a comparison metric for various reasons. First, Bob needs to choose one of many results from many engines, as his target price should be one number. Second, Bob may want to draw a conclusion from many results using a “voting scheme” or an “averaging scheme.” Even in this case, Bob may not want to give even weight to all sources until they obtain Bob’s confidence. Lastly, after Bob tries out the new engine several times he may want to filter it out if he is not satisfied with the engine. Otherwise, a year later he will be running more than 100 engines all at once, quickly burning out his IT budget. The Trial Eco-system provides an interface where you can setup your comparison metric objective (accuracy, time, cost, etc.,), and collect statistics for comparison. It is interesting that sometimes “accuracy” cannot be scored in real time. If a software engine is to predict a future value of one property, we can tell the real accuracy at the time when the future arrives. Trial Eco-system provides a future-feedback feature that collects the real value at future time and updates the credibility of the engine.
So, what should Bob pay for? Bob pays for the usage-based license for engines he chose. Trial Eco-system is responsible for monitoring usage, billing, accounting, as an uninterested third party. Note that Bob already purchased a site license for some pricers like SosoPricer, and it’s not reasonable to pay extra license fee for the SosoPricer Trial Eco-system edition. Trial Eco-system enables BYOL (Bring Your Own License) feature so that Bob doesn’t need to pay extra.
Trial Eco-system for software providers
Software providers are another crucial party of the Trial Eco-system. Unless the Trial Eco-system can invite most of the market leading providers into the system, the user’s choice will be limited and the whole system will collapse. The Trial Eco-system lowers a market entrance barrier for software providers. It provides a standard virtual machine image with security features to protect their proprietary software and accounting features for license fee charge. Moreover, it organizes a standard framework so that many of the comparable tools from vendors can fairly compete with each other.
With Trial Eco-system, from now on, Bob will get a promotional email like this:
“We are pleased to introduce AccuPricer, our new pricing engine. More than 100 customers already tried it out, and 80% of them experienced better results from AccuPricer (see chart 1). To compare the performance of AccuPricer to what you have now, click this link. By subscribing today, you will get AccuPricer $100 credit that is equivalent to a 30 day license.”
Bob clicked the link to allow Trial Eco-system include AccuPricer to his parallel pricing engine list. Still, he does exactly the same thing as he did before to run pricing calculation – he presses the “Price it” button. AccuPricer then runs in parallel with SosoPricer and 4 other engines in Bob’s list. At the end of the day, Trial Eco-system sends him a report that shows the statistics of all the engines in his list. The report shows that AccuPricer performs pretty well. After a month of consistent high performance, Bob and his team decide to make AccuPricer official and discontinue their SosoPricer subscription.