Saturday, September 5, 2015

How to Create a Professional-Looking Video Guide via Screen Capture

Video guides are currently in the rage, and you’ve probably encountered a couple in the past. As opposed to articles or even illustrations, video allows you to show someone exactly how to do something – while at the same time telling them what to do via a voiceover narration.

If you’ve already been perusing some of the video guides out there, you may have noticed that there is a stark and noticeable difference between them. Some resemble amateur productions, with shaky and choppy video as well as stuttered narration. On the other hand, others look much more professionally produced – being smooth, seamless, and with flawless narration.

To create a professional-looking video guide, the first thing you need to do is prepare.

Writing a Script Can Make or Break a Video

A big part of the reason why professional-looking videos tend to be so smooth and seamless often boils down to the fact that they are carefully scripted.

For any video, the script that you write is your plan, and it will contain all the details of the video that you ultimately want to produce. In a nutshell – it is the vision of your video, put down on paper, and as such it should contain:

  • A breakdown of the scenes that make up the video.
  • Details of what elements each scene contains along with what they’re portraying or doing during that scene.
  • The voiceover narration that is to be read at various points of each scene that it coincides with.

Start by drafting a basic script, and then build on it. Be as thorough as possible, though at the same time bear in mind that although the script will be your overall guide you may very well have to adapt it later on.

Record Multiple Takes

Have you ever wondered why professional filmmakers often film multiple takes of a single scene? It’s simple really: Often a single take may not be perfect, so they film it until they have a take that is, or are able to edit together one that is from the multiple takes that they’ve filmed.

Seeing as you’re using screen capture to film your video guide, it should be no problem recording multiple takes. Keep going until you’re satisfied, but also be prepared to go back and re-record some scenes if you later find out that they aren’t up to scratch.

Putting it All Together and Adding Polish

After the recording is done and you have the raw material for your video guide, you will need to put it all together. Not only does this mean combining the scenes that you’ve recorded to form the video, but it also encompasses trimming unnecessary footage, and maybe even cutting and combining segments from different takes to get it looking just right.

During this stage you should also record and insert your voiceover.

Once that is all sorted, you should look to add the final touches to your video by adding a certain polish to it. In some cases this could be tweaking the quality or the look of the video by adjusting its color settings or applying filters, or it could be something more notable, like adding stylish transitions.

Every video is different and adding polish is often a question of taste, style, and approach.

Now that you know how to create a professional looking video guide via screen capture, all that you need is the software that will make it all possible. One of the best that has all the features you need is the Movavi Screen Capture Studio for Mac and you’ll find that knowing how to record screen on Mac with it is really intuitive, easy, and will feel completely natural.

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

SEMYOU Cloud SaaS - The Office of the Future is Right Here


SEMYOUCloud SaaS - All-in-one enterprise apps for your business.
Customer SegmentFor business of any size - small, medium and large - Communicate, Collaborate & Manage your office in the cloud. 
UISlick, Responsive. Admin module is not responsive.
UXOverall intuitive. Needs a slight improvement at a few places.
Technology StackMicrosoft
Business ModelFreemium SaaS. [Free 30 days Trial].
USPAll-in-one enterprise grade apps.
SupportQuick and meaningful
No. of Apps30+
TaglineThe cloud office of the future
LimitationsSee Details Section.

What is SEMYOU 

Last week I came across a suite of cloud services from SEMYOU. It offers a wide range of apps that a business requires to function smoothly on a daily basis. Gone are the days when you were required to manage & maintain a few dozens of IT applications in-house under an IT department which often became white elephant. We are already into an era of off-the-shelf services which can be configured easily by the end users based on their requirement.

All the SEMYOU services are cloud based SaaS which apparently mean that you get all the inherent benefits of a cloud computing service.

What are the Benefits of SEMYOU?

A few of the many benefits:

  1. Reduced Cost - CapEx Free, Pay as You Go.
  2. Less worries - No long-term contract.
  3. Increased Focus on Your Core Business.
  4. You get more than a dozen of apps to choose from for your business and all-in-one central location. 
  5. Increased Availability and Mobility.
  6. Your location doesn't matter. It's always available on your desktop, mobile and tablet.
  7. Increased Performance and Reliability.
  8. It is green.

Are there any Prerequisites to Use SEMYOU?

Internet connectivity, a browser and a few configurations like adding your basic records - users, projects, holiday list etc. and you're ready to go. No extra infrastructure/hardware is required as there's no installation hassle!

Getting Started 

  1. Signup for SemYou Cloud Office. [Credit card NOT required]
  2. Verify your email Id.
  3. The email Id used for the signup acts as an Admin.
  4. Log on to Admin module from the link received in your mail.
  5. Add users.
  6. As per your requirement, choose the right set of apps for a FREE trial from APP-STORE.
  7. Assign users to apps along with their appropriate privileges.
  8. Are the apps right-fit for your business requirement?
  9. If the answer to the above question is YES - go for an upgrade.

How Secure is the SEMYOU Cloud Office?

SemYou applies best in class industry practices to secure your privacy and data in the cloud. Apart from applying advance encryption standards & access controls, SemYou has implemented built-in security practices in core of every app to secure data at rest and data in motion.

SemYou's data center currently resides in Europe and operates under European Union Law.

What I Liked Most?

As far as I know there are very few services where you get more than 30 apps at one place!

Also, overall the UI/UX is intuitive and the trial run went smoothly without reading any of the documentation! But I think, a user who has no prior experience of using these kind of apps may require a little hand holding for a couple of hours before she understands the nitty-gritty of the apps.

Disclaimer - I am a full-time software developer and have also reviewed many apps in the past. My intuition may differ from an average user.

Available Apps - App Store

Glimpses of My Trial Run 

I was satisfied with my trial run results for SEMYOU apps. I tested the following apps:

  • sem.Drive
  • sem.AutoReminder
  • sem.WorldClock
  • sem.IssueTracker
  • sem.Kanban
  • sem.Mindmap

Here's a few of the screen shot for your reference. [Click the respective image for a larger view]










There are a few limitations I noticed while I was trying the cloud office. A few of the Administration Module's forms were not compatible with the latest Chrome, Firefox & IE. 

In sem.AutoReminder it is practically expected that reminders are also delivered via SMS apart from the current eMail delivery.

Looks like a few of the apps are still under construction, example semDB.

A few places require explicit alerts, information as it might help a new user.


Signup, pick your apps and go for a trial run. Recommended.

Writer's Note: "This post was sponsored but the views are unbiased and are correct to the best of my knowledge".

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Cloud Management Technologies: Four Key Trends in 2015

The cloud market is changing. As adoption becomes mainstream, more and more providers are jumping on board to provide a range of services — once Amazon's bailiwick, Tech Target notes that the retail giant is now under challenge from players like Google, IBM and HP while new entrants such as Chinese giant Alibaba look to make their mark. 

All this cloud interest means there are a host of new management technologies in development; here are four key trends to watch this year:

Vertical SaaS

The Software as a Service (SaaS) market continues to grow, and according to Enterprise Irregulars global SaaS revenues are set to reach $106 billion by 2016. However, as discussed by Information Management, there's a shift happening: As-a-service tools are starting to go vertical. Through 2015, expect that all the familiar standards — CRM, ERP, analytics — will continue to see strong growth, but chances are that vendors will take a more focused approach to SaaS moving forward as a way to target specific verticals. These include finance, health care, law and even manufacturing; public and private clouds have matured enough that this kind of specialization is now possible. What's more, the price war between Google, Amazon and other vendors is helping to make these kind of focused deployments even more affordable for companies just starting their transition to the cloud.

Turnkey Migration

According to a recent Search Cloud Computing article, another key trend in cloud management is migration. At a basic level this includes app migration — tools and approaches developed to make moving legacy apps a simpler and more streamlined process. This also extends to migration as a whole; providers are now willing to invest in making cloud migration a “turnkey” process, eliminating the need for lengthy deployments and uncertain timelines. In many cases the success of this trend rests with specialized vendors, for example, hosted PBX providers, which have developed solutions to work across a variety of cloud deployments and legacy systems. The sophistication of cloud infrastructure now makes it possible to deliver solutions which combine easy migration and use.

Off-Site Innovation

Another key trend to expect this year? More off-site innovation. As noted by Forbes, the nature of research and development (R&D) is changing. Companies are no longer dependent on in-house IT professionals to innovate the apps and platforms from end to end; it's now possible to leverage work done by other IT shops to form the basis of new computing solutions. Through 2015, expect the speed and sophistication of this innovation to increase, allowing companies to devote more of their IT budget to refining mission-critical apps and developing niche feature sets rather than starting from scratch with each new software tool.

Security at Scale

The last key trend for 2015 lies with security. Always a hot-button topic around the cloud, Information Age suggests that it's now possible for cloud vendors to get ahead of the security discussion and provide consumers with a new level of confidence. Bottom line? Cloud providers have the scale of resources, depth of knowledge and breadth of skill to create best-in-class security solutions. As more vendors take a proactive approach to cloud security, expect to see this market diversify and innovate, prompting a shift in IT security thinking as a whole. In effect, the right management strategy here can turn the supposed liability of cloud security into an asset, since the scale of provider technology makes it possible to offer much more robust, end-to-end protection.

2015 should be a banner year for management technologies as vendors spend on innovation and companies commit IT budgets to the cloud. Four large trends are already on the horizon: Vertical SaaS, turnkey migration, off-site innovation and an evolved security landscape.
This is a Guest Post.

About the Author

Sheldon Smith is the current Senior Product Manager for XO Communications.  In addition to his experience heading up the Hosted PBX and Conferencing products divisions at XO, he also has over 10 years of Department and Process Management experience.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

4 Android Apps that Bring the Cricket Fever to your Smartphone

If there was ever one word that described the passion that drives Indians then that word is cricket. Be it T20, ODI, IPL or a 5 day test match, we cannot miss a single over. We glue ourselves to our TV screens and god forbid if we have to leave the house we need a constant radio commentary to keep us going.

Be it gully cricket or kids playing cricket in the local circuits, since a young age we develop an affinity to this game and we enjoy every format of this game.

Now in a world where we all own smartphones, we can bring the magic of cricket onto our phones so we never have to miss a game or miss details about our favourite team in the IPL or when India plays against other countries.

Download these apps and bring the magic of cricket to your smartphones:


This is the No.1 app on the Google Play store for cricket enthusiasts who cannot live without cricket. The app has complete information and lets you know all the details about ICC World Cup. IPL8, ICC World T20 as well as Champions League T20 along with other major cricket tournaments covered.

Now follow your favourite team and get to know about the venues, stadiums and photos from cricket matches along with a detailed view of the games’ statistics. You can change to a number of languages including Hindi, Kannada, Telugu and Bengali amongst a few others.

Now get all the live updates and match alerts along with player profiles and their rankings to never miss any information on cricket or your favourite player again. You can also share the enthusiasm amongst your friends on Twitter and Facebook.

If you’re a cricket enthusiast you can purchase cricket related accessories by redeeming exclusive AskmeBazaar Coupons given exclusively by CashKaro and bring home all the goods you need to be the cricket star of your locality. Here you can also avail sports product offers that is extremely affordable and fits your budget.

Star Sports Pepsi IPL

This is the official app for the Star Sports channel which brings to you live scores not only for cricket but also live football, tennis and badminton scores if you’re interested in following other sports as well.

You can catch all the drama unveiling at the IPL and find out which team won and which team got knocked down and support your favourite team and get live scorecard updates, ball by ball commentary, points table update and other important statistics related to the game.

You can now catch full replays in case you happen to miss your match as well as have features like video on demand and get highlights and live streaming of other sports all under one app. This app surely answers all your sports related prayers.

Cricket Companion

This is a great social app that lets you catch up with cricket scores and give you features like Live chat, social media rage and commentary amongst many more features to keep you busy. Share a live virtual stadium with your friends and laugh and cheer with other cricket fans as this app makes it fun to follow cricket.

You can share pictures and files with your friends and always know the latest with access to Facebook, Twitter from within the app itself. Share your emotions with all the other fans when your favourite team wins and even if it loses it doesn’t hurt to share the pain. You can even create a group of your favourite friends to chat with so you never miss out on important cricket gossip.

This app really brings together social media and cricket all together in one app which should keep you occupied and obsessed for hours.

Real Cricket 14

This game is for those who cannot live without cricket- if they’re not watching a match then they’re most probably playing one. Now bring the magic of a cricket tournament to your mobiles with this intensive game in which you can choose from amongst 16 nations and 8 master teams.

The controls are simple and will make you addicted to the game. The graphics too are commendable and the 2D motion shows you every movement in great detail.

This app is definitely one of the best apps to play virtual cricket but one which gives you real time fun.

With the internet advancement, we can get all the detailed news and updates about our favourite teams and players all thanks to these apps which make sure we never have to live a day without our favourite game being a part of it!

Guest Post by Neha Chaudhary

Friday, April 24, 2015

What is the Biggest Challenge of Running a Software Startup?

As they say:

Startup ≥ A Roller Coaster Ride

For a successful startup, many things must fall in place, consistently in sync with one another and most importantly within a limited period of time before they start to fall apart...  and yes these should happen along with a little bit of a factor called luck.

Somehow or other as a developer / blogger I've been associated with many Startups for the past six years. A few failed and a few are moderately successful. What I inferred from my association with them is that running a startup is a 24x7 job and it requires the same level of nurturing, care &  dedication that is expected while raising a new born baby. 

Visualizing the product idea, sharing it with someone who probably shares the same level of insanity as you, refining the product day in day out - without caring if you're in traffic, washroom or in sound sleep. Forming a team, keeping them motivated even if you pay them much below what an MNC would've paid. Startup is a challenge for the founders as most of the days, most of them, end up doing multi-role tasks starting from a CEO to the office assistant and everything in between!

Let us hear what is the single biggest challenge of running a software startup from those who are into it for many years.

Dinesh-VaradharajanDinesh Varadharajan is the Director at OrangeScape, handling the engineering for KiSSFLOW, #1 workflow product in Google Apps Marketplace. He is a hands-on executive with profound experience working with bleeding edge technologies, developing great products combined with mentoring and growing highly productive teams. 

The biggest challenge for a startup is to get the first 100 paid customers. The initial days are pretty chaotic. Its all about continuously evaluating our sales process, marketing metrics and product feedback and make course corrections to improve those periodically. This continuous evalutation resulted in a heavily optimised process which will work for the next 1000 customers.
On the product front, we integrated several engagement tools like mixpanel and intercom to analyse user behaviour. We also frequently spoke to our customers to get user feedback. This helped us in maturing the product to match market needs.

For sales, our CEO spear headed the acquisition of our first 100 customers and defined the workable sales process. We completely automated the process before hiring our sales team. This gave us greater predictability and good visibility in sales numbers.

For marketing, every one in the team had to familiarize themselves with marketing which was the toughest part of all. We tracked every dollar spent to a lead and slowly we were able to find more efficient ways to spend the money to acquire more leads.

Right now, we have a cockpit with lot of meters and controls and now we know exactly which knob to turn when the numbers are not looking good.

Ezhil has over 16 years of experience in the ICT industry. His most recent role was Director of CSS Labs, the R & D wing of CSS Corp. 

Although he is known for his technical expertise in numerous technology spaces, he has gradually risen as an opinion maker in cloud computing in India.

Although India is slated for excellent growth in SaaS, the market and the cloud services scene isn't exactly mature. Identifying and disrupting a niche market and then narrowing down on the top challenges in that target audience needs a lot of focus.

Finding the right talent for our technology needs is also a daunting challenge - no start-up can afford the risk of a bad hire, so at any level, recruiting is a key priority for us.

OlegOleg Khadartsev  is CEO of Mediametric. Passionate about media monitoring, data analysis, text mining, natural language processing.

Mediametric carefully aggregates almost every piece of content, published on the web and then collects all the stats for these articles - including shares to major social networks, comments on the website and citations and links, made in other articles.

Since Mediametric is a media analytics startup, our challenges come from big data - every day we collect articles from more than 100,000 sources, and keeping it all nice and clean is not always easy. 

We're using heuristic-based approach: we filter the incoming content automatically, giving it green light or blocking it, depending on whether it is a media outlet or something else, like online store or educational site. Some sources are sorted in the "gray zone" - those we filter using semi-automatic techniques, for example crowdsourcing. This way we filter out irrelevant content from thousands of channels, effectively handling large amount of data. 

I would say that a great team is essential for overcoming any challenge — with the right people it is a lot easier to build something from scratch and deal with problems on the way.

Editor's note: In an email communication Moscow based Mediametric's CEO Oleg shared the following input regarding talent scarcity & retention:

"Speaking about developers, it's a bit challenging to hire a skilled and motivated programmer here. However, we have noticed that for skilled developers a promising fast-growing company means more than just high salary. It's essential to them to have a feeling of ownership of some part of the product or an area of research."

Pranay Sanghvi
Pranay Sanghvi is Founder & Director – Strategy+Business at Intellibuzz, ExpenseBuzz. ExpenseBuzz is a SaaS that helps you to Control & Cut your company’s communications cost - Reduce recurring expenses on your landline, mobile, IT & internet, every day

In India, lack of reliability on small vendors/developer-team for software/product building is a challenge. This results in        

                          -- delayed roll out              
                          -- increased cash burn rate
                          -- toss of plans and finally
                          -- demotivation.

Hugo Messer has been building and managing teams around the world for over 10 years. His passion is to enable people that are spread across cultures, geography and time zones to cooperate. Whether it’s offshoring or nearshoring, he knows what it takes to make a global cooperation work. 

Hugo recently started Ekipa : the global marketplace for the world's best software teams. He's been running with an office in Cochin, India, since 2005.

The biggest challenge is to get traction. We've launched our new platform in January of this year [2015]. We've spent about a year on developing the core of the platform and gathering the initial provider foundation. Since January we're promoting the platform. 

As you are not a known brand yet and you don't have customer experiences to share, it's like you're standing in the desert almost lost. As an entrepreneur you've to find your way out of it. Somehow you have to start running around to meet people who are ready to take the plunge with you. 

It's relatively easy to build a product, it's tough to market it

I am used to 'sales' and have built a successful software services firm. Launching a product that relies on marketing as the main driver of customers is a whole different story! 

Thanks everyone who shared their views here.

If you are a software entrepreneur and want to share your views you're welcome to do it at the following link [submit it before 29th May 2015] :

                       -- Participate here - What's the Single Biggest Start-up Challenge?

Want to read a few more discussions at Techno-Pulse?
                       -- Techno-Pulse Discussions

Friday, April 17, 2015

Why Should I Replace My Landline with VoIP?

For generations, a landline phone connection was the hallmark of a reputable business, a company’s main method of communication with its current and potential customers. However, skyrocketing rates and evolving technologies are quickly leading to the decline of traditional voice calling.

VoIP is one of the most exciting alternatives to landline voice calling, offering the same utility along with a range of advanced features such as visual voicemail and standard Caller ID. VoIP also offers much more affordable pricing than with established phone carriers, and small businesses will especially appreciate the benefits VoIP calling provides.

Bargain Pricing

One of the main reasons VoIP calling has become such an attractive option to business leaders is the cost-effective service it can provide. Where landline companies are bogged down with outdated and expensive infrastructure as well as regulatory complications that often drive up the price for the consumer, iiNet’s phone systems forbusiness make use of your existing Internet connection to deliver high-quality calls across its proprietary network, delivering high performance at low cost. VoIP calls can also be routed through a smartphone over a WiFi connection to save on mobile calling costs.


Another advantage that VoIP calling offers when compared to traditional landlines is unrivaled mobility. A VoIP connection is contained within the equipment itself, meaning that it can be easily transported wherever business takes you as long as you have access to a phone jack and Internet connection. Even better, VoIP service can be configured to send notifications to multiple phones and devices whenever you receive a call, so you’ll never miss a curious customer.


VoIP also offers significant potential for customization. Many VoIP providers allow clients to choose their own phone number from a list of available numbers, and even select their own area code to better identify with an area or target market. VoIP can also quickly be adapted to meet the changing needs of a growing business, as lines can easily be added, reassigned or deleted as needed unlike traditional landlines.


VoIP is not only an entirely viable alternative to landline voice calling, it’s actually a superior option in many aspects. The convenience, options and value delivered by a VoIP phone system are impossible for a traditional phone carrier to match, and getting started with VoIP is as simple as getting a VoIP-enabled phone or an adaptor for an existing handset.

Information: This is a Sponsored Post.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Your SaaS May Not be Multi-tenant–But Why Should You Care?

Over the past couple of years, single-tenant vs. multi-tenant SaaS debate has been creating loads of buzz in the technology circles. Let me ask you a few questions:
1. Does multi-tenancy matter if you are a SaaS provider?
  • 2. Does multi-tenancy matter if you are a SaaS subscriber - do you need to care if your SaaS is a single-tenant or multi-tenant?
  • If you are curious to know an instant and short answer, it’s an emphatic - YES, it matters! Either you are a SaaS provider or a SaaS consumer multi-tenancy matters to you. To simplify your decision making process let me tell you convincingly that if it’s not multi-tenant it’s not a true SaaS in the first place!
Yes, The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), The European Network and Information Security Agency (ENISA), Cloud Security Alliance (CSA) and many other authorities have already mentioned multi-tenancy as one of the essential (or at least desired) characteristics of a Cloud SaaS.

Disclosure: Many SaaS architectural considerations and the term multi-tenancy have been (over)simplified in this article for the sake of understanding.

Who/what are tenants?

In plain English, Tenants are subscribers (consumer/customer/client) of a service. For a B2B or Line-of-Business application like a CRM, a tenant can be a company with 100s of users. Examples: and Google Apps for Business.

Similarly for Consumer oriented or B2C SaaS, individuals like you and me (yes, general public) can be tenants. A few examples could be Facebook, Twitter, Dropbox etc. But it’s important to note that though these services started themselves as a consumer oriented apps, of late they are trying to diversify themselves in to the B2B segment as well. Gmail is a true consumer oriented SaaS.
I must add here that in most of the cases, B2B services require more sophisticated architectural considerations and development efforts in comparison to the consumer oriented applications.

What is a Multi-tenant SaaS?

Do you know how a traditional web application is developed and deployed? It’s generally designed, developed and deployed keeping in mind the requirement of a single client. Simply speaking, it’s like developing and deploying different code base and different database instances for each client. So, if you have 100 clients this translates to 100 code bases (builds) and 100 databases to be deployed and maintained!

See figure# 1 below for a graphical representation:
Multi-tenant SaaS architecture, in plain English, is an application that is designed/architected in such a way that it maintains only one code base and possibly (though not necessary) one database for all the clients. So, all your 100 clients now may use a single code base and a single database instance! See figure# 2 below for a graphical representation:

How does it Benefit the SaaS Provider?

Reduced Support and Maintenance: It’s indeed no-brainer, as maintaining a single code base and database is far easier than maintaining and releasing patches for 100 code bases! Also, if you are upgrading your code or infrastructure it’s simply a onetime effort at one place rather than updating it in 100 different versions at many places.

Cost Efficient – Sharing of resources (development and maintenance effort, infrastructure etc.) almost always converts to cost savings. Although a multi-tenant SaaS may require more time and effort initially yet it definitely pays in the long run once you’ve increased subscriber volume. In most of the scenarios, new subscriber’s signup and onboarding process can be automated for a low or no touch sales and support.
A provider with single-tenant service can’t continue to provide the service at an affordable price point and hence may find it difficult to compete, hence may become financially unviable.
Security – You don’t need to worry about the security of every client’s applications anymore. Implement state-of-the-art security features in your single code base and database and deploy it with an infrastructure (IaaS) provider having good track record of security and uptime. Peace of mind!

How does it Benefit the SaaS Consumer?

All the points mentioned above would obviously lead to make a provider as an efficient SaaS player who can in turn pass on the extra benefits to her/his subscribers. An efficient service may attract higher number of subscribers and as SaaS is all about economies of scale, you have a better chance of getting the service at an affordable price point. Also, as the provider is managing all her/his subscribers from a single code base and database instance s/he will put her/his best effort to offer a quality service.

Multi-tenant SaaS is like sailing together on the same boat with everyone else. There are indeed some cons as well like even a minor hiccup can affect every subscriber (not in the scope of this article). However, on any day the pros of a multi-tenant SaaS far outweigh its cons hence do enquire about it before you sign up for your next SaaS. Is your SaaS multi-tenant?

Monday, March 16, 2015

The next generation IaaS: Multi-cloud via APIs

When you enquire about availability of a service to cloud IaaS providers, without fail they talk about three nines (99.9%), four nines, five nines uptime percentages and design for failure ideas. The leading IaaS service Amazon EC2 offers a 99.95% of service commitment and that translates to 4.38 hours of downtime per year (or 5.04 minutes per week). Rackspace offers 100% network uptime guarantee!

Information – The above mentioned availability excludes scheduled downtime for maintenance apart from many other exclusions mentioned in mouse-print.

Although on any given day the cloud service availability is much higher than the traditional hosting service yet cloud IaaS has its own share of hiccups and that make them talk of the town as the expectations are very high. Every now and then we keep hearing about the outages of Amazon AWS, Microsoft or Google. As a result, in last few major outages the social media was all buzzing with the talks of unavailability of some popular cloud hosted services like Netflix,
Twitter, Zynga, Quora, Heroku, Instagram, AirBnB, Foursquare and Reddit etc. that went offline due to their service providers outages.

Outages are a part of IT and you can’t stop them

No matter how well prepared you are to prevent an outage; somehow it is waiting to happen! There are multiple components in hardware & software apart from multiple parameters that must collaborate seamlessly to run a service and anyone of them can fail at any point in time making the service unavailable. Additionally there are many external factors (natural disasters, grid failures etc.) that are out of control of anyone or any single entity. I think it is not wise to expect a service that is always available and 100% reliable.

But what about your customers?

For every downtime you can easily play the tweet-and-blame your provider game, as many services are already doing, but eventually it’s you who has to bear the revenue loss apart from losing the competitive edge and the brand value of your company. Even a few minutes of downtime is blown out of proportion in social media circles. Also it seems, your competition is just waiting to grab this opportunity and turn it into an advantage, something like this:

How can IaaS minimize the effect of outages?

Existing solutions

1. Mirroring and Availability Zones: Rackspace and Amazon EC2

The IaaS providers indeed have some strategy for it. Rackspace offers multiple geographically separated regions and it recommends that by mirroring your infrastructure between datacenters you can mitigate outage risk. On the other hand, Amazon EC2 offers multiple AWS Availability Zones. As per Amazon’s portal FAQs:

Each availability zone runs on its own physically distinct, independent infrastructure, and is engineered to be highly reliable. Common points of failures like generators and cooling equipment are not shared across Availability Zones. Additionally, they are physically separate, such that even extremely uncommon disasters such as fires, tornados or flooding would only affect a single Availability Zone.

But it has been observed that during last year’s outage of Amazon EC2 (US East data center) on 22 Oct. 2012 even the applications configured for multiple availability zone were knocked off.

2. Multi-hypervisor design: Example OnApp Cloud

OnApp’s server based multi-hypervisor design monitors different cloud services and supports automatic failover by relocating virtual machines and rerouting application data. This service empowers you to point-click-and-manage clouds based on different virtualization platforms. OnApp currently supports Xen, KVM and VMware hypervisors.
3. Federated network of public cloud providers - Computenext and 6Fusion

Federation of cloud services (cloud brokerage) is about accessing multiple cloud IaaS from a single sign-on account and monitoring them apart from comparing, measuring and unified billing of the compute resources. Based on your requirements, you can change your provider if needed without rewriting your code and API calls. No more vendor lock-ins!

It seems the above mentioned platforms are already serving as the basis of the beginning of the much talked multi-cloud approach by providing the API abstraction (explained later) to the multi-cloud deployments. I think they should take their service to the next level by providing automatic failover and built-in real-time communication between multiple vendors. A formidable challenge!

Nextgen solution

Is Multi-cloud approach a better strategy to achieve highest possible service availability?

Yes, of course it is. A few companies have already started experimenting this (PayPal for instance). A few have already sensed the upcoming demand for it and are in the process of building right tools for multi-cloud approach (RightScale multi-cloud management). Apart from apparent benefit of high availability multi-cloud may lead to price reduction and healthy competition among IaaS providers for a better service. As a customer you no longer have to face that vendor-lock-in issue.

What are the challenges in multi-cloud implementation?

As a developer I understand that implementing this is easier said than done unless we address the following cloud standards issues:
 Interoperability  Portability etc.

The path to multi-cloud goes via APIs

APIs…? I won’t define APIs here but let me give you a practical scenario from daily life to make you understand the role of an API in a multi-cloud approach.

How do you book (reserve) flight tickets?

You simply sign in to your favorite travel portal (or the airline’s portal) and enter the journey date, city-pair detail, and within seconds you have a list of available airlines on your screen. You choose one of them and after a few clicks and within a few minutes you’ve got the booking confirmation message. Sounds so simple.

Now you must be aware that there are 1000s of travel portals, offering flight booking services to millions of direct customers (registered/guest users) and travel agents in almost 200 countries spread around the globe! Similarly for train and bus bookings, many of these portals are providing you with the facility to view seat layout and book as per your requirement. As booking are going on simultaneously across the world through 1000s of portals:

How do they ensure that the same seat is not booked for more than one customer or that the total number of bookings should not exceed the available seats? Now this sounds a bit complex, isn’t it?
All this is made possible via the magic of APIs running in the background

Airlines, train or bus operators has their inventory. They (or a third party) maintain a computer reservation system (CRS) where they enter their inventory details in their respective database. Once they have a CRS, every vendor who wants to be a part of GDS (Global Distribution System) needs to expose a web API to access its inventory. A GDS will aggregate many such APIs from different vendors and can offer its own web API to multiple channels like travel portals throughout the world.

Now, any booking request to the GDS API will be directed to all the participating vendors computer reservation system (CRS) and the response from them is consolidated and shown to the calling program, (i.e. to your favorite travel portal). So, the GDS APIs are simply a layer of abstraction between the actual vendor inventory and the consumer (travel portals). More or less this is the work flow in any ticket booking system.

To simplify the above let me say that if you wish to develop a travel portal you don’t need to worry about talking to the multiple operators for inventory. You can contact a GDS provider, (Galileo, Amadeus, Sabre etc.) purchase a license and integrate their API in your web application.  The API will receive a few parameters like date, city-pair etc. from your portal and will respond with the availability and fare details.

So, if you want to build a travel portal for international flight booking, it doesn’t matter in which part of the globe you are, as a prerequisite you have to integrate the GDS APIs to your application. This abstraction, to some extent lowers the barrier of developing a portal and that’s the reason there are numerous new travel portals starting up operation every other day.


I think the above analogy says it all for the cloud services as well. The IaaS providers have got an inventory to share and most of them already have their own APIs to manage server resources. But before the IaaS goes the multi-cloud way on an industrial scale many rough patches need to be smoothened. May be the cloud should evolve and mature a little more in terms of interoperability and standards to offer this much awaited new approach at an affordable cost. What do you think… are we going to witness many multi-cloud implementations in 2014?