Web 3.0: The Next Evolution of Internet Search—and How You Can Prepare for It Now by Using Cloud Computing
by Deltina Hay
In the January issue of the Independent, the first of three articles about Web 3.0 focused on the semantic Web and how you can structure your data to make it easy for search engines to recognize. The second, published in February, focused on linked data and how you can add your data to the Linked Open Data cloud. The series wraps up in this issue by looking at cloud computing and how you can take advantage of the convenience and power that cloud services can offer.
Cloud computing is possible because many Internet service companies are not just opening up and linking their data; they are also opening their software and hardware infrastructures on a pay-per-use basis. This creates “cloud computing” as a way for all of us to increase our hardware capacity or add software capabilities without investing in new infrastructure, training new personnel, or licensing new software. It gives everyone affordable access to more sophisticated technology, and it opens the door for even novice developers to build robust applications for the Internet.
Generally, cloud computing refers to services that are Web-based (that is, offered on the Internet) and sold on demand. Consumers pay for cloud services by units, such as the hour or the gigabyte, and can use as much or as little as they want. Many cloud services even offer a basic, free version.
Cloud computing services fall into three general categories:
IaaS is a model in which the customer outsources equipment used for storage, hardware, and servers (infrastructure). The cloud vendor owns the equipment and is responsible for maintaining it. The customer typically pays on a per-use basis. This model allows customers to pay only for the capacity they need, and to add more if and as they need more.
The benefits of this model don’t lie in the equipment; they lie in the features that reside on the equipment and the way it is managed. For instance, Amazon Web Services (AWS) offers an infrastructure that allows anyone to utilize the same reliable technology that powers Amazon.com, complete with database capabilities, payment processing, content delivery, and more. Other IaaS providers, such as RackSpace, offer pay-per-use Web site hosting services that include a plethora of tools to help develop robust and optimized Web sites.
Another advantage of cloud infrastructures is that they utilize what is called “load management” or “clustering” over the cloud (i.e., over many different pieces of equipment). This results in faster and more reliable Web applications and Web sites.
PaaS involves software and product development tools hosted by the provider and accessed online by the customer. Even novice developers can build Web applications without needing to install any special software or programming tools, and they can deploy their applications right from a Web browser. In many cases, you don’t even need to have a developer write code, since the provider typically has an archive of code you can copy and alter.
Pricing for PaaS is usually based on how many clicks an application receives, or how many users access the application over a specific period of time, though Google App Engine is free up to 500 million page views per month.
PaaS examples include Force.com (offered by Sales Force) and Google App Engine. Force.com offers a business development platform that can be used to manage customer relations and for other business functions. Google App Engine can be used for anything from custom social networking services to mobile applications to Twitter tools to entire Web communities.
You are not likely to run out and start building applications today if you are not a developer, but be aware that PaaS cloud services are becoming more user-friendly all the time. If you have been fantasizing about building an application for increasing your own productivity or for worldwide distribution, you could be much closer than you think you are to making that dream a reality.
WaveMaker (see Cloud Computing Resources, this issue) is an example of a cloud service that offers a “drag and drop” platform for building Web 2.0 applications.
In this model, the cloud vendor hosts the hardware (infrastructure), the software, and the data so that users can access the service from anywhere, on any computer. SaaS alleviates the need to purchase software or even install anything on your own computer. Growing Internet accessibility has made this type of service more and more appealing, especially to small businesses.
You are probably already familiar with many services that fall into this category. They include Web-based email services like Google’s Gmail, file-sharing services like Dropbox, and Web 2.0 development tools like Kickapps. One of the most useful is Google Apps, whose offerings include Gmail for business, Google Calendar, Google Docs, Google Groups, Google Sites, and Google Video.
Microsoft is launching its own version of Google Docs, called Office Web Apps, this year. Unfortunately, it requires users to install a version of Office 2010 on their computers even to run the online version of the product. This eliminates one of the most attractive features of SaaS, which is keeping the customer free from dependency on any particular hardware or software.
Many other SaaS providers offer a diverse collection of services (as you’ll see in Cloud Computing Resources, this issue). Prices for SaaS are usually based on storage space and charged by blocks of gigabytes, though some companies use pay-per-click or pay-per-user pricing models.
Seen in the Crystal Ball
Later this year, Google plans to release Google Chrome OS, an operating system that is geared toward the cloud and designed for use on netbooks. The idea is to have an operating system that is based on how people are using their computers today, not on how they used them in the past.
Imagine an operating system that works by loading only your Internet browser and your protected identity, and does that in seconds. The need for installing applications, storing gigabytes of data, and having to protect all your files from viruses is coming to an end.
I for one am looking forward to ditching my six-pound laptop for a two-pound netbook or an even lighter iPhone!
Deltina Hay (deltina.com), a veteran Web developer and publisher, is a pioneer in social media and Web 2.0, especially with respect to small business and the publishing industry. She is the owner of Dalton Publishing (daltonpublishing.com), Social Media Power (socialmediapower.com), and the innovative social media Web site service PlumbSocial (plumbsocial.com). Her book A Survival Guide to Social Media and Web 2.0 Optimization can be found or requested anywhere books are sold.
The Next Evolution of Internet Search: Recapping Parts 1 and 2
Microformats is a markup language that helps you classify and tag your content so “semantic” search engines can make more sense of it. Using microformats to mark up content about events, contact information, locations, products, reviews, and so forth helps you create “structured data” that is relatively easy for semantic search engines—including Google’s new Rich Snippets—to recognize.
The term linked data also refers to a way of structuring data, but this way uses the Web to create links among data from many different datasets and to classify that data using an established “data commons.” This means using a common reference to represent a piece of data so that content can be linked easily to and from other data sources, and so that semantic search engines can easily classify it.
A Cloud Computing Caveat
Choose your cloud vendors wisely. Since a cloud service provider is bearing responsibility for your data and personal information, make sure the provider is an established company with good references. Even a new service can be a good choice if you look into who the developers are and what people are saying about the service.
Cloud Computing Resources