Prototyping in the Cloud

Some of the main benefits of cloud computing are that it requires no hardware, is an on-demand service, and requires payment only for actual usage. Using cloud services like Amazon's EC2, developers can get required computing resources in seconds. Just this time alone would speed up developers' progress by at least weeks, if not months


13 October 2009

As a software engineer, I am constantly on the hunt for the latest and greatest technology that can improve Intralinks' business offerings, productivity or technical edge. Whenever I or my team finds something that we think is good to incorporate into a product we will try to develop a Proof of Concept (POC) using this new technology. As developers, however, we often encounter hurdles in the initial phase of implementing a prototype.

One of the main issues many engineers encounter in development is the lack of physical resources required to implement prototypes. Most software developers have powerful PCs that they use for both development as well as daily office tasks like email, documentation, internet browsing, etc. These daily tasks take up nearly all of the computing resources on their desktop, so in order for developers to implement prototypes or POCs they need to purchase hardware to increase their computing resources. In most businesses, ordering new hardware requires an approval and order process which can take weeks to complete. That's just too long of a wait for developers to get started on their new projects!

Cloud computing has essentially eliminated this headache for developers. Some of the main benefits of cloud computing are that it requires no hardware, is an on-demand service, and requires payment only for actual usage. Using cloud services like Amazon's EC2, developers can get required computing resources in seconds. Just this time alone would speed up developers' progress by at least weeks, if not months. Not to mention it costs only a tiny fraction of the price for new hardware.

With today's cloud computing capabilities, developers are now more well equipped to implement prototypes at a fast pace with almost zero cost. Once the prototype is completed, developers can shutdown the cloud service with no additional costs. For example, if a developer uses a cloud resource to complete a prototype for one month, the typical cost is less than $100. Compare that to buying new hardware, which can cost from $1,000-$3,000. That's a big difference just on price itself. There are also the time savings using cloud services because you can skip the hardware purchase process.

Intralinks' Architecture and Research teams have used cloud computing for prototyping on a few projects already. One of the first prototypes that was done through cloud computing was Intralinks Mobile Access. Other prototype projects we are working on are also done with cloud services. These prototypes were able to be implemented at a very fast pace due to the capabilities of cloud computing. We will continue to use cloud services for future prototype projects — more on those soon!