Is mass acceptance of cloud computing inevitable, given that most major IT vendors are shouting it from the rooftops and IBM even talks about the cloud in a TV commercial? The debate rages on. For software developers, however, it has become clear that cloud platforms such as Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Windows Azure are expanding options for their application deployments. (Windows Azure currently is in beta preview and moves to a full production stage on 1 February.)

With computing in public clouds, applications are deployed on third party servers and accessed over the Internet, saving enterprises infrastructure costs but raising concerns in areas such as security and control.

In a recent survey on cloud development, Evans Data found that 61 percent of developers report that at least some of their IT resources will move to a public cloud within the next year. Forrester recently recommended that application developers embrace cloud platforms in 2010 because it will speed delivery of custom applications and is well-suited for web applications.

But Evans also found that more than 87 percent of developers say only half or less than half of their resources will make the move to the cloud. Instead, the hybrid cloud, which offers a gateway to a cloud while not committing all resources to a cloud, will dominate, Evans says. IT shops don't have to surrender all control and security to an outside vendor under this model.

Developers have lots of reasons to embrace the cloud

Many developers who've moved to the cloud are pleased. "A lot of [the benefits] really revolve around the TCO [total cost of ownership] and the relative simplicity," says David Hatter, president of Libertas Technologies. "I love the fact that I don't have to touch hundreds of desktops" to upgrade software, he says.

Libertas has built web-based business and mobile applications. "Virtually everything we do is really cloud-based at this point. We don't do any kind of client-server stuff," Hatter says. Libertas has been using Amazon Web Services and, as a .Net-oriented shop, Windows Azure.

Chiming in with more love for the cloud is Dennis Salguero, a .Net programmer. "All of a sudden, you're given a window into all these resources that are out there as far as computing power at a relatively reasonable cost," he says.

At WBP Systems, company owner and developer Ben Smith cited economic benefits of cloud computing for smaller companies: "The reason why the cloud works is it's a scale thing." IT systems can be replicated over a "huge number of machines," says Smith, who has built the Heap CRM and Torch Project Management cloud applications.

Heap competes with, also a cloud-based application. The cloud helps Heap compete, says Smith. "It lets you scale better," he says.

Smith says he has developed cloud applications using PHP and JavaScript and found it did not make any difference in which language to use when developing for the cloud. "There's no particular advantage from the developer's point of view. It's all about the economics," he says.

Another cloud developer concurred. "I'd say the cloud is programming language agnostic," says Cameron Pope, who has developed applications running on the Amazon and Rackspace clouds.

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