Publishing recipe, ingredient and nutrient information to the cloud- It's easier than you think!
Posted: Jan 28, 2011 by Mike Glue | 0 comments
What's up with all this talk about clouds lately? It seems as if every computing presentation has a section that mentions cloud computing. So what's the big deal? Well, before we get to what cloud computing means to you and your business, let’s go over what exactly it is that we’re talking about.
Cloud Computing Defined
Microsoft defines cloud computing as "location-independent computing, whereby shared servers provide resources, software, and data to computers and other devices on demand." OK, well that doesn't really sound too different than normal application servers does it? Well, the key element above is "location-independent". You don't need to be logged into the same domain as the server. You don't even need to know where the server is. Take your mobile phone as an example. When you open up the weather app, or check today's exchange rates, are you at all concerned where the server is or how you will connect to the service? Not at all. The services are there, ready to use, anytime you desire. That's the power of cloud computing.
"Always on, always available"
Ok great, there are these services out there floating around waiting to be used. So what? What does it mean to me from an ERP perspective?
Say for example that I’m a salesperson. I spend 95% of my time on the road, going from customer to prospect to customer, drumming up new sales and new opportunities. I need to make sure I always have the latest sales figures from my ERP database and also need to keep on top of inventory levels to make that quick last minute deal if necessary.
What needs to happen in order to get me the most recent recipe, ingredient and nutrient information? Well, I could get this information via email, however the data is only up to date as of when the email was initiated. Ok, then let's give me access to the ERP system so I can get the information I need. Oh but wait, since I’m not always connected to a network, that will make it tough for me to get access since remote connecting into the system typically needs at least a DSL level connection. Let’s instead purchase/develop an application that allows us to synchronize data to my device. That would work, but since I’m out on the road, I won’t have time to dock my device and sync it up to the ERP system. We also need to set up hardware and a new system to support this.
How about we synchronize this data to the cloud? Then, using a web browser, I can get access to the data from anywhere. A cellular connection will be enough to pull down live data, or I can download an offline version in the event that I can't get a signal.
Cloud Computing Requirements
All we need is our SQL Server software that our ERP system already runs on, a subscription to Microsoft SQL Azure, and a small amount of development. Unsure of what that means?Microsoft SQL Azure is a fully functioning SQL Server that runs in the cloud. Currently, SQL Azure can store up to 50GB of data, and you pay only for the storage space you use.
The next step is using Integration Services, which is part of our SQL Server software, to set up a data synchronization routine between our ERP database and our SQL Azure database. We will only synchronize the data that I need to see. How do I gain access to that data you’re probably wondering? Here is where we need a developer. We can build a website or an application, or even allow access via Excel Services. Any of these will talk securely using HTTPS to our SQL Azure database using web services. We'll be able to show the data in whichever way makes sense. We'll also develop a function that will pull down an offline version of the data so that I have a backup in case I cannot get a cellular connection.
The Cloud is Secure
The beauty of cloud computing is that we're offloading this service to the cloud, so we don't need to manage any public-facing database servers. We don't need to worry about managing security since we have a secure connection between our ERP system and SQL Azure. We've also secured the connection between George and SQL Azure.
Pretty cool stuff, right? We've taken pieces of our ERP data and made it available to traveling team members without disrupting our IT infrastructure and without having to invest heavily into any new hardware.
Hopefully the power of cloud computing is a bit more clear to you know. We at JustFoodERP are extremely excited at the possibilities that this will open up for us. Stay tuned for future functionality from us that will make use of the cloud!
Mike is the Chief Architect of JustFoodERP. He has over 10 years experience in software development working specifically for technology companies. He leads the development team at JustFoodERP. He is accountable for JustFoodERP’s product quality, design architecture, and the future product path. When he’s not thinking about software he is running around crazily with his four kids and squeezing a few minutes for gaming and playing the guitar.
Mike Glue is the Chief Architect of JustFoodERP. He is responsible for the delivery of new JustFoodERP functionality, and keeping up with the latest, greatest Microsoft platforms. He is the company's top nerd who likes to hit it out of the park. (Oh yeah, and an avid baseball fan!) He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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