In one of the Jurassic Park movies, there was a statement, “You can’t contain life, life finds a way”. I believe that the same statement can be applied to innovation as well. Whatever circumstances, innovation would find a way to break through. Perhaps, the tougher the conditions, more innovation would come about.
However, if the conditions are conducive and allow to nurture new ideas, things take a much better shape. There have been different kind initiatives from different agencies worldwide for nurturing new ideas, be it government agencies or large organizations like the United Nations. However, when it comes to IT, there have hardly been any such initiatives by anybody. Some companies did run their internal nurture programs, but the outputs were genuinely miniscule.
Investments in infrastructure are often quoted as the biggest hurdle in the IT innovation attempts, the same applies to the micro startups, where in a gentleman decides to give his idea a run by running his app on a local server system.
Besides allowing optimization of the infrastructure usage and costs, cloud computing has done one big service to the world, by allowing an idea to find foothold on a server at abusively low cost.
The 18 old student needn’t beg his parents or friends for money to buy space on a server and host an application that costs a few hundred/thousand dollars upfront. Now, he can go to places like Amazon Web Services or Rackspace or Microsoft (I have no interest in marketing these firms) and start paying by the hour.
It gets even better with some deals, like the one offered by Amazon these days. For a new account, they allow some computing time and data transfer free every month. Read more about that here.
There has been a similar program by Microsoft, though I believe its over now. There is now a 90 days trial whereas earlier they were promoting a year long free period.
There are other cloud service providers putting up a similar show and providing free access to hosting services for free for a limited time period/resource bundle. Another example is Heroku.
With offers like these, it becomes amazingly easy for an entrepreneur to put his dream project to reality with a very low investment and risk. Planned carefully, a web application can actually run for free for a year on Amazon’s offer. Typically, that’s a decent period for a budding business to find “some” roots.
These days, with cloud computing, its easier than ever to think about an idea over the weekend, build a basic beta kind of app, upload it to one of the cloud service providers, and be up and running in a matter of hours, all at zero cost to your pocket.
Even after we move on from the free period, the costs are surprisingly low. Quoting from Amazon’s pricing page, you can run a micro instance of Linux with 600+ MB RAM for as low as 0.02 USD per hour, which turns out to be around 15 USD for a month. Add some data transfer costs to that and you might be looking at close to 30-35 USD for a month’s worth of your experiment.
The beauty is, if you feel that your idea is not really working out, you can just shut down the services and stop being charged for that. As simple as that, and as clean as that, truly utilitarian behavior.
Although there are other issues and hurdles in the path to innovation, cloud computing has certainly helped big time by easing the infrastructural cost issues.