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How to do a Proof of Concept in the Cloud

If you take the necessary steps in planning and executing your proof of concept, the odds are that you will succeed at making the concept a viable application for your company.

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I attended RightScale’s proof of concept (POC) webinar last week where they discussed the process of running a cloud based POC.  They provided some key points, but the most important aspect of the presentation was Business Agility:

How quickly can [the] cloud help us respond to business needs and opportunities?

Spot on, or may I say very quickly!

From a development point of view, RightScale provides the management tools to build the POC in the cloud giving you an “instant on” platform to test your concept.  How you derive and manage the process is a different issue.

For a POC, I would suggest using Agile as the methodology to take your concept [ideas] into a definition user story which is implemented over one or more iterations.  At the end of the end of the iteration, you have a tested prototype of the POC.

This works really well especially if you don’t know all of the requirements up front. Often the best case is to simplify the engineering and build on top of what you know.

Keep things Simple

For example, taking a rough drawing of a proposed POC (above photo) is often all it takes to get started.  Here a customer wanted a cloud management system from which their mobile platform could receive notifications. Their main concern was that a SaaS app built the traditional (MVC) way would not meet the transaction demands placed on the management system.

As explained in the drawing, the view and model do not necessarily have to reside on the same platform as the controller and could be distributed across many servers as needed.  But for the initial iteration of the POC, we would implement basic functionality of the transaction requirement on a single server.

Since the content provided to the handsets was basically small and static it was easy to emulate and verify that the approach would scale and it was possible to continue on to the next iteration building on top of model.

Keep Iterations Tight and Small

You have to remember that proof of concepts are out of scope demonstrations.  That is, funding is coming from R&D, profit, or from investors.  If it takes more than a few man months of work, the odds of getting the go ahead to test the concept is not very likely unless you can show significant ROI or value added.

Keep Excellent Records

Just because the project is a POC doesn’t imply that you should take short cuts.  Record keeping is a must just in case the concept is shelved and resurrected later.  Do not skip steps in quality and follow internal development guidelines regardless of the type of project.

One thing that I really hated early on in my career was that our Demonstration Group in charge of the POC’s would hack out the implementation.  Even though their code was more that adequate, we could not use it because it was not developed under the same develop process promised to the customer.  QA simply would not let it fly – literally.

There are many ways to do a proof of concept, but if it is cloud based application, RightScale can get you started instantly building a development platform.  Keep in mind that you are trying to prove an idea to see if it meets a business need or new opportunity.  Start out small, simple and flesh out the requirements as you prove the concept and your project will be a success.

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