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What is a cloud-in-a box?

Posted by Louise Merifield on 03-May-2015 10:31:00

 

During the last couple of weeks, I've been climbing the learning curve to the pinnacle of NuvlaBox understanding. I only needed stiff boots this time, whereas for SlipStream, it was crampons, ropes and ice axes all the way. Does this mean that the NuvlaBox, SixSq's cloud in a box, is easier to understand? Let's see what you think.


It is an appliance, a box about the size of a modem, so it's something I can literally hold in my hand, which helps with my understanding. And it's a beautiful object. I can plug it in and switch it on and it automatically creates its own Wi-Fi network. Cool! I can see the advantage of that, especially if I'm somewhere where the network is non-existent or unreliable, and now with my iPad I can connect to its home page. Now what do I do with it?

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Well, everyone in my family has their own favourite use for it, but let's look first at the everyday commercial use.

If I have a business running several servers, I can use the NuvlaBox as a local cloud, as it can host up to 8 virtual servers (or virtual machines), meaning that I can replace up to 8 of the physical servers I currently run. For example, it's common to have separate servers running linux and windows, plus the applications the company needs to do its job, which for a a chain of distribution warehouses, let's say, would be warehouse management, orders and sales apps. The NuvlaBox can run all these things at the same in time, which saves money in many ways, as well as reducing the complexity of IT management. How does that work then? The NuvlaBox comes pre-configured with an operating system, Stratuslab as its cloud layer and SlipStream as a local App Store. The user can install his/her own applications or have them pre-installed by SixSq or a third party software vendor (ISV). It's like buying a ready meal, just more healthy.

There's also an option to connect the NuvlaBox to a wide area network, which then gives access to the SixSq deployment platform. The user is then not limited to the apps on his own box, he can access a whole catalogue of blueprints and download them in a click.

Now for other cool applications of the box. My seven-year old son, who is obsessed with all things construction and agriculture, would love to see it used by a farmer. Sensors play an important role in agriculture and forestry today, with the need to increase production and reduce costs, while keeping a close eye on environmental impact. The use of sensors helps to exploit all available resources appropriately and to apply hazardous products moderately. However, forwarding raw data from the sensors via broadband network is expensive and not always possible due to scarce bandwidth and resources. The NuvlaBox solves that problem when used as a sensor aggregator.

My eleven-year old wants it to be used for playing Minecraft, probably because he thinks it will give him unrestricted video game time as he's helping dad. Mate, it won't. He can pick the Minecraft app from the App Store and run the game in the NuvlaBox. He can even invite his friends to join the game as the NuvlaBox exposes a protected public access point via a clever SixSq service, even if the box is running on a home network. But since it's under parental control, I can switch it off at any time, something more difficult when it's running somewhere out there in cyber space :-)

I personally would love to see the NuvlaBox used in the context of aid work. It comes into its own when used for IT in hostile environments. When responding to an emergency, such as an earthquake, aid workers find themselves in need of a secure IT infrastructure, but there is no Wi-Fi or wired network in such an environment and therefore no existing services to tap into. The NuvlaBox could be used in exactly such circumstances. Aid workers could buffer in the box a range of apps before departure, it would then be able to switch on the ones they need, and information could be stored, accessed and shared much more quickly and efficiently than is currently the case in such circumstances. It could even be equipped with GSM and/or satellite connection capabilities, so that it could be configured to call home if it sees a connection or when moved to a location where such a connection is available.

If you want to know more about this unique piece of kit, don't hesitate to get in touch 

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Topics: Cloud Basics