What is Cloud Computing?
There are a lot of references to cloud computing these days. You read about it in journals, blogs and newspapers. And you even hear it on the radio. But what really is cloud computing?
Simplistically, cloud computing is everything about computing - computing power, computer infrastructure, applications, business processes, personal collaboration etc - delivered to as a service wherever and whenever you need them.
The cloud itself is a set of hardware, networks, storage, services, and interfaces that enable the delivery of computing as a service. Cloud services include the delivery of software, infrastructure, and storage over the based on user demand.
Cloud computing comes in different forms. There is the public cloud – outside and usually shared by many customers - , private cloud – behind the firewall and used by single organization - and hybrid cloud – which combine both public and private cloud.
Traditional IT Data Center vs The Cloud
Traditional IT service providers operate the hardware, software, networks, and storage for its clients. The service provider operates the infrastructure in its own facilities. The customer pays the licensing fees for the software and the IT service provider manages the overall environment. The customer signs a long-term contract that specifies mutually agreed-upon service levels and the IT providers typically customize an environment to meet the needs of one customer.
In the cloud model, the service provider might still operate the infrastructure in its own facilities except in the case of a private cloud. However, the infrastructure might be virtualized across the globe, meaning that you may not know where your computing resources, applications, or even data actually reside. Additionally, these service providers are designing their infrastructure for scale, meaning that there isn’t necessarily a lot of customization going on.
Advantages of the Cloud
The main advantage of the cloud is the elasticity that comes with it. Users can request additional resources on demand or release then when they are no longer needed. In the traditional data center it is also possible to add and release resources but the process could not be done in an automated or self-service manner. Plus there is usually a need to buy more hardware and software and this can take a long time depending on the company policies.
The world of cloud computing is made up of many players. They include the vendors that provide the technology, infrastructure, hardware and integration to the vendors who create cloud services offerings and provide support services to customers. Finally it includes corporate leaders and consumers who use or evaluate the various types of cloud computing offerings.
Cloud computing infrastructures make it easier for companies to treat their computing systems as a pool of resources rather than a set of independent environments that each has to be managed.
Characteristics of a Cloud
The cloud has a few basic characteristics. There is elasticity. You have the ability to scale up or down. It has a self service feature. You can add or release resources automatically. There are application programming interfaces (APIs) that allow you to interact with the cloud in a pre-defined manner. Finally there is metering and billing of service usage in a pay as you use model.
In order to be effective, cloud computing must have a comprehensive approach to service management and a well defined process for security management.
The cloud service provider has to monitor the performance of the system and provide a service guarantee. The service provider must also make sure that information cannot be accidentally accessed by another company or by a hacker. In fact, turning over critical data or application infrastructure to a cloud based service provider is one of the main reason keeping companies from taking the leap to cloud computing.
Benefits of Cloud Computing
One of the most immediate benefits of the cloud is the ability to add resources or capacity quickly and at lower cost. A typically cloud service provider has economies of scale, since he has the ability to spread fixed costs over many customers compared to a typical corporation.
An organization can also try out new application or developing new ones without investing in new hardware, software and network infrastructure. They can just tap on the cloud.
A corporation can also reduce their capital expenditures by using the services of a cloud service provider.
Cloud computing, in all of its forms, is transforming the computing landscape. It will change the way we deploy technology and how we think about the economics of computing. While there has been a lot of debate about where it is headed, no one has doubt that it is real and here to stay.
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