What is cloud computing?

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What is cloud computing?

Cloud computing is a general term for anything that involves delivering hosted services over the Internet. Cloud computing is the delivery of on-demand computing services — from applications to storage and processing power — typically over the internet and on a pay-as-you-go basis.

How does cloud computing work?

Rather than owning their own computing infrastructure or data centers, companies can rent access to anything from applications to storage from a cloud service provider.One benefit of using cloud computing services is that firms can avoid the upfront cost and complexity of owning and maintaining their own IT infrastructure, and instead simply pay for what they use, when they use it.In turn, providers of cloud computing services can benefit from significant economies of scale by delivering the same services to a wide range of customers.

What are examples of cloud computing?

Cloud computing underpins a vast number of services. That includes consumer services like Gmail or the cloud back-up of the photos on your smartphone, though to the services which allow large enterprises to host all their data and run all of their applications in the cloud. Netflix relies on cloud computing services to run its its video streaming service and its other business systems too, and have a number of other organisations.Cloud computing is becoming the default option for many apps: software vendors are increasingly offering their applications as services over the internet rather than standalone products as they try to switch to a subscription model. However, there is a potential downside to cloud computing, in that it can also introduce new costs and new risks for companies using it.

Why is it called cloud computing?

A fundamental concept behind cloud computing is that the location of the service, and many of the details such as the hardware or operating system on which it is running, are largely irrelevant to the user. It’s with this in mind that the metaphor of the cloud was borrowed from old telecoms network schematics, in which the public telephone network (and later the internet) was often represented as a cloud to denote that the just didn’t matter — it was just a cloud of stuff.

History

Cloud computing was popularized with Amazon releasing its Elastic Compute Cloud product in 2006.References to the phrase “cloud computing” appeared as early as 1996, with the first known mention in a Compaq internal document.The cloud symbol was used to represent networks of computing equipment in the original Arpanet by as early as 1977,[ and the CSNET by 1981[—both predecessors to the Internet itself. The word cloud was used as a metaphor for the Internet and a standardized cloud-like shape was used to denote a network on telephony schematics. With this simplification, the implication is that the specifics of how the end points of a network are connected are not relevant for the purposes of understanding the diagram.The term cloud was used to refer to platforms for distributed computing as early as 1993, when Apple spin-off General Magic and AT&T used it in describing their (paired)Telescript and PersonaLink technologies.

How important is the cloud?

Building the infrastructure to support cloud computing now accounts for more than a third of all IT spending wordwide, according to research from IDC. Meanwhile spending on traditional, in-house IT continues to slide as computing workloads continue to move to the cloud, whether that is public cloud services offered by vendors or private clouds built by enterprises themselves.451 Research predicts that around one-third of enterprise IT spending will be on hosting and cloud services this year “indicating a growing reliance on external sources of infrastructure, application, management and security services”.

Analyst Gartner predicts that half of global enterprises using the cloud now will have gone all in on it by 2021.According to Gartner, global spending on cloud services will reach $260bn this year up from $219.6bn. It’s also growing at a faster rate than the analysts expected. But it’s not entirely clear how much of that demand is coming from businesses that actually want to move to the cloud and how much is being created by vendors who now only offer cloud versions of their products (often because they are keen to move to away from selling one-off licences to selling potentially more lucrative and predictable cloud subscriptions).

Cloud computing can be broken down into three cloud computing models, Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS), and Software-as-a-Service.

What is Infrastructure-as-a-Service?

Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) refers to the fundamental building blocks of computing that can be rented: physical or virtual servers, storage and networking. This is attractive to companies that want to build applications from the very ground up and want to control nearly all the elements themselves, but it does require firms to have the technical skills to be able to orchestrate services at that level. Research by Oracle found that two thirds of IaaS users said using online infrastructure makes it easier to innovate, had cut their time to deploy new applications and services and had significantly cut on-going maintenance costs. However,half said IaasS isn’t secure enough for most critical data.

What is Platform-as-a-Service?

Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) is the next layer up — as well as the underlying storage, networking, and virtual servers this will also include the tools and software that developers need to build applications on top of: that could include middleware, database management, operating systems, and development tools.

What is Software-as-a-Service?

Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) is the delivery of applications-as-a-service, probably the version of cloud computing that most people are used to on a day-to-day basis. The underlying hardware and operating system is irrelevant to the end user, who will access the service via a web browser or app; it is often bought on a per-seat or per-user basis.

Cloud computing benefits

The exact benefits will vary according to the type of cloud service being used but, fundamentally, using cloud services means companies not having to buy or maintain their own computing infrastructure.No more buying servers, updating applications or operating systems, or decommissioning and disposing of hardware or software when it is out of date, as it is all taken care of by the supplier. For commodity applications, such as email, it can make sense to switch to a cloud provider, rather than rely on in-house skills. A company that specializes in running and securing these services is likely to have better skills and more experienced staff than a small business could afford to hire, so cloud services may be able to deliver a more secure and efficient service to end users.

Using cloud services means companies can move faster on projects and test out concepts without lengthy procurement and big upfront costs, because firms only pay for the resources they consume. This concept of business agility is often mentioned by cloud advocates as a key benefit. The ability to spin up new services without the time and effort associated with traditional IT procurement should mean that is easier to get going with new applications faster.

And if a new application turns out to be a wildly popular the elastic nature of the cloud means it is easier to scale it up fast.For a company with an application that has big peaks in usage, for example that is only used at a particular time of the week or year, it may make financial sense to have it hosted in the cloud, rather than have dedicated hardware and software laying idle for much of the time. Moving to a cloud hosted application for services like email or CRM could remove a burden on internal IT staff, and if such applications don’t generate much competitive advantage, there will be little other impact.

Cloud computing advantages and disadvantages

Cloud computing is not necessarily cheaper than other forms of computing, just as renting is not always cheaper than buying in the long term. If an application has a regular and predictable requirement for computing services it may be more economical to provide that service in-house.Some companies may be reluctant to host sensitive data in a service that is also used by rivals. Moving to a SaaS application may also mean you are using the same applications as a rival, which may make it hard to create any competitive advantage if that application is core to your business.

While it may be easy to start using a new cloud application, migrating existing data or apps to the cloud may be much more complicated and expensive. And it seems there is now something of a shortagein cloud skills and multi-cloud monitoring and management knowledge in particularly short supply.

And of course, you can only access your applications if you have an internet connection.Cloud services have revolutionized computing, not least through IaaS, PaaS and especially SaaS, which have allowed businesses to develop virtualized IT infrastructure and deliver software through the cloud, independent of a user’s operating system.

Even better still, businesses can also mix and match cloud services from different providers through cloud brokers in order to ensure these services work to maximum efficiency and cost effectiveness, but also to reduce the chances of vendor lock-in while also improving redundancy. This may require additional cloud managment software, but for larger businesses the economic effects can be significant.

Because everything is run through software platforms and virtualized networks, it means that it’s easy to access and analyse data for the purposes of analytics as well as for dusiness intelligence purposes. It also makes it easier to simplify all aspects of monitoring through cloud orchestration and the easy processing of log files through cloud logging services. The result is IT infrastructure that allows for better maintenance and patching, while providing for insights that would have previously been much more difficult to access.

Best cloud computing services

Amazon Web Services:AWS was founded in 2006. It provides on demand cloud computing to individuals and organizations. Amazon Web Services is a cloud-based program for building business solutions using integrated web services. AWS offers an extensive range of IaaS and PaaS services. These include Elastic Cloud Compute (EC2), Elastic Beanstalk, Simple Storage Service (S3) and Relational Database Service (RDS)

Microsoft Azure:Microsoft Azure was released nearly a decade ago, in 2010. Users can run any service on the cloud or combine it with any existing applications, data centre or infrastructure. Microsoft Azure provides a wide array of solutions suitable for all types of industry. All your business needs will be taken into consideration. This results in a package better suited for needs. Azure means there is no need to have physical servers on site. This reduces the usual costs, such as an onsite server support team. The Azure Migration Centre makes cloud transfers faster and easier. The solution is also compatible with Linux.

Google Cloud:Google Cloud Platform is Google’s cloud service provider. The platform enables users to create business solutions using Google-provided, modular web services. It offers a wide array of services including IaaS and PaaS solutions. With Google Cloud’s multi layered secure infrastructure, users can rest assured that anything you build, create, code or store will be protected. This is done through a commitment to transparency and a highly trained team of engineers.

IBM Cloud:IBM Cloud is a set of cloud computing services offered by the eponymous tech giant IBM. The solution offers platform as a service, software as a service and infrastructure as a service. IBM Cloud offers a wide range of services. Not all of them are cloud based: it covers both virtual and hardware –based servers, composed of public, private and management networks. As hardware and virtual-based servers are combined into one on demand cloud-platform, you have complete infrastructure control.

IBM refer to their hardware servers as ‘bare metal’. These provide clients with sole access to their entire server. This reduces the ‘noisy neighbor’ effect and greatly improves performance. IBM Cloud is integrated and managed by a single system that can be controlled via web portal, API (Application Programming Interface) or mobile apps. IBM Cloud’s Bluemix developing solution has a wide range of cloud SaaS management tools.
Oracle Cloud:Oracle Cloud is another cloud service from a computing behemoth, and as you’d expect it’s both a powerful and feature-packed platform. A recent Forrester review noted that Oracle’s services were especially strong at supporting different workloads, especially for IoT, OLTP, microservices, along with applications dependent on AI and machine learning. There are two main service provisions available: cloud architecture, and storage data. Cloud architecture includes data management, databases, and applications, while the Oracle Data Cloud is primarily for driving big data analytics for business intelligence insights. Oracle also provides a range of SaaS (Software as a Service) platforms such as HCM, EPM, SCM, and social media tools.

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