When “Cloud Computing” is mentioned, the first thing that pops into most peoples’ minds is, simply, “What is it? Is this another one of those hi-tech computer terms again?”
What most people may not realize is that they are using cloud computing all the time themselves, even though they aren’t even aware what it is. When you take a closer look, you’ll see that it’s a process that’s performed each day, instead of some technological definition reserved for the computer savvy.
So what is cloud computing and what can it do for me?
The most clear and simple definition is this: Cloud computing is actually a general term, for any activity that includes delivering the hosted services over the Internet. These services are separated in three different categories, which are: Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), Infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) and Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS). The process name was inspired by the symbol of cloud that is often used to represent the web in the diagrams and flowcharts.
There are three distinct characteristics of a cloud service that make it different from usual, traditional hosting. Firstly the cloud service is completely managed by the provider, the user doesn’t need anything but a PC and access to the Internet. Also, it is sold on an as needed basis usually by the minutes or hours and the consumer can choose to have as much or as little of service they need at any given time.
Lately, the interest in ‘cloud computing’ has increased significantly, due to several reasons, such as: significant innovations in the fields of virtualization, easier and improved access to the high speed internet connections, and, a weak economy are just some of the reasons for its growing popularity.
Two kinds of cloud services here are private and public clouds. A public one sells services to any Internet user, the best example is the Amazon Web Service, which is currently the largest public cloud provider available. On the other side, a private cloud is a data center, that supplies the hosted services on demand to only limited number of users. Public or private, the main and only goal of cloud computing is to enable easy and effective access to virtual resources and IT services.
Amazon Web Service, which falls in “Infrastructure as a service” category, is using application program interface to control their virtual servers and storage. Cloud computing is allowing the company to use only the amount of capacity it requires, and it can deliver more online as soon as it’s needed. This “pay for what you use” model of payment resembles the way electricity or fuel is consumed. It’s known as “utility computing.”
Platform-as-a-service cloud model is a system of software tools developed by the programmers and hosted on the provider’s platform. In the software-as-a-service cloud, the vendor is supplying the hardware infrastructure, the software data and interacts with the user with a front-end portal. Software as a service cloud model is a very large market. This kind of service can be anything from email service to inventory control. Since the provider hosts both the data and the application, a user can access the service from anywhere.
So as you can see there are many elements to cloud computing and many different options. This post is to give a basic understanding of the technical aspects of cloud computing as a whole. I’ll admit some of the phraseology is a bit confusing and I’ll be interested to see ho the public latches on to the overall notion of computing on the “cloud.” In future post I’ll outline some of the marketing aspects of cloud computing, as well as some more of the everyday advantages and applications.