The Future of Computing (Now) – Cloud Computing


What is Cloud Computing?

In simple terms, cloud computing builds on the foundations of virtualised resources (compute resources, storage resources, network resources), providing an additional level of configuration and control across multiple virtual environments, as well as the capability of implementing “self service” facilities.

“Cloud computing is a model for enabling convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (e.g., networks, servers, storage, applications, and services) that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction.

This cloud model promotes availability and is composed of:

  1. five essential characteristics:
    1. On-demand self-service;
    2. Broad network access;
    3. Resource pooling;
    4. Rapid elasticity;
    5. Measured Service;
  2. three service models:
    1. Cloud Software as a Service (SaaS);
    2. Cloud Platform as a Service (PaaS);
    3. Cloud Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS); and,
  3. four deployment models:
    1. Private cloud;
    2. Community cloud;
    3. Public cloud;
    4. Hybrid cloud.

Key enabling technologies include:

  1. fast wide-area networks;
  2. powerful, inexpensive server computers; and
  3. high-performance virtualization for commodity hardware.”

(Source: NIST)

“Cloud computing is a category of computing solutions in which a technology and/or service lets users access computing resources on demand, as needed, whether the resources are physical or virtual, dedicated, or shared, and no matter how they are accessed (via a direct connection, LAN, WAN, or the Internet). The cloud is often characterized by self-service interfaces that let customers acquire resources when needed as long as needed. Cloud is also the concept behind an approach to building IT services that takes advantage of the growing power of servers and virtualization technologies.”  (Source: IBM)

Cloud Computing is now one of the “hot topics” in ICT.  Almost all major vendors have some semblance of a cloud computing offering, however that may be defined (since, as with most “hot topics”, vendors and others define an amorphous term such as cloud computing in a manner which best suits their interests).

Other terminology is sometimes used in conjunction with (and sometimes, erroneously, synonymous with) cloud computing.  The terms SaaS (Software as a Service), PaaS (Platform as a Service) and IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service) can all be considered as sub-variants of the more generic term “cloud computing”.  The diagram in this IBM introductory material further elucidates these differences.

 

Public, Private and Hybrid Clouds

“In general, a public (external) cloud is an environment that exists outside a company’s firewall. It can be a service offered by a third-party vendor. It could also be referred to as a shared or multi-tenanted, virtualized infrastructure managed by means of a self-service portal.

A private (internal) cloud reproduces the delivery models of a public cloud and does so behind a firewall for the exclusive benefit of an organization and its customers. The self-service management interface is still in place while the IT infrastructure resources being collected are internal.

In a hybrid cloud environment, external services are leveraged to extend or supplement an internal cloud.”  (Source: IBM)

Diagrammatically, the three (3) types of cloud computing offerings can be depicted as:

Cloud Computing Types

(Source: Sam Johnston)

Private Clouds

“Private clouds presents (sic) a shift from a model where everything is customized to one of standardization. Management in such an environment is no longer about avoiding change but instead embracing it to facilitate IT’s twin goals: delivering on the needs of the business and managing the underlying resources in the most efficient way possible.

The move to private cloud represents an industrial revolution for IT, applying industrial manufacturing techniques to the provisioning of IT services, gaining standardization and automation.

Standardization is central to achieving much greater operational efficiency.  Private clouds not only facilitate standardization but dramatically increase the returns on standardization. Deploying standard infrastructure from a templatized catalog of applications is orders of magnitude faster and easier than building each application from scratch. Similar gains are available from centralizing and standardizing high availability, network management, and security.

To take advantage of the cloud, there needs to be a clear separation of the production versus consumption layer. In the cloud, the consumer (the business) has no idea – and importantly, little interest in or concern with – what hardware platform and management tools are being used to deliver services.”  (Source: VMWare)

It should be noted that some commentators (for instance, Sam Johnston in his “Random rants about tech stuff (cloud computing, intellectual property, security, etc.)“) suggest that Private Clouds are a neologism to justify various vendors offerings in competition to the “pure” Public Cloud model.  Nevertheless, even these commentators acknowledge that Private (and Hybrid) Clouds are likely to be used into the immediate future as organisations come to grips with a new way of providing computing facilities.

 

What Should Run in the Cloud?

Since the “cloud” can effectively implement any computing environment (operating systems, etc), then basically anything could be run in the cloud.  As with most things in life, just because it is possible does not necessarily make it either desirable or useful (or even usable).

Typically, highly interactive applications may best operate using a desktop or workstation environment (such as high end graphics manipulation, high end development IDEs, etc).  But the boundaries between a pure cloud environment and a pure desktop environment (and, now, even a pure mobile environment) are becoming increasingly blurred.  In many instances, what were previously only desktop applications now are connected to cloud facilities, typically for storage of data, but also for additional processing capabilities (for instance, to render complex images using the additional compute resources available in cloud facilities).  In the same manner, mobile applications will store (synchronise) data using a cloud facility, thereby allowing a single view of one’s data whether using a web based interface (into the cloud), a mobile device interface (ie on a smartphone) or a desktop interface (ie a MS Windows application).

In addition, applications with extremely sensitive security profiles would most likely not be run in a public cloud or hybrid environment (although could readily be conceived as operating in a secure private cloud environment).

Everything else is amenable to cloud based operation.

 

How big is Cloud Computing?

An interesting infographic from the Wikibon site and its blog provides an insight into the current and projected size of cloud computing, including the economics of why cloud computing is here to stay …

How Big is the World of Cloud Computing?
Via: Wikibon

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