Cloud Computing has been called the Next Big Thing in web design, but just what is cloud computing? Very simply, it is a system whereby software programs and storage space can be accessed via the Internet. This allows companies to outsource the ownership and management of certain areas of its IT functionality (storage, mail room, fleet services, etc.) to a “black box” within the cloud. They probably don’t know what software or hardware is being used or what operating system it is running on, nor do they need to. This article discusses the usage and advantages of cloud computing.
Cloud computing evolved from the knowledge and experience of managed services, Internet services, application service providers, etc. Its technology is the result of a paradigm shift and is improving business computing because: (1) it is modular, compartmentalizing software applications and associated hardware and infrastructure; (2) it is uniform, utilizing the same resources that customers share. A business using cloud computing can avoid large outlays of capital expense as well as perpetual maintenance costs, thereby aligning cash flow with total system cost.
Data centers are known to be very inefficient, and clustering and virtualizing their servers has met with only limited success. Over time, there will be a logical segue to scalable computing based on/in the cloud. The future of computing is going to consist of the combination of service orientation, service management, and cloud computing. Some of the reasons for this are:
• Hardware costs would decrease because cloud computing systems would reduce the need for advanced, expensive hardware on the client side. It would no longer be necessary or desirable to buy the fastest computer with the most memory or largest hard drive. Rather, all a customer would need to buy is an inexpensive computer terminal, a monitor, input components such as a keyboard and mouse, and only enough processing power to run the middleware necessary to connect to the cloud system.
• Clients could access their applications and data from anywhere at any time using a computer linked to the Internet. Data would be stored offsite rather than take up space on a hard drive on a user’s computer or a corporation’s internal network.
• Since cloud computing is a “pay as you go” system, companies would not have to buy software or software licenses for each employee. Instead, the company would pay a metered fee based on usage, much the way open source software (as opposed to proprietary software) works. For the most part, cloud computing infrastructures are built from open source components because the cloud providers are hesitant to make large investments without knowing the payoff.
• Cloud computing customers would no longer have to worry about physical space in which to store servers and other storage hardware. They can store data on a third-party’s system, thus removing the need for physical space on the front end.
• Since cloud computing offers tried and true hardware, operating systems, and applications, customers could save money on IT support (for obvious reasons, this is not a concept that IT support personnel in general buy into).
• If the cloud computing system’s back end is a grid computing system, customers could take advantage of the entire network’s processing power. For instance, scientists and researchers who work with extremely complicated calculations could send the calculations to the cloud for processing. The cloud system would utilize the processing power of all available computers on the back end and significantly speed up the calculations.
• Cloud computing provides a way to outsource non-critical applications to organizations better suited to run them, allowing IT to focus on critical applications.
• Cloud providers are more efficient at IT operations, using fewer man-hours for standard tasks (again, not a popular concept with IT support personnel).
• By buying hardware in large volume, cloud providers get better pricing.
So, these are the arguments FOR the cloud computing revolution/evolution. My next article will look at the perceived disadvantages of it and why not everyone is buying in to it.