“Cloud computing is often far more secure than traditional computing, because companies like Google and Amazon can attract and retain cyber-security personnel of a higher quality than many governmental agencies.”
By Vivek Kundra.
Cloud computing is the delivery of virtualized IT resources through the Internet. IT is computing as a service, delivered on demand, pay-per-use, through a platform of services in the cloud.
The cloud is not a place, but an IT resource management method that replaces local machines and private data centers with virtual infrastructure. In this model, users access the virtual computing, network and storage resources that are available online through a remote provider. These resources can be provisioned instantaneously, which is particularly useful for companies that need to scale their infrastructure vertically or reduce it quickly in response to fluctuating demand.
Benefits of cloud computing
Although cloud computing may not be suitable for all applications, for many companies, moving some or all IT operations to the cloud can have great advantages over its internal management, namely:
- Low initial investment: with cloud computing, an important part of the IT budget becomes an operating expense instead of an initial capital outlay. Companies no longer need to set up expensive data centers before opening their doors or taking new initiatives.
- Cost efficiency: whether your business is small or large, you can get the same benefits from the enormous economies of scale achieved by cloud service providers. CSPs can maximize the amount of fully used hardware they are running, saving energy and other costs, a savings they can ultimately pass on to their customers.
- Highly elastic capacity: cloud computing resources are not only highly scalable (ie, easy to expand) but also elastic, which means that capacity and costs can also be reduced during periods of low demand.
- Ease of use and maintenance: with cloud computing, resources and updates can be implemented in an automated and standardized way, increasing accessibility and eliminating inconsistencies and the need for manual updates. Nor is it necessary for your team to physically maintain the servers or data center facilities.
- Easier innovation: both in the IT team and in businesses in general, cloud computing often paves a smoother path of innovation. Freed from the operational loads of “racking and stacking”, IT departments have the necessary bandwidth to drive improvements in the business process, which can have far-reaching effects. Meanwhile, their business counterparts can quickly and inexpensively provide resources from experimental programs and then expand or reduce them without the burden of detailed infrastructure planning or long-term initial investment.
- Better business continuity: the virtualized nature of the cloud computing infrastructure allows the automated creation of data backups and operating systems, and the initiation of failover procedures. This allows much better data availability and protection than most local systems can offer.
Types of cloud computing services
While cloud computing has many advantages, companies may have some concerns, which include:
- Infrastructure as a service (IaaS): being the most basic form of computing in the cloud, IaaS provides users with access to basic infrastructure concepts such as server space or data storage and networks. This model is the closest thing to the replication of the functionality of a traditional data center in a hosted environment.
- Platform as a service (PaaS): this model offers a complete development environment, eliminating the need for developers to deal directly with the infrastructure layer when implementing or updating applications.
- Software as a service (SaaS): SaaS applications are designed for end users, and they keep behind the scene all infrastructure development and provisioning. SaaS applications offer a wide range of functionalities in the cloud: from business applications such as word processing programs and spreadsheets, to CRM, photo editing sets and video hosting platforms.
Cloud implementation models
There are three basic models of cloud computing available to businesses:
- Public cloud: The public cloud is a shared cloud infrastructure owned by a cloud provider that is responsible for its maintenance and management such as Amazon Web Services or Microsoft Azure. The main benefits of the public cloud are its on-demand scalability and its pay-per-use prices.
- Private cloud: This type of cloud is run behind a firewall on a company intranet and is hosted in a dedicated data center for that organization. The infrastructure of the private cloud can be configured and managed according to the specific needs of each company.
- Hybrid cloud: as the name suggests, the hybrid cloud model allows companies to take advantage of public and private cloud solutions. With the hybrid cloud, organizations can leverage the capabilities of each cloud model to leverage flexibility and scalability, while protecting sensitive data and operations.
Security is one of the main concerns of companies seeking to transfer some or all of their IT operations to the cloud. In some sectors, compliance regulations for data security require that some applications remain in private data centers, which requires hybrid or private cloud models. However, cloud computing has several security advantages, such as:
- State-of-the-art technology: the public cloud is free from the security risks inherent in most local data centers, which often combine older systems with newer technologies. Cloud providers can implement next generation encryption and other security measures throughout the system, and perform maintenance in an automated manner.
- Dedicated staff: the reputations and businesses of cloud providers depend on the security of customer data. They have staff specifically dedicated to monitoring and maintaining security, which may mean they can do a better job than the IT department of an individual company, which generally handles a wide range of tasks.
- High availability: redundancies are incorporated into cloud computing, so that even if some servers fail, their online applications continue to run without interruption. 24-hour, 7-day-a-week supervision and uptime guarantees are a standard part of cloud computing provider contracts.
- Better data protection and disaster recovery: cloud-based backup solutions are usually relatively inexpensive and easy to use. The cloud computing model also means that the main files are not trapped in individual machines, which will inevitably fail at some point.
Key terminology of cloud computing
Here are some important phrases about cloud computing that you will want to understand:
- Application for the cloud: a web-based software program like those offered by SaaS providers.
- Cloud agent: An intermediary that has access to several service providers in the cloud and can provide individual customers with the best services in the cloud to meet their particular needs. In a hybrid IT environment, IT departments often become cloud agents.
- Cloud management platform: In a business in which operations are distributed between two or more clouds or in a local infrastructure, an uninterrupted cloud management experience is critical when it comes to making everything work so that Efficiency is maximized and costs are optimized. Cloud management tools can help bring everything together in a unified main panel.
- Migration to the cloud: the act of moving data and applications from private machines or data centers to the cloud.
- Native to the cloud: applications that have been developed specifically for cloud-based use. These applications are usually created as microservices in containers, using open source to take full advantage of the inherent flexibility and scalability of cloud computing.
- Cloud service provider: Sometimes called simply “cloud providers”, CSPs create virtualized data centers and offer cloud computing services to their customers, usually through self-service platforms. The services offered range from raw infrastructure to SaaS applications.
- Container: containers allow the virtualization of software applications by providing lightweight runtime environments that include everything needed to run applications, which makes them highly portable. This is fundamental for “native cloud computing”.
- Hypervisor: also called “Virtual Machine Monitor” (VMM), a hypervisor can be software, hardware or firmware, and it is the layer that allows the virtualization of the resources offered by the physical infrastructure. In other words, hypervisors are management systems that allow many guest virtual machines to make use of the same resources.
- Measured service: key component of cloud computing; in “measured services”, cloud service providers monitor several resources and measure their use, and bill accordingly.
- Middleware: the software management layer that is between an application and a network, which makes it possible for networked devices to communicate with each other. In cloud computing, middleware is often used to support complex distributed systems.
- Microservices architecture: small modular programs that link together to create complex applications. Because they are independent, microservices can be implemented and updated individually, allowing for agile development.
- Multi-cloud: companies often use more than one cloud service provider. For example, a company may use an IaaS or PaaS provider for its own systems, and internal or client-facing applications, while using one or more SaaS applications from other vendors to complete aspects of its work.
- Multi-tenant: public cloud providers group computer resources that are shared by multiple consumers. Resources are assigned dynamically according to demand.
Infrastructure defined by software: the infrastructure defined by software can be implemented and controlled completely through an application, without human intervention. This feature allows applications to specify and configure the hardware they need to run as part of their code. The infrastructure defined by software is a fundamental component of all cloud technology.
- Virtual machine: composed of hardware and software, a virtual machine is an operating system or software defined environment that works like a physical PC and contains all its components.
- Workload: a differentiated computing task that takes place within the context of execution of an application. In cloud computing, the workloads of an application can be distributed through different systems.