What Is the Cloud?
More and more often, IT operations in modern businesses find themselves asking "what is the cloud" as they search for an economical way to provide enterprise class services with limited resources. In today's tech climate of "bigger, faster, better", this can prove to be a difficult task.
A perennial hot topic in the IT world of late, this emerging technology is finally coming into its own and for many organizations making that troubling task much easier. It's not surprising than with such a nebulous name that many organizations fail to grasp the concept of cloud computing and how it can benefit their IT environment.
What is the Cloud?
The “cloud" is simply a term used to describe a distant network of computing or storage clusters that provide services to a host of users. One supremely beneficial aspect of the cloud is its transparency. Despite supplying otherwise complex, resource intensive operations, the end user sees only the services they subscribe to. No need to wire in an additional storage array, configure new system installs, or worry about software compatibility. In some circumstances it can even be thought of as outsourcing an organization's IT services. Speaking of which, these services are generally broken down into three categories:
- Software as a service (SaaS)
- Platform as a service (PaaS)
- Infrastructure as a service (IaaS)
When combined they provide the basic technological backbone of standard IT resources granting the same abilities with less overhead. The operating system and platform (PaaS) aspects are seamlessly delivered on a remote host which once employed, acts very much the same as a local desktop environment would. Typical cloud applications and other software tools (SaaS) are built specifically for the web, but contain functionality that rivals that of their desktop counterparts. Finally the underlying hardware that would most often be found in an IT department's data center is shifted to the remote provider's facility and can be apportioned as demand requires.
Putting the Cloud to Work
By leveraging these three facets of cloud computing, traditional IT resources can be ushered into the cloud reducing management complexity and lowering overhead costs. With the ability to utilize a pay for use model, cloud computing can easily scale up or down to meet the dynamic demands of modern businesses. Decreasing fixed assets in this way can prove advantageous by keeping IT resources flexible and agile in an industry that evolves at such a breakneck pace.
As with any important IT decisions, homework must be done to be certain a move to the cloud is appropriate. Concerns such as reliability and security begin to arise due to the hands off nature of remote computing. Some organizations might find the lack of control over critical resources unsettling as well. However, for those that decide a move to the cloud is pertinent, many complete solutions are available that can make the transition easier whether moving all IT resources or just select few.
Participate in the debate
Cloud computing combines remote resources with self-provisioning and some level of elasticity.
That is, simply hosting something "over there" does not make it cloud.
If it is hosted over there, and you can pretty much provision it without assistance, and it has some growth flexibility such that ether compute power or storage is at least somewhat dynamic, than you have an element of cloud computing at your disposal.
Cloud computing is a huge umbrella with many facets and degrees of elasticity.
Expect it to be a confusing term for the remainder of this decade. :)