Cloud Computing: What’s in the Cloud

Cloud computing, often referred to simply as “the cloud”, is the delivery of computing services – from storage to software applications – over the internet.

Without you realizing it, you most likely use cloud computing at some point in time. For instance, when you listen to online music, watch online movies or play online games, it is likely that cloud computing is making it all feasible behind the scenes.

Cloud providers – referring to companies that offer these cloud computing services – typically charge cloud users based on usage, similar to how your electric utility company charge you for your electric energy consumption.

“As a segment of IT services, cloud computing generates billions of dollars in revenue annually and is showing very few signs of slowing down,” Statista said. “For customers, cloud computing offers access to numerous technologies while lowering the barriers to entry, such as technical expertise or costs.”

How Cloud Computing Works

Not all cloud computing services offered by different cloud providers work exactly the same. Several of these cloud computing services, however, provide a user-friendly, browser-based dashboard that makes it easier for developers and IT professionals to manage accounts and order computing resources.

Types of Cloud Services

The cloud computing service market is divided into three: infrastructure as a service (IaaS), platform-as-a-service (PaaS) and software-as-a-service (SaaS).

1. Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)

This type of cloud computing service allows your organization to “rent” from a cloud provider IT infrastructure such as servers, storage, networks and databases. Through IaaS, your organization can store, backup and recover data in the cloud.

2. Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS)

This type of cloud computing service allows your organization to quickly develop and operate web applications (apps) or mobile apps over the internet, without the need of setting up or managing the required infrastructure such as servers, storage, networks and databases.

3. Software-as-a-Service (SaaS)

This type of cloud computing service allows your organization to pay for access to a software application over the internet. In SaaS, your organization can pay access to software applications such as customer resource management (CRM) and data analytics. In such cases, the cloud provider hosts and manages the software application’s infrastructure (servers, storage, networks and databases), as well as the maintenance, including software upgrades and security patching.

For IaaS, the major cloud providers are Amazon, Microsoft and IBM; for PaaS, the major players are Amazon and Microsoft, and for SaaS, the major cloud providers are Salesforce, Microsoft and Adobe.

Types of Cloud Service Deployments

Cloud computing service can be deployed in three ways: public cloud, private cloud and hybrid cloud.

1. Public Cloud

A public cloud is owned and operated by a third-party cloud service provider. In the public cloud, all software, hardware and other supporting infrastructure is owned and managed by a third-party cloud service provider. Anyone in your organization can access cloud computing services simply by using a web browser.

The internet is basically the public cloud. Businesses use software applications (SaaS) and storage available to the public (IaaS) on the public cloud.

2. Private Cloud

A private cloud refers to cloud computing resources that are used exclusively by a single organization. A private cloud can be physically located on an organization’s on-site datacenter. Some organizations pay third-party service providers to host their private cloud.

3. Hybrid Cloud

As the name suggests, a hybrid cloud is a combination of public and private clouds. In hybrid cloud, the data and software applications are shared between public and private clouds.

Reasons Why More Organizations are Using Public Cloud Computing

According to Gartner, the worldwide public cloud services market is projected to grow 18% in 2017 to total $246.8 billion, up from $209.2 billion in 2016.

“While some organizations are still figuring out where cloud actually fits in their overall IT strategy, an effort to cost optimize and bring forth the path to transformation holds strong promise and results for IT outsourcing (ITO) buyers,” said Sid Nag, research director at Gartner. “Organizations are pursuing strategies because of the multidimensional value of cloud services, including values such as agility, scalability, cost benefits, innovation and business growth. While all external-sourcing decisions will not result in a virtually automatic move to the cloud, buyers are looking to the ‘cloud first’ in their decisions, in support of time-to-value impact via speed of implementation.”

Here are some of the reasons why more organizations are shifting to public cloud computing:

1. Cost

Cloud computing eliminates the need in investing in expensive hardware and software. It is not cost effective for small and medium-sized businesses to set up and manage one’s on-site datacenter. Think of the racks of servers to be bought, the IT team to manage the on-site datacenter and the 24/7 electricity for power and cooling the equipment.

2. Elasticity

Many cloud computing services are provided self-service and on demand. For instance, a massive amount of computing resources – for example, more storage, computing power, bandwidth – can be provisioned or given to your organization in just minutes, with just a few clicks of the mouse. In a similar manner, lesser computing resources may be given to your organization upon request.

These provisioning and de-provisioning of computer resources in cloud computing are collectively called “elasticity” – a process in which a cloud system adapts to the workload of your organization by provisioning or de-provisioning computing resources.

3. Productivity

Public cloud computing eliminates “racking and stacking” – referring to the hardware set up within a computer cabinet or rack, software installation, software patching and other miscellaneous IT management tasks. By eliminating the “racking and stacking” chore, your staff can better use their time on more important business tasks.

4. Reliability

The best cloud computing services run on a worldwide network secure datacenters, which use regularly upgraded, state-of-the-art computing hardware. This ensures continues delivery of cloud computing services.

Many cloud providers, including Microsoft Azure, offer as part of their data storage packages geo-replication – referring to the replication of your organization’s data within the same data center or to a second data center. Geo-replication protects your organization’s data and applications in case of hardware failures or other calamitous failures in the primary datacenter.

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