Friday 10. of October 2008
When you look at web 2.0, software as a service (SaaS) and now cloud computing, you can see that the web development industry is taking a new shape. The idea of using different business software applications like traditional utilities (electricity, gas) for paid subscription is very attractive, especially for SMEs. It reduces setup costs, it is easy to adopt, secure to use and ensures scalability and better performance. Therefore, cloud computing is the technology on which all major IT companies like IBM, Microsoft, Google and Yahoo! are focusing these days.
Since cloud computing is a new term, people are confused about what it means. Is it a development methodology or a framework? Is it a paradigm?
Dion Hinchcliffe on the ZDNet blog has written a post on cloud computing. In his post, Enterprise Cloud Computing Gathers Steam, he explains this newly coined term in detail. He explains its features, the way it works and how it will change the computing industry. Focusing on the need to adopt cloud computing, he writes:
“The twin challenges of driving the high costs of information technology down while providing innovative new solutions to improve the business are two forces that often come into direct opposition in the modern IT shop. Businesses must keep costs down to stay competitive while at the same time investing in new ideas that will offer compelling new products and services to those same customers…….. By offering easy access to more efficient IT capabilities across computing, storage, and applications while providing direct and immediate access to both external innovation and innovation capability, cloud computing offers an on-demand, scalable, and repeatable resource that can be used the solve two of the major challenges facing IT departments today.”
Cloud computing - by focusing on using the internet to satisfy businesses’ and users’ computing needs - offers many benefits to the enterprises. Applications like Bittorrent, Skype, Facebook, Salesforce, Google Maps and Microsoft Online Services have introduced enterprises and individuals to using software applications from a web browser, while the software and data are stored on the servers. Hinchcliffe describes the following benefits of cloud computing for enterprises.
“Reduced capital expenditures - Upfront costs are dramatically reduced since the onus of initial computing infrastructure investments rests primarily on the cloud computing provider.
“Low barrier to entry - Because hardware and software does not have to be acquired, installed, provisioned for every need and resources can be tapped on-demand, often in real-time, cloud computing can be as easy as moving existing applications into a hosted data center, although this depends entirely on the architectural model of the cloud computing provider.
“Multitenancy - Multiple customers share many of the same resources in the cloud computing model. Multitenancy is one of the key enablers of efficiency while at the same time posing certain security issues.
“Security - In theory, cloud computing can be more secure than do-it-yourself computing since shared costs allow larger overall investment in security processes and infrastructure. However, there remain worries about access and control over an organization’s sensitive data, though to-date the security record of cloud computing has been quite good.
“Scalability and performance - Cloud computing can provide access to very high levels of scale without enormous costs of traditional infrastructure. Resources don’t have to kept on hand for peaks that then remain dormant much of the time and their costs stranded during valleys. Performance of cloud computing can also be very good since many providers have data centers around the world to keep the processing reasonably close to those accessing it over the network.
“Centralization vs. federation - Cloud computing can be centralized such as Amazon and Salesforce or it can be highly distributed using such peer-to-peer capabilities as provided by BitTorrent or Arjuna. Both methods provide access to economies of scale.”
Cloud computing is basically a paradigm and many different types of services are available under this umbrella. These services can be in the form of software applications, infrastructure, platform and storage. Hinchcliffe has described the following types of cloud computing.
“Compute Clouds - Amazon’s EC2, Google App Engine, and Berkeley’s BOINC are all examples of compute clouds, albeit with very different models. Both of these services allow access to highly scalable, inexpensive, on-demand computing resources that run the code they are provided. Compute clouds are the most general purpose cloud computing services and can be used for a variety of purposes. While enterprises can use any of these services today, they are largely absent the standard management, monitoring, and governance capabilities that large organizations would expect and be familiar with.
“Cloud Storage - Storage was one of the first major services to appear in the cloud and remains one of the most popular and well-addressed segments in the cloud computing realm. A list of 100 cloud storage services was recently released showing how crowded this market already is. Security and cost are the top issues and vary widely across offerings with Amazon’s S3 being the market leader at present.
“Cloud Applications - Software applications that rely on infrastructure in the cloud fall into this category. Cloud applications are an off-premises form of Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) and can range from Web apps that are delivered into users entirely via a browser to hybrids like Microsoft Online Services, which is explicitly offloads hosting and IT management into the cloud, and consists of both native and Web clients with application infrastructure hosted elsewhere.”
The cloud computing paradigm is in its development stages. Major IT players like IBM, Dell and Microsoft are investing in this field for R & D. There is no doubt that this technique is efficient, cost-effective and result-oriented, but we have to wait to see whether these efforts become successful or not.
Hinchcliffe. D. (2008). Enterprise cloud computing gathers steam. Retrieved Oct. 10th, 2008 from http://blogs.zdnet.com/Hinchcliffe/?p=191
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