Why the Cloud?
Cloud computing provides what IT has always needed: a reliable approach to expand capabilities and capacity on the fly. Most importantly, it allows for this to occur without the expense and time consuming task of acquiring new software licenses, adding new infrastructure, or training and retraining.
The “cloud” includes a set of networks, hardware and storage, combined with the interface and services needed to deliver a computing service. This can include the delivery of infrastructure; software and storage via the Internet as a complete platform or in individual/separate components. Such an arrangement has several basic characteristics:
- Scalability (both up and down)
- Provisioning and Deprovisioning APIs
- Pay-as-you-go modeling that offers subscription and metered service.
Since cloud computing is still in its early stages it is essential to employ the services of a cloud provider that has the personnel and resources with a proven track record.
Cloud computing services include:
- SaaS — Deliver a single application that is browser based for a large number of end users. For the customer this means no software licensing or investment in severs. The advantages for the provider are significant as well. Rather than offering conventional hosting, the provider had only one application to maintain, keeping costs at a minimum. Such as NetSuite
- Utility Computing — Though not a new idea, partnerships with companies like Amazon Web Services can provide for large scale storage and on demand virtual servers that expand your IT capabilities at a fraction of the cost of conventional methods. While early users of utility computing have used cloud computing for supplemental and non-critical needs the future holds such services being employed to replace datacenters and other critical services.
- Service Platform — A variation of SaaS, this service provides an environment for developers. These platforms allow developers to build and run their own applications on the cloud provider’s servers via the Internet. As a result, applications like Force.com can be further developed and implemented with predictable positive results.
- Managed Service Providers — A managed service is an application exposed on the IT end but not to the end user. A good example of this kind of cloud service is virus scanning and other anti-spam services.
- Service Commerce Platforms — Most often seen in expense management systems these SaaS/MSP hybrids offer service hubs that end users interact with. Common uses involve trading environments by which users can order services from a common platform. Travel orders, ticket sales, and secretarial services often make use of these platforms.
Some experts have noted that cloud computing might be better described as “sky computing,” with many isolated clouds of service which IT customers must plug into individually. As SOA and virtualized environments grow exponentially the reality of loosely associated services operating on a nimble and scalable infrastructure may well eventually make every enterprise another node in the ever growing cloud.
This approach ensures consistency and predictability that enable businesses to guarantee security and service often difficult to previously provide in a cost effective manner. There can be no doubt that cloud computing is a growing trend with no limits in sight.