What Is Cloud Computing? A Beginner's Approach
If you search on the internet for “What is cloud computing?” you will certainly be bombarded with a lot of IT jargons that you might not even click the next available link to check what it says. This is because there are so many definitions and descriptions of "cloud computing" on the internet that you won’t be blamed for struggling to get it right. This Hub will explain in simple terms what is cloud computing.
To better understand cloud computing, imagine if you could have all the computing resources you need for your business applications at the same external place without worrying about the cost of purchasing machines, management of those machines, maintenance or even scalability implications due the physical infrastructure required to handle drastic demands in your business.
Now, imagine if you could get all these computing resources just by paying for them and better still pay for them only when you use them, and that is not all, imagine getting those resources at pick performance and efficiency. That is the power and capability of cloud computing.
Cloud computing is simply a set of pooled computing resources and services (“cloud”) delivered over the internet. Cloud computing usually provides these computing resources as “a service” over the Internet in the form of Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), or Software as a Service (SaaS). This enable the clients to concentrate more on their core business and not worry about time and money investment on computing resources infrastructures.
For any business to compete effectively today, it needs computing resources that can scale rapidly to meet the dynamic demands and maximize its utilization of IT investment.
Cloud computing allow clients to access cloud based applications through a web browser, a light weight desktop or a mobile application while the business software and data are stored on servers at a remote location.
This not only enables such businesses to setup and run their applications much faster but also improves manageability and maintenance of such businesses to meet fluctuating and unpredictable business trends.
Let us now look at the three broad categories of cloud computing:-
Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)
Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) (Sometimes called Hardware as a Service-HaaS) provides a pay-for-what-you-use model type of service to cloud users (utility computing).
Services that can be outsourced include virtual servers used for storage, firewalls, load balancers, networks, Hardware among other services. Clients can pay for the type of service needed or acquire more as required.
To run their applications, cloud users install operating system images on their machines as well as application software while the service provider owns the equipment and is responsible for housing, running and maintaining it.
Cloud providers bill Infrastructure-as-a-Service services on per-use basis where cost reflects the amount of resources allocated and consumed. An example of Infrastructure-as-a-Service provider is the Amazon Web Services.
Platform as a Service (PaaS)
In Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS), cloud providers deliver a computing platform and/or solution including Operating System, programming languages environment, database and web server.
Application developers can develop and run their software solutions on a cloud platform without worrying about the cost and complexity of buying and managing hardware and software layers.
Developers create applications on the provider's platform over the Web. Platform-as-a-Service is an extended Infrastructure-as-a-Service where hosted software applications are made available to cloud users over the Internet.
The many advantages of Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) includes frequent upgrading of Operating systems, projects collaboration by development teams who could be at different remote locations and expenses can also be minimized by consolidating programming development efforts.
The downside of this model is lack of flexibility on providing these services to the cloud user whose requirements may scale rapidly than the services being offered by a particular cloud provider. An example of Platform-as-a-Service provider is the Google Apps.
Software as a Service (SaaS)
Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) is a model in which applications are hosted by a vendor or a cloud provider and made available to cloud users by distributing them over the Internet. The cloud providers deploy application software in the cloud where cloud users can access them.
The cloud users do not manage the cloud infrastructure and platform on which the application is running e.g. servers and hardware. This eliminates the need to install and run the applications on the cloud user's computers thus simplifying maintenance and support. Other benefits of this model include easier administration, automatic updates and software compatibility since users will have the same version of software.
A cloud can be deployed in different structures for example, a Public cloud trade services to anyone on the Internet e.g. Amazon Web Services is as public cloud. A Private cloud is a proprietary data center that provides hosted services to a limited number of people.
Other cloud structures include Community cloud, Hybrid cloud and Virtual private cloud which is basically a private cloud designed with resources from a public cloud. Other major cloud service providers apart from Amazon Web Services and Google Apps include Apple’s ICloud, Windows SkyDrive and Dropbox.
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