Cloud Computing

Cloud Computing

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Cloud computing, also on-demand computing, is a kind of Internet-based computing that provides shared processing resources and data to computers and other devices on demand. It is a model for enabling ubiquitous, on-demand access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (e.g., networks, servers, storage, applications and services), which can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort. Cloud computing and storage solutions provide users and enterprises with various capabilities to store and process their data in third-party data centers. It relies on sharing of resources to achieve coherence and economy of scale, similar to a utility (like the electricity grid) over a network.

Advocates claim that cloud computing allows companies to avoid upfront infrastructure costs, and focus on projects that differentiate their businesses instead of on infrastructure. Proponents also claim that cloud computing allows enterprises to get their applications up and running faster, with improved manageability and less maintenance, and enables IT to more rapidly adjust resources to meet fluctuating and unpredictable business demand. Cloud providers typically use a "pay as you go" model. This can lead to unexpectedly high charges if administrators do not adapt to the cloud pricing model.

The present availability of high-capacity networks, low-cost computers and storage devices as well as the widespread adoption of hardware virtualization, service-oriented architecture, and autonomic and utility computing have led to a growth in cloud computing. Companies can scale up as computing needs increase and then scale down again as demands decrease.

Cloud computing has become a highly demanded service or utility due to the advantages of high computing power, cheap cost of services, high performance, scalability, accessibility as well as availability. Some cloud vendors are experiencing growth rates of 50% per year, but being still in a stage of infancy, it has pitfalls that need to be addressed to make cloud computing services more reliable and user friendly.

Cloud Characteristics

  • Agility improves with users' ability to re-provision technological infrastructure resources.
  • Cost reductions claimed by cloud providers. A public-cloud delivery model converts capital expenditure to operational expenditure. This purportedly lowers barriers to entry, as infrastructure is typically provided by a third party and need not be purchased for one-time or infrequent intensive computing tasks. Pricing on a utility computing basis is fine-grained, with usage-based options and fewer IT skills are required for implementation (in-house). The e-FISCAL project's state-of-the-art repository contains several articles looking into cost aspects in more detail, most of them concluding that costs savings depend on the type of activities supported and the type of infrastructure available in-house.
  • Device and location independence enable users to access systems using a web browser regardless of their location or what device they use (e.g., PC, mobile phone). As infrastructure is off-site (typically provided by a third-party) and accessed via the Internet, users can connect from anywhere.
  • Maintenance of cloud computing applications is easier, because they do not need to be installed on each user's computer and can be accessed from different places.
  • Multitenancy enables sharing of resources and costs across a large pool of users thus allowing for:
  • * centralization of infrastructure in locations with lower costs (such as real estate, electricity, etc.)
  • * peak-load capacity increases (users need not engineer for highest possible load-levels)
  • * utilisation and efficiency improvements for systems that are often only 10–20% utilised.
  • Performance is monitored, and consistent and loosely coupled architectures are constructed using web services as the system interface.
  • Productivity may be increased when multiple users can work on the same data simultaneously, rather than waiting for it to be saved and emailed. Time may be saved as information does not need to be re-entered when fields are matched, nor do users need to install application software upgrades to their computer.
  • Reliability improves with the use of multiple redundant sites, which makes well-designed cloud computing suitable for business continuity and disaster recovery.
  • Scalability and elasticity via dynamic ("on-demand") provisioning of resources on a fine-grained, self-service basis in near real-time (Note, the VM startup time varies by VM type, location, OS and cloud providers), without users having to engineer for peak loads. This gives the ability to scale up when the usage need increases or down if resources are not being used.
  • Security can improve due to centralization of data, increased security-focused resources, etc., but concerns can persist about loss of control over certain sensitive data, and the lack of security for stored kernels. Security is often as good as or better than other traditional systems, in part because providers are able to devote resources to solving security issues that many customers cannot afford to tackle. However, the complexity of security is greatly increased when data is distributed over a wider area or over a greater number of devices, as well as in multi-tenant systems shared by unrelated users. In addition, user access to security audit logs may be difficult or impossible. Private cloud installations are in part motivated by users' desire to retain control over the infrastructure and avoid losing control of information security.

Service models

Though service-oriented architecture advocates "everything as a service" (with the acronyms EaaS or XaaS or simply aas), cloud-computing providers offer their "services" according to different models, which happen to form a stack: infrastructure-, platform- and software-as-a-service.

  • Infrastructure as a service (IaaS)
  • Platform as a service (PaaS)
  • Software as a service (SaaS)

Deployment models

  • Private cloud - is cloud infrastructure operated solely for a single organization, whether managed internally or by a third-party, and hosted either internally or externally. Undertaking a private cloud project requires a significant level and degree of engagement to virtualize the business environment, and requires the organization to reevaluate decisions about existing resources. When done right, it can improve business, but every step in the project raises security issues that must be addressed to prevent serious vulnerabilities. Self-run data centers are generally capital intensive. They have a significant physical footprint, requiring allocations of space, hardware, and environmental controls. These assets have to be refreshed periodically, resulting in additional capital expenditures. They have attracted criticism because users "still have to buy, build, and manage them" and thus do not benefit from less hands-on management, essentially " the economic model that makes cloud computing such an intriguing concept".
  • Public cloud - A cloud is called a "public cloud" when the services are rendered over a network that is open for public use. Public cloud services may be free. Technically there may be little or no difference between public and private cloud architecture, however, security consideration may be substantially different for services (applications, storage, and other resources) that are made available by a service provider for a public audience and when communication is effected over a non-trusted network. Generally, public cloud service providers like Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft and Google own and operate the infrastructure at their data center and access is generally via the Internet. AWS and Microsoft also offer direct connect services called "AWS Direct Connect" and "Azure ExpressRoute" respectively, such connections require customers to purchase or lease a private connection to a peering point offered by the cloud provider.
  • Hybrid cloud - Hybrid cloud is a composition of two or more clouds (private, community or public) that remain distinct entities but are bound together, offering the benefits of multiple deployment models. Hybrid cloud can also mean the ability to connect collocation, managed and/or dedicated services with cloud resources.

Cloud Computing Providers

Some of the best and most known cloud computing providers are:

  • Windows Azure
  • Amazon Web Services
  • Google Cloud Platform
  • Hewlett-Packard Enterprise
  • IBM
  • Digital Ocean
  • Sales Force
  • OpenStack

You could find a detailed comparison table of prodiders here. Also there is a interesting article in Forbes Magazine here.