What is the Cloud?
February 03, 2014
The cloud, aka cloud computing, has many different colloquial definitions, all of which seem to be somewhat different depending on who you are talking to. A few of the different terms you may hear are Software as a Service (SaaS), virtual enterprise, carrier (or service provider) cloud, and I am sure many others.
Here is a quick list of some of the main types of solutions in the cloud with a couple providers for each:
- Office 365
- Google Apps
- Amazon’s AWS
- Microsoft Azure
Carrier/Service Provider Cloud
- Alcatel-Lucent’s Cloudband
- VMware’s vCloud
- Verizon Terremark’s Enterprise Cloud Services
This is by no means a complete list of cloud providers and really only scratches the surface. There are many providers all with a different portfolio of offerings and their own personal touches.
The term “cloud” varies in meaning and is really up for your own interpretation. How you define it and use it really depends on your imagination and capabilities as a company. It will, in most cases, provide greater flexibility, ease of deployment and a very scalable environment. Some companies have created business models that rely on cloud connectivity. Others use it to save on IT and hardware costs.
The cloud has grown over the last ten years with a couple different technologies/ideologies playing major roles in getting it to where it is today: Virtualization and Shared Resources.
These two technologies provided the springboard that launched the cloud into the “needed by all companies” status it maintains today. We still haven’t talked about how this can help a company grow and save money, so let’s take a look at what each type of cloud solution can do for a business.
Solutions such as Office 365 and Google Apps provide enterprise software (Microsoft Office and Google Drive, respectively) for companies to use through the cloud. This helps small to medium size companies who may not be able to afford dedicated IT staff to run a full blown mail, calendar, storage and chat solution in-house. However large companies may run this same solution to help when it comes time to upgrade these solutions as well as server space. Storage and server hardware would no longer be up to you to maintain.
Environments like Amazon’s AWS and Microsoft’s Azure provide a much larger scale solution for businesses and even personal use. With Amazons EC2, you can setup a virtual instance running nearly any OS out there and can use S3 to scale a storage solution for that machine, or even others to share. Azure also has competing solutions.
The possibilities are truly endless with these types of cloud infrastructure. Many companies run their entire website from this type of cloud infrastructure. Others use it as a Content Delivery Network (CDN) for web and mobile applications. There are many other ways you and your company can benefit from utilizing virtual machines, storage, backup, database and all the other cloud solutions AWS and Azure offer.
Carrier/Service Provider Cloud
Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) and Platform as a Service (PaaS) are a couple of terms that are used when it comes to the carrier or service provider cloud. A great description of this type of cloud solution comes from Wikipedia:
“Carrier Cloud is a class of cloud that integrates wide area networks (WAN) and other attributes of communications service providers’ carrier grade networks to enable the deployment of highly demanding applications in the cloud. In contrast, classical cloud computing solutions focus on the data center and do not address the network connecting data centers and cloud users. This may result in unpredictable response times and security issues when business critical data are transferred over the Internet.”
Per this definition, the cloud has focused on data centers and applications up until just recently. We were still limited by WAN connectivity, performance, availability, security and SLAs. Until the carrier cloud started to make its push over the last few years, some companies would not put critical applications into any cloud environment.
Now with carrier clouds we have a greater ability to load balance across multiple data centers and resources based on WAN connectivity as well as system utilization. We gain a higher level of SLAs, governance and risk compliance (GRC) and security. This part of the cloud is the infant of the group, so it will be fun watching how carrier clouds will grow with the wide adoption of software-defined networking (SDN) and the evolution of networking.
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