What Does Cloud Computing Offer?
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If you read a lot of tech-related blogs or magazines, youíve surely heard of this somewhat new concept called ďcomputing in the cloudĒ that has become increasingly popular. According to many experts, itís the future of computing and the most overused term in the tech world thus far for 2010, but the definition of what it is changes depending on who you ask. In this article we'll look at what computing in the cloud actually is, and what it offers that is different from the way we do computing today.
Technically ďthe cloudĒ is a metaphor for the Internet. Most analysts and vendors basically define cloud computing as virtual servers available over the Internet. However, others have a much broader definition, believing that anything users consume outside of their computerís firewall is in the cloud--even very conventional tasks such as outsourcing. For the purposes of this article we will define cloud computing as a way of computing using the Internet, broadly sharing computer resources rather than using software or storage on a local computer.
Cloud computing is usually discussed in terms of how beneficial it will be to information technology (IT) specialists, but there are many ways it can benefit the general public, as well. In terms of IT, cloud computing offers a solution to everything thatís always needed: a way to quickly and easily increase capacity or include new capabilities without having to invest in new infrastructure or licensing new software. Thereís also the added bonus of not having to train personnel on the new software.
Letís take a more in-depth look at what cloud computing is all about and find out how some experts think it will cause three major IT revolutions.
IT experts and others in the tech industry are still in the process of figuring out everything that cloud computing has to offer, which might be why only a small handful of providers are currently offering cloud-based services. The services available arenít too earth-shattering, but they are helpful. Examples include cloud-based apps, storage services, and spam filtering.
Itís important to understand that there are various components to cloud computing services, which include:
SaaS is a type of cloud computing that delivers a single app through the browser to thousands of customers using a multitenancy, which is a type of software architecture where a single instance of the software runs on a server that serves multiple client organizations, otherwise known as ďtenants.Ē From a customerís perspective, the benefit to this type of cloud computing is that is requires nothing in the way of an upfront investment in new servers or software licensing.
Itís also beneficial for the provider because it leaves them with just one app to maintain, which is incredibly affordable -- especially when compared to conventional hosting. SaaS is now routinely being used for HR apps; it has even found its way to ERP, and is being utilized by Workday, which is Enterprise Business Management software. Currently there are even SaaS desktop apps such as Google Apps.
Utility computing is by no means a new idea, but itís getting its second wind from Amazon.com and IBM, among others currently offering virtual servers and storage that IT can access on demand. Early adopters of this type of cloud computing mainly used it for extra, non-critical needs, but sometime soon they may use it regularly as a replacement to portions of their data center.
Web Services in the Cloud
Similar to SaaS, service providers offer application programming interfaces (API) that allow developers to take advantage of functionality over the Internet, as opposed to simply delivering applications. These web services in the cloud vary, ranging from providers who offer more discrete business services to those who offer a full range of APIs, such as the ones featured on Google Maps and the U.S. Postal Service, as well as conventional credit card processing services.
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