What is Cloud Computing?


The obvious first question to be answered by a post that has a title like this one is “What is cloud computing?”. I’ll answer the question but using two analogies:

Analogy 1: This is not my analogy but is popular. Nicholas Carr, the author of Big Switch uses the analogy of utility power to explain cloud computing. Using cloud computing is like using electricity being delivered to a building. You pay what you use, it is completely Operational Expense – if you don’t use anything you don’t pay anything. It get’s more interesting when we try to relate further – a power socket is like an API, any device (any application) can make use of it as long as it complies with the voltage and frequency. You don’t have to worry about any impacts to the infrastructure in the event of a flood, or fire or any other accident, everything is taken care of by a third-party and you can be rest assured about the service.

Analogy 2: This analogy is something I use whenever I try to explain cloud computing to new learners. Using cloud computing is like taking a flight with one of the airlines. You don’t need to own a flight to travel. Using an airline saves you from initial purchase cost of your own flight and then you don’t need to keep paying money for maintenance even when you are not using it. You can fly to local destinations or travel abroad using these airline providers and pay for what you travel. The airlines take care of the infrastructure, security, compliance and so on.

Now for an actual definition of cloud computing,

Wikipedia says:

Cloud computing is shared pools of configurable computer system resources and higher-level services that can be rapidly provisioned with minimal management effort, often over the internet. Cloud computing relies on sharing of resources to achieve coherence and economies of scale, similar to a public utility.

While there are many other definitions out there, my favorite from is from Microsoft:

Cloud computing is the delivery of computing services—servers, storage, databases, networking, software, analytics, intelligence and more—over the Internet (“the cloud”) to offer faster innovation, flexible resources, and economies of scale. You typically pay only for cloud services you use, helping lower your operating costs, run your infrastructure more efficiently, and scale as your business needs change.

The next important thing that one needs to know about cloud computing is the types of cloud computing. There are three types of cloud computing deployments:

1. Public Cloud: A public cloud is a pool of virtual resources (for the end user) developed from hardware owned and managed by a third-party company. Microsoft Azure, Amazon AWS, IBM Cloud, and Google Cloud Platform are some examples for public cloud service providers.

2. Private Cloud: Private cloud refers to cloud computing resources used exclusively by a single organization. A private cloud could be deployed by having a datacenter on-site or by paying third-party service providers to host it for us. Services and infrastructure for a private cloud are maintained on a private network. Hewlett Packard Enterprise, VMware, Microsoft, and IBM are some of the top private cloud providers in the market.

3. Hybrid Cloud: As the name suggests, hybrid cloud is an environment that uses a mix of on-premises, private cloud and third-party, public cloud services with orchestration between the two platforms. Hybrid cloud implementations allow for workloads to move between private and public clouds as needs and costs fluctuate, thereby giving organizations greater flexibility. Microsoft, Amazon, Rackspace, EMC are some hybrid-cloud service providers.

Cloud computing has a lot of benefits, but the top most benefits are:

1. Cost Savings – No Capital Expenditure, Pay only for what you use
2. Speed
3. Scalability
4. Performance
5. Security

Many organizations (large and small) have already realized how cloud could transform their IT needs. According to Synergy Research, the cloud market hit $250 billion globally, with a 32% annual growth.
Cloud computing is also a skill that is in demand in the job market. Learning cloud computing, and achieving a certification in one of the cloud technologies will give an individual an edge over others for new jobs, and/or grow up the ladder in their current organization.

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