Tech Terms: Cloud Computing

Cloud computing is a type of computing that relies on sharing computing resources rather than having local servers or personal devices to handle applications.
In cloud computing, the word cloud (also phrased as “the cloud”) is used as a metaphor for “the Internet,” so the phrase cloud computing means “a type of Internet-based computing,” where different services — such as servers, storage and applications — are delivered to an organization’s computers and devices through the Internet.

A Simple Description
In its most simple description, cloud computing is taking services (“cloud services”) and moving them outside an organizations firewall on shared systems. Applications and services are accessed via the Web, instead of your hard drive. The services are delivered and used over the Internet and are paid for by cloud customer (your business), typically on an “as-needed, pay-per-use” business model. The cloud infrastructure is maintained by the cloud provider, not the individual cloud customer.

Cloud computing is comparable to grid computing, a type of computing where unused processing cycles of all computers in a network are harnesses to solve problems too intensive for any stand-alone machine.

How it Works
Cloud computing applies traditional supercomputing, or high-performance computing power, normally used by military and research facilities, to perform tens of trillions of computations per second. In consumer-oriented applications such as financial portfolios, to deliver personalized information, to provide data storage or to power large, immersive online computer games.

To do this, cloud computing uses networks of large groups of servers typically running low-cost consumer PC technology with specialized connections to spread data-processing chores across them. This shared IT infrastructure contains large pools of systems that are linked together. Often, virtualization techniques are used to maximize the power of cloud computing.

Cloud Computing Standards
The standards for connecting the computer systems and the software needed to make cloud computing work are not fully defined at present time, leaving many companies to define their own cloud computing technologies. Organizations choose cloud providers that satisfy their needs. Cloud computing systems offered by companies, like IBM’s “Blue Cloud” technologies, for example, are based on open standards and open source software which link together computers that are used to to deliver Web 2.0 capabilities like mash-ups or mobile commerce.

Organizations such as the Distributed Management Task Force (DMTF), the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), Open Cloud Consortium (OCC) and Open Grid Forum (OGF) are a few of the many organizations that have suggested some type of standard or suggested guidelines.

In the Data Center and for Small Business
Cloud computing has started to obtain mass appeal in corporate data centers as it enables the data center to operate like the Internet through the process of enabling computing resources to be accessed and shared as virtual resources in a secure and scalable manner.

For a small and medium size business (SMB), the benefits of cloud computing is currently driving adoption. In the SMB sector there is often a lack of time and financial resources to purchase, deploy and maintain an infrastructure (e.g. the software, server and storage).
In cloud computing, small businesses can access these resources and expand or shrink services as business needs change. The common pay-as-you-go subscription model is designed to let SMBs easily add or remove services and you typically will only pay for what you do use.

Common Cloud Service Models
Cloud services are typically deployed based on the end-user (business) requirements. The primary services include the following:
Software as a Service (SaaS)
A software delivery method that provides access to software and its functions remotely as a Web-based service. Software as a Service allows organizations to access business functionality at a cost typically less than paying for licensed applications since SaaS pricing is based on a monthly fee.

Platform as a Service (PaaS)
A computing platform being delivered as a service. Here the platform is outsourced in place of a company or data center purchasing and managing their own hardware and software layers.

Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)
A computer infrastructure, such as virtualization, being delivered as a service. IaaS is popular in the data center where software and servers are purchased as a fully outsourced service and usually billed on usage and how much of the resource is used. 

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