This is a great article by a guest writer on cloud computing. It does exactly what it claims to do…demystify. -TCW
Demystifying Cloud Computing
By Fred Meek
The hottest buzzword in the computer industry lately has been cloud computing. While the term has not been truly defined, it is generally considered a service that is provided as an online only application. This software often does not require the user to download anything to use it. So why is it important to understand what it is? Research completed by IDC believes that cloud computing will be a forty two billion dollar industry by the year 2012.
Why would users and corporations want to become dependent upon an internet-based service? The answer is actually three fold. Cloud computing improves collaboration between employees on projects. Since the projects are saved on secure external computers, more than one individual can access them at the same time. Secondly, cloud computing limits the need for extra hardware resources which leaves more room for capital expenses. With no additional servers providing features, companies save on electricity as well.
While the savings from resources are great, the largest saving is the person-hours required to maintain and update those resources. Information technology departments must ensure that systems are safe and up to date with the latest patch. With cloud computing, the service provider updates the software and ensures the safety of the data stored on their data centers.
So with all of the benefits of cloud computing, what are the negative aspects? One of the largest issues occurs when there are issues with your internet service providers. While with the technology of today this is extremely uncommon, when it does happen, organizations utilizing these services will not be able to access their productivity software. In addition, issues with the clouding service provider (CSP) can cause downtime for an organization.
A secondary issue is the integration of two separate applications. With computer software that is locally stored on computers, it is easier to interface the data communication between these two applications. In cloud environments, interfacing two applications from separate CSPs is a much more difficult task.
So now that we understand what cloud computing is, it is important to comprehend what the components of this technology are. The topology utilizes the internet to network datacenters, distribution servers and client computers. This configuration allows the CSP to make the networks virtualized and maintain low costs to pass on to the end user.
Client computers access the cloud via the Internet. These client computers fall into three categories: mobile, thin and thick. Thick clients are standard desktops, laptops, tablet computers. Commonly thick clients utilize an internet browser to connect to the cloud. Thin clients are similar to thick, except they do not utilize internal hard disks. An example of a thin client is a dummy terminal. Mobile devices include cellular telephones and PDAs that provide internet access through cellular or wireless signals.
A datacenter is a cluster of servers where the actual application is stored. These servers handle the resources required for the user to run the applications. It is common practice for the cluster to be virtualized, which is multiple servers on one physical server. These datacenters are often reside on distributed centers, or clusters located in a different physical room. This is often done to ensure service uptime and lower costs. Quite often, a CSP has many servers operating all over the world, yet to the end user, the servers appears to reside at one location.
Advanced computer users might ask, “Is this the same as grid virtualization?” The short answer is, “No.” Grid virtualization utilizes many servers to spread the load of one large project. Cloud computing is used to process many smaller applications simultaneously. The main types of virtualization in the cloud utilizes are full virtualization and paravirtualization. Full virtualization consists of one installation of a machine that is run on another system. Paravirtualization operates separate operating systems to be processed at the same time. This creates a more efficient method of processing data since all computer elements do not have to be emulated, yet is less secure then full virtualization.
Many examples of “the cloud” are available on the Internet. In fact, you may be utilizing cloud computing and not even realize it. Current examples of cloud applications include Google documents and Amazon’s S3 storage service. This technology is the next step of what the Internet will become. While it is still in its infancy I heavily recommend that, as a user, you become familiar with the cloud now. This will make it easier to maintain advanced features in the future.