What is Cloud Computing
You may have heard the term cloud computing or 'the Cloud,' but could you describe what it is? There are so many definitions flying around that you wouldn't be alone if you struggled to define it. Cloud computing is simply a set of pooled computing resources and services delivered over the web. When you diagram the relationships between all the elements it resembles a cloud.
Cloud computing-not to be confused with grid computing, utility computing, or autonomic computing-involves the interaction of several virtualised resources. Cloud servers connect and share information based on the level of website traffic across the entire network. Cloud computing is often provided "as a service" over the Internet, typically in the form of infrastructure as a service (IaaS), platform as a service (PaaS), or software as a service (SaaS).
Cloud computing customers don't have to raise the capital to purchase, manage, maintain, and scale the physical infrastructure required to handle drastic traffic fluctuations. Instead of having to invest time and money to keep their sites afloat, cloud computing customers simply pay for the resources they use, as they use them. This particular characteristic of cloud computing-its elasticity-means that customers no longer need to predict traffic, but can promote their sites aggressively and spontaneously. Engineering for peak traffic becomes a thing of the past.
Why Cloud Computing
Cloud computing is a flexible, cost-effective and proven delivery platform for providing business or consumer IT services over the Internet. Cloud resources can be rapidly deployed and easily scaled, with all processes, applications and services provisioned "on demand," regardless of user location or device.
As a result, cloud computing gives organisations the opportunity to increase their service delivery efficiencies, streamline IT management and better align IT services with dynamic business requirements. In many ways, cloud computing offers the "best of both worlds," providing solid support for core business functions along with the capacity to develop new and innovative services.
Both public and private cloud models are now in use. Available to anyone with Internet access, public models include Software as a Service (SaaS) clouds like webex and salesforce.com, Platform as a Service (PaaS) clouds such as Force.com and Google App Engine, and Security as a Service (Security-aaS) clouds like the earthwave Vulnerability Management Security-aaS or SecurID Security-aaS.
Private clouds like the earthwave cleancloud are owned and used by a single organisation. They offer many of the same benefits as public clouds, and they give the owner organisation greater flexibility and control. Furthermore, private clouds can provide lower latency than public clouds during peak traffic periods. Many organisations embrace both public and private cloud computing by integrating the two models into hybrid clouds. These hybrids are designed to meet specific business and technology requirements, helping to optimise security and privacy with a minimum investment in fixed IT costs.
Cloud Computing Models
Cloud computing models vary: Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), and Software as a Service (SaaS). Manage your cloud computing service level via the surrounding management layer.
- Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS). The IaaS layer offers storage and compute resources that developers and IT organizations can use to deliver business solutions.
- Platform as a Service (PaaS). The PaaS layer offers black-box services with which developers can build applications on top of the compute infrastructure. This might include developer tools that are offered as a service to build services, or data access and database services, or billing services.
- Software as a Service (SaaS). In the SaaS layer, the service provider hosts the software so you don't need to install it, manage it, or buy hardware for it. All you have to do is connect and use it. SaaS Examples include customer relationship management as a service
Inside the Cloud
Expanding the Cloud
Typically, cloud computing environments are able to add or remove resources like CPU cycles, memory, and network storage as needed.
Why Cloud Hosting is Relevant to Businesses
The bottom line is that cloud computing architectures have the ability to scale to suit user demand and traffic spikes quickly. Developers don't have to constantly re-engineer their environment and cost structures to handle peak loads. Businesses don't have to wrestle with the underlying infrastructure and core technologies or the day-to-day operational, performance and scalability issues of their platform. Instead, with cloud computing, they can truly focus their resources on developing their applications and sites.
The Long History of the Cloud
The terms "cloud" and "cloud computing" have only been around for a couple of years, but the underlying concepts of these architectures aren't new at all. Parallel processing and clustering of multiple computers to form a larger, more powerful single or virtual instance are proven solutions to performance and scalability challenges.
Charging for computing on a pay-per-use or subscription basis (common with grid and time-sharing environments), have been employed for decades. Hosted SaaS and cloud applications, such as email and collaboration tools for example, have also existed for years.
What's new with the evolution of the Cloud is fully abstracting these technologies behind a common user interface, which frees developers and other professionals from the operational aspects of their applications and sites.
Why Not Build Your Own Cloud
Cloud computing environments are designed to operate reliably, scale in a controlled manner, and be cost effective to operate. While all of this can be developed-given enough time, money and specific expertise-by competent in-house engineering teams, the full value of cloud computing comes into play with cloud providers. They provide and guarantee all the advantages of the Cloud along with full developer service and support, for a fraction of the cost of creating, maintaining, supporting and operating this complex environment in-house.
The Technologies Behind a Cloud
Numerous underlying technologies can be incorporated into the basic architecture of the Cloud. The Internet, of course, is a common thread. And in most cases, clouds are built upon virtualisation technologies, like VMware and Xen, or scalable architectures based on semi-dedicated managed hosting models or grids.
Usually, public clouds (not in-house environments) utilize control panels and configuration management applications, much like Software-as-a-Service (SaaS). These facilitate application development activities and make raw technology readily consumable. Cloud computing environments typically provide access to LAMP and Windows stacks, web hosting and database technologies.
Migrating to a Cloud Environment
In most cases, dedicated applications can be migrated or adapted to operate in cloud computing environments with minimal effort. And the benefits in stability, reliability, and scalability can be realized immediately.
Limitless Scaling on the Cloud
In theory, cloud computing architectures are limitless. In practice, however, the size of a particular cloud footprint, the size of a cloud's data center, and the reliability and scalability of the underlying technology (network access, bandwidth, peering, etc.) all affect scalability. And they must be taken into account to properly assess the capacity of any specific cloud.
For practical purposes, most cloud providers offer enough scalability to successfully accommodate even the most massive spikes in usage or traffic.
Running Applications and Technologies on the Cloud
Since the Cloud is an architecture, theoretically almost anything can run on it. In reality, some cloud technologies, by design, are more suited to parallel or shared processing applications. Others are more suited to intensive single-threaded applications. Properly constructed clouds resolve this issue by leveraging the performance characteristics of each technology and implementing a mix of industry standard interfaces and custom integrations or applications to make the dissimilar technologies operate and scale smoothly.
Compute Platform Built to Suit Your Needs
You don't have to choose between dedicated hardware and cloud-based servers, with the earthwave cleancloud you can have the best of both worlds. With the hybrid hosting option, build your own custom configuration of Dedicated Servers and Cloud-based servers all working together seamlessly
Myths about The Cloud
Myth: Cloud is just a fad.
Truth: Cloud as a term is new, but the concepts and requisite technologies have been evolving for years (many years in some cases). Cloud computing continues to emerge as a game-changing technology, with high adoption rates and investment. Gartner Research predicts that by 2012, 80% of Fortune 1000 enterprises will be paying for some form of cloud computing services. Cloud computing is here to stay.
Myth: The cloud is not secure.
Truth: Public clouds are fundamentally multi-tenant to justify the scale and economics of the cloud. As such, security is a common concern. Whereas the traditional security perimeter is a network firewall, the cloud security perimeter now becomes the hypervisor and/or underlying cloud application. So far, security in the cloud has been good, but this is very cloud-dependent and requires a solid design and operational rigor that prioritises security. Also, handing your data and systems to someone else requires proper internal controls to ensure that not just anyone has access. Be sure to ask potential cloud computing providers about security from technical, operational, and control perspectives, as well as what experience they have being stewards of customer systems and data. If the public cloud is fundamentally not secure enough, consider an on-premise cloud, virtual private cloud, or some sort of hybrid cloud solution (see Truth #10) that allows you to maintain the level of security you require.
Myth: The cloud is not reliable.
Truth: No system has 100% uptime, and neither does the Cloud. Given the scale, however, cloud computing services are typically designed to provide high redundancy and availability. While this same level of redundancy/availability is possible to achieve in-house or with dedicated hosting, it's generally cost prohibitive except for the most critical systems. The cloud enables a higher level of reliability at a fraction of the cost.
Myth: Performance is a problem in the cloud.
Truth: It depends. There are different types of clouds and use cases. In many instances, performance is higher in the cloud because there is more available capacity and scalability. In other cases (most notably running a database server), performance may be less than a traditional server. It's best to benchmark your application in the cloud to determine any performance impact (good or bad). If performance is an issue, consider a hybrid solution (see Truth # 10) that allows you to synergise the best of both worlds: the scalability and cost efficiencies of cloud computing and the performance of dedicated servers.
Myth: Customers lose control in the cloud and get locked-in.
Truth: There are different types of clouds that offer different levels of customisation and flexibility. Clouds that implement standard technology stacks and are participating in cloud standardisation efforts are your best bet to enable application mobility. Traction for open clouds is gaining momentum and the future will involve federation between public-to-public as well as public to on-premise/hosted private clouds. Ask your cloud computing provider about their participation in and vision for cloud standardisation and federation.
Myth: The cloud is too complex.
Truth: Again, there are different types of clouds that have differing levels of complexity. Many clouds simplify management and involve little to no change in your application to move it to the cloud. Other clouds offer more power and control, but involve a change in application architecture. Simplicity and control are often at odds and the cloud is no different. Depending on your needs, the cloud can offer you a good balance.
Myth: Pay as you go cloud pricing will cost me more.
Truth: Cloud computing has huge economies of scale that get passed on to the consumer. In addition, cloud computing transfers what is typically CapEx (large upfront expenditures) into OpEx (ongoing operational costs) and enables pricing to be commensurate with usage. If pricing variability and budgeting are a concern, consider a pricing plan that offers a predictable price. Also, don't just look at raw cost. Generally, best value solutions are superior to lowest cost. Consider all the factors including support, customer service, reputation, reliability, etc. when measuring value.
Myth: The cloud is hard to integrate with existing systems.
Truth: Many applications are stand-alone and can be moved independent of other existing systems. For integrated applications that are service oriented, integration is relatively simple. For non-service oriented applications that require tight integration, hybrid solutions (see Truth #10) are designed to simplify integration with the cloud. As with all integration considerations, latency is likely a concern, so transparency about where your cloud application lives is important.
Myth: The cloud is not for enterprises.
Truth: The benefits of cloud computing apply equally to enterprises as they do to SMBs, startups and consumers. Since enterprises are typically more risk averse, new technologies are generally adopted by small business first. That said, overall cloud adoption rates are increasing substantially and we are seeing enterprise adoption today. Expect to see a significant inflection point in the next several years where cloud is a standard enterprise fixture (see Truth #1).
Myth: I should move everything to the cloud.
Truth: Not all applications are suitable for cloud computing. While the Cloud is here to stay, it will not replace traditional hosting or on-premise deployments, but rather complement them. There will always be situations where security requirements, flexibility, performance or control will preclude the cloud. In those cases, a hybrid solution involving both cloud and either traditionally hosted or on-premise servers may make sense. Beware of vendors who promote pure cloud for ALL applications. Instead, look for a cloud provider who can offer you hosting options that best fit your application needs. Also, if you are a Managed Hosting customer, recognise that today, the cloud is "unmanaged," meaning the onus for backups, patching, monitoring, etc. is back on you should you move to the Cloud. If management services are important to you (and they probably are if you are already a Managed Hosting customer), consider the ramifications of a move to the cloud and look for a cloud provider that will provide the level of support and service necessary for you to be successful.