Cloud computing: facts and fiction
There is a buzz about the cloud at the moment. Microsoft is pushing its own solution heavily, HP has a solution as does Oracle. Everyone wants to be in the cloud! Having said this, the use of the term “cloud” is often incorrect, or the marketing hype is written in such a manner that it is meaningless for most people in business. To be clear, cloud computing is the virtualisation of hardware, so that applications are spread over a grid of servers. There are three further aspects of terminology that are important to understand in order to distinguish between the different types of services:
- Infrastructure as a Service – the provision of virtualised hardware hosting and telecommunications;
- Platform as a Service – the provision of a development tool kit in a virtualised environment on which software applications can be built;
- Software as a Service – the provision of software over the internet which includes all hardware hosting and telecommunications. It may or may not be a virtualised application.
Then there are public and private clouds. A public cloud, such that Amazon provides, is open to anyone and your data can be on any servers that other applications are sharing. The advantages are that it is very cost-effective and very “elastic.” This means you can increase and decrease capacity whenever you want, and you only pay for what you use. You can also rent dedicated servers should you wish to do so, and have choices on CPU power, storage and memory. It is completely secure, albeit you do not know where you data may reside. This can have data protection implications. A private cloud is a virtualised environment in a private data centre, whereby you have control of where your data is, who has access to it, together with any colocation requirements.
The cloud is the next generation of disruptive technology and set to change the way we work. It has the ability to bring significant savings to organisations, as they acquire the capability of maximising the utilisation of their hardware requirements. In the old world, the average utilisation rate of a server was 8%; it can be as high as 50% in a virtual environment.
Organisations will no longer have to invest in expensive hardware; they can simply rent it on an on demand basis. There will be a natural centralisation of infrastructure engineers into the data centres supplying cloud services. The CIO of a business can concentrate on adding value, rather than having to manage a large team of network engineers.
Finally, another important factor cloud technology creates is the ability for smaller organisations to enjoy sophisticated software and platforms that in the past would only have been available to large businesses. Back-office applications, such as word processors, can also be rented on demand, so the cost of setting up a new business is reduced significantly and existing companies can move to cloud based products, instead of replacing existing hardware. Cloud technology is the future and early adopters will gain a competitive advantage.