According to a Citrix Cloud Survey Guide, a majority of people (54%) do not believe that they use the cloud when, in fact, the vast majority (95%) do access cloud services through various activities like banking and photo sharing. This attests to one feature of the cloud — it’s ability to work transparently to the user.
The Cloud Industry Forum predicts that 75% of businesses in the UK will be using the cloud by the end of 2013. Gartner Research estimates that the global market for the cloud will reach $150 billion in 2013. All of this indicates a steady transition into the cloud by businesses.
Cloud computing has been around for a few years. It continues to evolve and change. For businesses to move successfully into cloud computing, they need to understand the current services and architectures available. Many businesses come to rely on cloud consultants to design their infrastructures due to the difficulty in keeping current on the cloud technology.
With cloud computing, companies are able to outsource a portion or all of their hardware and software resources to a third party. What is then created for the business is a pool of computing resources that are accessible through the Internet. The resources are usually available to the company any time they need them. The access to the resources is often through any device that can use a browser on the network.
The advantages of having all of a company’s computing resources in the cloud include:
- Reduced hardware costs
- Reduced software costs
- Reduced maintenance and upgrade costs
- Reduced technical staff costs
- Improved access and availability
- Improved infrastructure flexibility
- Improved expansion capabilities
This is not to say that the cloud is a panacea for all business computing. In fact, many businesses choose to place only a portion of their resources in the cloud. Only small businesses may find that a complete cloud solution can be successful. This is why it is important to work with people who are exceptionally knowledgeable about the cloud and the various services and options.
The Types of Cloud Computing
Where the cloud resides depends on how a company will be using it. Many companies start out with a mixture of cloud types until they are comfortable with the design. They may then move into more reliance on a third-party or make adjustments to what they will maintain themselves.
The public cloud type is where a third party manages everything within the cloud. There is nothing residing in the company other than the devices used to access the cloud. The third party manages the servers, disk storage and applications. All of this is transparent to the business. The cloud appears as a pool of computing resources that the business can tap into.
Google applications are a good example of this. Using a desktop computer, laptop, tablet or smartphone, you can access word processing and spreadsheet applications, store and share files, and do email. All of this is done through an Internet browser and there is no other technology overhead that the company needs to maintain.
The private cloud type is a way to organize a company’s computing into a resource pool. There are some cloud-like benefits to this structure, even though the company still must maintain the infrastructure. To the users, how the resources are made available remains transparent as they will access them again through a browser. This may be the choice of a business that needs strict data and application privacy. Or it may be the only choice for a company that relies on in-house developed or heavily customized applications.
The hybrid cloud type is when a company decides to outsource part of its resources to a public cloud and retain other resources in a private cloud. There will likely be a need to create interfaces for applications and data within both cloud types to communicate with each other.
The Services Available in Cloud Computing
There are three primary types of services you can get using cloud computing. Much like the cloud types, services may be mixed to provide the best environment for a company. The breadth and depth of services will depend upon the service provider. When researching cloud services, make sure you understand what the provider is and is not responsible for.
Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)
With this service, the third party manages all of the computing hardware, networking, data storage, backup and recovery. A customer pays for the use of this equipment and is responsible for all of the operating system software, development software and applications. The third party takes on the costs of the equipment purchase and maintenance, including any upgrade or expansion. The customer must purchase their own software licenses and install the applications onto the servers. The customer is responsible for updates, patches or any software problems.
An advantage to the customer with this model is that additional computing or storage capacity is handled by the third party. There will be a cost to the customer, but it will likely be much less that if they had to purchase additional hardware to accommodate their growth.
Platform as a Service (PaaS)
This service adds system software to the IaaS option. This allows developers to create applications without the overhead of operating system, programming and database software. This option is useful to software development companies but not the general business looking to move to the cloud.
Software as a Service (SaaS)
With this service companies have access to various application software packages they need to operate their business. The service provider manages the software including licensing, updates and patches. The customer typically pays a flat rate for a number of users or a per user fee. As a company grows and adds more users to the applications, the service provider will manage the additional capacity needed to handle the growth.
More companies are making their products available in the cloud as SaaS. Starting with the basic business applications such as word processors and email, there are now customer relationship management (CRM) applications, inventory control applications and sales management applications available.
The Cloud Offers Choices
Cloud computing is becoming a cost-effective way to manage a company’s ever-changing resource needs. There are many options and services available. Using a consultant to design a cloud-based infrastructure makes sense for a business without knowledgeable staff. That way the right design can be put in place initially so the business can begin getting all of the benefits of being in the cloud.
Author Bio: Alan McMahon works for Dell and is involved in marketing consumer and enterprise solutions, across a range for products from tablet pc’s, servers, and storage to virtualization. Alan is based in Ireland and enjoys sailing as a past time.