What is Cloud computing?

Cloud computing is not a new technology, but a new model to deliver IT resources. It gives the illusion that people can have access to an infinite amount of computing resources available on demand. With Cloud computing, you can rent computing power with no commitment. There is no need to buy a server, just pay for what you use. This new model is often compared with how people use and pay for utilities. For example, you only pay for how much water or electricity you consume for a given amount of time.
Cloud computing has drastically altered the way computing resources are obtained, allowing almost everybody, from one-man companies, large enterprises to governments work on projects that could not have been possible before.
While in the traditional IT model you need to request budget to acquire hardware, and invest a large amount of money upfront; with the Cloud computing model, your expenses are considered operating expenses to run your business; you pay on demand a small amount per hour for the same resources.
In the traditional IT model, requesting budget, procuring the hardware and software, installing it on a lab or data center, and configuring the software can take a long time. On average we could say a project could take 120 days or more to get started. With Cloud computing, you can have a working and configured system in less than 2 hours!
In the traditional IT model companies need to plan for peak capacity. For example if your company's future workload requires 3 servers for 25 days of the month, but needs 2 more servers to handle the workload of the last 5 days of the month then the company needs to purchase 5 servers, not 3. In the Cloud computing model, the same company could just invest on the 3 servers, and rent 2 more servers for the last 5 days of the month.
Characteristics of the Cloud
Cloud Computing is based on three simple characteristics:
Standardization provides the ability to build a large set of homogeneous IT resources mostly from inexpensive components. Standardization is the opposite of customization.
Virtualization provides a method for partitioning the large pool of IT resources and allocating them on demand. After use, the resources can be returned to the pool for others to reuse.
Automation allows users on the Cloud to have control on the resources they provision without having to wait for administrator to handle their requests. This is important in a large Cloud environment.
If you think about it, you probably have used some sort of Cloud service in the past. Facebook, Yahoo, and Gmail, for example, deliver services that are standardized, virtual and automated. You can create an account and start using their services right away.

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