Cloud Computing, Its Features and Popularity

Executive Summary

Cloud computing is becoming increasingly popular. Cloud computing is a term that is derived from the way the WAN and the Internet have been drawn as a cloud in the network diagrams. Cloud Security Alliance articulates that cloud computing is a system that facilitates shared computing resources. The term resources refer to networks, servers, applications, services and storage. It is also a method that involves outsourcing computer resources with the potential for expendable enterprise scalability and on demand provisioning. This report will provide general information in relation to cloud computing, its characteristics, and the reason behind its growing popularity.

Introduction

Overview

In the last decade, Information Technology (IT) has grown to become one of the most crucial components of the organization (Omtzigt 3). With growing markets and competition, the organization move towards utilizing their IT budgets more effectively while maximizing value at the same time. Such organizations need constant review and refined tuning of their IT operations as this directly affects their business. Cloud-based computing has proved to be an advantage for organizations aiming to optimize efficiencies and reduce costs along with high scalability of resources to meet critical needs (Catteddu and Gile 2).

Cloud computing has now evolved and provides much more than just cost and scalability benefits. Organizations have discovered innovative ways of utilizing the unique features that cloud computing offers (Motahari-Nezhad, Bryan and Sharad 5).

Organizations are not the only ones using cloud services. Cloud computing services are also utilized by individual consumers, as well as service providers who accrue significant benefits from it (Catteddu and Gile 4). Educational institutions, such as colleges and universities have tapped into cloud based email systems (Cloud Security Alliance 20). For example, educational institutions have massive amounts of data that need to be stored and maintained for a long time, and cloud based servers have proven to be the perfect medium for this purpose (Chappel 15).

While a number of authors acknowledged the enormous potential of cloud computing, they do not provide a broad spectrum approach towards the impact that this technology has (Chappel 32). Similarly, Motahari-Nezhad, Bryan and Sharad rely on two cases to evaluate the cost implications of cloud computing in an academic environment (12). Further, Catteddu and Gile mentions that the origin of cloud computing can be traced to the Library Society all over the world. However, they do not provide a non academic perspective. Gorelik gives what may be considered to be the most comprehensive analysis of cloud computing available today as he covers the three models of cloud computing, as well as the costs related to their implementation (3).

Purpose of the Report

This report will provide general information in relation to cloud computing, its characteristics, and the reason behind its growing popularity. The report gives further insights and expand the existing body of knowledge on the subject of cloud computing and provide a more accurate and precise understanding of the architectures of cloud computing, their impact and drawbacks.

History of Cloud Computing

Before we discuss cloud computing, it is necessary to dive into the history for a better understanding. Cloud computing is a new term that has entered the computing world, but it is not a new concept. In the early 60’s, John McCarthy envisaged an infrastructure where computers and data could be accessed from any place in the world, delivering it as a public utility where users are allowed only to pay for what they use (Giacomo and Tino 1; McCarthy 3). Cloud computing uses a similar concept of centralized computing, where users can access services within a particular network (Chappel 2).

During the fifties and seventies, centralized computing was used to overcome low storage capacity in local computers. Devolved computing was later developed in the eighties due to limited networks and the need for improved computer storages. This led to the abolishment of centralized computing, and this paved way for the development personal computers. This was made possible through the availability of applications that could be stored and ran on computers (Antonopoulos and Lee 10).

Greater improvements in the local area network (LAN) and wide area networks (WAN) were made in the 90’s and 2000s. These improvements allowed institutions to start using a centralized form of storages as a way of saving money. This allowed institutions to manage their information technologies on dumb terminals through improvements in virtualization and networks. Cloud computing shares similarities with an older computing procedure referred to as time-sharing. The time-sharing computer connects several users to an isolated computer processor by means of a dumb terminal that have keyboards and monitors, and the dumb terminal is communicating with the main server (Antonopoulos and Lee 11).

Cloud computing is a term that was derived from the way the WAN and the Internet have been drawn as a cloud in the network diagrams. Many varying definitions have been developed, but the Cloud Security Alliance offers a strong and agreeable definition. Cloud Security Alliance articulates that cloud computing is a system that facilitates shared computing resources. The term resources refer to networks, servers, applications, services and storage with easier provision and release. Therefore, cloud computing is a method that involves outsourcing computer resources with the potential for expendable enterprise scalability and on demand provision (Cloud Security Alliance 3).

Cloud Computing Platforms

Cloud computing offers vast benefits to users with three types of delivery models: Platform as a Service (PaaS), Software as a Service (SaaS) and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS). SaaS offers users the ability to access applications over a network. In this service, the user only has control over the application on a pay as you use rate, and no control over the hardware and the operating systems. Some of the key providers of this form of service include Google and Microsoft 365 applications (Cisco 5; Mahmood and Richard 3).

PaaS is a service, which offers a platform for users to develop web applications without the need to buy and manage the specialist software and hardware required to create such applications. The user is not limited to selecting an application and cannot control the hardware. Some of the key providers of this service include Windows Azure and Google App Engine. IaaS has the supplier offering storage, network components, hardware and servers, which are housed and maintained. The client can control the operating system and tweak settings in the hardware. In some cases, this service is referred to as Hardware as a Service (HaaS) (Mahmood and Richard 3).

According to Motahari-Nezhad, Bryan and Sharad, large part of the market is inclined to using SaaS (8). This is down to the fact that most of the business population is wary of their security. This has led to a high preference for SaaS as compared to PaaS and IaaS where information is stored in other peoples systems. Cloud computing delivers these models through four deployment forms, namely: private cloud, public cloud, hybrid cloud and community cloud (Mahmood and Richard 3). Public cloud computing allows users to rent space on the virtual servers. With this design, customers are only liable to pay for what they use as compared to other local data storages and data centres where a client pays for a set amount of storage. This is more of a pay as you use model (Omtzigt 8; Mahmood and Richard 50).

Hybrid cloud is a deployment that combines different modes, such as the private and the unrestricted model. Each model still maintains its identities, but it is still bound together. Their identities are bound together through standardized and proprietary technology. The cloud resources are, therefore, located off-site or within the client organization promises. The security of the clients is not affected through this model; however, it has a shortcoming in that the benefits associated with capital expenditures are not realized. The last model is the community cloud where the cloud resource infrastructures are shared by a number of institutions with a shared responsibility and interest, such as security requirements and compliance considerations (Omtzigt 9; Mahmood and Richard 53).

Understanding Cloud Architecture and characteristics

One of the biggest challenges facing cloud computing is the lack of a standardized architectural design. This has led to the different perspective and description of cloud computing. Each and every client and the suppliers have varying approaches with different capabilities and examples. The cloud computing architecture enables businesses to reduce operational costs and time. It also creates the presence of a web-based program in place of those installed on personal computers. Therefore, cloud computing enables users to manage their business from the comfort of their homes (Hoffman 15).

With cloud, computing hardware components are made less significant depending on how applications work as the palliations operate separately from any given server. The presence of a cloud computer allow users to utilize resources housed on a shared virtual computer. It has in recent times gained massive popularity due to the decreased need to download software on personal computers. This has led to the increased use of web-based software and allowing businesses more flexibility to increase resources without the need to increase hardware. Through cloud computing, people can interact and share resources with much ease, enabling small businesses to reap vast benefits without necessarily having to install the physical infrastructure (Hoffman 16).

Cloud computing has numerous characteristics, which distinguishes it from other computing paradigms (Mahmood and Richard 85). We can classify the characteristics into common and basic characteristics. According to Mahmood and Richard, there are five essential characteristics and eight common characteristics (85). The basic characteristics are:

  1. on demand self-service, which allows the specification of computing resources;
  2. broad network access, which is access to cloud resources over the network using standard mechanisms in heterogeneous matters through thick and thin clients, such as smart phones and mobile phones;
  3. resource-pooling, which allows the capacity to be pooled and serve multiple clients through a multitenant model;
  4. rapid elasticity, which allows rapid capacity provisioning for rapid scaling;
  5. measure service, which allows for control, monitoring and reporting of operation, as well as allowing transparency between the users and providers.

In addition to the underlying cloud computing characteristics, there are common characteristics, such as resilient computing, large scale availability of storage and computing capacities, pay as you use mode, homogeneity and the use of virtualization technology. These are the characteristics that make cloud computing an attractive business to the market.

Benefits and Drawbacks

Cloud computing offer a variety of deployment method, and therefore numerous benefits to the market. The benefits include economics of scale, which result to reduced costs of information technology infrastructure. Secondly, it has low maintenance and administration costs. It also offers other benefits, such as enhanced performance due to access to dynamic, scalable computing, storage and memory capabilities based on their demand.

Cloud computing also offers easier data monitoring and lower costs of security measures and quick incident responses. Other benefits can be accrued, such as easier group collaborations, removal for the need to have devices and the universal access to computing resources (Catteddu and Gile 22).However, cloud computing also comes with shortcomings. It demands a constant Internet connection, which is also affected by the speed of Internet. Cloud computing has limited features and security is not fully guaranteed. Security present may not meet the organizations standards, which present businesses with the danger of data loss or cause vendors to file for bankruptcy (Catteddu and Gile 23).

Cloud computing has technological benefits because in the coming years organizations may turn to using technology to increase their productivity by allowing their employees to access working tools and documents from anywhere. Therefore, it will offer a technological advantage by deploying system rapidly and scaling them up easily to suit the needs. The virtualization in the cloud computing environment will ensure complete operating systems are developed in minutes. This would save the clients time to set up users on systems. Through scalability of services, operations will be easily and quickly executed. Cloud computing will also offer economic benefits to the market in the way charges are imposed. The payment for services will be made monthly or annually. Most of the services will be broken down. Last but not least, cloud service saves organizations from exorbitant power bill by minimizing ICT infrastructure (Catteddu and Gile 24).

Conclusion

Cloud computing is becoming increasingly popular nowadays. Cloud computing evolved from grid computing. The most dominant aspect of cloud computing is the cost effect. The cost effect encompasses data centre cost, models of pricing, flexibility and administrative cost among others. Cloud computing saves businesses the cost of setting up their own data centres and hiring staff to manage them. Flexibility and different pricing models used by cloud providers makes the technology more cost effective. Security is another aspect of cloud computing. Security encompasses web browser security, legal risks, loss of encrypted passwords, network challenges, and natural calamities among others. Notwithstanding the above risks, cloud computing also has a number of security benefits.

These include standardised interface, logging, valuable updates and effective management of risk among others. Whether the benefits outweigh the security risks of cloud computing is still a subject under study. In summary, cloud computing is a technology still in its infancy stage and has numerous benefits for the present and future generation of businesses. A lot of work is still being put in this technology and more progress can be expected in the future.

Works Cited

Antonopoulos, Nikos and Lee Gillam. Cloud Computing: Principles, Systems and Applications, London, UK: Springer, 2010. Print.

Catteddu, Daniele and Gile Hogben. Cloud Computing: benefits, risks and Recommendations for information security, Heraklion, Greece: European Network and Information Security Agency, 2009. Print.

Chappel, David. A Short Introduction to Cloud Platforms, San Francisco, California: Chappel and Associates, Inc., 2008. Print.

Cisco. Cisco Cloud Computing-Data Center Strategy, Architecture, and Solutions, San Jose, CA: Cisco Systems, Inc., 2009. Print.

Cloud Security Alliance. Security Guidance for Critical Areas of Focus in Cloud Computing, New Jersey: Cloud Security Alliance, Inc., 2009. Print.

Giacomo, Debora and Tino Brunzel. Cloud Computing Evaluation: How it Differs to Traditional IT Outsourcing, Jönköping, Sweden: Jönköping University, 2010. Print.

Gorelik, Eugene. Cloud Computing Models, Cambridge: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2013. Print.

Hoffman, Karen. “Up in the Clouds.” US Banker 119.7(2009):14-15. Print.

Mahmood, Zaigham and Richard Hill. Cloud Computing for Enterprise Architectures, London, UK: Springer-Verlag, 2011. Print.

McCarthy, John.Time-Sharing Computer Systems, Massachusetts: Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), 1961. Print.

Motahari-Nezhad, Hamid, Bryan Stephenson and Sharad Singhal. “Outsourcing Business to Cloud Computing Services: Opportunities and Challenges.” Technical Journal 1 (2009): 1-17. Print.

Omtzigt, Theodore. “Cloud Computing – Predominantly an IT Operation Outsourcing Trend.” Eclipse – Developers Journal 11.4 (2008):1-20. Print.