What comes to mind upon hearing the words “cloud computing”? The term “cloud” was first introduced as a metaphor for the Internet, and the structural incorporation of information in an online environment. Through increasing participation and an expansion of familiarity and online working knowledge, the term “cloud” has developed to encompass many definitions. To many people, cloud computing means different things. To some, cloud computing means remote data storage and easily accessible information over a given network, while to others cloud computing means an increased ability to create multiple-user network services. So, what exactly is cloud computing, and more importantly, how can we use it to our advantage?
There are many elements to cloud computing worth noting, which I will discuss below. One component to cloud computing is SaaS (Software as a Service), which “delivers a single application through the browser to thousands of customers using a multitenant architecture.” Costs are low with SaaS as there is only one app to maintain.
A second component to cloud computing is utility computing. Utility computing allows for storage and virtual servers to be used at IT’s demand in addition to stitching together memory, I/O, storage, and computational capacity as a virtualized resource pool available over the network.
Web services in the cloud are a third feature that cloud computing offers. Web service providers offer APIs that enable developers to exploit functionality over the Internet, rather than delivering full-blown applications.
A fourth service encompassed in cloud computing is platform as a service, which delivers development environments as a service. Essentially, the customer can build their own applications that run on the provider’s infrastructure and are delivered to your users via the Internet from the providers’ servers. These services are often limited by the vendor’s design and capabilities, so you don’t get complete freedom, but you do get predictability and pre-integration.
Another component included in cloud computing is MSP (managed service providers) . MSP is one of the oldest forms of cloud computing. It’s a managed service application that is exposed to IT rather than to end-users, and it provides services such as a virus scanning for e-mail, application monitoring, and desktop monitoring services.
A sixth element capable via cloud computing is service commerce platforms. Service commerce platforms are a mixture of SaaS and MSP, in that it’s a service hub that users interact with. Service commerce platforms are most common in trading environments, like expense management systems that allow users to order travel or secretarial services from a common platform that then coordinates the service delivery and pricing within the specifications set by the user.
One last component of cloud computing is internet integration, however this element is still in its early days. The ideal is to connect SaaS provides and provide integrated solutions ot customers to increase ease and overall efficiency and experience.
Overall, cloud computing encompasses all services over the internet that extends IT’s existing capabilities in real-time. There are many isolated clouds of services today which IT customers have to individually plug into. InfoWorld’s Eric Knorr notes that “as virtualization and SOA permeate the enterprise, the idea of loosely coupled services running on an agile, scalable infrastructure should eventually make every enterprise a node in the cloud. It’s a long-running trend with a far-out horizon.” Many of today’s companies that successfully used cloud-based services realize that the cloud does not just entail one thing, but rather that there are many working parts within the cloud that utilize different levels of interaction with the users. Integrating these multi-faceted cloud services to the user’s benefit will only enhance the many cool things we are able to do with the cloud. In that, I think we can say the future for cloud computing is nothing but sunny, and the sky is definitely the limit (if there even is a limit at all).