Cloud Computing: A New Paradigm in the IT Industry

As IT evolves and matures, the need to optimize costs naturally drives innovation and creativity. The new concept paired with technology that is now making the rounds is called “Cloud Computing”.

I had come across people with limited IT skills asking me what “cloud computing” was. Although I tried to explain it to them as best as I could, most of the time I ended up with a blank stare from them, indicating that they didn’t understand the concept or background behind cloud computing.

What is cloud computing?.

Recently I started giving them an example of “home with kitchen” or “restaurant” to explain the concept behind “cloud computing”. A home kitchen is dedicated to the home, to the resources – be it the vessels or utensils, or the person cooking is dedicated to that home. The owner of the house invests in the kitchen and takes advantage of having the kitchen for himself or members of his family. It is the owner of the house who has to maintain the kitchen. When comparing home cooking to a restaurant, the end goal is the same, which is to offer certain foods, but the way foods are prepared or served is different. You don’t own a restaurant except the food it serves. In short, the same concept between traditional IT offering and cloud computing.

Just as with the home kitchen, in the case of a traditional IT offering, the company owns the hardware and licenses for software and sometimes outsources application development to a third party, which is comparable to a chef who is hired (if a person is rich), to prepare food at home. With the development of the IT sector in hardware and software, we are marching towards a “restaurant” model of IT services; You only pay for what your end goal is – “processed food” or “services”. Like a restaurant where you only care about the quality of the food and the expected level of service and don’t care much who the chef is, or the waiter, or the kitchen appliances, or even where the kitchen is, so is cloud computing ‘ the case’ the customer is focused on the service offering and not on the hardware, software, raw information or resources used to deliver the service offering or end product.

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Businesses are not going to jump into cloud computing, they would evolve and move towards the characteristics of cloud computing infrastructure over time if they were sure of it. As far as cloud computing is concerned, I believe we are at a similar stage in terms of outsourcing IT services as we were in the early 1990s. IT services have been outsourced to allow the organization to focus on the ‘core business’, cloud computing could be another step forward.

Now let’s look at the service models that are typically considered in cloud computing.

SaaS: Software-as-a-Service:

This model has been talked about for quite some time, business applications are hosted on servers managed by data centers. Legal issues, security, integration and confidentiality of data are the dissuasive factors for this model at this time. Once policies, procedures and standards have been defined and refined over time, they will inevitably be adopted over time.

In terms of usage, the application is accessed via a web browser and terms and conditions may be governed by service level agreements.

Possible examples could be simple free generic email services to complex ERP systems.

IaaS: Infrastructure – as – a Service:

Computing servers, storage and hardware are accounted for under this service model. One would also find free storage space offered on the internet, this could be referred to as IaaS.

PaaS: Platform – as – a Service:

The development and deployment platform could be offered as a service to developers to build, deploy and manage applications on SaaS.

When looking at cloud deployment strategy, it’s usually public, private, and hybrid clouds. I think the name itself is pretty telling to describe the type.

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The next question is what kind of hardware one needs for hosting cloud computing.

At this time, cloud computing is usually deployed in the traditional model. By traditional model I mean that you might have a server to serve the database tier or the application tier, which is almost a ‘silo’ based model. But since cloud computing, to better manage the cloud in a data center, you have to have efficient hardware and manpower (see my restaurant example). Here hardware could play a major role, the new technology such as grid computing, true application clusters, automatic storage management, server scaling and server virtualization features play an important role for better management and deployment of the cloud.

Moving forward, we would probably move away from “silos” based computing systems and applications. Cloud computing infrastructure would reside in the data center, this would require efficient use of hardware, and more than manpower would need to support multiple servers or applications. Optimization and effective control would play a greater role in the infrastructure management of these data centers towards cloud computing.

Standards in cloud computing are evolving, and according to a leading standards organization, some of the key attributes for cloud computing are:

pooling of resources:The provider’s computing resources are pooled to serve multiple consumers using a multi-tenant model. There is a sense of location independence as the customer generally has no control or knowledge of the exact location of the deployed resources.

Fast Elasticity: Capabilities can be deployed and released elastically, in some cases automatically, to quickly scale out and in based on demand. To the consumer, the available delivery options often appear unlimited and can be appropriated at any time in any quantity.

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Measured Service: Cloud systems automatically control and optimize resource usage using a metric at a specific level of abstraction appropriate to the nature of the service (e.g., storage, processing, bandwidth, and active user accounts). Resource usage can be monitored, controlled and reported, providing transparency to both the provider and consumer of the service being used.

As this leads to a situation where cloud computing needs to provide services where there is no downtime and resources are shared, hardware for cloud computing naturally evolves, the technology related to grid computing, clustering – RAC, more powerful servers and Server virtualization is increasingly being offered by vendors to meet the characteristics of cloud computing.

A quick look at the terminologies and technologies used,

A cluster is a group of independent but interconnected computers whose combined resources can be applied to a processing task. “Clusterware” is a term used to describe software that provides interfaces and services that enable and support a cluster. The combination of clusterware and automatic storage management provides a unified cluster solution that forms the basis for a true application cluster database.

True application clusters allow multiple nodes in a clustered system to mount and open a single database residing on shared disk storage. Should a single system (node) fail, the database service is still available on the remaining nodes.

Cloud computing may still be a few years away from being mature, and it could redefine the IT outsourcing map.

The author is a PMP Certified Professional and writes his own blog at http://indian-amps.blogspot.com

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