The commercials about “the cloud” sailing by are everywhere, and if an individual uses a tablet, web browser or a smart phone, they are in the cloud. Cloud computing is a euphemism for real systems of networked computers which access global networks of millions of computers.
Storing data or running programs from your computer is local storage. People have been working off hard drives for decades. However, cloud computing is storing and accessing programs or data over the Internet instead of using you own computer’s hard drive. Some people use “the cloud” to mean all the virtual servers available over the Internet. Others say everything outside the firewall that you use is in the cloud.
Cloud computing services are sold on demand and a user may have as little or as much of a service to sail around in as they want. The service is managed completely by the provider. All the customer needs is a computer and internet access. This paying for what you use model is called utility computing because it resembles the way consumers use utilities like electricity or water. Businesses are a little different. Traditionally business owners had to have computers and software for each employee and purchase software licenses so each worker has the tools they need. Now they can load one application which allows workers to log into a web-based service. Local computers no longer have to do all the work of running applications. The network of computers in the cloud handles that. On the user’s side, the computer needs interface software such as a web browser, then everything else is handled by the cloud’s network.
The best known example is SaaS or Software-as-a-Service. SaaS delivers an app through the browser to all their customers. To the buyer it means no initial investment in servers or software licensing. IBM, Sun, and Amazon.com offer storage and servers that IT can access on demand. There is also PaaS, or Platform-as-a-Service, with which a company can customize applications for their own business. Infrastructure-as-a-Service is used by Goggle, Amazon and others to rent out by other companies. McKinsey and Co. global management consulting firm, says 80 percent of the large companies in North America are either using cloud services or looking at using them.
Email accounts like Gmail, Hotmail or Yahoo mail rely on cloud computing. People want an internet that is always free, fast, cheap and unlimited. People are typically on the look out for a way to add capabilities and increase capacity. A private cloud is a data center that supplies hosted services to a limited number of people. A public cloud sells services to anyone on the internet.
At IDC analysts project that cloud-based applications like social media, mobile apps, etc. will comprise almost 90 percent of new spending on communications technologies, which is presently $5 trillion worldwide. As Greg DeMichillie, director of product management for Goggle’s cloud, says, “Doing something that reaches 100,000 people is no longer in the realm of corporate data centers. Two or three people can build something on a global basis.” Data storage is now as low as one cent a gigabyte on Amazon Web Service, about one-hundredth of its original cost.
Gordon Moore, one of the cofounders of Intel, had theorized that the same amount of money would buy two times as much capability every 18 to 24 months. It has become the general consensus that Moore’s law is why our world has been transformed by technology. Amazon, Goggle and Microsoft are sailing at the lead in offering the public cloud computing services. However, Hewlett-Packard, IBM and CenturyLink are growing at an astounding rate. DeMichillie explains that historically computing was a scarce resource, but now it is moving to be an abundant resource. According to DeMichillie, “Anyone who claims to have a crystal ball about where this is heading is kidding themselves.”
By Laurie Stilwell