For several years now there seems to be hype and buzz surrounding cloud computing. It appears 178 million times on a Google search. Apple, Google, Amazon, IBM and Microsoft are aggressively pushing into cloud computing, in a race to reel customers into their media ecosystems. Recent advertising from these companies would suggest the cloud is a new service. However, it’s simply smart re-branding of earlier terms such as “application service provider”, “on-demand software”, and “software as a service” which were not widely understood or adopted terms. Believe it or not, you or your company could already be using cloud computing. Cloud computing is based on a simple concept: instead of each business owning its own IT system, they rely on a trusted vendor to provide computing resources as they need them.
To understand how we have come to the version of cloud we have today, it is worth having a look back to where it all started and how the infrastructure environment has developed over the years.
On our journey to the cloud, we need to start the drive from where the cloud started—that meant going to where the Internet started – Room 3420 at the University of California, Los Angeles’s Boetler Hall. This was the home of UCLA’s Network Measurement Center and back in 1969 ARPANET (Advanced Research Projects Agency Network) was developed which was the network that became the basis for the Internet. The problem that cloud computing seeks to solve isn’t really all that radically different from the ones that led to the development of ARPANET.
How it all started
But we have to go further ahead where the history of computing hardware covers the developments from early simple devices to aid calculation to modern day computers. We divide the IT infrastructure evolution into five stages:
Mainframe and minicomputer era (1959 to present)
The mainframe computer is a type of big, powerful, expensive, and reliable computer that has been around for decades—IBM announced the System/360 52 years ago. A lot of the applications running on these machines were written in COBOL, a programming language that’s just as old as the mainframes. Even today, Mainframe computers play a central role in the daily operations of many of the world’s largest Fortune 1000 companies.
Personal computer era (1981 to present)
The Programma 101 was the first commercial “desktop personal computer”, produced by the Italian company Olivetti. But I would argue that the personal computer revolution started when IBM introduced the first PC in 1981 which was developed for household use.
Client server era (1983 to present)
Client/server architecture is a computing model in which the server hosts, delivers and manages most of the resources and services to be consumed by the client. This type of architecture has one or more client computers connected to a central server over a network or Internet connection. This system shares computing resources.
Enterprise computing era (1992 to present)
The enterprise computing era, which came about in 1992 when firms redesigned computing to integrate networks and applications in order to develop a enterprise-wide infrastructure. These software tools and networking standards caused information to flow more liberally across a business network so that it could be accessed and organized across the entire firm.
Cloud Computing Era (2000 to present)
That brings us to the latest era of Cloud computing which is the the use of various services, such as software development platforms, servers, storage, and software, over the Internet, often referred to as the “cloud”. Many cloud computing advancements are closely related to virtualization. The ability to pay on demand and scale quickly is largely a result of cloud computing vendors being able to pool resources that may be divided among multiple clients.
There are different flavors of cloud:
A public cloud is one based on the standard cloud computing model, in which a service provider makes resources, such as applications and storage, available to the general public over the Internet.
The alternative to putting your data and applications into a public cloud, along with many other clients, is to step security and service up a notch and go for a segregated solution. Unlike public clouds, which deliver services to multiple organizations, a private cloud is dedicated to a single organization.
A hybrid cloud is a cloud computing environment in which an organization provides and manages some resources in-house and has others provided externally.
Some additional Cloud Jargon to familiarize ourselves with:
SaaS—software as a service. Specific applications delivered through the cloud, typically for scenarios such as email, office productivity, customer relationship management, marketing analytics, and so on.
IaaS—infrastructure as a service. IaaS enables businesses to move their entire data center, including storage, servers, and software, to the cloud, essentially outsourcing management, security, and maintenance to the cloud provider.
PaaS—platform as a service. PaaS provides a complete operating system environment in the cloud where customers can develop and deploy software, applications, and services. The advantage is that PaaS systems scale seamlessly to provide consistent quality of service.
But at the end of the day, if we strip away the terminology and glamour, what do we find? It’s basically a server farms.
Is cloud computing right for your business?
Every CIO’s challenge is to develop infrastructure strategy and structure that enables innovation and seeks to leverage technology trends that can create business value consistent with the company’s requirements and expectations. He/she has the long-term strategic responsibility for building scalable, reliable, and efficient mechanisms required to meet their rapidly increasing demand for engineering, support and sales services.
There are both pros and cons of cloud computing and whether or not migrating to the cloud is right for a business will ultimately depend on the specific needs of that business and CIOs needs to thoroughly do their due diligence before making the journey to the cloud.
You may be interested in this article: CIOs Share Lessons Learned From the Journey to the Cloud
References: techopedia.com, wikimedia.org & techtarget.com