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Beginners Guide to
Cloud Computing

Cloud Computing is the new technology that is driving IT infrastructures of many businesses and institutions. One must get familiar with this phrase by understanding the fundamental concepts and principles that help individuals and organizations leverage mind boggling benefits of cloud.

Understanding the meaning of 'cloud'

The term cloud is used in relation with internet for denoting convergence of resources that are easily accessible and scalable in response to waxing and waning of demands. To make it simple, people had to depend on stationary computers in home or office to refer to data. However, with advent of cloud technology one can access the data on the go by using an internet enabled smart phone.

We are using cloud technology without being aware of its vast scope and reach. DataBaGG, Facebook, net-banking, email, and many more applications are based on cloud technology. It was a peculiar network design that was used by a group of network engineers to symbolize inter-connectable devices and their positions. The overall shape of this design resembled a cloud and hence the word 'cloud' was coined.

Understanding the meaning of 'cloud'

In information technology, the word cloud has a holistic meaning. It mainly refers to services or applications provided or accessed by leveraging the medium of internet. Cloud services are offered by vendors who are responsible for managing all types of backend tasks including operating various servers, and distribution of content in response to requests from users. Users of cloud computing services are supposed to pay only for the services or resources that are consumed by them.

There has been an exponential growth in data generation by commercial, industrial, and government organizations. This data needs to securely stored and offered to users on demand. Moreover the integrity of data must be maintained by preventing unauthorized access. Cloud computing liberates enterprises from the costly and resource intensive in-house data storage infrastructures by offering scalable and instantly accessible cloud storage platforms that need no capital investment.

Cloud computing is a boon to small and medium sized enterprises because these entities need not buy costly networking hardware or allocate physical space to store hardware for maintaining data. They need to only operate a user friendly interface to and leave the rest to cloud vendor.

Cloud computing has enabled small enterprises acquire state of the art IT capabilities by offering a level playing field to compete with large organizations. It is also possible to outsource high end applications and IT infrastructure without actually purchasing any hardware or costly equipment.

Users can avail instant software updates and achieve greater compatibility between operating systems. Cloud computing also enables ease of data backup and data recovery and also improves performance with one demand scalability.

Type of Cloud Models

Variety of cloud models facilitate use of cloud computing in different scenarios according to requirements.

Private Cloud

Private cloud is designed to cater to requirements of an individual organization. It is highly sought after cloud resource to take care of applications that focus on internal IT infrastructure of the enterprise. Enterprises adopt private cloud solutions to carry out business critical operations that need security and privacy of environment. All computing resources are operated and governed by a single organization in private cloud.

If you are looking for computing resources that need to be used by a community of individuals or a group of enterprises, then you can avail Community Cloud services.

Public Cloud

In a Public Cloud arrangement, cloud resources can also be accessed by public at large in B2C setup. Public Cloud services are usually offered by an organization and are used by general public. The organization can be a commercial, academic, social, or government entity.

Hybrid Cloud

Organizations are increasingly adopting Hybrid Cloud model to handle their internal as well as external operations. Hybrid Cloud enables users to get access to private as well as public cloud resources. This model empowers Business to Consumer (B2C) as well as Business to Business (B2B) interactions.

Important Cloud Distribution Models

Although there is a plethora of cloud distribution models available, the three most commonly used service solutions are SaaS, IaaS, and PaaS.

Software as a Service

Software as a Service is referred to as SaaS. This is the most popular distribution model that empowers organizations with software applications that are provided by a service provider on pay-as-you-use billing basis. With the advent of web services, SaaS can be offered to any user across the globe to manage various operations including supply chain, sales and marketing activities, accounting, HR, and so forth.

In a SaaS distribution model, users are able to subscribe to software without having to purchase and install on local machines. It offers seamless compatibility with wide array of handheld devices as well as workstations that have internet access. These are therefore conveniently accessible from anywhere and at anytime. SaaS enables organizations to facilitate use of software by its employees irrespective of their locations.

Platform as a Service or PaaS

Renting of a computing platform via internet, to be used as an integrated solution is referred to as Platform as a Service or PaaS. The solution offered can be in the form of a solution stack that comprises of software subsystems or an assortment of components. PaaS solutions facilitate application development and may also help users to build a product or service having all functional capabilities. PaaS is highly sought after by web developers to avail support for hosting, collaboration, deployment, and testing.

Infrastructure as a Service

Infrastructure as a Service provides outsourced computing infrastructure to enterprises. Organizations can avail data center facilities including servers, networking components, or storage infrastructure. IaaS is one the three most important categories of cloud computing services. IaaS is a boon to SMEs who are not in a position to acquire costly infrastructure such as in-house data centers. IaaS also helps entrepreneurs to focus on their business rather than handling or resolving infrastructure related issues.

Cloud Architecture - a Brief Overview

It would be appropriate to delve into the cloud architecture in order to understand the working of cloud computing services. Cloud computing comprises of front-end and back-end components. Front-end components of cloud system are client associated systems including application interfaces and web browsers that are vital to establish access to cloud computing services.

Back-end infrastructure components of cloud computing are important resources that enable delivery of cloud computing resources. These components consist of servers, Virtual Machines, security systems, data storage and networking equipment, and so forth. The backend of cloud system is controlled by cloud service provider.

Cloud system leverages multiple data storage devices to ensure immunity from single point failure. The distributed file system is spread over large number of hard disks. The entire cloud system operates in an efficiently distributed environment with help of sound algorithms for allocation of cloud resources.

Role of Virtualization in Cloud Computing

Virtualization is the soul of cloud computing. It enables compartmentalization of a standalone server into multiple virtual servers. These virtual servers have all characteristics of an independent physical server and can run on independent operating system. These cost effective virtual servers are used by developers for code testing.

We will dig deeper into following categories of virtualization:

  • Network virtualization
  • Sever virtualization
  • Storage virtualization

Network virtualization facilitates bandwidth splitting into independent channels. These separate channels can be further assigned in real time to any specific device or server.

Server virtualization is designed to enhance sharing of server resources while lessening the difficulty of computation for users. It essentially masks server resources including operating system, and RAM from users.

Storage virtualization is commonly used in Storage Area Networks. It integrates multiple network storage devices into a virtual storage device and enables pooling of physical storage resources that can be controlled by a central console.

Characteristic features of Grid and Cloud computing

Grid computing is essentially a network infrastructure that is purpose built to provide access to computing resources including computers, storage, and servers, to a select group of end users over a large geographic area. Grid computing is generally used for academic purposes or scientific research projects.

Many individuals are perplexed in terms of difference between grid computing and cloud computing. Cloud computing is a service model to enable access to computing resources to users. Grid computing is purpose built network of available resources in order to accomplish a common objective by a cohesive group of individuals.

Cloud computing is centrally controlled by service provider. In contrast, grid computing involves computing over multiple administrative models in a decentralized manner.

All backend resources including computers are owned by service provider in cloud computing and in grid computing model, computers are owned by end users in diverse geographic locations are interconnected for common resource sharing.

In contrast to grid computing that offers limited services, cloud computing can be accessed to avail huge gamut of services including web hosting, storage, application hosting, and support for database.

Difference between Utility Computing and Cloud Computing

Utility computing refers to on demand provisioning of computing resources and is similar to the water and electricity supply in terms of methods of billing. Users are required to pay only for the resources that are consumed in specified period. It enables small scale enterprises to avail high end resources that used to be the monopoly of large organizations due to cost restrictions. The pay per use billing system is extremely convenient for SMBs who can plan their resource consumption to match budgetary provisions.

Utility computing is ideal for applications that are not resource intensive and is more of a business model. In contrast, cloud computing is perfect for applications that demand higher resources. Cloud computing is essentially concerned with underlying IT infrastructure of the organization.

Cloud Computing - Security & Privacy

Theoretically speaking, movement of data in memory prior to getting stored in disk can be monitored by the administrative personnel working for the cloud service provider. This can be a critical impediment for cloud adoption by some of the prospective users of cloud services. This can be taken care of by implementing robust legal as well as administrative control mechanisms.

Alternatively, we can also encrypt the data at the site of cloud storage. This can ensure seamless prevention of any unauthorized access to the vital data by anybody including the cloud vendor. This will help enhance privacy and security of cloud computing to attract more and more potential users to explore compelling advantages of this ground breaking technology.

Interesting Case Study - Royal Mail Group

Royal Mail Group offers efficient postal services across UK by employing a huge workforce of 28000 employees. The government organization needed a sound and reliable platform for streamlining of internal communication mechanism to cater to their widespread operations covering 12000 post offices and 3000 different processing sites.

After implementation cloud computing there was a huge improvement in the communication paradigms that were offered by obsolete software. All employees were able to use a state of the art collaboration suite that granted then seamless access to instant messaging and so forth. With multiplication of storage space the overall efficiency of the system was also enhanced.

This followed upgrading of the existing server setup to virtual servers that could build a private cloud with support of Micro Soft Hyper V. The move to cloud has also resulted in huge savings for Royal Mail Group in addition to performance augmentation.

Designed & Developed by Cyfuture India Private Limited