What is Cloud Computing? (Part 2 of 3)

The snow is starting to melt and the promise of spring is here. Very soon the winter will be a distant memory. Perhaps it’s time to re-evaluate your IT strategy. Having a cloud strategy is no longer an option. If you don’t have a cloud strategy, the question is why?

Before we continue where we left off, I should remind you of these basics:

In the first part of this blog, I told you about virtualization and its origins. In this episode I will try to explain what the cloud is in practice and why you would consider a cloud strategy or storing your data or accessing your applications in the cloud.

There are many definitions for what the cloud is, however the simplest that comes to mind is as follows: The cloud can be defined as anything that abstracts the physical hardware and resources from the end user and makes it available as a service. Remember the analogy of the Power station that provides electricity to users as a utility. The end user does not own the power station but consumes the electricity that is produced on a pay as use service. You only pay for what you use. That is essentially the same as cloud computing.

Most businesses are not in the business of Information Technology (IT). They need IT to run their business. They need computers to access applications and data, Networks to access the computers and storage to store their data on. If there are smart, they will also need to back up their data in the case of accidental data loss or a disaster. Depending on the size of the company the cost of maintaining the required IT capability can run from hundreds to millions of dollars. That is the easy part, now you have to maintain the equipment, pay the staff to manage the IT assets, pay for the space to house the IT infrastructure (typically known as a Datacenter), pay for the cost of securing the Data Centre and replace the equipment after 3 years due to depreciation. As you can imagine this adds complexity and a major capital expenditure burden on medium to large size organizations. That in a nutshell is the problem the cloud is trying to solve.

Now imagine this. You don’t have to own any of the infrastructure that runs your business. You can just access it over the internet by paying a monthly or annual subscription. The scenario I have just described is over simplifying the solution. In reality most organization access some applications via the cloud and some on premise. On premise means they own the infrastructure that the applications are housed on. The reason they may do this is because legislation, security or complexity of legacy applications which may make them difficult to access from the cloud.

The companies who offer these cloud services are known as Service Providers. Some examples are AT&T, Bell, CGI, Amazon, and Rackspace to mention a few.

There are many types of cloud solutions. Some of the main ones are Public, Private and Hybrid Cloud.

Public Cloud

A service where resources are shared by everyone and there is no guarantee of performance, availability or confidentiality. An example is your free email service like Hotmail or Gmail, whereby if it is not available the provider pays no penalty since it is a free services. Also you have no say on where your data is stored or when it is available. It is usually a best effort.

Private Cloud

In this scenario, the organization may own the infrastructure hosted at a service provider or on its own premises or use the Service providers infrastructure. The organization has complete control of the infrastructure and will typically have an SLA – Service Level Agreement in place with the Service provider to ensure that the infrastructure is available when they need it, is secure and performance is guaranteed. This is obviously more expensive but provides a more reliable and secure cloud service to an organization. This is more common in heavily regulated industries like Banking, Insurance, Government and Healthcare.

Hybrid Cloud

This is the most common use of the cloud. Some applications are accessed via public cloud, some via private cloud and some on premise. The ratio is usually determined by importance, regulation and confidentiality of the data. This classification in IT is commonly referred to as Tiers of data. The less important data can be accessed in the public cloud, whereas the most important stays on premise.

In the final part of my blog I will tell you more about the types of services provided by Cloud Service Providers. For now, I will leave you to digest what you have read. If you have ever flown close to a cloud or through one in an Airplane, you must know that it is difficult to see through a cloud. That is the same concept of the Computing Cloud. You should not care about what it runs on, you should only be concerned about the availability of your data and applications, when you need it and how you need it.

So if you don’t have a cloud strategy, then you must be in the business of IT as opposed to using IT to support your business. More to come in the final episode.

Henry Omodara | Chief Technology Officer

Axanto Group Inc. Avatar

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