Cloud Computing Demystified

Earlier this month at the HFTP Development Conference, I helped demystify cloud computing to participants in the education sessions.

Gartner, Inc. calls cloud computing “a style of computing where massive scalable IT-related capabilities are provided ‘as a service’ using Internet technologies to multiple external customers.” Ordinary users look at it as using Web applications and/or server services that you pay to access, rather than software or hardware that you buy and install.

I do like Gartner’s view; however, it is not very easy to digest for the ordinary consumer. I like to look at the topic by first describing what it is NOT. So here goes:

  1. The Internet is NOT the cloud
  2. Cloud computing is NOT a return to mainframe computing
  3. Everything will NOT be in the cloud
  4. The cloud does NOT eliminate private networks
  5. All remote computing is NOT cloud computing
  6. It is NOT just outsourcing

There are various implementation models for cloud computing. It can be implemented internally, externally or a combination of both to varying degrees. It may not be clear what model or mixture of models should be considered for use. Here are the various models with abbreviated descriptions and examples of their implementation:

  • IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service) — Third party provides grids/clusters/virtualized servers; the customer implements software (e.g. Amazon Web Services EC2, IBM, Verizon. Replace entire data centers)
  • PaaS (Platform as a Service) — Customer deploys customer-created software on third party’s cloud infrastructure (e.g. Microsoft’s Azure and Salesforce.com)
  • SaaS (Software as a Service) — Software that is owned, delivered and managed remotely by one or more providers (e.g. Google’s Gmail and Apps; instant messaging from AOL, Yahoo and Google; and VoIP from Vonage and Skype)
  • MSP (Managed Service Provider) — Some third party services made available to customer’s IT (e.g. Antivirus software, spam filtering etc)

The merits of cloud computing are clear: agility, scale, low cost of ownership, 24/7 support and more. But key areas of concern include: data security, integration, performance and availability.

If you are exploring the “Cloud” to see if it would be a good fit for your organization, I strongly recommend that you have stakeholders from IT, Finance, Legal and Security at the table to ensure the appropriate due diligence and risk mitigation.

Kuda Nhiwatiwa is a business consultant for Datanamics, Inc. He recently spoke at HFTP’s Development Conference on Cloud Computing as part of the HFTP University (HFTP-U) education series.

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