What is Cloud Computing, its Pros/Cons and making it work

Today, I will start off by defining Cloud Computing. I am doing that by simplifying Wikipedia’s definition.

What is Cloud Computing?

The term cloud is used as a metaphor for the Internet.  Cloud computing is a style of computing in which resources are provided as a service over the Internet to satisfy the computing needs of users. Cloud computing services often provide common business applications online that are accessed from a web browser, while the software and Data are stored on the servers.

The concept generally incorporates combinations of the following:

1. Infrastructure as a service (IaaS)

This is when you are renting a complete computer that you access via the Internet. You would use this infrastructure to run your business applications.

2. Platform as a service (PaaS)

This is basically a computer plus development tools. This is where IT staff access a development environment that they can use to create applications for the business.

3. Software as a service (SaaS)

 This is where you purchase the right to access the application, eg: Salesforce.com. A few years ago, this was also termed as ASP (Application Service Providers/Provision).

Ubiquitous fast access to the Internet through faster, cost effective and affordable connectivity (Broadband, faster net access within businesses) is spearheading Cloud Computing’s adoption as a business tool.

Here are the key Cloud Computing players (Not an exhaustive list)

Amazon.com’s Amazon Web Services (AWS)

Google Apps

Salesforce.com

Microsoft’s Windows Azure

AppNexus

GoGrid

GridLayer

Mosso

XCalibre Communications

 Pros of Cloud Computing

  • Fast ubiquitous accessibility 24/7, 365 days a year.
  • Enables quicker, cost effective IT startup for new businesses.
  • Faster product/application development.
  • Not machine dependant (Requires only a browser).
  • Accessible on entry level machines.
  • Cost savings through lower machine, maintenance and software costs.
  • Scalability can be provided very quickly.
  • Opex vs Capex costs.
  • Less environmental impact through virtualisation of hardware/software and other areas.

Cons of Cloud Computing

  • Dependant on Internet connection – businesses need to be aware of connectivity issues when making global decisions.
  • Security issues need to be thought through as security levels of Cloud Computing providers may not be akin to a business entity’s security levels in-house.
  • Reliability issues need to be addressed. Is the Service level agreement (SLA) reflective of the business requirement? For example, in Feb 2009, Amazon’s web service went down affecting many businesses. CIOs will never trust anyone other than their own staff to maintain critical apps, especially those with time- and availability sensitivity.
  • Cloud Computing may also not be suitable for businesses where ‘real-time’ processing is required, if reliability issues cannot be addressed.
  • Bandwidth costs money and that needs to be accounted for.
  • Latency (Delay)/Responsiveness – Can be a real issue where applications rely on fast network access, for example, real time processing applications. There are a few applications in the financial sector – where application-specific power (such as data crunching in a grid) or speed/latency (such as in financial trading applications) will likely never be met by generic “cloud” technologies.
  • Global operations would have international Privacy & legal requirements to comply with and cross border regulations become quite hard in the Cloud environment. For example in the US, data retention regulations such as Sarbanes Oxley/Patriot Act etc.
  • Larger IT environments, i.e. businesses with global operations and 000’s of staff would have invested large amounts of finances within their IT operations to setup and would find it hard to move to Cloud Computing as their setups would be hard to replicate in the Cloud (Security, reliability, data compliance etc)
  • Data compliance: i.e. the need for complete auditability of applications and their data
  • Liability: Who is responsible for the (sometimes considerable) financial burden when data is lost or unavailable?

More and more CIOs are not only aware of Cloud Computing but are assessing the marketplace to ascertain movement within this arena. I would expect the early adopters to test the waters. As the technologies are developed, tools mature, key vendors appear, companies may/will eventually embrace the technology.

 While Cloud Computing is relatively easy to understand as a concept, for wider adoption, it is the detail of the solution and associated benefits that businesses need to understand.

In summary, whether a business needs or can use Cloud Computing will in essence hinge around its business requirements. Some of these requirements maybe addressed by ‘hybrid’, totally in-house or completely Cloud based solutions. It is just another tool in the CIO/IT portfolio and needs to be used as such. I will end by saying:

The future is here, it just isn’t evenly distributed – William Gibson

Reference links and sources for further information:

Wikipedia’s definition of Cloud Computing

Cloud Computing: Pros and Cons

Cloud Computing Pros and Cons for IT Professionals

Where you won’t see cloud computing

CIO Cloud Computing 101: Why Use The Cloud?

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About mubbisherahmed
I am passionate about IT and its ability to deliver cost effective, value for money solutions that can enhance performance and in many cases provide competitive advantage by using a range of solutions and approaches in innovative ways.

9 Responses to What is Cloud Computing, its Pros/Cons and making it work

  1. Ali says:

    Nice short post covering key aspects, merits and demerits of cloud computing.

  2. Adry says:

    Pretty comprehensive overview. Would be interested in finding out about cloud adoption rate vis a vis traditional IT. I speak to hundreds of partners to build channels for vendors, and I find that there is defintely a deep interest around cloud, but companies are still too cautious comparing to the benefits.

    http://www.linkedin.com/in/adriscalora

  3. Marc Shaw says:

    Hey, I read a lot of blogs on a daily basis and for the most part, people lack substance but, I just wanted to make a quick comment to say GREAT blog!…..I”ll be checking in on a regularly now….Keep up the good work! 🙂

    – Marc Shaw

  4. mubbisherahmed says:

    I attended a the National Computing Centre’s conference yesterday and Cloud computing was at the top of the agenda. The conference was attended by senior IT management and the general consensus among all the medium to large businesses was that they would probably use it sometime in the future but not yet. Many businesses were more prepared to launch their own private cloud prior to engaging a partner to test the platform.So, in essence, the article you just read, still holds true, i.e. Cloud Computing will be accepted by new/small businesses first, followed by larger businesses.

  5. williams01 says:

    Nice article. Especially the Distinction between IAAS, SAAS and PAAS.
    Williams from http://www.myrealdata.com

    • mubbisherahmed says:

      Thanks, very much. I am always encouraged by such nice comments. I am glad you enjoyed the article and that’s it been of use to you.

  6. Excellent information on cloud computing, it saves a lot of capital as we don’t have to set up the infrastructure However the cons are really the points of worry.

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