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Here at Network Remedy, we pride ourselves on educating our people about IT and the Cloud. That’s why we wrote this detailed post to really delve deep into The Cloud and how it works.
We want you to get the full picture as well as provide a document you can reference for future use.
What is Cloud Computing?
Many people are wondering this. The detailed answer is hotly debated but there are a few characteristics and service models that make it what it is. Before we cover those points here are some definitions:
“Cloud computing is an overall philosophy and design concept…” – Eli The Computer Guy
“A style of computing where massively scalable IT-related capabilities are provided “as a service” using Internet technologies to multiple external customers.” – Gartner
“Cloud computing refers to the delivery of computing services over a proprietary network or the Internet. Those services mainly include infrastructure (i.e. servers, storage devices, etc.), development platforms, and software applications. The Cloud refers to the many data centers located throughout the world that house the hardware necessary to offer cloud services. The recent proliferation of virtualization technology, on which cloud computing is based, has contributed to its current popularity.” – ITMD
“Cloud computing is a model for enabling ubiquitous, convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (e.g., networks, servers, storage, applications, and services) that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction.” – NIST
According to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), a US federal agency under the Department of Commerce, there are 5 essential characteristics to The Cloud:
- On-demand self-service – A consumer can unilaterally provision computing capabilities, such as server time and network storage, as needed automatically without requiring human interaction with each service provider.
- Broad network access – Capabilities are available over the network and accessed through standard mechanisms that promote use by heterogeneous thin or thick client platforms (e.g., mobile phones, tablets, laptops, and workstations).
- Resource pooling – The provider’s computing resources are pooled to serve multiple consumers using a multi-tenant model, with different physical and virtual resources dynamically assigned and reassigned according to consumer demand.
- Rapid elasticity – Capabilities can be elastically provisioned and released, in some cases automatically, to scale rapidly outward and inward commensurate with demand. To the consumer, the capabilities available for provisioning often appear to be unlimited and can be appropriated in any quantity at any time.
- Measured service – Cloud systems automatically control and optimize resource use by leveraging a metering capability at some level of abstraction appropriate to the type of service (e.g., storage, processing, bandwidth, and active user accounts). Resource usage can be monitored, controlled, and reported, providing transparency for both the provider and consumer of the utilized service.
In a nutshell, Cloud computing is an advancement, an evolution of thinking, design and the computing model in which various levels of efficiencies are gained via hardware, software and management.
The specific implementations of this broad concept are many and constantly evolving into new forms and packages involving some of the biggest (and smallest) players in the history of computing. (Think Google, Microsoft, IBM, Cisco as well as countless mom and pop shops and everything in between)
Traditional IT vs How The Cloud Works Today
It’s not rocket science but it is computer science. This field, while steadily advancing, has really taken off in the last few decades. This mainstream exposure has made “The Cloud” a ubiquitous part of almost everyone’s lives, especially if you use computers. As mentioned above, there are various characteristics which give The Cloud its unique identity but then there’s the question of how does all this plumbing work.
Before we go there, let’s discuss how the old model worked:
Old IT Model = Christmas lights that stopped working when one bulb went out
In the old Traditional IT model the vertical brittle stacks are hard to change and manage. When one piece of the stack goes down, the whole thing goes down. This means that problems are costly, common and worst of all rigidly embedded in the infrastructure itself due all the assets being tied together. This created a much higher cost basis for managing one’s IT infrastructure. Thankfully we now have a better way of doing things.
The Cloud Is A Pay-Per-Use Utility Model
In 1961 at the MIT Centennial, computer science professor John McCarthy said “If computers of the kind I have advocated become the computers of the future, then computing may someday be organized as a public utility just as the telephone system is a public utility.…The computer utility could become the basis of a new and important industry.” What’s amazing is how right he was.
As shown in the above picture, The Cloud introduces a new way of managing and configuring resources, many of which have been around for longer than cloud computing has existed. What’s new are enabling technologies like a Hypervisor which is a thin layer of code, firmware or hardware which allows the running of virtual machines.
This means that multiple operating systems can share a single hardware host. The technology and code behind the hypervisor allow these virtual machines to control the host processor and resources without disrupting the functionality of the guest operating systems.
The Cloud has taken various forms in terms of how people use it and why. The various depends on the abstraction requirements of capabilities provided, meaning what functions need to be separated for independent operation.
There are 3 main service models for the cloud:
- IaaS: Infrastructure as a Service – Typically reserved for system admins who are provisioning, configuring, deploying and managing resources themselves. Infrastructure as a service is an on-demand, self-service pooled resources model where the IaaS provider is in charge of the data center equipment while the user is in charge of provisioning the hardware and managing the software and operating system. This equipment includes both physical computers and virtual machines as well as other functions like block storage, networking components, firewalls and load balancers.
- PaaS: Platform as a Service – PaaS is a service model layered on top of an IaaS foundation, where the provider supplies a computing platform (generally including the operating system, programming execution environment, database and webserver). Developers can then build and launch web-based applications and services over the Internet. The benefit is that developers can develop and run software without the cost and complexity of buying and managing the underlying hardware and software. Some PaaS providers scale resources automatically to match the demand of applications, freeing the user of executing this task.
- SaaS: Software as a Service – SaaS is the most ubiquitous model used by the general public. In this set up users are provided access to application software and databases completely managed by the provider. This removes having to install and run applications on the user’s own computers. User’s typically pay a monthly or annual subscription fee which replaces the need for the license model. The value gained in terms of functionality, computing resources and access is much higher than the costs of buying your own software and equipment. These components of convenience have made this service model one of the most prevalent and growing models used by the general public to date.
Here is a more detailed breakdown of various IT functions and who manages them:
Regardless of the service model chosen (IaaS, PaaS, Saas etc.) there are three delivery models for users of The Cloud, private, public and hybrid. There are varying reasons for using each which mainly consist of security, user access and cost.
Here are the 3 delivery models:
- Private Cloud – This operates solely for an organization internally or operated by a third party for the exclusive use of only that organization. This model is used in particular by industries with heavy regulations, security and compliance issues as well as high performance data driven applications.
- Public Cloud – Under this model, computing resources and services are completely outsourced to a third party over an open network for public use. Any user with an internet connection can login to the network. This model is ideal for companies that have varying workloads as well as geographically scattered users that need to access company data.
- Hybrid Cloud – A hybrid cloud is a combination of both Private and Public models, typically designed for companies that require customized solutions. Most companies use some form of Hybrid Cloud because it isn’t always practical to have a Private Cloud for all data. The same goes for Public Cloud, which might not be the best choice for highly sensitive data.
How the Cloud benefits your business and why it matters
We have explained and illustrated a detailed breakdown of each facet of the cloud but you might be wondering: How does this benefit my organization?
This is a great question and shows you are thinking practically. As we mentioned before, cloud computing is an evolution of thinking, design and management, in general and for computing. The good news is that there are many efficiencies to be gained for your organization.
The bad news is that, well, things can get a little bit complicated. However, here at Network Remedy we go to great lengths to take the guesswork out of your initiatives with the Cloud and IT.
Here are some specific benefits for your business:
- Focus on Core Competencies – A recent poll by the MSP alliance found that the biggest benefit disclosed by businesses was that they could focus on their core competencies. Rather than having to either learn IT internally or hiring a staff, companies can now outsource this function at a reasonable rate. Ultimately this allows companies to focus on what they do best, their business.
- Increased Data Security – Although there are concerns about the security of “The Cloud” and the data within, it is a very safe option if implemented properly. For example, if some one secures your house with a weak easily breakable lock, your security is vulnerable. However, if that same person finds the most robust and difficult to crack lock, you are going to be much more secure. Admittedly there is variation across vendors, for better or worse. This is why picking the right company to manage your data is critical.
- Big Cost Savings – “According to an October 6, 2009 Booz Allen Hamilton study, over a 13-year life cycle, the total cost of implementing and sustaining a cloud environment may be as much as two thirds lower than maintaining a traditional IT data center.” Did you know most companies only use 15% of their computing power at any given time? This is because organizations must prepare for their peak demand, even if its only for a few weeks a year. This massive inefficiency causes companies to spend much more than they need compared to the pay-per-use cloud model where you only pay for what you use, no more, no less.
- Scalability without massive up-front capital – Having the ability to increase and decrease resources at will is an extremely useful feature. This elasticity allows your company to get the solutions as if you had a data center without the major capital expenditure. Even small data centers can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars – which is generally difficult for small to midsize operations to stomach. This enables companies to have an immense advantage and can compete with bigger established players who can afford massive data centers.
- Easier deployment – As mentioned earlier the vertical brittle stacks were hard to manage compared to today’s horizontal loosely bound layers. The technology behind cloud computing allows for a much easier method to install and configure systems. In the old model, you would have to physically go to each computer for software updates, patches and other installations. With today’s technology, we can do most of these functions remotely, this means things work better and problems can be identified and solved faster.
After reading this you should have learned, basic definitions of the Cloud, 5 NIST characteristics of The Cloud, The 3 main service and deployment models as well as some ways The Cloud can benefit your business.
Please understand this article is just the beginning of your Cloud journey. Your organization can thrive with the Cloud but it must be implemented carefully with a lot of forethought. We are here to help and answer any questions you have.
May the Cloud be with you!
We are offering Free Cloud Storage licenses from Network Remedy’s CloudSync solution, offering enterprise-grade file storage which meet all industry data compliance regulations.
Need help with your Cloud Research? Book an appointment here or call us at 855-REMEDY5
For Further Reading: