In this post we are going to use an investigative method to explore what "the Cloud" really is and what it means to you. We are using the power of the 4Ws and an H - Who? What? Where? Why? How?
The Cloud is a term that surged in jargon popularity due to the success of flagship companies in the various Hosted IT spaces. Amazon popularized hosted storage and computing, Salesforce popularized hosted software as a service, and Google app engine made its impact on the platform as a service space. Late entrants into the market such as Microsoft and IBM have further progressed both the space, with their own unique technologies, and the jargon by pumping billions of marketing dollars towards pushing their "Cloud" brand.
While these companies would appear on any list of "Who's Who" in Cloud computing, they are by no means the only players in the space. There many players that have emerged competes with and compliments as layeres above the services of the more well know vendors. Services such as Heroku rival Googles app engine while leveraging Amazon for their infrastructure. Dropbox is yet another disruptive cloud company that started by leveraging Amazon’s infrastructure as a service.
Beyond the mid sized players, you also have thousands of smaller players offering their own cloud services, platforms, and cloud enabling software and service. Veddio competes in the infrastructure and cloud enablement sectors at this level.
The point being that there are a number of “WHOs” to choose from when selecting a vendor for your various cloud needs. It doesn’t stop their. Your company or organization may have the resources and desire to build your own cloud or a mix between your own cloud paired with a vendor (a so called “hybrid cloud”). This is, of course, a more expensive and detailed adventure but the “Who” becomes mostly the team your already familiar with or build.
Furthermore, the biggest “Who” in Cloud computing is you. The service should scale to your needs and make your life more manageable. That also means that the responsibility for proper planning still lays on you (or your onboarding consultants). The responsibility to make sure your data is protected and service is always available will always be yours but with one or more Cloud partners, that can be a manageable and affordable task.
So what is “the Cloud”? It’s a question that feels like it’s been answered ad infinitum. What we are really talking about are hosted IT services. They are services and computing models that have been in existence for decades. We aren’t going to rehash the definition, but let me offer you an analogy. Let’s say you want a steak dinner (no offense vegetarians), but you don’t want to cook it yourself. The Cloud is your steak dinner delivered to your no matter where you are. You don’t care how the sausage (or steak in this case) is made, you just know it comes from a factory “in the cloud” and is delivered to you when you need it and how you want it.
What else? The Cloud is the desktops, laptops, and mobile devices your already using. Through these internet connected devices, you have the utinsles you need to chomp down on your cloud. Therefore, the cloud does not eliminate the need for physical devices. It simplifies the devices you need by eliminating the need for servers. Your personal devices are empowered by the ability to share and access your cloud based resources. The “what” of the cloud are the things you are using, even the servers you no longer see.
Where are these “servers that you no longer see”? They are everywhere. Every major city and even some smaller ones have datacenters. You wouldn’t know that inside those unassuming building are farms of servers, drinking seas of power, cooling, and data to provide “the cloud” to you. Similar to the backbones and interconnections that make up the internet, the idea is that it shouldn’t matter where the computing or storage is being done, as long as it can be delivered to wherever you are.
In some cases, the “Where” of your data becomes very important. If you are in an industry has compliance rules, you will need to ensure that the facilities that encompass your “cloud” are compliant. You may need to ensure that you have physical access to the data in the case of an audit.
That brings up the second “where” of your location. The promise of “computing anywhere” is limited by the availability of internet wherever you are at the time. To put simply, if you don’t have a good internet connection, you will not have a good experience with “the Cloud”. Depending on the service you are trying to use, your mileage may vary.
As a suggestion, with the lowering cost of high speed bandwidth, it would be prudent for you to have a redundant internet connection considering key components of your operation will be dependent on that connectivity.
“Why” is a personal question. There are many benefits to this model of computing including some we have touched on.
How would you like to be able to work as if your in your office from any where you are?
Would the savings of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of dollars enable you to take advantage of more computing resources or new software platforms?
Wouldn’t it be nice to have technology that grew with your needs?
How would you like to be able to execute on all of this in minutes or hours and not months?
We would remise not to explore the negative “WHYs” along with the positive.
Can you handle an occasional outage?
Will you always have internet where you will need your computing resources?
Are you willing to pay for a backup of your backups?
Are you comfortable with the security history of your chosen vendors?
Are you ready to learn new platforms and interfaces?
There are deeper “WHYs” behind the cloud such as “why has the cloud garnered so much traction in what seems like all of a sudden?”. The answer to that is believed to be the large infrastructure growth behind some of the most successful internet companies of the 2000s. With the increased capacity of these build-outs, it made sense to commodities them and offer computing as a service on a wide scale. We are the beneficiaries of over spent IT infrastructure.
There are many ways to get started in cloud computing and you may already be using hosted services. If you are a Google apps or Microsoft Office365 customer, then you are in the cloud. If you talk over a phone system that communicates over the internet instead of over copper, your in the cloud. If you backup your data to somewhere – “out there”, your in the cloud. If work from a desktop or development environment you have to log into over the internet, your in the cloud. If you would like to be, there are plenty of vendors to take you there. The flight tickets are relatively inexpensive this time of year.