Lately, there has been a lot of discussion about Cloud computing happening in the IT infrastructure space. Cloud computing cannot be stated in simple terms as it describes a broad range of services. Nowadays many of the organizations are moving on to public and hybrid clouds to replace outdated data centers and applications to improve their business agility. In order to understand the importance of cloud and the value it delivers to an organization, we first need to know what Cloud computing is.
Cloud computing is the delivery of on-demand computing resources by way of sharing a pool of physical/virtual resources, which includes everything ranging from applications to data centers being delivered over the Internet as a service on a pay-as-you-use basis. It is simply utility computing, wherein organizations can tap into the vast computer resources and avail only the required services instead of managing the entire system themselves. Services are metered and charged only for the particular instance of usage. This definitely provides an edge for businesses as they can upscale and downscale their resources as per changing business requirements.
Cloud computing services are often provided over the internet or dedicated networks enabling delivery on demand and usage based payment. It caters to a full range of services from applications to development platforms, servers, storage, virtual desktops to everything needed for setting up an IT Infrastructure.
Cloud computing can be categorized into 3 distinct types, which are based on the service provided as shown in the figure: Software as a Service, Platform as a Service and Infrastructure as a Service.
Each of these service models are as described below:
Software as a Service (SaaS) – Software applications are hosted in the cloud and accessed over the internet, providing a host of services ranging from sales, planning, accounting, communication, and the like. It is more or less like renting the software than buying it and charged based on the usage.
Platform as a Service (PaaS) – Software applications are developed in the cloud. It provides a platform and environment for developing software applications using tools available in the cloud. Preconfigured features are available for subscription, which are constantly upgraded with latest/additional features. It offers features such as OS, DBMS, server side scripting, network access storage, and the like.
Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) – It provides access to a host of computing resources over a virtualized environment. Infrastructure components like hardware, software, servers, storage, networking and other components are hosted in the cloud. By accessing these virtual components one can build their own IT platforms. These resources can be consumed based on requirements and charged on a pay-per-use or utility computing basis.
These Cloud computing services can be deployed in any of the 3 models as specified below:
Public cloud – Allows multiple users or general public to access shared resources on the server over a public network. It is highly scalable, easy to deploy and owned by organizations providing cloud services.
Private cloud – Delivers cloud-computing services specifically for an individual organization and cannot be used by others. They provide specialized services that are privately provisioned and managed by individual businesses.
Hybrid cloud – It is an ingenious integration of both private and public cloud to perform different functions within the same organization. In reality companies cannot operate in private cloud alone, when other resources exist in public cloud. Eventually they will have to derive at a workload balance that finally results in a hybrid cloud.
Various options are available with cloud providers that comes with unique risks. Businesses need to ingeniously evaluate their choices and its associated risks before taking a significant leap into Cloud computing.
There are many reasons for businesses to reap huge benefits from cloud computing:
Flexibility and scalability – When it comes to fast growing businesses the need to scale is imperative. Moving on to cloud based services is ideal as businesses can easily scale up or scale down operations and storage needs as required.
Reliability and manageability – Through centralized administration of resources one can eliminate the hassles involved in in-house infrastructure maintenance, access applications and services on the fly, provisioned with robust disaster recovery systems and automatic software updates.
Cost savings and reduced expenditure – Cloud improves cost efficiency by avoiding huge capital investment on hardware and upgrades. With no on-premise infrastructure required it saves up on power and administrative costs. Payment is made only for the services being used and disengaged when not required.
Security and compliance – Being in a cloud environment means the provider is responsible for any infrastructure level risk. Cloud service providers will help businesses tackle security issues by implementing strict regulations and compliance.
Cloud computing comes with certain amount of risks that needs to be assessed before moving any business into the cloud.
Downtime – Cloud computing makes businesses dependent on internet connection. Business processes would be temporarily suspended if there are frequent internet outrage or any technical snag from service providers. This would have serious implications on the functioning of the business.
Security issues – Storing sensitive and critical data with external service providers always opens up risks. Providing public service means they are constantly challenged with security issues increasing the chance of data breach via hacking.
Cost – A proper assessment of the cost effectiveness of Cloud applications with regard to its supported features is required. If there are any missing features in the cloud application then customizing cloud based software would be expensive.
Flexibility issues – Businesses may find it difficult to switch between cloud providing vendors due to interoperability and support issues. Vendors may use proprietary hardware/software making it expensive and impossible for a switch over.
With the advantages of Cloud computing outweighing its risks, more and more organizations are looking forward for a shift into the Cloud computing infrastructure. It provides a real alternative to businesses to improve flexibility and bring down operational costs. A word of advice for such organizations to meticulously plan out their strategies for reaping maximum benefits when on the move. Business models used for Cloud computing are still in its initial stages and a universal standard and process is yet to be derived upon.
" Ahmed Tahir Masood is Vice President at KALSOFT USA. He has worked in organization like MICROSOFT and INTEL in his 17 year long career. Tahir understand technology, innovation & business from variety of tangents, he is well aware of trends and how marketing is shaping with outset and realization of new technologies. With strong expertise & experience in enterprise cloud architecture, he has helped several organizations to have right cloud strategy."
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