The rise of cloud computing has reshaped jobs and businesses for the past decade, yet Forbes reported that over 80% of American had no idea what it was, with nearly 30% thinking it had to do with the weather. My goal with this blog post is to hopefully give everyone a better understanding of what cloud computing is and how its used.
Cloud computing is the delivery of computing services — from servers and storage to software and analytics (and much more) — over the Internet (referred to as “the cloud” because the internet was often drawn as a fluffy cloud in network diagrams). Cloud computing has many advantages (as well as reasons for a company to stay away from it) and comes in various forms, all of which I’d like to discuss in this blog post.
Types of Cloud Services
Many of today’s cloud computing services fall into three different categories, often called the “cloud computing stack” because each category builds on top of the previous one.
Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)
Infrastructure as a service refers to renting IT infrastructure, which includes servers and virtual machines, storage, networks, and operating systems.
Examples: Amazon EC2, Microsoft Azure, Google Compute Engine
Platform as a Service (PaaS)
Platform as a service refers to the services that supply an on-demand environment for developing, testing, deploying, and managing software. This service is especially important because it allows developers to create applications without having to worry about scaling and managing the underlying infrastructure.
Examples: Heroku, Force.com, AWS Elastic Beanstalk
Software as a Service (SaaS)
Software as a service refers to the method of delivering software applications over the Internet, on demand and typically on a subscription basis. The cloud providers host and manage the software as well as handle any maintenance like software upgrades and security patches. Users of the software applications connect over the Internet.
Examples: Salesforce, G Suite, Cisco WebEx
Pros and Cons of Cloud Computing
Cloud computing has many advantages to it, changing the ways that many businesses have thought about their IT resources. To understand the “revolution” it is important to look at the many advantages it gives businesses.
Cost: Cloud computing saves companies a lot of money because it eliminates the expenses of: buying software, setting up and running data centers, electricity for power and cooling, and additional IT experts for managing these things.
Speed: Cloud computing services are typically provided on demand and allow users to provision vast amounts of computing resources in minutes. This gives businesses a lot of flexibility and eliminates the pressure of capacity planning.
Productivity: With a vast majority of the IT management responsibilities being covered by the cloud, the IT teams can spend more time on more important responsibilities.
Performance: The largest and most popular cloud computing services have a worldwide network of data centers equipped with the latest generation hardware, allowing faster network latencies.
Reliability: Cloud computing provider’s data centers backup data and have disaster recovery because they have the ability to store mirrored data at multiple sites of their network.
While looking at the many advantages of cloud computing, it may seem like the logical next step for many businesses today. However it is believed that only about 7% of enterprises have moved to the cloud. To understand why it is important to understand the disadvantages of the cloud.
Downtime: Because cloud computing services are internet based, access is fully independent on the ability to connect to them via the Internet. As with any hardware, the cloud service can fail at any time, which can be detrimental to many businesses.
Security and Privacy: Using a cloud computing service adds additional risks to a business’s data being vulnerable to an attack, with not only the business having to make sure their side is secure, but also trusting that the cloud service is as well. Additional vulnerability is also added because of the ease of attacks through the internet. There have been many successful attacks on cloud services with the iCloud hack in 2014 being the most infamous. Lastly, many businesses are not particularly fond of sharing their proprietary information with companies like Amazon and Google.
Application of Cloud Computing
I thought I’d end this blog post with a really cool use of Google’s cloud computing service, Google Cloud Platform. The greatest and most recent benefit to cloud computing is the power of additional APIs included within the cloud computing service that can be utilized by users. Google Cloud Platform recently shared on their Twitter a “how to” for using their APIs to create a program that can identify and give biographies about actors in raw footage in just 200 lines of code. For reference, to create something like this from scratch would typically take someone tens of thousands of lines of code (and thats being generous) as well as them being an extremely talented programmer. Instead, a novice programmer can utilize very powerful APIs like the Google Video Intelligence API and the Google Vision API to create equally powerful programs of their own in a minuscule amount of the time.
As you can see, cloud computing provides so many powerful resources so quickly and easily that the tech world will forever be changed for the better for it.
- While visiting a company like Salesforce or Google – companies that have their own cloud computing services – it’d be interesting to ask, “What strategies do you use to attract customers to your service in a competitive cloud computing field?”
- While visiting smaller companies / startups it’d be interesting to ask, “Which cloud computing services do you use, and why did you choose them over their competitors?”
- Lastly, while visiting companies like Google and Amazon that allow their users access to these powerful APIs it’d be interesting to ask, “Do you feel that you may be being too generous with the APIs you make available, as these APIs can be the basis for companies of their own that could rival your company’s own interests?”