The trend toward cloud computing started in the late 1980s with the concept of grid computing when, for the first time, a large number of systems were applied to a single problem, usually scientific in nature and requiring exceptionally high levels of parallel computation. In Europe , long distance optical networks are used to tie multiple universities into a massive computing grid in order that resources could be shared and scaled for large scientific calculations.
Grid computing provided a virtual pool of computation resources but it's different than cloud computing. Grid computing specifically refers to leveraging several computers in parallel to solve a particular, individual problem, or to run a specific application. Cloud computing, on the other hand, refers to leveraging multiple resources, including computing resources, to deliver a unified “service” to the end user.
In grid computing, the focus is on moving a workload to the location of the needed computing resources, which are mostly remote and are readily available for use. Usually a grid is a cluster of servers on which a large task could be divided into smaller tasks to run in parallel. From this point of view, a grid could actually be viewed as just one virtual server. Grids also require applications to conform to the grid software interfaces.
In a cloud environment, computing and extended IT and business resources, such as servers, storage, network, applications and processes, can be dynamically shaped or carved out from the underlying hardware infrastructure and made available to a workload. In addition, while a cloud can provision and support a grid, a cloud can also support non-grid environments, such as a three-tier Web architecture running traditional or Web 2.0 applications
In the 1990s, the concept of virtualization was expanded beyond virtual servers to higher levels of abstraction—first the virtual platform, including storage and network resources, and subsequently the virtual application, which has no specific underlying infrastructure. Utility computing offered clusters as virtual platforms for computing with a metered business model.
More recently software as a service (SaaS) has raised the level of virtualization to the application, with a business model of charging not by the resources consumed but by the value of the application to subscribers. The concept of cloud computing has evolved from the concepts of grid, utility and SaaS. It is an emerging model through which users can gain access to their applications from anywhere, at any time, through their connected devices. These applications reside in massively scalable data centers where compute resources can be dynamically provisioned and shared to achieve significant economies of scale.
Companies can choose to share these resources using public or private clouds, depending on their specific needs. Public clouds expose services to customers, businesses and consumers on the Internet. Private clouds are generally restricted to use within a company behind a firewall and have fewer security exposures as a result. The strength of a cloud is its infrastructure management, enabled by the maturity and progress of virtualization technology to manage and better utilize the underlying resources through automatic provisioning, re-imaging, workload rebalancing, monitoring, systematic change request handling and a dynamic and automated security and resiliency platform.
As more enterprises add cloud computing the level of applications is migrating toward more mission critical and SaaS will become a mainstay of IT strategies.
A number of companies, including Google, Microsoft, Amazon, and IBM, have built enormous datacenter-based computing capacity all over the world to support their Web service offerings (search, instant messaging, web-based retail). With this computing infrastructure in place these companies are already poised to offer new cloud-based software applications.
Large enterprise software solutions, such as ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) applications, have traditionally only been affordable to very big enterprises with big IT budgets. However, companies that sell these solutions are finding they can reach small to medium businesses by making their very expensive, very complex applications available as Internet-based software services. This ability of SaaS to deliver expensive applications at affordable will continue to accelerate.
Types of clouds
Cloud computing can be divided into three different models: public, hybrid, and private. While the three models have common traits (as explained in the last article), they also have different key features that might make one model a better choice to meet your business' IT needs. Below are the key features of each model.
This type of cloud computing is the traditional model that everyone thinks of when they envision cloud computing. In this model, vendors dynamically allocate resources (hard drive space, RAM, and processor power) on a per-user basis through web applications. Salesforce.com and ADP are two well-known vendors that offer public cloud computing services.
- Unlimited access- As long as you have internet access and a compatible device such as a smart phone or laptop computer, you can access your data anywhere.
- Unlimited data capacity- Public cloud computing is flexible to meet your business' growing data storage and processing needs.
This model combines your business' hardware with cloud computing. Generally, one of your business applications such as Exchange Server 2007 or Microsoft Dynamics will interact with a vendor-hosted service. For example, Cisco, traditionally recognized for networking hardware, offers IronPort Email Security as their hybrid solution and Google, known for hosted solution, offers Postini email archiving.
- Hardware required- Hybrid cloud computing requires that you have or purchase hardware to interact with the hosted solution.
- Software required- In addition to hardware requirements, your business will need to have or purchase the software to manipulate and store data.
Also known as "internal cloud computing," private cloud computing is the next generation of virtualization. While similar to virtualization at the server, workstation and application levels, private cloud computing has enhanced features that appeal to many businesses. Two examples of private cloud solutions are VMware vCloud and Citrix VDI.
- Increased data security- You and your business are in control of security since data never leaves your network.
- Simple compliance enforcement- Depending upon your vertical market, government regulations may prohibit your business from using traditional or hybrid cloud computing. Private cloud computing lets you take advantage of cloud computing features while keeping all regulated data onsite and secure.
- Customized IT network control- By keeping your cloud private, you are free to customize your network to meet your specific business needs.