Mikael Grondahl

Cloud Computing Demystified – Part 1

I was at a dinner party the other night, and after a while a discussion emerged about the mysterious “Cloud”, it’s interesting how many different “realities” people have about what the cloud is.

This conversation made me realize that there are quite a few misconceptions of what the “cloud” really is.

I understand that it can be a bit confusing since it contains many different components and can be utilized in a lot of different ways, depending on how and what you want to use it for.

So, I figured that maybe a brief explanation of what the cloud is, what it consists of, and who the players are, could be beneficial before the next dinner party.

This is the first blog in a series about cloud computing, and in this first one I will give you a brief overview of the cloud, and in the following ones we’ll discuss benefits, challenges & risks, how to secure your cloud environments, and so on.

Keep in mind, when discussing benefits, challenges, risks and so on, it’s with a focus on the larger cloud providers, there will be additional and different challenges and risks associated with using smaller cloud providers.

With that said, let’s get to it…

What is cloud computing?

  • Cloud computing is the delivery of computing services—servers, storage, databases, networking, software, analytics, and more—over the Internet (“the cloud”).

A simple explanation would be –The practice of using a network of remote servers hosted on the Internet to store, manage, and process data, rather than a local server or a personal computer.

There are a few different ways for you to use cloud services, depending on your needs, budget and level of expertise.

  • IaaS (Infrastructure-as-a-Service) – A form of cloud computing that provides virtualized computing resources over the internet, complemented by storage and networking capabilities, owned and hosted by providers and available to customers on-demand.
  • PaaS (Platform-as-a-Service) – A broad collection of application infrastructure (middleware) services. These services include application platform, integration, business process management and database services. A complete development and deployment environment in the cloud, with resources that enable you to deliver everything from simple cloud-based apps to sophisticated, cloud-enabled enterprise applications.
  • SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) – Asoftware distribution model in which a third-party provider hosts and makes applications available to customers over the Internet. The software is owned, delivered and managed remotely by one or more providers. Instead of installing software on your own servers, SaaS companies enable you to rent software that’s hosted, typically for a monthly or yearly subscription fee. More and more CRM, marketing, finance, and business intelligence tools use SaaS technology.
  • Storage, Database, Information, Process, Application, Integration, Security, Management, Testing-as-a-service.

Cloud services – The three models

  • There are three different models of cloud services
    • Private cloud refers to a model of cloud computing where IT services are provisioned over private IT infrastructure for the dedicated use of a single organization. A private cloud is usually managed via internal resources.

The private cloud is defined as computing services offered either over the Internet or a private internal network and only to select users instead of the general public. Also called an internal or corporate cloud, private cloud computing gives businesses many of the benefits of a public cloud – including self-service, scalability, and elasticity – with the additional control and customization available from dedicated resources over a computing infrastructure hosted on-premises. In addition, private clouds deliver a higher level of security and privacy through both company firewalls and internal hosting to ensure operations and sensitive data are not accessible to third-party providers. One drawback is that the company’s IT department is held responsible for the cost and accountability of managing the private cloud. So private clouds require the same staffing, management, and maintenance expenses as traditional datacenter ownership.

Two models for cloud services can be delivered in a private cloud. The first is infrastructure as a service (IaaS) that allows a company to use infrastructure resources such as compute, network, and storage as a service. The second is platform as a service (PaaS) that lets a company deliver everything from simple cloud-based applications to sophisticated-enabled enterprise applications. Private clouds can also be combined with public clouds to create a hybrid cloud, allowing the business to take advantage of cloud bursting to free up more space and scale computing services to the public cloud when computing demand increases. (Source: Microsoft)

    • Public cloud is defined as computing services offered by third-party providers over the public Internet, making them available to anyone who wants to use or purchase them. They may be free or sold on-demand, allowing customers to pay only per usage for the CPU cycles, storage, or bandwidth they consume.

Unlike private clouds, public clouds can save companies from the expensive costs of having to purchase, manage, and maintain on-premises hardware and application infrastructure – the cloud service provider is held responsible for all management and maintenance of the system. Public clouds can also be deployed faster than on-premises infrastructures and with an almost infinitely scalable platform. Every employee of a company can use the same application from any office or branch using their device of choice as long as they can access the Internet. While security concerns have been raised over public cloud environments, when implemented correctly, the public cloud can be as secure as the most effectively managed private cloud implementation if the provider uses proper security methods, such as intrusion detection and prevention systems (IDPS). (Source: Microsoft)

    • Hybrid cloud is a cloud computing environment that uses a mix of on-premises, private cloud and third-party, public cloud services with orchestration between the two platforms.

A hybrid cloud combines a public cloud and a private cloud by allowing data and applications to be shared between them. When computing and processing demand fluctuates, hybrid cloud computing gives businesses the ability to seamlessly scale their on-premises infrastructure up to the public cloud to handle any overflow – without giving third-party datacenters access to the entirety of their data. Organizations gain the flexibility and computing power of the public cloud for basic and non-sensitive computing tasks, while keeping business-critical applications and data on-premises, safely behind a company firewall.

Using a hybrid cloud not only allows companies to scale computing resources, it also eliminates the need to make massive capital expenditures to handle short-term spikes in demand as well as when the business needs to free up local resources for more sensitive data or applications. Companies will pay only for resources they temporarily use instead of having to purchase, program, and maintain additional resources and equipment that could remain idle over long periods of time. Hybrid cloud computing is a “best of all possible worlds” platform, delivering all the benefits of cloud computing – flexibility, scalability, and cost efficiencies – with the lowest possible risk of data exposure. (Source: Microsoft)

Cloud services – The providers

  • Cloud providers are the companies offering these computing services, and they typically charge for cloud computing services based on usage, the three major cloud providers are Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform, but there are many more out there.

Below is a list of the current (2018) top 5 cloud providers

#1) Amazon Web Service (AWS)

#2) Microsoft Azure

#3) Google Cloud Platform

#4) IBM Cloud

#5) VMware

I hope you found this information somewhat beneficial, my intention is to help you “speak a little bit cloud”, pretty much on the same level as being able to order a cold beer in a foreign language while on vacation, so you can totally dominate the next discussion with your friends 😉