The cloud is already having an impact on people’s everyday lives. Whether it’s the reams of data that private consumers are now placing in services such as Dropbox, and even social media sites such as Instagram and Twitter. Or the fact that virtually all of us who work for a modern business will access the cloud in some during our daily occupation. More and more companies, and more and more individuals are utilising the cloud regularly, and often on a daily basis. The debate over whether or not this would become a significant form of technology is already over.
Yet it is incredible to think that such a profoundly influential form of technology is still not understood. Even by many of the people who use it on a regular basis! One would hope at this point in time that we are beyond ‘defining’ the concept of cloud, but the reality is that the basics of this technology is still not understood by many people. Even businesses that would quite evidently benefit from implementing the cloud either for the first time, or on a more holistic basis, often don’t even understand what the technology really represents.
Even people who discuss that competing regularly and think that they have a pretty good handle on it can often fundamentally misunderstand its basis. Often people cannot see the world for the trees when it comes to cloud computing. So in an attempt to break it down to the uninitiated, it is perhaps beneficial to look at definitions of cloud computing that aids understanding of the model, rather than continuing to discuss underlying infrastructure and comparing hypervisors, and overcome confusing minutiae.
When talking about cloud computing, the word ‘model’ is particularly apt. We should not see the cloud as an entity, or a product. Instead, it can be more accurately viewed as a way of doing business. The cloud can best be understood as an operations model which is enabling critical corporate and computing tasks such as the production and deployment of software to be executed in a fundamentally different manner.
Instead of getting bogged down with strict definitions of technical aspects of computing and the clouds such as service provider architecture or whether multi-tenancy is at the data center edge, the server or the core, the cloud that can be understood in quite simple terms. At its heart, it is all about ensuring that new technology can be tested, operate from then soar or fourth flat on its face in real time. And this without needing expensive hardware, super-fast growth, and huge amounts of resource planning. Ultimately, it’s a highly practical model for computing deployment.
The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is a legendary government organisation. Today, it develops standards, guidelines and minimum requirements for a range of IT standards and government programs. Recently, NIST has been working heavily on cloud computing with a specific name in mind. There have been putting together a critical document on the cloud, namely their official Cloud Computing Definition.
This document describes five essential characteristics of cloud computing, three service models, and four deployment models. if we’re to truly understand the cloud competing this is an excellent place to start, so let’s look at what NIST had to say one the subject. The most important aspect of the NIST definition is the five essential characteristics, which are as follows:
On-Demand Self Service: NIST considers this to be the ability for any provision to be deployed automatically without any form of human intervention or interaction.
Broad Network Access: This essentially means that capabilities are available over the network.
Resource Pooling: Resources across a computing network are pooled, and it is possible for both physical and virtual resources to be deployed dynamically by users in real time.
Rapid Elasticity: NIST defines this as the ability for capabilities to be elastically provisioned and released.
Measured Service: Finally, this is a pretty straightforward concept. Resource usage can be monitored, controlled and reported internally.
Additionally, Gartner define cloud competing thus: “A style of computing in which scalable and elastic IT-enabled capabilities are delivered as a service using Internet infrastructure.” The keyword here is ‘style’. Outcompeting does not necessarily differ from traditional models greatly in terms of underlying IT capability, it is more about utilising those capabilities more effectively and in a revolutionary manner. In this respect, we should pay particular attention to the words ‘elastic’ and ‘scalable’.
So how can we best craft a definitive definition of what cloud computing really is? Firstly, it would be reasonable to assert that cloud computing is effectively an operations model, but one that allows access to inordinate amount of computing power, which is also available on a flexible basis. Resources are provided as required, and priced based on usage, not in the rigid fashion that traditional competing entailed. Furthermore, a cloud computing environment has to have self-service provisioning that doesn’t necessitate any form of manual intervention.
The cloud is all about a new way of thinking about and looking at computing. It’s a model that combines power, convenience and cost-effectiveness in one attractive bundle.