There is a Wall Street Journal article about the brewing battle of three tech giants, Microsoft, Amazon, and Google over Cloud Computing. Cloud services are the latest battlefield in the ongoing series of tech wars that have consumed virtually every area of digital commerce. Since the casual follower of technology doesn’t know much about the Cloud, and many people don’t know anything about cloud computing, the following article explains in a basic way what cloud computing is and how it is changing the digital landscape.
Cloud computing is the newest improvement in the Internet's development. Cloud software is “software for a service”. It eliminates the need to install and run applications on a user's own computers and simplifies maintenance and support.
The “cloud” in cloud computing is the set of hardware, networks, storage, services, and interfaces that combine to deliver aspects of computing as a service. Cloud service includes the delivery of software, infrastructure, and storage over the Internet. It can be delivered whenever and wherever a user needs a particular service. The services can be either separate components or a complete platform. The delivery is based on user demand.
There are four crucial characteristics of cloud computing. They include flexibility and the ability to scale up and down, application programming interfaces (APIs), stipulating and automatic billing and metering of service usage in a pay-as-you-go model. This flexibility is what is attracting individuals and businesses to move to the cloud.
The world of the cloud has many participants. Among them are business managers who take responsibility for the authority of data or services living in a cloud. Cloud service providers must provide a predictable and definitive level of service and security to all their constituents. Cloud service providers must take responsibility for cloud assets and maintenance. Another participant is the end user who usually doesn’t know anything about the underlying technology.
Cloud computing comes in different forms. Public clouds are based on the standard cloud computing model, in which a service provider makes resources, such as applications and storage, available to the general public over the Internet. Public cloud services may be free or offered on a pay-per-usage basis. Private cloud is infrastructure operated solely for a single business or organization. They can be managed internally or by a third-party and hosted internally or externally. A drawback to private clouds is that organizations have to be buy, build, and manage them. This negates the economic model that makes cloud computing such a fascinating concept.
Another cloud form is a hybrid of public and private clouds. They are named, not surprisingly, hybrid clouds. A hybrid cloud is a composition of two or more clouds that remain distinctive entities but are bound together. Hybrid clouds offer the benefits of multiple use models. Hybrid clouds are connected in a way that allows programs and data to be moved easily from one deployment system to another.
Community clouds share infrastructure between several organizations from a specific community with common concerns. They are managed internally or by a third-party and hosted internally or externally. The costs are spread over fewer users than a public cloud so only some of the cost savings potential of cloud computing are realized.
According to the Wall Street Journal article, public cloud computing is one of the fastest growing segments of the information technology sector with a market size of $40 billion. Right now, Amazon controls the retail side of the cloud computing market through their Amazon Web Services business (AWS). The latest tech battle erupted when Amazon started pursuing larger clients who are traditionally customers of Microsoft and Google.
The savings from using a cloud are real. The WSJ article states that “consulting firm McKinsey & Co. last fall calculated a small computer server would cost a company an average of $31.55 a month to buy and maintain, while a comparable amount of cloud service from AWS or others costs an average of $16.06 a month”.
Cloud computing is changing the way companies use technology to service customers, partners, and suppliers. Some businesses, such as Google and Amazon, already have most of their IT resources in the cloud. They have found that it can eliminate many of the complex constraints from the traditional computing environment, including space, time, power, and cost.