Today, the cloud is everywhere. We use many kinds of consumer and business applications over the internet that are provided from the cloud. But what does the cloud really mean? This is a small introduction to the topic.
For 15 years cloud computing has been on a rise. Cloud has many benefits compared to traditional data centers. And that is not by chance. Businesses and organizations find cloud useful because it provides
- Scalability, pay-as-you-go without upfront investments
- Cost-effectiveness and predictability
- World-class security controls
- Speed of delivery and self-service enabling agility
- Focus on your core business, not computing platform
Depending on the application, cloud greatly facilitates the work that needs to be done.
But now let’s take a step back and clarify what does the “cloud” exactly mean.
Simply put, it is an umbrella term for providing storage and computing resources over the internet with a pay-as-yoú-go model enabling scaling resources up or down.
Cloud uses a global network of data centers, providing global reach near to end-users and self-service capabilities for cloud consumers like application developers.
National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) defines cloud as follows:
“Cloud computing is a model for enabling ubiquitous, convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (e.g., networks, servers, storage, applications, and services) that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction.”
Next to the cloud, there is the traditional on-premises model where data and information is stored and computed locally, i.e. on servers at the company premises or at the company owned data centers.
Like a utility company
According to Spiceworks, a good analogy for a cloud computing provider like Amazon, Microsoft or Google, is a utility company. Utility companies store resources like water, electricity, and natural gas so they can deliver them to you when you need them.
When you open a faucet (a request), water pours out instantly and you can take as much or as little as you want – just a glass or a whole bathtub full. Utility companies meter how much water, electricity, and natural gas you consume, so you pay only for what you use. It’s all very convenient to the point where utilities are always available and provide you the resources you need, when you need them. And the whole system “just works” without you having to think much about it.
The utility model holds true with cloud services too, but instead of water, the cloud providers deliver computing resources in the form of access to servers, storage, networks, and cloud applications through the “pipes” of the internet.