Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Why Cloud Computing?

Cloud computing has matured from buzzword to a dynamic infrastructure used today by several organizations, yet many technology experts have differing views about what it means to the IT landscape and what cloud computing can do for business. However, leading analysts—including thought leaders from Gartner, Forrester, and IDC—agree that this new model offers significant advantages for fast-paced startups, SMBs and enterprises alike. In the following sections, you'll learn about cloud computing defined, cloud characteristics, drivers for adoptionpublic clouds vs. private clouds, how enterprises are using the cloud, and the future of cloud computing.
Today, forward-thinking business leaders are using the cloud within their enterprise data centers to take advantage of the best practices that cloud computing has established, namely scalability, agility, automation, and resource sharing. By using a cloud-enabled application platform, companies can choose a hybrid approach to cloud computing that employs an organization's existing infrastructure to launch new cloud-enabled applications. This hybrid approach allows IT departments to focus on innovation for the business, reducing both capital and operational costs and automating the management of complex technologies.

Cloud Computing Defined

In its simplest form, cloud computing consists of shared computing resources that are virtualized and accessed as a service, through an API. The cloud enables users in an organization to run applications by deploying them to the cloud, a virtual datacenter. The physical resources may reside in a number of locations inside and outside of an organization: on local hardware, in an enterprise data center, or at remote or managed service providers on a pay-to-use basis. Cloud computing resources are offered as a service on an as-needed basis, and delivered by IP-based connectivity, providing highly scalable, reliable on-demand services with agile management capabilities.

Cloud Application Characteristics

Because cloud computing is related to a number of other technologies, it is best defined by the presence of a number of characteristics. These represent ideals that people want for the applications that run on the cloud:
  • Incremental Scalability. Cloud environments allow users to access additional compute resources on-demand in response to increased application loads.
  • Agility. As a shared resource, the cloud provides flexible, automated management to distribute the computing resources among the cloud's users.
  • Reliability and Fault-Tolerance. Cloud environments take advantage of the built-in redundancy of the large numbers of servers that make them up by enabling high levels of availability and reliability for applications that can take advantage of this.
  • Service-oriented. The cloud is a natural home for service-oriented applications, which need a way to easily scale as services get incorporated into other applications.
  • Utility-based. Users only pay for the services they use, either by subscription or transaction-based models.
  • Shared. By enabling IT resources to be consolidated, multiple users share a common infrastructure, allowing costs to be more effectively managed without sacrificing the security of each user's data.
  • SLA-driven. Clouds are managed dynamically based on service-level agreements that define policies like delivery parameters, costs, and other factors.
  • APIs. Because clouds virtualize resources as a service they must have an application programming interface (API).

Related Technologies

Although the term 'cloud computing' is relatively new, the technologies that make it possible have been used for some time. For example, cloud computing is enabled by grid computing, virtualization, utility computing, hosting and software as a service (SaaS). Yet these technologies differ from cloud computing in the following ways:
Grid Computing: Originally designed for computationally intensive batch applications, grid computing was developed as a way to share computers and data. From these beginnings, modern grid computing technologies have evolved as a way to harness inexpensive servers in a data center to solve a variety of business problems. Traditionally, grids have lacked the automation, agility and simplicity characterized by cloud computing.
Virtualization: Virtualized infrastructures are available on-demand and capable of supporting multiple users, but lack the automation required for the self-managing, self-healing property of the cloud.
Hosting: Hosting services provide space on servers for use by clients as well as providing IP-based connectivity, typically in a data center. Because hosting does not enable on-demand, elastic scalability, it cannot be considered cloud computing.
SaaS: Although Software-as-a-Service offerings are often hosted on true clouds, SaaS is an application as a service and cloud computing is IT infrastructure as a service.
Utility computing: In the utility computing model, computing resources like applications, infrastructure and storage are packaged and sold as a service, with users paying only for what they consume, like electricity. In many respects, cloud computing is closely related to the utility computing model, with cloud computing being a broader concept that relates to the underlying architecture in which the services are designed.

Drivers for Cloud Adoption

Cloud computing represents a convergence of several IT drivers and offers cost-effective solutions to key business demands. For example, clouds provide businesses with the agility required to move quickly in highly competitive business environments. This allows organizations to activate and retire resources as needed, dynamically update infrastructure elements, and move workloads to improve efficiency without having to worry about creating new infrastructures for each new application.
Organizations want to take advantage of several cost benefits provided by cloud computing. These include the price/performance offered by readily-available, commodity-grade computers, the ability to mitigate skyrocketing data center development and operational costs and utilizing a shared infrastructure rather than creating new platforms on an application-by-application basis.

Public Clouds vs. Private Clouds

Public and private clouds are two different types of cloud computing available today and each offers distinct advantages for businesses. A public cloud computing environment is open for use by the general public, which could include individuals, corporations or other types of organizations. Amazon Web Services and Google's AppEngine are examples of a public cloud. The public cloud offers startups and SMBs an opportunity to take advantage of the scalability, agility and automated management of the cloud by essentially renting computing resources and avoiding costly hardware expenditures. However, security and compliance are serious issues with public cloud computing and are among the factors driving the adoption of private clouds. Concerns about reliability also hinder corporate adoption of public clouds. For example, Amazon's S3 service was recently down for six hours dues to an increased volume of authenticated calls, which pushed the authentication service over its maximum capacity before Amazon could solve the issue.
In contrast, a private cloud computing environment exists within the boundaries of an organization, typically for its exclusive usage. Often, private clouds are driven by C-level executives' concerns about the security and reliability of public clouds, since private clouds can deliver many of the benefits of public cloud computing, without the downside. Interest in private clouds is also driven by IT departments' attempts to develop utility-like IT environments, where computing resources and applications can be provisioned with greater efficiency. While private clouds solve the issues of security and reliability by keeping data safely behind an organization's firewall, their development requires initial hardware investments and in-house expertise.

How Enterprises Are Using the Cloud

Forward-thinking enterprises are using the cloud within their private data centers to take advantage of the best practices that public clouds have established, namely scalability, agility, automation, and resource sharing. Creating these private clouds enable IT departments to focus on innovation for the business, reducing both capital and operational costs and automating the management of complex technologies.
Moreover, the core applications within technology-driven enterprises create the most strategic competitive advantages. Because each enterprise has unique challenges, these are typically large-scale custom-developed applications whose development, deployment and management can greatly benefit from a cloud-enabled platform. It is for this reason that the financial services industry is among to venture down the path towards private cloud computing path though its deployment of grids, virtualization, and utility computing to organize internal IT resources.

The Cloud Application Platform

To clearly appreciate the benefits of cloud computing for businesses, it is important to distinguish between the promise of the cloud and necessity of a cloud-enabled application platform. Ultimately, the greatest advantages of cloud computing can't be realized if an organization's applications are unable to take advantage of the cloud's inherent flexibility. For example, just because an organization is running applications on Amazon's EC2 or employing virtualization does not mean those applications can scale like amazon.com. In order to take advantage of the scalability, agility and reliability of the cloud, applications, applications must be built on a cloud-enabled platform.
Building truly robust applications that make it easy for organizations to take advantage of the cloud's characteristics is a difficult, time-consuming task that can severely tax an organization's resources. Cloud- based application platforms dramatically simplify the delivery of cloud-enabled applications by abstracting the complexity and dynamic nature to quickly and inexpensively bring new capabilities to market, with the agility, reliability and scale demanded by their businesses.

Future of the Cloud

Industry analysts including Gartner and Forrester are early proponents of cloud computing and its potential. Several trends are emerging that will enable enterprises to make good use of cloud computing, such as shared, virtualized and automated IT architectures. However, the introduction of cloud-enabled application platforms will certainly accelerate cloud adoption among businesses of all sizes.
Appistry is a leading provider of cloud application platform software, and is on the forefront of cloud computing solutions that provide organizations with a competitive advantage by to making it easier and more cost-effective to develop, deploy and manage critical business applications.


F5 Networks said...

I couldn’t agree more that Cloud computing has matured into a dynamic infrastructure with a variety of different infrastructure models. Cloud is a concept whereby resources can be acquired from anywhere. And one of the big benefits is it can play a very important part in a leaner, more automated IT setup: Dynamic Infrastructure (DI). Automation is a big part of adopting DI. It is important because it allows replacement of certain aspects of human labour, and is key to adopting a cloud computing methodology. It is only as effective, though, as the rules and metrics that govern it. More thoughts are in my recent blog post on Dynamic Infrastructure models http://devcentral.f5.com/weblogs/npearce/archive/2011/03/16/dynamic-infrastructure-models.aspx.

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