Cloud Computing Overview

July 14th, 2020 By: Joshua Pursel

What is Cloud Computing?

Cloud computing is the future of how we save data and how we operate our businesses on the web. It also is a topic most people do not truly understand how to utilize. In this article I want to try to explain what cloud computing is in a more layman sense. It can be a very technical and hard to understand topic so I am going to try and give some background information on how cloud computing came to be, where we are today and a brief look into the future of cloud computing.

History

The earliest idea related to cloud computing was in 1963, DARPA gave MIT $2 million for research. They hoped that they could develop a technology that would allow for multiple people to use one computer simultaneously. The research created a very infantile version of the cloud. They developed a way for two or three people to access the computer at the same time.
By the 1990’s, businesses began to sell virtual private networks. These offered comparable service quality and a lower cost compared to the traditional dedicated point-to-point data circuits. The companies were using a cloud symbol to show the line between what providers were responsible for and what users were responsible for and this boundary grew to encompass all servers and the network infrastructure. 
Starting in the mid 2000’s we began to see many business giants launching cloud based products/services. A list of the major ones are: 
  • August 2006, Amazon created their subsidiary Amazon Web Services (AWS)
  • April 2008, Google releases beta version of Google App Engine
  • February 2010, Microsoft released Microsoft Azure
  • December 2013, Google Compute Engine released for general availability

Service Models

 There are three main service models that companies use for cloud computing and they are often arranged in a stack. This does not mean though that to get to a higher level in the stack they also need to offer the lower parts. Each level of the stack is independent and companies can offer the top level of the stack without offering the lower levels as well.
Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) – This is the lowest level on the stack and with IaaS your cloud provider hosts the infrastructure you would find in a typical data center. This includes, but isn’t limited to, servers, storage and networking hardware. The cloud provider also usually will supply services to go along with the infrastructure. This includes things such as security, load balancing and detailed billing.
The benefits of IaaS are that it is usually cheaper, faster and more cost-efficient to rent from a cloud host provider instead of purchasing all the infrastructure yourself. IaaS is most often utilized when a workload is going to be temporary/short-term. IaaS can still be utilized long-term it is just most often utilized on a short-term basis to be most cost efficient.
Platform as a Service (PaaS) – Platform as a service is the middle layer in the three layer stack. PaaS is a kind of cloud computing service where the cloud provider gives their clients a “platform” where they can, develop or manage their business applications and they don’t need all the infrastructure and hardware that would usually required. The main purpose for PaaS is companies that want to develop and test new applications or software. These companies don’t want to or don’t have the budget to buy the infrastructure necessary to do so. It offers companies an affordable alternative to work on their own development without having to empty their budget.
Most PaaS suppliers allow you to operate on a pay-per-use model. Then, not only do businesses not have to pay for all the infrastructure required they then only have to pay for however much of the platform they truly use. Some companies do charge a flat monthly fee instead.
Software as a Service (SaaS) –  SaaS is the highest layer in the three layered stack. It allows cloud-based apps and data to be accessed from anywhere with an internet connection and web browser on any device. Examples of these are email, calendar and office tools like Microsoft Word. SaaS is usually priced in a subscription model for a flat fee every month. The benefits of SaaS include lower costs, scalability and ease of use/deployment.

Deployment Methods

Now that we have covered the different service options we want to cover the different deployment methods offered in cloud computing.
Public Cloud – The most common method is the public cloud. With the public cloud all of the hardware, storage and other resources are owned by the cloud provider. They then divide up the resources to all of their clients in the public cloud. The way I think of it is like a hotel. The cloud provider owns the entire hotel but they rent out little rooms to people where they can access their services and manage their accounts. Common uses for public clouds are storage, testing, web-based email and office applications. 
Private Cloud – A private cloud is like the public cloud except the resources are used solely by one business or organization.  The services and infrastructure are all maintained on a private network and everything is dedicated to the singular business. The main reasons businesses operate in a private cloud over a public cloud are control and security. Private clouds offer businesses more customization since the entire environment is dedicated to them and since resources are not being shared with others their is a higher security level for businesses. 
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Hybrid Cloud – The third deployment method is a combo of the previous two, the hybrid cloud. Hybrid clouds combine on-site infrastructure or private clouds with public clouds. This allows for businesses to utilize things that don’t necessarily need a lot of security like their calendar with high-security, business-critical information/operations. There is also an option called “cloud bursting” available with hybrid cloud. This allows the private cloud to tap into the public cloud for additional resources. For example, if you have an app running in the private cloud when it notices that there is a spike in demand, it “bursts” through the private cloud wall into the public cloud and utilizes some of the resources.

Summary

Cloud computing has come a long way in the past few decades and is growing in popularity every day. There will always be a place for on-site servers and data storage, but cloud computing is taking over as the predominant method for businesses. If you would like to learn more about cloud computing feel free to email us at sales@gbtcloud.com