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What is Cloud Computing?

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What is Cloud Computing?

Cloud computing is Internet-based (“cloud”) development and use of computer technology (”computing”).

With the advent of Cloud Computing, the cost of computation, application hosting and content storage and delivery is plunging fast by several orders of magnitude.

Cloud Computing & Cloud Hosting by Rackspace

This is why many analysts and industry-watchers believe that Cloud Computing is changing not just the technology landscape but also the entire nature of the business models that underpin successful software and hardware companies

The cloud is a metaphor for the Internet (based on how it is depicted in computer network diagrams) and is an abstraction for the complex infrastructure it conceals.[1] It is a style of computing in which IT-related capabilities are provided “as a service”,[2] allowing users to access technology-enabled services from the Internet (”in the cloud”)[3] without knowledge of, expertise with, or control over the technology infrastructure that supports them.[4] According to a 2008 paper published by IEEE Internet Computing
“Cloud Computing is a paradigm in which information is permanently stored in servers on the Internet and cached temporarily on clients that include desktops, entertainment centers, table computers, notebooks, wall computers, handhelds, sensors, monitors, etc.”[5]

Cloud computing is a general concept that incorporates software as a service (SaaS), Web 2.0 and other recent, well-known technology trends, in which the common theme is reliance on the Internet for satisfying the computing needs of the users. For example, Google Apps provides common business applications online that are accessed from a web browser, while the software and data are stored on the servers.

Cloud computing is becoming one of the next industry buzz words. It joins the ranks of terms including: grid computing, utility computing, virtualization, clustering, etc.

Cloud computing overlaps some of the concepts of distributed, grid and utility computing, however it does have its own meaning if contextually used correctly. The conceptual overlap is partly due to technology changes, usages and implementations over the years.

Trends in usage of the terms from Google searches shows Cloud Computing is a relatively new term introduced in the past year. There has also been a decline in general interest of Grid, Utility and Distributed computing. Likely they will be around in usage for quit a while to come. But Cloud computing has become the new buzz word driven largely by marketing and service offerings from big corporate players like Google, IBM and Amazon.

The term cloud computing probably comes from (at least partly) the use of a cloud image to represent the Internet or some large networked environment. We don’t care much what’s in the cloud or what goes on there except that we depend on reliably sending data to and receiving data from it. Cloud computing is now associated with a higher level abstraction of the cloud. Instead of there being data pipes, routers and servers, there are now services. The underlying hardware and software of networking is of course still there but there are now higher level service capabilities available used to build applications. Behind the services are data and compute resources. A user of the service doesn’t necessarily care about how it is implemented, what technologies are used or how it’s managed. Only that there is access to it and has a level of reliability necessary to meet the application requirements.

In essence this is distributed computing. An application is built using the resource from multiple services potentially from multiple locations. At this point, typically you still need to know the endpoint to access the services rather than having the cloud provide you available resources. This is also know as Software as a Service. Behind the service interface is usually a grid of computers to provide the resources. The grid is typically hosted by one company and consists of a homogeneous environment of hardware and software making it easier to support and maintain. (note: my definition of a grid is different from the wikipedia definition, but homogeneous environments in data centers is typically what I have run across). Once you start paying for the services and the resources utilized, well that’s utility computing.

Cloud computing really is accessing resources and services needed to perform functions with dynamically changing needs. An application or service developer requests access from the cloud rather than a specific endpoint or named resource. What goes on in the cloud manages multiple infrastructures across multiple organizations and consists of one or more frameworks overlaid on top of the infrastructures tying them together. Frameworks provide mechanisms for:

* self-healing
* self monitoring
* resource registration and discovery
* service level agreement definitions
* automatic reconfiguration

The cloud is a virtualization of resources that maintains and manages itself. There are of course people resources to keep hardware, operation systems and networking in proper order. But from the perspective of a user or application developer only the cloud is referenced. The Assimilator project is a framework that executes across a heterogeneous environment in a local area network providing a local cloud environment. In the works is the addition of a network overlay to start providing an infrastructure across the Internet to help achieve the goal of true cloud computing.

IBM Launches New Cloud Computing Consulting and Implementation Services

IBM (NYSE: IBM) announced new cloud computing services to help businesses of all sizes take advantage of this increasingly-attractive computing model. With today’s announcements, IBM is applying its industry-specific consulting expertise and established technology record to offer secure, practical services to companies in public, private and hybrid cloud models.

* Industry-specific Business Consulting Services for Cloud Computing – IBM Global Business Services will use an economic model for assessing the total cost of ownership for building private clouds, and/or moving data and applications off-site in a public or hybrid cloud model.

* Technology Consulting, Design and Implementation Services – IBM Global Technology Services is announcing new services to help clients install, configure and deliver cloud computing inside the data center.
* Cloud Security – Spanning IBM Systems, Software, Services and IBM’s lauded Research and X-Force arms, this effort is aimed at re-architecting and re-designing technologies and processes, to infuse security and shield against threats and vulnerabilities in the cloud.

The old one-server-per-application model has created a dire situation in the data centers of large enterprises. Their infrastructures are becoming too complex and expensive to maintain, and smaller organizations want new ways to grow and expand their businesses without falling victim to these same issues.

Cloud computing, or network-delivered services and software, can save customers up to 80 percent on floor space and 60 percent on power and cooling costs, and deliver triple asset utilization(1). While the economics are compelling to businesses of all sizes, concerns over security, data portability and reliability are causing reluctance among enterprise customers.

New Services for Cloud Computing

IBM’s new business consulting services use economic modeling to assess the total cost of ownership for building and integrating clouds. Initial research indicates that organizations will employ both public and private clouds to achieve business goals, and IBM can help companies find the most effective balance, and manage it all as one integrated strategy.

In addition, cloud technology consulting services will help clients create roadmaps for re-constructing their IT environments, so they can take advantage of cloud computing models to improve operational efficiency, overall carbon posture and return on investment. With new cloud implementation services, IBM will apply expert-level skills, methods, guidance and project management techniques to help clients plan, configure and test the servers, storage and technologies necessary to support a dynamic technology environment.

“Cloud strategies need to be in line with business strategies,” said Willy Chiu, Vice President, High Performance on Demand Solutions, IBM. “Over the last year in our 13 cloud computing centers worldwide, we’ve worked with clients to understand how to help them take advantage of both public and private clouds to get the best economics.”

New Clients Move into the Cloud with IBM

In addition to new services, IBM is helping new clients move into the cloud. One of Houston’s largest and fastest-growing human services agencies, Neighborhood Centers serves over 200,000 citizens in Southwest Texas and delivers key services including economic development services, citizenship and immigration services, early childhood development programs, a K-5 charter school and seniors programs. The non-profit organization depends on IBM cloud services to back-up server and PC data from distributed environments, and store it in secure off-site locations.

“Neighborhood Centers is dedicated to helping citizens cope with disruption and plan for contingencies in life — as second responders in emergencies we simply cannot afford to be shut down, or slowed down, by a data loss,” said Tom Comella, chief information officer, Neighborhood Centers Inc. “IBM cloud services were critical in our community recovery efforts following Hurricane Ike. Since we experienced no business interruptions in any of our 20 facilities, we were able to focus on bringing the community, our services and our citizens back online. But the benefits of cloud services reach far beyond disaster recovery. Better data protection — demonstrating that we are good stewards of information — has become a selling point for us in willing contracts.”

IBM Research is working directly with clients to create replicable, cloud-delivered, industry-specific services like Lender Business Process Services or Healthcare Process Services, as well as horizontal business services like CRM and supply chain management.

In China, for example, IBM Research is piloting a newly developed cloud computing platform, codenamed Project Yun which is Chinese for “cloud,” for companies to access business services, designed to make the selection and implementation of new cloud services as easy as selecting an item from a drop-down menu. With no need for back-end provisioning, the IBM platform stands to cut the time required to deliver new services dramatically. The Yun platform allocates storage, server and network resources for the customer application with zero human input, achieving top performance, availability and power utilization.

One of China’s largest retailers with more than 10 million customers per day, Wang Fu Jing Department Store, has deployed several key cloud services from Project Yun, including a supply chain management solution for its vast network of retail stores to easily share supply chain information and visualize the execution of B2B business processes with thousands of their own SMB suppliers via the cloud.

Securing Enterprise Cloud Computing

To ensure the widespread adoption of cloud computing services, IBM has initiated a company-wide project to form a unified and comprehensive security architecture for cloud computing environments. The effort, which spans Systems, Software, Services and IBM’s lauded Research and X-Force arms, is aimed at re-architecting and re-designing technologies and processes, to infuse security and shield against threats and vulnerabilities. Security is built-in to the cloud, not an afterthought.

The project incorporates next-generation security and cloud service management technologies, as well as simplified security management and enforcement, offering enterprise customers the same security and compliance guarantees that are equivalent or better than what they can expect in traditional computing environments.

Built upon IBM’s extensive industry security leadership, the project focuses on developing trusted virtual domains, authentication, isolation management, policy and integrity management and access control technologies designed specifically for cloud computing

For more information on IBM’s cloud computing initiatives, please visit www.ibm.com/cloud

(1) Numbers based on IBM client implementations