What is a cloud?

If you are not from the so called next-gen, probably cloud might be:

“A visible mass of condensed watery vapor floating in the atmosphere, typically high above the general level of the ground”.

Few others might use the word cloud to refer to a state or cause of gloom, suspicion, trouble, or worry.

Next-gen would describe a cloud in a different way – For them the cloud is a term referring to any one or more of the following activities:

  • Accessing other computer,
  • Consuming information technology (IT), and
  • software applications through a network connection,

This is often done by accessing some data centers using internet over some wide area networking (WAN). You might just wonder – what’s so new about it – we have been doing it since good old days, we have been using Internet. You are absolutely right – Cloud is just another term or metaphor used for internet, but for sure this term was coined only after internet has grown to next level as we see today. Speed has grown by many folds, servers have become more powerful.

Since school days I have been learning about internet – it has always been described or illustrated in diagrams as a cloud. May be the term cloud has been borrowed from there.

Why Internet is always shown as a cloud? There is a reason and as I described earlier – the word cloud is also used for something that is gloomy or unknown, something suspicious and how that goes well with Internet is that on a packed-switched network the physical path on which data travels is not fixed or known, it varies every time a data transfer takes place between two end points. Same holds true for circuit-switched network the specific circuit used during a particular connection will change or vary when you connect again, next time.

 What is Cloud Computing?

As per Wikipedia – It is a collective pool of computer system resources and higher-level services that can easily be configured and can be rapidly provisioned, requiring very less management effort.  It relies on sharing of resources to achieve consistency and “economies of scale” that you will observe similar to a public utility.

What that means?

Provisioning simply means the process of preparing and equipping any network and that further enhances its functionality to accommodate and provide new services to its users. “Economies of scale” apply to a organizations and business involving manufacturing for example where average costs start falling as output increases – and we can say “economies of scale” is taking place. “Economics of Scale” is a term related to micro-economics, which describes about the cost advantages that an enterprise can achieve due to their scale of operation – where cost per unit of output decreases with increasing scale.

You might be running some applications that require to store and share millions of photographs, music or videos. You might be running any other applications that you offer to your clients to take care of some of their business need. Possibilities are endless.

In short, because of Cloud-computing provides:

  • Rapid access to flexible and low cost IT resources.
  • You don’t need to make large upfront investments in hardware
  • You don’t need to spend a lot of time managing that hardware.

Instead, you can provision:

  • Exactly the right type and size of computing resources you need to power your newest bright idea or
  • Operate your IT department.
  • You can access as many resources as you need, almost instantly, and
  • Only pay for what you use.

It was way back in the 1960s, the concepts of time-sharing was conceived and became popular. During that time and for long this terminology was mostly associated with large vendors like IBM. Within a decade full-time-sharing solutions were around.  Soon computers became more intelligent and general purpose as scientists and technologists experimented and explored different ways to make sure computing power was available on large-scale. This ensured more number of users are able to share resources through time-sharing concept.

It was by the year 2000, the term “Cloud Computing” came into existence. Amazon created its own subsidiary called Amazon Web Services or simply AWS and launched what they called “Elastic Compute Cloud” (EC2).  As per AWS platform – “Cloud computing is the on-demand delivery of compute power, database storage, applications, and other IT resources through a cloud services platform via the internet with pay-as-you-go pricing”.

Cloud computing provides a simple way to

  • Access servers,
  • Storage,
  • Databases and
  • A broad set of application services

AWS – A Cloud services platform by Amazon for example owns and maintains its own network-connected hardware required for providing these application services. All you have to do is provision and use what you need via a web application.

AWS is not the only cloud services provider. Today there are so many players into this business making it a huge billions of dollar market. There endless examples of cloud computing. Few of them are listed below:

Microsoft Office 365

  • Set of tools – MS-word, MS-Excel, MS-PowerPoint, MS-Outlook, MS-Access etc. in the online form over an cloud platform.

Google Drive

  • This is yet another pure cloud service by Google. Google Docs, Google sheets, Google slides, Gmail, Google Calendar, and Google Maps just to name few are the services available on cloud.

Apple iCloud

  • Cloud Service by Apple used primarily for services for its customers like online storage, backup, and synchronization of mail, contacts and calendar etc.

Amazon Cloud Drive

  • Amazon big retailer brand uses this technology for storing and sharing music, images—if you have Amazon Prime account for example you can store unlimited images.

DropBox

  • This is another cloud based File and Storage sharing service.

NetFlix

  • On Netflix you are able to watch movies and TV-Shows because Netflix provides its services through cloud technology provided by Amazon.

Conclusion

Cloud Computing and related services are very powerful and pocket friendly solutions. Its all about – “Forget about infrastructure, concentrate only on your applications necessary for your business”. Just rent out things and services required and get started immediately within hours.