It seems like everywhere you turn, people in technology are talking about the Cloud, as in “We’re going to the Cloud.” or “We’ll be up in the Cloud next year.” Those who are not so immersed in technology are asking what this mysterious Cloud is. So here’s my stab at explaining it.
Wikipedia defines Cloud computing as “a model for enabling ubiquitous, convenient, on-demand access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources.” The Cloud is a bunch of computers in a bunch of datacenters that can be connected to over the internet and used in various ways by the customers that rent them. Those various ways revolve around the 3 models of Cloud computing: IaaS – Infrastructure as a Service (pronounce eye-as); PaaS – Platform as a Service (pronounced paz) and SaaS – Software as a Service. IaaS is the most basic and least costly. Customers rent time on servers that may have an OS installed and not much else. It’s up to the consumer to deploy applications, patch the OS, run backups, etc. The PaaS model gives you more and costs more. It offers a computing environment where developers have all the tools they need to run an application and not worry about the details of patching the OS or doing backups. The SaaS model offers still more. Customers don’t even deal with the servers themselves, but only with software services that they subscribe to.
The Cloud provider with the biggest market is Amazon Web Service (AWS). Its market share is bigger than the next 3 market leaders combined. Its claim to fame is that it is reasonably priced and reliable. Microsoft’s Azure is in second place. It hangs its hat on enterprise services and is more expensive than AWS. Google and IBM bring up the rear.
Both consumers and producers of software are missing the boat and will be left behind if they don’t take a look at the Cloud. Consumers are those who currently host and administer Microsoft Exchange or a CRM system or some other application. They can “go to the Cloud” and say goodbye to the section of their IT department that builds and maintains company owned servers in a company owned datacenter. They can then sell or donate those servers because they won’t need them anymore. Producers of software no longer have to purchase and maintain a datacenter for their web site that sells office products. They can rent it in the cloud and let someone else worry about making sure the air conditioning doesn’t go out on that 100 degree day in August.
In summary, the Cloud is a game-changing technology made possible by recent advances in high-speed internet connections and more powerful, flexible computing resources. As those resources inevitably become cheaper and faster, more and more companies will move to the Cloud just as more and more people at home are streaming movies and TV shows rather than buying DVDs. I don’t want to rain on your parade, but it’s time you took a good look at the Cloud.