The metaphor of “cloud” has moved beyond the symbolism of rain and freedom. It has entered the world of IT, where it is symbolic of the Internet. Cloud Computing, stands for the newer and updated version of utility computing that is available at a far cheaper price. A user can avoid capital expenditure on hardware, software, and services. They pay the provider only for what they use, like the electricity or water bills. Steve Ballmer, CEO of Microsoft said “It’s the next step, it’s the next phase, and it’s the next transition”.
The cloud computing user does not own the physical or software infrastructure. A user avails the rental services provided by the third party. It saves the capital expenditure and increases the utility as the customers pay only for the resources that they use. The payment is based on factors like time taken; the storage space used and the amount of information consumed.
Unlike the conventional hosting format, of installing the needed software in one’s computer, the Cloud hosting provides various services. Its elastic nature allows a user to entail as much or as little of the service they want, at any given time. The hosting service is fully managed by the provider. The consumer needs nothing but a personal computer and Internet access. No personal software needs to be installed. Simple example of cloud computing is Yahoo email or Gmail. The user does not need software to use them. All they need is just an internet connection and you can start sending emails. The server and software is all on the cloud (internet) and is totally managed by the cloud service provider Yahoo or Google.
Cloud Computing is shared amongst the multiple users thus enables sharing of resources and costs across a large pool of users. Cloud computing applications are easier to maintain, since they do not have to be installed on each user’s computer. They are updated and improved regularly by the provider, making the changes reach the clients smoothly and instantly.
Performance is monitored regularly by the provider, to stay in business. The consumer can chose the provider based on cost, performance and reliability. The commercial nature of Cloud Computing makes consumer the king, who if not satisfied can terminate the subscription.
Cloud Computing is divided into three segments:
* Application- It is the software services. Instead of purchasing the required software from the software provider and then installing them in the computer, the software is hosted directly from the software providers’ servers and is accessed by the user over the internet. It makes the software commercially available to all the users and is managed from central location of the provider.
* Platform- It is the gateway to access any application. A platform allows the users to access applications needed by them over the internet. Amazon, Google, and Microsoft have also developed platforms that allow users to access applications from centralized servers. Microsoft acts as the platform on which the user can access Microsoft Office, Microsoft Word and similar Microsoft applications.
* Infrastructure- It is the backbone of the entire concept. Infrastructure provides the physical storage space, application programs to start, stop and accessed by the user. Thus, it delivers computer infrastructure rather than purchasing servers, software, data center space or hardware equipment and the clients buy them through the centralized server provider. The pricing is based on pay-for-what-you-use model like the way electricity; fuel and water are consumed.
Cloud Computing is still in the nascent stage. It definitely is the future, free from the purchase of increasingly expensive software and hardware. It is not perfected yet, as the multiple users increase the complexity of the cloud computing. The centralization of data, can concern the users about the loss of control over sensitive or confidential data. The data is distributed over a wider area and used by a number of computers. Some argue that customer data is more secure when managed internally on the private networks. Cloud computing is also critiqued for the lack of privacy. The information can be monitored lawfully or unlawfully and can be easily accessed by various users. Therefore, it acts more like an open source of information.
In a study conducted by Version One in June 2009, it was found that 41% of senior IT professionals actually don’t know what cloud computing is, highlighting the young nature of the technology. Yet it is the next big trend in the IT industry. It will bring into focus what IT always needed: a way to increase capacity of the present computer system without investing in new infrastructure. It does not need any special training or licensing. Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google, said “It’s a new model…. it’s a powerful model and it’s where the industry is going.” This technology will allow more cheaper, efficient and faster computing. The loopholes once removed will create a revolution in the way computers work.