What is Cloud Computing?

There are many definitions of cloud computing floating around the Web today. For this purpose, consider that cloud computing is an all-inclusive solution in which all computing resources (hardware, software, networking, storage and so on) are provided rapidly to users as demand dictates. The resources, or services, that are delivered are governable to ensure things like high availability, security and quality. The key factor to these solutions is that they possess the ability to be scaled up and down, so that users get the resources they need: no more and no less. In short, cloud computing solutions enable IT to be delivered as a service.

Why Cloud Computing?

There are a number of reasons why a company would include cloud computing in its overall IT strategy.  First, cloud computing can possibly reduce costs associated with delivering IT services since a company will only pay for IT resources that are used.  In addition, key personnel can focus more on producing value and innovation for the business instead of managing various resources across the enterprise. Finally, cloud computing models provide for business agility that allows the company to scale up or down the IT infrastructure to meet demand.

The Anatomy of a Cloud

There are three service types that comprise the cloud.  These types include:

  • Software as a Service (SaaS) is a service environment where applications are designed for end-users, delivered over the web.  In a SaaS environment users are not expected to manage upgrades or patches, and Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) allow for integration between different applications.  Customer relationship management, e-mail, financial management, customer service and expense management are all available to companies via SaaS.
  • Platform as a Service (PaaS) is service environment where a set of tools and services designed to make coding and deploying applications quick and efficient.  PaaS is especially useful when multiple developers work on a development project.
  • Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) is a service environment where the infrastructure – servers, storage, network and operating systems – as an on-demand service.  Other key characteristics of IaaS are dynamics scaling of resources and multiple users access a single piece of hardware.

There is a tremendous amount of momentum about cloud computing and SaaS, PaaS and IaaS will have a significant impact on IT for the foreseeable future.  Companies need to understand what services are available and determine how these services fit into the overall company strategy.

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