The Cloud Computing Revolution

At first I thought that the term “cloud computing” was an overused buzz word that was used to simply describe Web 2.0 applications. For a while it seemed the term was being linked to every context imaginable and it was a bit confusing (I’m not the only one who felt that way check out this hilarious rant by Oracle Co-Founder Larry Ellison). After further research on cloud computing over the last few days, I got a chance to dive into the full potential of the model and realized that it is more than just an idea, but a change of era in the computing world.

If you have ever used Facebook applications or Google Docs then you have essentially used cloud computing. When you have a document that you are constantly updating and saving, where is that document being stored? On the cloud is the answer, now why don’t we just simply say that we saved this data on a server over the internet like everything else? Because Web 2.0 applications use cloud computing to operate, and in this new era it is called the cloud.  Clouds are ran by large high powered data centers, which are essential groups of interlinked high end servers.  Sure sounds a lot how the rest of the internet works right?  I guess I  would only be consider it a cloud if the only purpose of the dedicated data center is to solely operate web 2.0 platforms and other cloud computing technologies.

Realistically the idea isn’t terribly new because centralized computing models have been around for years. I think that what is causing all of the hype is that networking and data center processing power has finally caught up with the idea, and there appears to be a promising future in the model. The Web 2.0 applications listed above are examples of SaaS, which stands for “software as a service.” Having software available on demand to end users is one thing, but businesses will also be able to run enterprise software from the cloud.

Another type of cloud computing is HaaS, hardware as a service, this is probably the coolest use of the cloud computing model that I had a chance to read about. The Amazon EC2 (Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud) is a form of HaaS that can actually lease infrastructure components through the cloud such as memory you can buy for a very cheap price. Amazon EC2 also offers a simple and relational database solution through the cloud, which I thought was very interesting because of how integral databases are in an information system as a whole.

There are a few key advantages to the cloud computing model, such as very low implementation costs, low or no upgrading of existing infrastructure, compatibility (your system won’t run the software or hardware locally so it will always be compatible), no software upgrades, and theoretically a little less IT staff right? So maybe that last one isn’t a good thing for us IT people, but it will be hard to say if that is actually going to be the case. The way I see it though, if there is less infrastructure to maintain and configure, then why wouldn’t there be less need for traditional IT staff.

There are also a few concerns to point out about the cloud computing model. First, the major problem is the security unknown.  In an industry at its infancy, only time will tell how secure the data in a cloud truly is.  I found a great resource online that maps out some of the main security concerns with the cloud computing model.

Secondly, it is going to take time for even the big players to gain the trust of businesses to store their precious data in a cloud. Also, it seems like there won’t be many successful cloud computing service providers because of the trust factor leaving big players to dominate. What kind of company is going to trust their data in a cloud of a company that hasn’t been deemed fool proof. Then once there are only so many service providers, who says that they can’t start increasing the price of their service? Also I wonder if cloud computing becomes more standard, what the Internet service providers are going to think about the very large increase in network traffic. Possible that they are just eating up all of the service they are getting, but it is also possible that they could increase price as well. It is hard to say. This is a very hot topic and if anyone has anything they want to add/share do so because it is quite interesting.