Over the recent times, Cloud computing has been a growing concept not just for IT (Information Technology) specialists, but also for scholars and researchers in other genres like business (Muglia, 2009, p. 2-4). Amrhein and Quint (2009) state that this is majorly based on the increased relevance of cloud computing in a wide range of organizations.
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According to Kontio (2009), big companies like IBM, Microsoft and Amazon are amongst the pioneers that front-line the list of people and companies and individuals who embrace the importance of cloud computing in accentuating their endeavors.
In spite of this pronounced success and ever growing dominance in the world of technologies; Otey (2010) points out that there has also been some slowly—but surely—upcoming group of skeptics who have strongly voiced out their negative concerns in regard to cloud computing.
The legibility of their concerns are still to be scholarly confirmed since cloud computing is a technological advancement that was established recently.
Nonetheless, if an ultimate progress is to be enhanced for the many organizations and people who currently utilize this technology, as well as for the prospected users; it is paramount for viable statutes, fitting policies, suitable regulations and feasibility strategies to be relevantly put in place by the concerned parties (Boss et al., 2007, p. 1-3).
In essence, it is based on the above issues that this research paper is going to expansively highlight the concept of cloud computing while detailing the progress that has been made by various organizations to this regard. A brief way of how this will be done is in the introductory summary below.
Principally, this research paper specifically focuses on broadly highlighting the intricacies of cloud computing. Moreover, general reference to other vital concepts which are related to cloud computing is concurrently done. Having said that; it is inherent to state that this paper will be orderly presented as follows.
To start us off, the paper will give an inclusive and representative introduction into cloud computing. After that, we will delve into the characteristics of cloud computing which will then be closely followed by cloud computing services, how to manage a cloud, cloud organization standard, the benefits of cloud computing as well as it limitations/ challenges.
Finally, a conclusion will be given starting by offering an insight into the future of cloud computing and how individuals—and organizations alike—can smoothly transition to it. The conclusion will then be finalized by giving a brief—but concise—evaluation of how we can choose the right cloud computing service provider will also be done.
As a crucial note; the authoritative opinions, verifiable facts, logical arguments, scholarly notions and intellectual suggestions in this paper are fundamentally backed up by reliable articles and books written by technology bigwigs.
These scholarly resources are primarily used in order to facilitate and ensure conciseness, factualness and objectivity throughout the paper.
Overview of Cloud Computing
Several definitions have been advanced by variant scholars in giving the befitting meaning of cloud computer. As a matter of fact, a majority of these definitions have been focused on numerous issues since cloud computing is a broad technological area.
Most of the definitions put forward by these scholars are right—in their own respect. Documenting all of these definitions is impossible so only a few representative definitions are outlined below.
Preliminarily; Otey (2010) states that cloud computing is a general term used to refer to an internet-based service which seeks to provide some form of essential computer-related service to an individual or organization.
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To further his definition, Otey asserts that the specific types of services in cloud computing vary widely from one user to the other. This is the reason there are many cloud computing services which are currently in place with other expected in the future (Chaganti, 2008).
Moreover, IBM (n.d.) defines cloud computing as an important set of computing solutions which allow its users to use technology in accessing or sharing information in virtual or physical in form. In doing so, the access or sharing of information is usually occurs via LAN Local area Network, WAN (Wide Area Network) or direct connection to a particular server (Anderson et al., 2010).
The above definition is supported by other scholars who also believe that cloud computing is concerned with anything the delivery of hosted services using the internet.
Lastly, Lovell (n.d., p. 4) articulates that cloud computing simply describes “highly scalable computing resources” which are basically provided as external services (through the internet) on a “pay-as-you-go basis.”
According to Lovell, the term “cloud” is normally used metaphorically by technologists to refer to the internet—which, fundamentally, provides a viable forum for networking and exchange of vital computer resources (p. 4-5).
The following diagram gives a brief representation of the anatomy of the cloud. A more detailed architectural diagram of the vital aspects of cloud computing can be found in Appendix I.
Anatomy of the Cloud
Amrhein, D., & Quint, S. (2009). Cloud computing for the enterprise: part 1: capturing the cloud.
History of Cloud Computing
According to Strickland (n.d.), the name cloud computing was historically inspired by the cloud-like symbol used to represent the concept in diagrams as well as flowcharts.
Despite the fact that cloud computing has become extensively pronounced in the Information and technology world that we currently live in; Kontio (2009) reports that cloud computing is a recent technological inception.
This is, in fact, the major reason a majority of the components and constituents of cloud computing heavily rely on current technologies and can barely function in their absence (IBM, n.d.).
However, it is remarkable to state that cloud computing heavily borrows from traditional methods of computing and, more often than not, works interdependently with them.
Probably, this might be the reason some people tend to confuse it with related technologies like grid computing, utility computing and autonomic computing among many others (Miller, 2008; and Anderson et al., 2010). So what, really, are the differences between cloud computing and related technologies?
According to Myerson (2009), grid computing differs from cloud computing, in that; it deals with loose virtually networked computers so as to perform large tasks.
This is in opposition to cloud computing which operates with a compactly networked system and is limited when performing large tasks (Miller, 2008; Otey, 2010).
As for Utility computing, the focus tends to be metered computing of resources—which is based on the concept and technology used in traditional public utilities like electricity (Brynjolfsson et al., 2010, p. 32-34; and Anderson et al., 2010).
As was partly aforementioned, Cloud computing relies on modern technologies like the integration of hardware and software to create a viable platform for it to perform its functions. In spite of this difference, utility computing is normally considered a key tenet in cloud computing.
This is based on the fact that some of the concepts in utility computing are used by technologists in cloud computing (Otey, 2010). Other technologies that are reportedly interdependent with cloud computing include Client-server model, Peer-to-peer sharing and Service-oriented computing among many others (Anderson et al., 2010).
As a key note; several examples exist to illustrate other similarities as well as differences between cloud computing and other technologies. That, however, is just a side-issue since many organizations today have found ways of incorporating cloud computing and other technologies.
According to Anderson et al. (2010), focus should therefore be on finding ways of improving this interdependency rather than merely outlining the similarities and differences.
Traditional Computing and Cloud Computing
According to Armbrust et al. (2010, p. 54-57.) traditional business applications have always been quite complex, time-wasting, monetarily costly and somewhat inefficient in the technologically advanced world that we currently.
Many other technological experts have been able to voice out similar sentiments against traditional computing with the additional complaints including being difficult to install, configure, assess, run, update and ensure their security.
Durkee (2010, p. 62-66) states that it is based on the above challenges that cloud computing was established; not only to overcome the challenges, but also to provide better prospects for organizations that rely on computing for their survival.
Even though cloud computing has been around for a few years, it has—to a great extent—overcome the challenges of traditional computing and has even provided a better environment for IT users. In essence, this is the reason, like a bonfire, its heat is increasingly spreading to many organizations (Anderson et al., 2010).
Of course there are a number of challenges for cloud computing as well as some positive aspects of traditional computing (as will be exemplified later); but as a widely-acknowledged fact, cloud computing is relatively advantageous for organizations when compared to the traditional methods of computing. These advantages are majorly based on its characteristics which are outlined hereafter in brief.
Characteristic of cloud computing
The process of cloud computing is normally done differently by different people. It is for this reason, according to Chaganti (2008), that cloud computing has many varying characteristics.
Fundamentally, all the characteristics of cloud computing usually revolve around this concept of unspecified cloud-like shapes and either function to enhance this concept or supplement it. These characteristics, according to Otey (2010), Kontio (2009), Strickland (n.d.); Cloud Computing (n.d.) Anderson et al., (2010), Wittow and Buller (2010, p. 2-6) include:
- Customers only pay for what they use and ignore the servers that are not benefit to them.
- Since some data centers run are huge and are shared by many people at the same time; the cost of infrastructure passed on to customers become lower.
- Customers are not obliged to buy (or even know) the ultimate capacity required during peak times. In other words, cloud computing automatically allows for scaling of available resources of the application being used.
- Cloud computing allows for automatic allocation (as well as de-allocation) of things like CPU, Storage and network bandwidth among many other important resources.
- Customers do not own physical infrastructure instead they get it through renting from third-party service providers.
- Servers are rarely left idle based on the concept of sharing computing power amongst various tenants. This also improves utilization rates.
- A good number of cloud computing services ascribe to the concept of utility computing.
- Many cloud computing services tend to function best with small and medium organizations since they rarely have the capacity to withstand the huge costs and expenditure of large organizations.
Types of Cloud Computing
In other instances, public cloud is normally referred to as external cloud. In essence, it refers to the conventionally accepted meaning of cloud computing, which is: an ever-changing—yet scalable—method whereby virtual resources are provided over the internet by a third-party provider.
Eventually, this improves the distribution of resources and also helps in reducing the costs of getting certain important utilities. Popular public cloud providers include Amazon and EC2 (Anderson et al., 2010)
A private cloud (also commonly referred to as Corporate Cloud or Internal Cloud) refers to a proprietary computing architecture where hosting services are done on networks privately.
More often than not, the costs of private clouds tend to be relatively expensive when compared to other like public cloud. It is for this reason that private clouding is mostly done by large companies or individuals who are financially well-off.
Some critics have been able to come out strongly to oppose this type of cloud computing since some organizations surrender their networks to be managed by these private firms.
In effect, this not only opens a door for many dangerous possibilities for the organization, but it also encourages laziness in terms of organizations or individuals not being able to manage their own clouds—as is recommended by technology experts.
Just from the name, hybrid cloud essentially refers to the type of cloud computing where organizations or individuals incorporate the usage both public (external) and private (internal) cloud.
According to most researchers; this type of cloud computing is predicted to become the most dominant way of computing based on its current skyrocketing usage. Of course there is the challenge of balancing the two types of cloud computing, but its many benefits make its usage worth every penny spent on it.
Cloud Computing Services
According to Maitland (2010), different organizations look for different things when selecting a cloud computing service that will help in furthering organizational goals as well as improving their networking avenues. This is the reason behind the availability of variant cloud computing services. Some of the major services here include:
- Software as a Service (SaaS)
This refers to a software distribution model whereby software applications are orderly made available to customers via the internet.
Some of its advantages include: easy accessibility form anywhere, instant scalability, good security during deployment over the internet. Its major criticism is that it can cause harm, just like proprietary software, since it limits user control as it does not allow users to modify the software.
- Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)
IaaS is a provision model whereby an organization outsources equipment that can be used to help support operations like networking, storage and good hardware functionality.
Its advantages and disadvantages are more-or-less similar to SaaS with the main difference being that, focus here is on infrastructure while in SaaS, the focus in on software Maitland (2010).
- Platform as a Service (PaaS)
PaaS involves the virtual-server renting of OS (Operating Systems), hardware, storage capacities and even network capacities over the internet. Chiefly, PaaS is an outgrowth of SaaS.
Its advantages include: OS features can be changed thus gives control to users, easy for variant users of different regions to work collectively and services can be easily obtained from diverse sources. PaaS is normally criticized for the fact that sometimes; the flexibility of offerings is not able to meet the ever-changing needs of various users (Maitland 2010).
- Computer as a Service (CaaS)
CaaS is not a common service, but its relevance has made it increasingly talked about over the recent times. It generally refers to a dynamic management service which enables users to make real-time changes. The advantages here include ease in control, heightened reliability and increased security for users. Its disadvantages are more-or-less similar to those of Paas and SaaS.
- Storage as a Service (DaaS)
This is the least outspoken service amongst the ones already mentioned. DaaS performs its operations by abstracting data storage behind certain service interfaces and then delivering it when demanded. It has similar advantages to CaaS and PaaS with its major limitation being its inability to operate over some interfaces (Maitland, 2010; and Anderson et al., 2010).
Managing the Cloud
The following ways can be used to manage a cloud. Primarily, most clouds tend to be complex thus being very involving to users (Myerson, 2010). In order to avoid this, we should find ways of simplifying them—especially on the layers and interfaces (Jones 2008).
Moreover, in order to improve networking; we can initiate the concept of cloud peering where networks are peered in the same way it is done over the internet. This will greatly improve the sharing of resources (Metzler, 2009; and Anderson et al., 2010).
Again, system managers should establish ways in which data can be adequately monitored, changed and shared amongst users (Owens, 2010, p. 47-50).
This will solve the common problems that are normally caused by poor data management. Finally, good and secure storage facilities (servers) should be put in place by organizations in order to limit security breaches (Cloud Computing in the Midmarket, 2010; Boss et al., p. 2-3).
Cloud Organization Standard
According to Otey (2010), there is no universally accepted way of standardizing cloud organization. The best way of having an effective and good standard therefore is by simply tailoring ways of having fitting services while observing cloud management strategies (IBM, n.d.; and Armbrust et al., 2010, p. 51-54).
Benefits of Cloud Computing
A good number of the benefits of cloud computing have been highlighted in the writings above. However, in summary, cloud computing, according to Anderson et al., (2010), Jones (2008), Lovell (n.d., p. 7-9), Kontio (2009), Cloud Computing (n.d.) offers the following advantages:
- It reduces costs on capital expenditure since customers can avoid spending large amounts of money by installing their infrastructure using the cloud model.
- It greatly cuts on administrative costs since management of the organization is streamlined and there is a balance between centralization and decentralization of duties.
- It encourages positive competition amongst individuals and organizations.
- Quality service is hugely guaranteed within a timely framework
- There is ease in the access of applications from anywhere at any given time.
- It provides for a disaster management system through backup and recovery tools.
- There is sufficient technical support for most users throughout the day.
- It is highly scalable and flexible thus offering many advantages to its customers.
- Users are entitled to getting reduction in costs based on the economies of scale. In other words, the more the users, the lesser the costs for each individual/organization.
- It provides for fitting management of data and resources through efficient data entry, manipulation and data storage facilities.
Issues and Challenges/ Limitations of implementing cloud computing
Just like the benefits, most of the challenges of cloud computing have been highlighted in the above writings. Nevertheless, these issues, according to Anderson et al., 2010), Otey (2010), Zhen (2008), Maitland (2010) and Durkee (2010, p. 63-67) can be briefly represented as follows:
- In spite of the huge reliability of the internet; there are numerous occasions that it becomes problematic thus limiting any form of communication, networking or even trade. This issue of occasional unavailability of the internet is also a major issue with websites and servers which tend to have occasional downtimes and most cloud computing applications cannot work well with low-speed connections.
- The storage and security capacity of vendors vary from one place to another. This makes it difficult for one to be assured of a good computing and also in choosing vendors. In close relations to this, storing confidential information or data of one company in servers owned by other companies can sometimes be risky if security breaches occur in the companies storing the information or data.
- The reportedly rising figures of cybercrimes pose a threat to internet users. Essentially, most cloud computing users and managers rely heavily on the internet. Issues such as cybercrimes are, therefore, of great concern to such users and managers.
- Shared infrastructures—which are the basis of cloud—tend to slow down activities. When sharing resources, such as infrastructures, with other customers, the performance may be reduced, especially at peak times
- Despite being cost-effective in the long run, cloud computing is quite costly based on the need to buy new technologies and equipment. Also, since it is still a new technology, several changes and modifications are still being made on clouds computing applications and these changes come with extra-costs.
- Integrating cloud computing—especially on organizations that still have the old computing systems is quite costly, hectic and difficult for many users.
- The issue of interoperability—where organizations can easily move their data from one cloud computing company to another, like in situations when they have found a better vendor—has been reported to be challenging, in spite of the immense progress that have been made by some companies. This problem with interoperability is also witnessed in terms of companies that would love to use different clouds platforms to manage different applications
- Some complains have also been reported in regard to manageability of infrastructure. To this regard, it is said that despite the existence of great IaaS/PaaS in today’s technology market, there are some raw platforms and infrastructure that have limited management capabilities thus not serving the users as intended. An example of such challenges is in Amazon EC2 who claim to be elastic and have auto-scaling capabilities when reports on the ground indicate the exact opposite
- Monitoring of performance and availability of things like transactions and disk IO’s. For some cloud computing companies, monitoring such issues are greatly challenging. Nonetheless, a good number of companies have been reported to improve in this area with provisions being made for the monitoring of virtual machines by the concerned management.
- The newness of cloud computing means that it is yet to be modified to a point whereby it is fully flexible as it should. For this reason, traditional applications which have been in place for quite a while tend to have an upper hand in flexibility in some aspects when compared to the new (and still developing) cloud computing applications.
According to Otey (2010), determining the future of cloud computing cannot be done in a definite pattern based on the ever-changing arena of technology. Nonetheless, most of the studies done, in regard to cloud computing, tend to offer positive prospects.
A good example here is a report by Bechtolsheim (2008, p. 4) which prospects the size of cloud computing to shoot up from $16 billion documented in 2008 to $42 billion in 2012. Many other researchers also foresee a better future for cloud computing.
Anderson et al. (2010) also reports that an internet survey conducted recently indicates that by the year 2020, cloud computing will have greatly helped in improving the access of information via remote servers, instead of housed tools like personal computers. In addition, this report by Anderson et al. says that the access of software and other related applications will also be hugely improved by cloud computing.
A good example of such cloud computing services is the proliferated use of social networks like Facebook and twitter in sharing information while also being able to effectively communicate and network with one another. In addition, there is an increased use of laptops, desktop computers and Smartphones to connect to remote servers and access or retrieve crucial information.
However, if the above fore-sights are to be ultimately actualized, then there are some necessary changes that need to be put in place—especially in regard to the challenging issues.
For example, Anderson et al. (2010) says that the reliance on remote servers—which is most likely to occur due to the expected dominance of cloud computing—calls for expert and dependable personnel to gate-keep the information getting in and out of the remote servers.
Also, the devices controlling these clouds must be hugely effective to avoid problems in the access and sharing of data or information. To this regard, people have to well-trained and acclimatized to the intricacies of cloud computing while relevant devices are put in place. It is only by considering such measures that we can be ultimately be assured of a good future in cloud computing.
Commendably, many IT experts are currently working around the clock to enhance this change. An example here is the shift from internal and external types of computing to the more effective hybrid cloud type (Lovell, n.d., p. 5). More effort is required from all of us if this change is to take place.
Transitioning to cloud computing is already taking with several organizations already having integrated it into their computing systems (Kontio, 2009). As for the skeptics who did not know of which way to follow; this research provides you with the information to push you forward. Personally, I would encourage you to use this valuable method of computing. But then again, you are still entitled to make your own independent decision.
Remarkably, it is crucial to note that the primary step in ensuring that you have a fitting cloud computing model is by choosing the right service provider. As was earlier mentioned, the technology market is flooded with rogue vendors and you should therefore do a thorough research and a lot of cross-checking before choosing a service provider.
Only after that should you make your decisions. According to (Lovell, n.d., p. 5) examples of some well-acknowledge vendors include: Amazon, Salesforce.com, ThinkGrid, and Flexiscale.
This list is, however, incomplete and more research to find other cloud computing vendors needs to be done since there are thousands of them in existence across the globe. A summary of the key aspects and examples of cloud computing is given below.
|Aspect of Cloud Computing||Example|
|Applications / SaaS||Google Documents, Salesforce, LinkedIn, Facebook|
|Platform Service Providers||Google App Engine, Google Base, Ms Azure, SpringCM, Etelos, Box.net, Apprenda SaaSGrid, Force.com, Oracle SaaS Platform, Amazon SimpleDB, Amazon S3, TrackVia, Bungee Labs Connect.|
|Infrastructure||IBM Blue Cloud, Amazon EC2, Joyent, SunGrid,|
|Integration||Amazon SQS, Mule OnDemand, Microsoft Biztalk Services, OpSource Connect,|
|Orchestration||Intensil, ProcessMaker, Skemma, Appian Anywhere, OpenID, VMWare, Ping Identity, Elastra Cloud Server|
List of References
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Strickland, J. How cloud computing works. Web.
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Wittow, M., & Buller, D. (2010). Cloud computing: emerging legal issues for access to data, anywhere, anytime. Journal of Internet Law, 14(1), 1-10.
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Logical Architectural Diagrams of Cloud Computing
Diagram 1: How the Cloud Works
Webgranth. A complete reference to cloud computing.
Diagram 2: Relationship between the Elements of Cloud Computing
Decker, K. (2010). What Joni Mitchell might say about cloud computing.