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This wiki is to enable the reader to understand more about Cloud Computing, be that if they have no prior knowledge or if they have some. There are many aspects to Cloud Computing and within the scope of this wiki it will not be possible to cover everything. However, it will aim to focus on the main key and relevant areas of Cloud Computing to give the reader a broad and general understanding, with a specific focus on new trends within Cloud Computing and the future for this platform.


Definitions


‘Cloud computing, often referred to as simply “the cloud,” is the delivery of on-demand computing resources—everything from applications to data centres—over the Internet on a pay-for-use basis’ (IBM, 2015).

‘Cloud computing is typically defined as a type of computing that relies on sharing computing resources rather than having local servers or personal devices to handle applications’ (Beal, 2015).

In cloud computing the word cloud, which is also commonly called just ‘the cloud’, is used as a metaphor for the Internet, so the phrase cloud computing means ‘a type of Internet-based computing where different services; such as servers, storage and applications, are delivered to an organization's computers and devices through the Internet’ (Beal, 2015).

‘Cloud computing is a model for enabling ubiquitous, convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (e.g., networks, servers, storage, applications, and services) that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction’ (NIST, 2011).


Overview


‘Cloud computing is an evolving paradigm’ (NIST, 2011) based on utility and consumption of computing resources, giving users ‘on-demand access to computing resources in a very similar way to accessing traditional public utilities such as electricity, water, and natural gas’ (Hassan, 2011). In following this concept, customers follow a pay-as-you-go idea that gives them access to as much or as little resources as they need whenever needed from anywhere. Hence, ‘organizations are no longer obliged to plan ahead and highly invest in computing resources to accomplish business goals’ (Hassan, 2011).

Regardless of how many different academics and professionals define the concept, as can be seen from the definitions given, they are all fairly different, with emphasis on different aspects. Put simply, we can gather from them all that it is about ‘delivery of scalable and elastic IT-related capabilities to end users’ (Fonebell, 2015), who can either be any type of user, over the Internet against a pay-as-you-go model.
The video below created by Databarracks alongside Stephen Fry in 2013, provides a broad and easy to understand overview of Cloud Computing and well worth watching.











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The origin of the term cloud computing is somewhat unclear. However, ‘references to cloud computing in its modern sense appeared early as 1996, with the earliest known mention in a Compaq internal document’ (Regalado, 2011). Further to this, the term can be traced to 2006, which made it more popular when Amazon.com introduced the ‘Elastic Compute Cloud’ (Amazon, 2006).

However, although ‘the Cloud’ became a more familiar concept to the masses in the 2000’s, the ‘overarching concept of delivering computing resources through a global network is rooted in the sixties’ (Mohamed, 2009). The concept of an ‘intergalactic computer network’ (Pelkey, 2010) was introduced in the sixties by J.C.R. Licklider, who was responsible for enabling the development of ARPANET (Advanced Research Projects Agency Network) in 1969. Licklider’s vision was for ‘everyone on the globe to be interconnected and accessing programs and data at any site, from anywhere’ (Mohamed, 2009), essentially envisioning what we now know as cloud computing.
Other theorists and academics associate the cloud idea to the likes of computer scientist John McCarthy, who proposed the idea of ‘computation being delivered as a public utility, similar to the service bureaus which date back to the sixties’ (Mohamed, 2009).
Since the sixties, ‘the cloud’ has developed along a number of lines, with the likes of Web 2.0 being the most recent evolution. However, ‘as the internet only started to offer significant bandwidth in the nineties, cloud computing for the masses has been something of a late developer’ (Mohamed, 2009), until when in recent years, cloud computing has evolved even further as the technology has advanced to catch up with the theory, especially since the likes of Gartner saw the opportunities that were there for cloud computing in 2008. He saw that cloud computing was a tool ‘to shape the relationship among consumers of IT services, those who use IT services and those who sell them’ (Schurr, 2008) and observed that ‘organizations are switching from company-owned hardware and software assets to per-use service-based models’ so that the ‘projected shift to computing ... will result in dramatic growth in IT products in some areas and significant reductions in other areas’ (Gartner, 2008), which will only continue to grow and develop over the coming years.


How it Works


Within a cloud computing system, there’s a significant workload shift to traditional ways of doing things. ‘Local computers no longer have to do all the heavy lifting when it comes to running applications… and instead, the network of computers that make up the cloud handles them instead’ (Strickland, 2008). From the users perspective, software and hardware demands decrease and all they have to deal with is the cloud systems ‘interface software’ (Strickland, 2008) which can be as simple or complex as has been designed, and the cloud deals with all other aspects.

Fundamentally, ‘the goal of cloud computing is to apply traditional supercomputing, or high-performance computing power, normally used by military and research facilities, to perform tens of trillions of computations per second, in consumer-oriented applications such as financial portfolios, to deliver personalized information, to provide data storage or to power large, immersive computer games’ (Beal, 2015) and this works by using networks of large groups of servers generally running lower cost consumer PC technology with intricate connections to share out data-processing tasks across many of them; ‘creating a shared IT infrastructure containing large pools of systems that are linked together’ (Beal, 2015).

To illustrate how a cloud works in practice it is worth considering a type of cloud platform most people have encountered, for example, a web based email service like Gmail or Hotmail; rather than logging in and running your email from software on a computer, the user must log in to a web account remotely. Your account can store your emails, documents, and photographs for example not on your computer but on that services cloud and you are able to access this data almost anywhere.


Structure & Characteristics


There is arguably endless ‘structures & characteristics’ of a cloud. However, a very concise and largely considered accurate representation is the cloud model definition developed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology in 2011. The definition highlights five essential characteristics, three service models, and four deployment models that cover almost all ‘clouds’, which this wiki will focus on.

Key Characteristics of a ‘Cloud’


On-demand self-service.
A consumer can unilaterally provision computing capabilities, such as server time and network storage, as needed automatically without requiring human interaction with each service provider.

Broad network access.
Capabilities are available over the network and accessed through standard mechanisms that promote use by heterogeneous thin or thick client platforms (e.g., mobile phones, tablets, laptops, and workstations).

Resource pooling.
The provider's computing resources are pooled to serve multiple consumers using a multi-tenant model, with different physical and virtual resources dynamically assigned and reassigned according to consumer demand.

Rapid elasticity.
Capabilities can be elastically provisioned and released, in some cases automatically, to scale rapidly outward and inward commensurate with demand. To the consumer, the capabilities available for provisioning often appear unlimited and can be appropriated in any quantity at any time.

Measured service.
Cloud systems automatically control and optimize resource use by leveraging a metering capability at some level of abstraction appropriate to the type of service (e.g., storage, processing, bandwidth, and active user accounts). Resource usage can be monitored, controlled, and reported, providing transparency for both the provider and consumer of the utilized service.

(National Institute of Standards and Technology, 2011)

Cloud Computing Services


On June 7, 2012, Oracle announced the Oracle Cloud. This cloud, while at the time still needed developments, it had embraced what the NIST had defined the year before and was the ‘first to provide users with access to an integrated set of IT solutions, including the Applications (SaaS), Platform (Paas), and Infrastructure (Iaas) layers’ (Morgan, 2012).

Saas (Software as a Service)
‘Cloud-based applications—or software as a service (SaaS)—run on distant computers “in the cloud” that are owned and operated by others and that connect
to users’ computers via the Internet and, usually, a web browser’ (IBM, 2015).

Paas (Platform as a Service)
‘Platform as a service provides a cloud-based environment with everything required to support the complete life cycle of building and delivering web-based (cloud) applications—without the cost and complexity of buying and managing the underlying hardware, software, provisioning and hosting’ (IBM, 2015).

Iaas (Infrastructure as a Service)
‘Infrastructure as a service provides companies with computing resources including servers, networking, storage, and data centre space on a pay-per-use basis’ (IBM, 2015).



The following video commissioned by Macquarie Telecom in 2012 provides a brilliant explanation of these different computing services:



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Cloud Computing Deployment Models


Demonstrated and explained by IBM below, there are three main cloud deployment models; public, private & hybrid. Although these three models provide the majority of clouds with a deployment method there are others, for example, community clouds, distributed clouds, interclouds & multiclouds. This wiki will only focus on the three main models and the source below created by IBM in 2015 provides a very clear explanation of each.

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Source: IBM, 2015

Cloud Computing in Business


‘By 2017, two-thirds of all business workloads will be processed in cloud data centres, according to data cited by the New Jersey Institute of Technology’ (Winfrey, 2014), which would suggest this should be a serious consideration for organisations.

In the fast paced 'business world of today, adoption of the latest technological advances is essential for sustainability and growth' (Ford, 2014). Cloud Computing is an area where businesses can use in order to improve efficiency and attempt to gain competitive advantage.
Many businesses are taken note; a recently released report by CompTIA shows that ‘90% of businesses use some sort of cloud computing, demonstrating the incredible growth of the cloud industry already. This growth shows no signs of stopping, as spending on cloud services is expected to double in the next four years, reaching an estimated $127 billion’ (Ford, 2014).

This growth in cloud services will have numerous impacts on a vast range of businesses, from big business to small start-ups. For large technology companies, ‘investment and innovation will be needed in the next few years to establish a lucrative place in the cloud industry’ (Ford, 2014). For start-ups and small businesses, ‘the widespread use of the cloud will allow for greater investment into their core business operations, while still maintaining access to high-end hardware and software’ (Ford, 2014).

Another aspect of cloud computing’s growth that it is important to consider within business the potential impact within and as a result of developing countries growth. Businesses in these countries have traditionally struggled in the technology sector, as ‘high start-up and infrastructure costs were a major deterrent… Cloud computing could give these countries a chance to change their technological fortunes, and increase their connectivity to developed economies around the world’ (Ford, 2014).

The benefits and drawbacks will be discussed below, but the evidence would suggest Cloud Computing will only continue to grow and the increase will have large effects in the business world as its use and importance grows over time. Companies that choose to embrace this technological revolution will give themselves the opportunity to overtake competitors and therefore it is up to businesses to plan for the future and embrace this concept so as to not risk being left behind.

The Benefits

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There are arguably endless benefits to Cloud Computing; as touched upon above, Cloud Computing is a solution growing in popularity, especially amongst SMEs.
Due to the extreme flexibility of cloud-based computing, many businesses are making the shift over to the cloud (Cloudbackup.uk) the CRN predicts that small businesses will soon be spending ‘almost $100 billion on cloud computing services’ (CRN, 2014) and that is down to the benefits that ‘the Cloud’ provides. This wiki will focus on just a couple of the most widely agreed advantages of Cloud based technologies below, that are widely acknowledged as some of the most important to businesses.

Reduced Cost
Cloud computing can save businesses tremendously over offering the same services in-house. There is the freedom from purchasing and maintaining costly hardware, for one thing. Cloud computing also reduces staffing requirements for IT needs. ‘Many tools which are available through the cloud can also help to streamline productivity and cut costs in that way as well’ (Cloudbackup.uk, 2012). Oracle believe that this is a very important factor in why businesses embrace the Cloud as ‘Cloud computing offers a cost-effective way to support big data technologies and the advanced analytics applications that can drive business value... to unlock data’s hidden potential and deliver competitive advantage’ (Asalapudi, 2014).

Flexibility
Because there is no physical equipment to maintain, cloud computing can ‘easily be adjusted to the needs of your organization, either to increase capacity or scale down’ (Cloudbackup.uk, 2012) which is particularly beneficial for companies which have heavy seasonal traffic, as well as start-ups which predict very fast future growth.

As soon as an organisation needs more data capacity than usual, a cloud-based service can instantly meet the demand because of the vast capacity of the service’s remote servers. It is this flexibility that is so crucial, demonstrated by 65% of respondents to an InformationWeek survey that said ‘the ability to quickly meet business demands was an important reason to move to cloud computing’ (Biddick, 2008).

Stability
Other models of dealing with IT in a business tend to put a lot of emphasis on when something is broken you must spend time fixing the problem. As a result of this, many businesses suffer from instability in relation to fixing or updating IT issues which may result in delays and ‘downtime’. Cloud computing ‘provides much more consistent uptime, as any issues are handled externally and proactively’ (Cloudbackup.uk, 2012).


Of course, there are other benefits too. Salesforce.com in 2013 noted that other very important benefits included; Disaster recovery; Automatic software updates; Increased collaboration; Document control; Security; Competitiveness; and Environmental factors, to name but a few, which all play an important part in the success of Cloud based operations.

The Disadvantages

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Cloud Computing is undoubtedly a social phenomenon being used by most people everyday, even if they are unaware. As with every important social phenomenon there are issues that limit its widespread adoption. Again, there could be many more disadvantages other than those listed but this wiki will focus on the few most widely accepted and debated drawbacks.

Potential Downtime
Put simply, Cloud Computing makes businesses reliant upon them and their connection to you.
‘When it's offline, you're offline’(Ward, 2015), which can have a detrimental impact for a business, particularly SME’s if this is a recurring problem.

Security Issues
Undoubtedly one of the most concerning disadvantages is how safe the data being stored is. ‘Cloud computing means Internet Computing’ (Ward, 2015) and therefore businesses shouldn’t have data on their cloud that they are not comfortable having on the Internet.

Well established cloud computing companies have gone to ‘great lengths to promote the idea that they have the latest, most sophisticated data security systems possible as they want your business and realize that data security is a big concern; however, their credibility in this regard has suffered greatly in the wake of the recent NSA snooping scandals’ (Ward, 2015) and other recent hacking outbreaks.

Cost
Initially cloud computing applications may appear to be a lot cheaper than a particular software solution installed and run in-house, as mentioned above, but organisations need to be sure of what they not only are buying, but what they actually need.
Businesses also need to be sure they are doing a total cost comparison. While many cloud computer vendors present themselves as ‘utility-based providers’, claiming that you're only charged for what you use, ‘Gartner says that this isn't true; in most cases, a company must commit to a predetermined contract independent of actual use’ (Ward, 2015).

Lack of Support
The very nature of Cloud systems are distance. Anita Campbell, a CEO of an SME criticises the support given, stating ‘Customer service for Web apps leaves a lot to be desired. All too many cloud-based apps make it difficult to get customer service promptly – or at all. Sending an email and hoping for a response within 48 hours is not an acceptable way for most of us to run a business’ (Cambell, 2014).


Cloud computing is a great tool and an opportunity for all business to release the burden and costs of IT management, however, the drawbacks must be managed and considered before any commitment is made. ‘Security issues related to having business data 'out' on the Internet seem to be the number one concern of business owners’ (Ward, 2015) which is now also a very important concern for customers also.


New Trends & The Future

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New Trends and issues within the ‘Cloud’ market are important issues for businesses and consumers to be aware of. For example, the need to ‘house big data certainly didn't decrease and developers continued to try to find new ways to meet demands’ over the last year, as well as ‘Cloud security, which was a hot-button issue in 2014, as hackers claimed major retail breaches at Target and Home Depot, the iCloud hack and, most recently, the Sony Pictures' attack’ (Techtarget.com, 2015).

The growth of this concept and industry is only expected to increase over the coming years and below are a few of the major current trends in the industry today and predicted in the future, provided by a culmination of many professionals and academics.

Increased growth in the market
Obviously this is something that the evidence would suggest is inevitable. Based on their ‘forecast for 2011-2017, Gartner expects adoption to hit $250 billion by 2017’ (Menegaz, 2014). This has been demonstrated since 2011 by organisations globally, with businesses increasingly relying on cloud to develop, market and sell products, manage supply chains and more.

Hybrid clouds
‘Gartner proposes that 50% of enterprises will have hybrid clouds by 2017’ (Menegaz, 2014).
There has been an ongoing debate between the merits of public and private cloud models for quite some time now. Hybrid clouds feature an ‘infrastructure that combines private cloud security with cost-effective, powerful and scalable public cloud attributes’ (Grady, 2014). Businesses therefore get more choice and personalisation options that they used to get with an in-house method whilst still maintaining other advantages that the Cloud has to offer, like low costs and flexibility.
‘The hybrid cloud—a mix of on and off premises—offers the best of both worlds: a combination of strengths allowing organizations to achieve the performance of on-premises solutions yet also the management convenience of the cloud business model’ (Menegaz, 2014) and therefore an area of Cloud Computing that will develop over the coming months and years.


There are many more trends and developments for the future of the Cloud market. Just a few include:
  • Platform-as-a-Service (Paas)
  • Bring your own device (BYOD)
  • More Innovation because of Cloud
  • More application availability on the Cloud
  • Graphics-as-a-Service (GaaS)



Paul Korzeniowski, a freelance writer who specializes in cloud computing issues, writes of what he thinks will be the big trends in Cloud Computing in 2015:
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Source: Techtarget.com, 2015




Please click on the following link to read a very thought provoking study created by IBM’s Centre for Applied Insights in 2013 titled‘Under Cloud Cover: How leaders are accelerating competitive differentiation’







References



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