The term "cloud" is used as a metaphor for the Internet, based on the cloud drawing used in the past to represent the telephone network, and later to depict the Internet in computer network diagrams as an abstraction of the underlying infrastructure it represents.
Cloud computing is a natural evolution of the widespread adoption of virtualization, service-oriented architecture, autonomic, and utility computing. Details are abstracted from end-users, who no longer have need for expertise in, or control over, the technology infrastructure "in the cloud" that supports them.
The actual term "cloud" borrows from telephony in that telecommunications companies, who until the 1990s offered primarily dedicated point-to-point data circuits, began offering Virtual Private Network (VPN) services with comparable quality of service but at a much lower cost. By switching traffic to balance utilization as they saw fit, they were able to utilize their overall network bandwidth more effectively. The cloud symbol was used to denote the demarcation point between that which was the responsibility of the provider and that which was the responsibility of the user. Cloud computing extends this boundary to cover servers as well as the network infrastructure.
After the dot-com bubble, Amazon played a key role in the development of cloud computing by modernizing their data centers, which, like most computer networks, were using as little as 10% of their capacity at any one time, just to leave room for occasional spikes. Having found that the new cloud architecture resulted in significant internal efficiency improvements whereby small, fast-moving "two-pizza teams" could add new features faster and more easily, Amazon initiated a new product development effort to provide cloud computing to external customers, and launched Amazon Web Service (AWS) on a utility computing basis in 2006.
CharacteristicsAgility improves with users' ability to re-provision technological infrastructure resources.
Application Programming Interface (API) accessibility to software that enables machines to interact with cloud software in the same way the user interface facilitates interaction between humans and computers. Cloud computing systems typically use REST-based APIs.
Cost is claimed to be reduced and in a public cloud delivery model capital expenditure is converted to operational expenditure. This is purported to lower barriers to entry, as infrastructure is typically provided by a third-party and does not need to be purchased for one-time or infrequent intensive computing tasks. Pricing on a utility computing basis is fine-grained with usage-based options and fewer IT skills are required for implementation (in-house).
Device and location independence enable users to access systems using a web browser regardless of their location or what device they are using (e.g., PC, mobile phone). As infrastructure is off-site (typically provided by a third-party) and accessed via the Internet, users can connect from anywhere.
Reliability is improved if multiple redundant sites are used, which makes well-designed cloud computing suitable for business continuity and disaster recovery.
Scalability and Elasticity via dynamic ("on-demand") provisioning of resources on a fine-grained, self-service basis near real-time, without users having to engineer for peak loads.
Performance is monitored, and consistent and loosely coupled architectures are constructed using web services as the system interface.
Maintenance of cloud computing applications is easier, because they do not need to be installed on each user's computer. They are easier to support and to improve, as the changes reach the clients instantly.
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