Cloud Computing

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What is cloud computing? Originally “the cloud”, was a metaphor for the internet. These days with “public clouds”, “community clouds”, “private clouds”, “hybrid clouds”, etc, the answer is no longer quite so simplistic.

 

The idea behind cloud computing is that user will be able to take advantage of a huge range of services, (data storage, databases and basically any application that can be made to work at a distance), instead of them being installed on your local PC. The driving force/theory behind the idea is, that because so many people will share so many applications, the costs per user will be lower. Businesses will no longer have to setup, link and maintain huge networks, (which are in essence private clouds anyway), linking buildings, regions and in many cases, countries. Everyone will now connect to their cloud, (essentially their “licenced” and “leased” part of the internet”), which is allocated for their use, from wherever they are. Powerful business PC’s will no longer be required, as all the computing requiring power, will be done on/with remote servers in the cloud, so your average desktop business P.C. could revert back to resemble the “dumb terminals” or “thin clients” of old. Cloud Computing reduces piracy as well, as the only software really required to be loaded on the local machine, is the operating system with a web browser, and even that, (Windows 7), these days has to be authenticated via the internet or telephone, once installed.

Strictly speaking, if you already make use of a web email client, (Gmail, Hotmail, etc), you are already making use of cloud computing, as these email servers are “in the cloud”, but you are only making use of a very small part of what will eventually be available. “Public clouds” will house the internet or web we all know and love, with sites like Facebook, Twitter, and general websites, etc and will be open to all, “Community clouds”, will be a grouping of resources shared by people/businesses with common interests/requirements. “Private Clouds” will be similar to business networks, all those in that specific field/grouping will have access, all others will be excluded; and “Hybrid clouds” will simply be a mix of the various clouds, say a business makes use of certain facilities, (backups), provided by a cloud computing company, while simultaneously using their own physical network for all other business transactions, and also allows employees to access the world wide web.

cloud-diagram

Issues:

At this stage there are many issues being raised with regard to cloud computing as the idea/technology is still in its infancy.

Privacy; Cloud computing is criticized by privacy advocates for the ease with which the companies hosting the cloud services control, and thus, can monitor at will, lawfully or unlawfully, the communication and data stored between the user and the host company.

Security; Private as well as public sector businesses are uneasy around the external management of security based services.

Availability and Performance; businesses are also very concerned about acceptable levels of availability and performance of applications hosted in the cloud, this is of particular reference to South Africa where our current bandwidth availability is tiny, and the cost thereof excessive, as compared to many other countries in the world.

The important question, Is there any benefit or saving to the average SME in South Africa by adopting complete or majority cloud computing for its business uses?,….at this stage the answer is no,… even many of the bigger corporates are still viewing cloud computing with a jaundiced eye.

This may change in a few years, enough to benefit the smaller enterprises?, The technology, its security and our bandwidth availability and cost would have to change significantly before making this worthwhile.

 

Links:

http://www.grailresearch.com/pdf/ContenPodsPdf/2010_Grail_Research_Cloud_Computing.pdf

http://www.cloudtweaks.com/

 

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