The IT world is in a period of tremendous change. Many businesses are quickly shifting from a computing model in which they manage massive on-premises data centers to a cloud-centric approach. In the cloud model, outside providers manage portions of the IT infrastructure as a commodity service, freeing up local IT staff to focus on more value-added activities. Indeed, a 2016 State of the Cloud Report from RightScale found that 95 percent of organizations are now using Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS).
The term cloud computing grew out of the network diagrams that IT staff used for many years. On those diagrams, networks for which the details were irrelevant were depicted using a cloud symbol. The most common example of this was the Internet. Application developers relying on Internet service didn’t need to know how the Internet worked — they simply needed to know that any site with an Internet connection would be able to access their applications. The cloud on the diagram represented technical details that were important, but handled by someone else.
Cloud computing takes this approach to the next level. It refers to the delivery of any type of computing capability as a service over a network. This may be a very high-level service used directly by end users, such as cloud-based email or calendaring. It may also be an application development platform that allows programmers to create new software without worrying about servers, networks or other delivery details. The cloud also provides raw computing services to organizations, allowing engineers to build scalable computing infrastructures from cloud building blocks, such as server instances, databases and virtual private networks (VPNs).
Businesses adopting a cloud computing model have three basic types of cloud at their disposal:
Public cloud computing uses services located offsite and shared among multiple customers. Companies that use the public cloud may find that their computing services run commingled with those of other customers on the same hardware in shared data centers. For example, HP Helion Public Cloud allows businesses to deploy services and securely operate in the cloud with HP’s OpenStack technology, which empowers collaboration and transparency. This scalable, open-source cloud infrastructure provides an operating system to manage computing, storage and networking in the cloud.
Businesses that deploy applications in an open cloud environment have several advantages. This model does not lock the business into one vendor; it supports hybrid cloud architecture and accelerates the time to market for innovative initiatives.
Private cloud computing builds a cloud environment dedicated to a single customer. This may be located on the customer’s premises or in an outsourced data center.
Microsoft delivers an outsourced private cloud offering via its Azure service. Azure allows businesses to store data securely while integrating on-premises applications across a global network of Microsoft-managed data centers. The service provides high availability as well as disaster recovery capabilities and can deliver significant cost reductions in hardware procurement.
Businesses can scale their applications to any size with a fully automated self-service platform, and use any language, framework or tool to build applications. With Azure, companies pay only for the resources their applications use.
Hybrid cloud computing models blend elements of public and private clouds. In this approach, the enterprise maintains both a public- and private-cloud presence and may shift workloads between clouds as needed to capture cost savings or handle bursts in demand.
Several major technology vendors offer hybrid cloud solutions. VMware’s vCloud Air allows customers to simply and securely connect their internal private cloud to the public cloud offering of their choice. The solution also enables IT administrators to create a self-service catalog from which end users can request and provision their own IT resources in just a few clicks.
EMC’s Enterprise Hybrid Cloud solution delivers flexibility to business IT operations. IT departments can seamlessly offer end users resources from both public and private clouds, while still maintaining control over the policies that govern those services. IT staff can also decide when and how to use public cloud resources, and which vendor provides those resources.
EMC Enterprise Hybrid Cloud and EMC VSPEX, a simple, efficient, flexible approach to deploying IT infrastructure, can serve as the foundation for a company’s enterprise hybrid cloud. Companies can deploy VSPEX and the EMC Enterprise Hybrid Cloud solution together. Cloud computing grew out of the concept of virtualization. Years ago, system engineers realized that running a single-function server on a dedicated piece of hardware often used resources inefficiently. The server must be designed to meet the application’s peak demand, which may occur only rarely. Most of the time, much of the server’s computing and memory resources went unused.
Virtualization allows multiple guest operating systems to run on a single piece of hardware and share the computing resources available on that hardware platform. When one guest server requires another processing core or more memory to support a burst in demand, the virtualization platform may simply assign it from an available pool and then reclaim it when no longer needed.
Cloud computing is the logical next step in virtualization, and it takes virtualization to a massive scale. Instead of sharing computing resources among a small number of guest servers, the cloud allows the sharing of resources across entire data centers and thousands of customers, in the case of public cloud computing. The category of cloud services most directly related to virtualization is Infrastructure as a Service. With IaaS, providers offer basic computing services to their customers over the network.
The most common building blocks of IaaS computing models are server instances, storage systems, networks and databases. Engineers and developers building technology solutions in an IaaS environment may pick and choose from these components on an as-needed basis. In a public-cloud model, customers pay only for the computing resources that they consume by the hour or minute. They gain access to large-scale computing capacity without the major capital investments required to build and maintain a data center.
Cloud computing enables many of the emerging trends in IT by making available the computing resources they require. The rapid rise of mobile computing places significant demands on websites that support mobile users. Those sites often leverage the cloud to quickly scale to meet spikes in demand that arise from normal cyclical activity or unusual events. Mobile computing depends on the cloud.
Big Data analytics and the growing world of data science provide countless opportunities for knowledge discovery in retail, marketing, business operations and many other fields. Scientists working with Big Data require large-scale storage capacity and high-performance computing. As with mobile workloads, the cloud is uniquely situated to meet this demand quickly and cost effectively. When a Big Data experiment ends, researchers may simply turn off the provisioned resources, and costs immediately stop accruing. That flexibility simply doesn’t exist in an on-premises computing model.
Learn more about cloud deployments by downloading the white paper, "Cloud Opportunities: Infrastructure as a Service."