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Cloud computing is an expression used to describe a variety of computing concepts that involve a large number of computers connected through a real-time communication network such as the Internet. In science, cloud computing is a synonym for distributed computing over a network, and means the ability to run a program or application on many connected computers at the same time. The phrase also more commonly refers to network-based services, which appear to be provided by real server hardware, and are in fact served up by virtual hardware, simulated by software running on one or more real machines. Such virtual servers do not physically exist and can therefore be moved around and scaled up (or down) on the fly without affecting the end user - arguably, rather like a cloud.
The popularity of the term can be attributed to its use in marketing to sell hosted services in the sense of application service provisioning that run client server software on a remote location.
Cloud computing sample architecture
Cloud architecture, the systems architecture of the software systems involved in the delivery of cloud computing, typically involves multiple cloud components communicating with each other over a loose coupling mechanism such as a messaging queue. Elastic provision implies intelligence in the use of tight or loose coupling as applied to mechanisms such as these and others.
Cloud engineering is the application of engineering disciplines to cloud computing. It brings a systematic approach to the high-level concerns of commercialization, standardization, and governance in conceiving, developing, operating and maintaining cloud computing systems. It is a multidisciplinary method encompassing contributions from diverse areas such as systems, software, web, performance, information, security, platform, risk, and quality engineering.
Cloud computing exhibits the following key characteristics:
Agility 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 that a traditional user interface (e.g., a computer desktop) facilitates interaction between humans and computers. Cloud computing systems typically use Representational State Transfer (REST)-based APIs.
Cost: cloud providers claim that computing costs reduce. A public-cloud delivery model converts capital expenditure to operational expenditure. This purportedly lowers 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). The e-FISCAL project's state-of-the-art repository contains several articles looking into cost aspects in more detail, most of them concluding that costs savings depend on the type of activities supported and the type of infrastructure available in-house.
Device and location independence enable users to access systems using a web browser regardless of their location or what device they use (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.
Virtualization technology allows sharing of servers and storage devices and increased utilization. Applications can be easily migrated from one physical server to another.
Multitenancy enables sharing of resources and costs across a large pool of users thus allowing for:
Centralization of infrastructure in locations with lower costs (such as real estate, electricity, etc.)
Peak-Load capacity increases (users need not engineer for highest possible load-levels)
Utilisation and efficiency improvements for systems that are often only 10–20% utilized.
Reliability improves with the use of multiple redundant sites, 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.,
Security can improve due to centralization of data, increased security-focused resources, etc., but concerns can persist about loss of control over certain sensitive data, and the lack of security for stored kernels. Security is often as good as or better than other traditional systems, in part because providers are able to devote resources to solving security issues that many customers cannot afford to tackle. However, the complexity of security is greatly increased when data is distributed over a wider area or over a greater number of devices, as well as in multi-tenant systems shared by unrelated users. In addition, user access to security audit logs may be difficult or impossible. Private cloud installations are in part motivated by users' desire to retain control over the infrastructure and avoid losing control of information security.
Maintenance of cloud computing applications is easier, because they do not need to be installed on each user's computer and can be accessed from different places.
On-demand self-service allows users to obtain, configure and deploy cloud services themselves using cloud service catalogues, without requiring the assistance of IT. This feature is listed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) as a characteristic of cloud computing.
The self-service requirement of cloud computing prompts infrastructure vendors to create cloud computing templates, which are obtained from cloud service catalogues. Manufacturers of such templates or blueprints include BMC Software (BMC), with Service Blueprints as part of their cloud management platform Hewlett-Packard (HP), which names its templates as HP Cloud Maps, RightScale and Red Hat, which names its templates CloudForms.
The templates contain predefined configurations used by consumers to set up cloud services. The templates or blueprints provide the technical information necessary to build ready-to-use clouds. Each template includes specific configuration details for different cloud infrastructures, with information about servers for specific tasks such as hosting applications, databases, websites and so on. The templates also include predefined Web service, the operating system, the database, security configurations and load balancing.
Cloud computing consumers use cloud templates to move applications between clouds through a self-service portal. The predefined blueprints define all that an application requires to run in different environments. For example, a template could define how the same application could be deployed in cloud platforms based on Amazon Web Service, VMware or Red Hat. The user organization benefits from cloud templates because the technical aspects of cloud configurations reside in the templates, letting users to deploy cloud services with a push of a button. Developers can use cloud templates to create a catalog of cloud services.
Cloud computing providers offer their services according to several fundamental models: infrastructure as a service (IaaS), platform as a service (PaaS), and software as a service (SaaS) where IaaS is the most basic and each higher model abstracts from the details of the lower models. Other key components in anything as a service (XaaS) are described in a comprehensive taxonomy model published in 2009, such as Strategy-as-a-Service, Collaboration-as-a-Service, Business Process-as-a-Service, Database-as-a-Service, etc. In 2012, network as a service (NaaS) and communication as a service (CaaS) were officially included by ITU (International Telecommunication Union) as part of the basic cloud computing models, recognized service categories of a telecommunication-centric cloud ecosystem.
Infrastructure as a service (IaaS):
In the most basic cloud-service model, providers of IaaS offer computers – physical or (more often) virtual machines – and other resources. (A hypervisor, such as Hyper-V or Xen or KVM or VMware ESX/ESXi, runs the virtual machines as guests. Pools of hypervisors within the cloud operational support-system can support large numbers of virtual machines and the ability to scale services up and down according to customers' varying requirements.) IaaS clouds often offer additional resources such as a virtual-machine disk image library, raw (block) and file-based storage, firewalls, load balancers, IP addresses, virtual local area networks (VLANs), and software bundles. IaaS-cloud providers supply these resources on-demand from their large pools installed in data centers. For wide-area connectivity, customers can use either the Internet or carrier clouds (dedicated virtual private networks).
Cloud communications and cloud telephony, rather than replacing local computing infrastructure, replace local telecommunications infrastructure with Voice over IP and other off-site Internet services.
Platform as a service (PaaS):
In the PaaS model, cloud providers deliver a computing platform, typically including operating system, programming language execution environment, database, and web server. Application developers can develop and run their software solutions on a cloud platform without the cost and complexity of buying and managing the underlying hardware and software layers. With some PaaS offers (like Windows Azure, the underlying computer and storage resources scale automatically to match application demand so that the cloud user does not have to allocate resources manually. The latter has also been proposed by an architecture aiming to facilitate real-time in cloud environments.
Software as a service (SaaS):
In the business model using software as a service (SaaS), users are provided access to application software and databases. Cloud providers manage the infrastructure and platforms that run the applications. SaaS is sometimes referred to as "on-demand software" and is usually priced on a pay-per-use basis. SaaS providers generally price applications using a subscription fee.
In the SaaS model, cloud providers install and operate application software in the cloud and cloud users access the software from cloud clients. Cloud users do not manage the cloud infrastructure and platform where the application runs. This eliminates the need to install and run the application on the cloud user's own computers, which simplifies maintenance and support. Cloud applications are different from other applications in their scalability—which can be achieved by cloning tasks onto multiple virtual machines at run-time to meet changing work demand.
Network as a service (NaaS):
A category of cloud services where the capability provided to the cloud service user is to use network/transport connectivity services and/or inter-cloud network connectivity services. NaaS involves the optimization of resource allocations by considering network and computing resources as a unified whole.
Traditional NaaS services include flexible and extended VPN, and bandwidth on demand. NaaS concept materialization also includes the provision of a virtual network service by the owners of the network infrastructure to a third party (VNP – VNO).
Legacy management infrastructures, which are based on the concept of dedicated system relationships and architecture constructs, are not well suited to cloud environments where instances are continually launched and decommissioned. Instead, the dynamic nature of cloud computing requires monitoring and management tools that are adaptable, extensible and customizable.
Users access cloud computing using networked client devices, such as desktop computers, laptops, tablets and smartphones. Some of these devices – cloud clients – rely on cloud computing for all or a majority of their applications so as to be essentially useless without it. Examples are thin clients and the browser-based Chromebook. Many cloud applications do not require specific software on the client and instead use a web browser to interact with the cloud application. With Ajax and HTML5 these Web user interfaces can achieve a similar, or even better, look and feel to native applications.
Some cloud applications, however, support specific client software dedicated to these applications (e.g., virtual desktop clients and most email clients). Some legacy applications (line of business applications that until now have been prevalent in thin client computing) are delivered via a screen-sharing technology.
Private cloud is cloud infrastructure operated solely for a single organization, whether managed internally or by a third-party and hosted internally or externally. Undertaking a private cloud project requires a significant level and degree of engagement to virtualize the business environment, and requires the organization to reevaluate decisions about existing resources.
When done right, it can improve business, but every step in the project raises security issues that must be addressed to prevent serious vulnerabilities.
They have attracted criticism because users "still have to buy, build, and manage them" and thus do not benefit from less hands-on management, essentially "[lacking] the economic model that makes cloud computing such an intriguing concept".
A cloud is called a "public cloud" when the services are rendered over a network that is open for public use. Technically there may be little or no difference between public and private cloud architecture, however, security consideration may be substantially different for services (applications, storage, and other resources) that are made available by a service provider for a public audience and when communication is effected over a non-trusted network.
Generally, public cloud service providers like Amazon AWS, Microsoft and Google own and operate the infrastructure and offer access only via Internet (direct connectivity is not offered).
Community cloud shares infrastructure between several organizations from a specific community with common concerns (security, compliance, jurisdiction, etc.), whether managed internally or by a third-party and hosted internally or externally. The costs are spread over fewer users than a public cloud (but more than a private cloud), so only some of the cost savings potential of cloud computing are realized.
Hybrid cloud is a composition of two or more clouds (private, community or public) that remain unique entities but are bound together, offering the benefits of multiple deployment models.
Gartner, Inc. defines a hybrid cloud service as a cloud computing service that is composed of some combination of private, public and community cloud services, from different service providers.
A hybrid cloud service crosses isolation and provider boundaries so that it can’t be simply put in one category of private, public, or community cloud service.
It allows you to extend either the capacity or the capability of a cloud service, by aggregation, integration or customization with another cloud service.
Cloud computing can also be provided by a distributed set of machines that are running at different locations, while still connected to a single network or hub service. Examples of this include distributed computing platforms such as BOINC and Folding@Home.
Applications of Cloud Computing:
Gmail is becoming more and more widespread throughout the small business community because it lets small business owners work remotely so much easier. It has increased spam protection, it organises incoming emails from each sender into more of a conversation, rather than just chronologically listing them. Gmail also includes a live chat facility so that you can connect with other Gmail users in real time.
Dropbox is a web-based file hosting service … which uses cloud computing to enable users to store and share files and folders with others across the internet using file synchronization. There are both free and paid services, each with varying options.
Basecamp is a web-based project management tool launched in 2004. Basecamp primary features are to-do lists, milestone management, forum-like messaging, file sharing, and time tracking.
Highrise is a ‘shared contact management’ web application which supports basic CRM tasks. The application centers around person and company pages, which collate information such as images, notes, and contact detail.
Backpack is a web-based personal information manager and intranet for small business. The application has two main functions: user-created pages (which can include text, images and files) and an iCalendar format calendar. Features of the user-created pages include to-do lists, inline photo galleries, notes and file attachments, and page sharing.