Thursday, June 9, 2011

Cloud Computing and its life cycle

Cloud computing refers to the use of  data/software resources accessible via a external computer network, rather than from a local computer. Users or clients can perform a task, such as word processing, with a browser and with services provided from a cloud based vendor's computational resources.

Pros and Cons from a business perspective
According to Wikipedia, benefits from Cloud Computing are depicted below:
  • Agility improves with users' ability to rapidly and inexpensively 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 greatly 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.
  • Multi-tenancy 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)
    • Utilization and efficiency improvements for systems that are often only 10–20% utilized.
  • Reliability is improved if multiple redundant sites are used, which makes well-designed cloud computing suitable for business continuity and disaster recovery.
  • Scalability 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 could 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 under traditional systems, in part because providers are able to devote resources to solving security issues that many customers cannot afford. However, the complexity of security is greatly increased when data is distributed over a wider area or greater number of devices and in multi-tenant systems that are being 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. They are easier to support and to improve, as the changes reach the clients instantly.
A brief history of cloud computing can be found here.

Life Cycle Model
The technology adoption life cycle model describes the adoption or acceptance of a new product or innovation, according to the demographic and psychological characteristics of defined adopter groups. The process of adoption over time is typically illustrated as a classical normal distribution or bell curve. The model indicates that the first group of people to use a new product is called Innovators, followed by Early Adopters. Next come the early and late majority, and the last group to eventually adopt a product are called laggards.

A description of benefits and drawbacks of the technology adoption life cycle model can be found here.

New Stage for Cloud Computing
Cloud computing seems to have reached a new stage. Everyone is talking about how to incorporate cloud computing into their business plan. Google cloud is here to stay. Apple has come out with their iCloud and will also offer at least some of the services for free. We all make fun of the Microsoft "to the cloud" commercials.

It seems like the cloud idea is at least in the "early majority" phase, maybe further down the bell curve. How long will this last? I don't know, but the first test will be when a leading vendor is hacked and private corporate data is lost. Security, Privacy and Legal issues will arise. For many IT pros, the most important consideration for all cloud based services is that they have to depend on servers that someone else owns and controls.

Actually, the "Hybrid Cloud Model" will most likely prevail. A hybrid storage cloud uses a combination of public and private storage clouds. Hybrid storage clouds are often useful for archiving and backup functions, allowing local data to be replicated to a public cloud. HP, IBM, Oracle and VMware offer technology to help manage the complexities of performance, security and privacy.

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