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What is the cloud?

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Cloud Computing - Introduction


Cloud computing logical diagram

Cloud computing is the delivery of computing as a service rather than a product, whereby shared resources, software, and information are provided to computers and other devices as a metered service over a network (typically the Internet).

Computing cloud provide computation, software, data access,,, and storage resources without requiring cloud users to know the location and other details of the computing infrastructure.

End users access cloud based applications through a web browser or a light weight desktop or mobile app while the business software and data are stored on servers at a remote location. Cloud application providers strive to give the same or better service and performance as if the software programs were installed locally on end-user computers.

At the foundation of cloud computing is the broader concept of infrastructure convergence (or Converged Infrastructure) and shared services. This type of data centre environment allows enterprises to get their applications up and running faster, with easier manageability and less maintenance, and enables IT to more rapidly adjust IT resources (such as servers, storage, and networking) to meet fluctuating and unpredictable business demand.

History

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.

The ubiquitous availability of high capacity networks, low cost computers and storage devices as well as the widespread adoption of virtualisation, service-oriented architecture, autonomic, and utility computing have led to a tremendous growth in cloud 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 underlying concept of cloud computing dates back to the 1960s, when John McCarthy opined that "computation may someday be organised as a public utility." Almost all the modern-day characteristics of cloud computing (elastic provision, provided as a utility, online, illusion of infinite supply), the comparison to the electricity industry and the use of public, private, government, and community forms, were thoroughly explored in Douglas Parkhill's 1966 book, The Challenge of the Computer Utility. Other scholars have shown that cloud computing's roots go all the way back to the 1950s when scientist Herb Grosch (the author of Grosch's law) postulated that the entire world would operate on dumb terminals powered by about 15 large data centers.

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 utilisation as they saw fit, they were able to utilise 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 modernising 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.

In early 2008, Eucalyptus became the first open-source, AWS API-compatible platform for deploying private clouds. In early 2008, OpenNebula, enhanced in the RESERVOIR European Commission-funded project, became the first open-source software for deploying private and hybrid clouds, and for the federation of clouds. In the same year, efforts were focused on providing QoS guarantees (as required by real-time interactive applications) to cloud-based infrastructures, in the framework of the IRMOS European Commission-funded project, resulting to a real-time cloud environment. By mid-2008, Gartner saw an opportunity for cloud computing "to shape the relationship among consumers of IT services, those who use IT services and those who sell them" and observed that "[o]rganisations are switching from company-owned hardware and software assets to per-use service-based models" so that the "projected shift to cloud computing ... will result in dramatic growth in IT products in some areas and significant reductions in other areas."

Layers

Cloud Computing Stack.svg

Once an internet protocol connection is established among several computers, it is possible to share services within any one of the following layers.

Client

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 as 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 Windows computing) are delivered via a screen-sharing technology.

Application

Cloud application services or "Software as a Service (SaaS)" deliver software as a service over the Internet, eliminating the need to install and run the application on the customer's own computers and simplifying maintenance and support.

A cloud application is software provided as a service. It consists of the following: a package of interrelated tasks, the definition of these tasks, and the configuration files, which contain dynamic information about tasks at run-time. Cloud tasks provide compute, storage, communication and management capabilities. Tasks can be cloned into multiple virtual machines, and are accessible through application programmable interfaces (API). Cloud applications are a kind of utility computing that can scale out and in to match the workload demand. Cloud applications have a pricing model that is based on different compute and storage usage, and tenancy metrics.

What makes a cloud application different from other applications is its elasticity. Cloud applications have the ability to scale out and in. This can be achieved by cloning tasks in to multiple virtual machines at run-time to meet the changing work demand. Configuration Data is where dynamic aspects of cloud application are determined at run-time. There is no need to stop the running application or redeploy it in order to modify or change the information in this file.

SOA is an umbrella that describes any kind of service. A cloud application is a service. A cloud application meta-model is a SOA model that conforms to the SOA meta-model. This makes cloud applications SOA applications. However, SOA applications are not necessary cloud applications. A cloud application is a SOA application that runs under a specific environment, which is the cloud computing environment (platform). This environment is characterized by horizontal scalability, rapid provisioning, ease of access, and flexible prices. While SOA is a business model that addresses the business process management, cloud architecture addresses many technical details that are environment specific, which makes it more a technical model.

Platform

Cloud platform services, also known as platform as a service (PaaS), deliver a computing platform and/or solution stack as a service, often consuming cloud infrastructure and sustaining cloud applications. It facilitates deployment of applications without the cost and complexity of buying and managing the underlying hardware and software layers. Cloud computing is becoming a major change in the computing industry, and one of the most important parts of this change is the shift of cloud platforms. Platforms let developers write certain applications that can run in the cloud, or even use services provided by the cloud. There are different names being used for platforms which can include the on-demand platform, or Cloud 9. Regardless of the nomenclature, they all have great potential in developing, and when development teams create applications for the cloud, each must build its own cloud platform.

Infrastructure

Cloud infrastructure services, also known as "infrastructure as a service" (IaaS), deliver computer infrastructure – typically a platform virtualization environment – as a service, along with raw (block) storage and networking. Rather than purchasing servers, software, data-center space or network equipment, clients instead buy those resources as a fully outsourced service. Suppliers typically bill such services on a utility computing basis; the amount of resources consumed (and therefore the cost) will typically reflect the level of activity.

Server

The Layers contain both hardware and software, these are the layers on the server. products that are specifically designed for the delivery of cloud services, including multi-core processors, cloud-specific operating systems and combined offerings.

Deployment models


Cloud computing types

Public cloud

A public cloud is one based on the standard cloud computing model, in which a service provider makes resources, such as applications and storage, available to the general public over the Internet. Public cloud services may be free or offered on a pay-per-usage model.

Community cloud

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

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. It can also be defined as multiple cloud systems that are connected in a way that allows programs and data to be moved easily from one deployment system to another.

Private cloud

Private cloud is infrastructure operated solely for a single organization, whether managed internally or by a third-party and hosted internally or externally.

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".

Architecture


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.

The Intercloud

The Intercloud is an interconnected global "cloud of clouds" and an extension of the Internet "network of networks" on which it is based.

Cloud engineering

Cloud engineering is the application of engineering disciplines to cloud computing. It brings a systematic approach to the high level concerns of commercialisation, standardisation, 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.

Issues

Privacy

The cloud model has been criticised by privacy advocates for the greater ease in which the companies hosting the cloud services control, thus, can monitor at will, lawfully or unlawfully, the communication and data stored between the user and the host company. Instances such as the secret NSA program, working with AT&T, and Verizon, which recorded over 10 million phone calls between American citizens, causes uncertainty among privacy advocates, and the greater powers it gives to telecommunication companies to monitor user activity. While there have been efforts (such as US-EU Safe Harbor) to "harmonise" the legal environment, providers such as Amazon still cater to major markets (typically the United States and the European Union) by deploying local infrastructure and allowing customers to select "availability zones." Cloud computing poses privacy concerns because the service provider at any point in time, may access the data that is on the cloud. They could accidentally or deliberately alter or even delete some info.

Compliance

In order to obtain compliance with regulations including FISMA, HIPAA, and SOX in the United States, the Data Protection Directive in the EU and the credit card industry's PCI DSS, users may have to adopt community or hybrid deployment modes that are typically more expensive and may offer restricted benefits. This is how Google is able to "manage and meet additional government policy requirements beyond FISMA" and Rackspace Cloud or QubeSpace are able to claim PCI compliance.

Many providers also obtain SAS 70 Type II certification, but this has been criticised on the grounds that the hand-picked set of goals and standards determined by the auditor and the auditee are often not disclosed and can vary widely. Providers typically make this information available on request, under non-disclosure agreement.

Customers in the EU contracting with cloud providers established outside the EU/EEA have to adhere to the EU regulations on export of personal data.

Legal

As can be expected with any revolutionary change in the landscape of global computing, certain legal issues arise; everything from trademark infringement, security concerns to the sharing of propriety data resources.

Open source

Open-source software has provided the foundation for many cloud computing implementations, one prominent example being the Hadoop framework. In November 2007, the Free Software Foundation released the Affero General Public License, a version of GPLv3 intended to close a perceived legal loophole associated with free software designed to be run over a network.

Open standards

Most cloud providers expose APIs that are typically well-documented (often under a Creative Commons license) but also unique to their implementation and thus not interoperable. Some vendors have adopted others' APIs and there are a number of open standards under development, with a view to delivering interoperability and portability.

Security

As cloud computing is achieving increased popularity, concerns are being voiced about the security issues introduced through adoption of this new model. The effectiveness and efficiency of traditional protection mechanisms are being reconsidered as the characteristics of this innovative deployment model differ widely from those of traditional architectures.

The relative security of cloud computing services is a contentious issue that may be delaying its adoption. Issues barring the adoption of cloud computing are due in large part to the private and public sectors' unease surrounding the external management of security-based services. It is the very nature of cloud computing-based services, private or public, that promote external management of provided services. This delivers great incentive to cloud computing service providers to prioritize building and maintaining strong management of secure services. Security issues have been categorised into sensitive data access, data segregation, privacy, bug exploitation, recovery, accountability, malicious insiders, management console security, account control, and multi-tenancy issues. Solutions to various cloud security issues vary, from cryptography, particularly public key infrastructure (PKI), to use of multiple cloud providers, standardisation of APIs, and improving virtual machine support and legal support.

Sustainability

Although cloud computing is often assumed to be a form of "green computing", there is as of yet no published study to substantiate this assumption. Siting the servers affects the environmental effects of cloud computing. In areas where climate favors natural cooling and renewable electricity is readily available, the environmental effects will be more moderate. (The same holds true for "traditional" data centers.) Thus countries with favorable conditions, such as Finland, Sweden and Switzerland, are trying to attract cloud computing data centers. Energy efficiency in cloud computing can result from energy-aware scheduling and server consolidation. However, in the case of distributed clouds over data centers with different source of energies including renewable source of energies, a small compromise on energy consumption reduction could result in high carbon footprint reduction.

Abuse

As with privately purchased hardware, crackers posing as legitimate customers can purchase the services of cloud computing for nefarious purposes. This includes password cracking and launching attacks using the purchased services. In 2009, a banking trojan illegally used the popular Amazon service as a command and control channel that issued software updates and malicious instructions to PCs that were infected by the malware.

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