I hope everyone had a great and productive week. Well, now it is Saturday and I'm writing this article on my way to Mexico, where my family and I are going to enjoy 9 days of beautiful beaches and adventures.
And the word adventure brings me to this topic. What is the cloud? I think we have heard this word a million times by now, and yet most of us are still wondering how this new technological adventure is going change the way we do business. Before we dig further into how does cloud computing work, first let’s understand what the term “cloud“ refers to.
We can all agree that the concept of the cloud has been around for a long time in many different incarnations in the business world. It mostly means a grid of computers serving as a service-oriented architecture to deliver software and data. Further, cloud computing has been changing how most people use the web and how they store their files. We can clearly see a few examples with sites like Facebook, Amazon and Twitter and the core that allows us to take advantage of services like Google Docs and Gmail. But again, the idea is clear and we know the stuff are out there, but how does it work?
So, most websites and server-based applications run on particular computers or servers, right? What differentiates the cloud from the way those are set up is that the cloud utilizes the resources from the computers as a collective virtual computer, where the applications can run independently from particular computer or server configurations.
They are basically floating around in a “cloud of resources”, making the hardware less important to how the applications work. Further, with broadband internet, the need to have the software run on your computer or on a company’s site is becoming less and less essential. A lot of the software that people use nowadays are completely web-based. The cloud takes advantage of that to bring it to the next level.
Now let's take a simple example; If you are hosting your website on a local server or from your PC, you must usually select a particular operating system (Windows/Linux/Mac), to determine what software you can run on that particular server. If your site is being hosted in the cloud, there is no need to do that. You can run Windows and Linux programs side by side.
Further, to understand how does cloud computing work, imagine that the cloud consists of layers, mostly the back-end layers and the front-end or user-end layers. The front-end layers are the ones you see and interact with. When you access your email on Gmail for example, you are using software running on the front-end of a cloud. The same is true when you access your Facebook account. The back-end consists of the hardware and the software architecture that fuels the interface you see on the front end.
Because the computers are set up to work together, the applications can take advantage of all that computing power as if they were running on one particular machine. In addition, cloud computing also allows for a lot of flexibility because depending on the demand, you can increase how much of the cloud resources you use without the need for assigning specific hardware for the job, or just reduce the amount of resources assigned to you when they are not necessary.
So now that we know how it works, the next big question is if the cloud will change the way we use computers. At this point I just picture you, my reader, saying .. YES! And you are right, the transition from being very personal hardware dependent to a world where resources are shared among the masses is creeping up on us slowly and unobtrusively. In fact, many people have already transitioned to using a cloud environment for most of their time in front of the computer without even realizing it.
Now do you think that there problems with this concept? I personally believe that there are a few. If for some reason your internet goes down, your access to your data also disappears. There are security concerns with the data and the risk that companies will use proprietary formats for the files and that require that you pay for a certain service monthly or you may lose access to your own data permanently.
For business this is trickier as they have to (1) cut costs, and (2) improve response in many layers within the organization. So, a cloud base solution could be cheap and efficient, but at the same time risky as data could not be accessed at some point in time. Would you or your business move to a cloud base architecture?
That's all for now folks. Stay tune for more to come in AX for Retail, Windows 8, and Cloud services.