The Categories of Cloud Computing and How They Relate to You

Cloud computing has changed from its early days. It has actually splintered off into different variations that may be easy for non-IT businesspeople to confuse. The initial vision of a public cloud with on-demand computing capacity does not define cloud computing properly as it’s known today.

So, as a refresher, here are some of the basic categories of cloud computing models.

Traditional SaaS

This would be the quickest and most painless version of cloud computing. Traditional Software as a Service (SaaS) can involve things as simple as free email services from Yahoo or Google, or business productivity apps available online from Microsoft or Zoho. Using such services can cut down on burdensome application upgrades when only simple features are necessary.

Internal Clouds

Internal cloud refers to entirely private clouds that operate within a company. The enterprise can weave layers of virtualization and management software around existing IT infrastructure to connect servers, data storage, networks, and applications. The desired result is that IT can shift storage, computational power, or other resources effortlessly from one end to the other of the company – that all the resources can be allocated efficiently.

An internal cloud should have a high degree of management automation and offer chargeback capabilities for business units. Chris Wolf, analyst for Gartner Group’s Burton Group consultancy, also remarks that internal clouds should bring together the disparate divisions of a company. “Right now the server people talk to the server people, not networks or support or anything else,” said Wolf. “If everything’s virtualized, everything’s on every box, so your job can’t be defined according to where the box you’re responsible for sits.”

External Cloud Hosting

This is the cloud service that provides the best source of cost-effective IT extension, as well as the most paranoia and confusion over cloud security. In a Portio Research survey, 68% of those surveyed responded that security concerns are keeping them from initiating cloud projects.

There’s not a lot of difference between co-location or hosting and cloud services in the platform-as-a-service market, which means any IT organization with external providers has already done most of the vetting needed for a cloud provider, said Jim Levesque, systems programmer and supervisor of the cloud-based disaster-recovery and backup system built by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power for its 600-server network.

“You check the security, make sure about their finances so they’re not going to disappear right away, talk to their references and make sure they’ve got good provisioning on the things that are important– plenty of I/O and network access, redundant connections and power supplies, emergency plans, all that stuff,” Levesque said.

However, a common client fear is that they’ll get locked into a single service company if the systems and interfaces their cloud provider uses won’t allow them to close up and move back to internal servers or to a different provider’s infrastructure.

Hybrid Clouds

Hybrid cloud computing involves some mix of internal clouds, external clouds, or traditional SaaS. Most companies use hybrid cloud computing so that they only have to build on top of existing infrastructure. It makes more sense to get this sort of on-demand IT service for particular needs than to purchase large-scale services that require lots of configuration and management from a hosting company.

“We, like a lot of companies, have only one set of staging servers for anything, and you don’t want to add a feature because you don’t want to mess with the staging, so you have to put that off,” Steve Peltzman, CIO of the New York Museum of Modern Art says. “There are lots of needs, strategic or tactical, we have to meet during the day without having a rack of servers to pull out to do it. We look at where it makes sense to outsource SaaS providers, SalesForce, outsourcing email to Gmail, Amazon or Cloudshare for platform. Sometimes I don’t know what we’re going to use a specific service or function for, but I know we’re going to need it. That’s what I’m looking to the cloud for.”

People today are generally unsure of what cloud computing actually gets them. Most are curious, but content to wait for cloud computing to become more credible. The most fundamental benefits of cloud computing are its ability to connect otherwise incompatible IT structures, and the ability to allocate more computational power when called upon by users.

Cloud computing has grown from a lofty concept into a set of IT options that, if only through one or two quick options, can improve one’s enterprise infrastructure.


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