Cloud Communications: What Makes a Cloud a Cloud?
In the IT industry especially, people like to throw around the term “cloud computing”…a lot these days. Let’s face it: there are a lot of versions of “cloud computing” and definitions vary based on who you are talking to, whether it’s an IT engineer, a marketing vice president or your basic layman (or laywoman).
In an effort to clear up the most common misconceptions and better define cloud computing, IT World recently published an excerpt from Cisco’s (News - Alert) “The Economics of Cloud Computing: An Overview For Decision Makers,” by Bill Williams, which outlines the five defining characteristics of cloud. We’ve further reduced these definitions of these traits, while keeping them to the original five characteristics, which are as follows:
1) Broad network access. Access to resources in the cloud is available over multiple device types. This not only includes the most common devices (laptops, workstations, etc.) but also this includes mobile phones, thin clients and so on. “Broad network access” can be seen both as a trait of cloud computing and as an enabler.
2) On-demand self-service is a key (some say the primary) characteristic of the cloud. If we think of IT as a complex supply chain with the application and the end user at the tail end of the chain, the ability to self-provision resources in typical IT environments fundamentally disrupts the workflow and processes that have evolved as a function of corporate IT over the last several decades. This includes workflow related to procurement of storage, servers, network nodes, software licenses, and so on.
3) Resource pooling is a fundamental premise of scalability in the cloud. Without pooled computing, networks, and storage a service provider must provision across multiple "silos" or discrete, independent resources with few or no interconnections. Multi-tenant environments, where multiple customers share adjacent resources in the cloud with their peers, are the basis of public cloud infrastructures. Without resource pooling and multi-tenancy the economics of cloud computing do not make financial sense.
4) Measured service indicates that usage of these “pooled resources” is monitored and reported to the consumer, providing visibility and transparency to consumption rates and costs. Usage monitoring, for the purposes of chargeback (or merely for cross-departmental reporting and budgeting) has been a long-time requirement of IT stakeholders -- another holy grail it seems – but building such a system is usually not a core competency of most IT departments.
5) Rapid elasticity is the final trait highlighted in the NIST definition of cloud computing. Elastic computing is critical to cost reductions and time to market (TTM). Indeed the notion of elastic resources in the IT supply chain is so desirable that Amazon named their cloud platform “Elastic Compute Cloud,” or EC2.” In a cloud-based architecture, resources can be provisioned so quickly as to appear unlimited to the consumer. If there is one single hallmark trait of the cloud it is likely this one: the ability to flatten the IT supply chain to provision applications in a matter of minutes instead of days or weeks.
Edited by Carrie Schmelkin
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