The Cloud – What is it – and what types exist


The cloud – a word getting more and more common for each passing day.
You hear about the cloud and cloud services everywhere, and most people are using it or services there without thinking much about it. So, what is Cloud and Cloud services?

For the most part, it´s a marketing term used for services and solutions, offered to people and organizations, that are located outside your computer or organization.

Some examples for mainstream cloud services include:
Gmail from Google, outlook.com from Microsoft, iCloud from Apple and Dropbox are all services located in the cloud, and are mostly recognized and used by most people today.

Public services like the ones above, and others, is something people recognize and can associate with in the day to day life – not giving it much thought, other than these services giving them more flexibility in the daily life for something like communication, file and photo backup etc.

But in later years the cloud as evolved rapidly, and one can separate the term in greater detail and sub terms as follows:

  • Public cloud
  • Private cloud
  • Hybrid cloud

Public Cloud

The public cloud in general is the internet, and services living purely on the internet, available for anyone to use for free, or by purchasing a service – by subscription or usage in most cases.
Service providers leverage the internet to deliver services like applications (Saas – Software-as-a-service), storage, e-mail and also infrastructure (Iaas – Infrastructure-as-a-service).

They make this available to everyone, or via Public cloud offerings – mostly used for organizations to move company infrastructure out from a local datacenter to reduce costs and increase availability and scalability. Some examples of public cloud providers include: Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services, Google AppEngine, Sun Cloud and IBM Blue Cloud. For organizations these Clouds providers provide cost efficient scaling of computing infrastructure by eliminating the need to invest and setup costly hardware upfront – hardware, application and bandwidth cost are covered by the cloud provider – and the organization pays for the actual capacity they are using.

There are however some limitations for organizations to consider while planning to move existing infrastructure to a public cloud. The use of public cloud can limit configuration and control over security, which is something to keep in mind if using it to save or process sensitive data subject to compliance regulations – for some organizations local rules in the organizations country may also limit the use of public cloud, as some countries rules regulates where certain kinds of data are allowed to reside.
There may also be some of the applications the organizations are using that may have a problem with being moved out of the local infrastructure, or may demand to stay local due to integrations with physical hardware, onsite for the company. In these kind of situations, it may be wise to consider hybrid cloud. For users these public cloud offerings like Dropbox, iCloud, OneDrive, Office365, Gmail and google apps etc makes it easy to keep documents and photo safe and synchronized across multiple devices, minimizing the risk of data loss due to a device getting lost or broken, and increasing general productivity for the user.

Private Cloud

Private cloud in simple terms your own datacenter and hardware.
Companies having their own infrastructure located i.e on prem for the company to provide IT services. The company may have their own IT staff, and utilize some kind of flexibility, scalability, provisioning, automation and monitoring.
The Private cloud could also be located at some service providers datacenter for customers not wanting to manage this by themself.
The cost for the infrastructure are at the expense of the business, and regular upsizing, maintenance and hardware replacements are needed.
Private clouds are expensive to manage when putting all this together, but some companies are not ready or have regulatory needs to have IT close to them or OnPrem/same country etc.
For the companies they can still leverage the benefits of cloud architecture without giving up control of maintaining their own infrastructure.

If you are not in dire need to have dataproximity or on prem datacenter you should rather looking at the possibility to leverage public cloud or hybrid cloud for your IT.

It is normally the concern around security and compliance that keeps companies running this model.

(But really – do you think the countless number of expert employees at Microsoft/google/AWS have less security in place then your in house experts?)

Hybrid Cloud

A hybrid cloud is a co-existense of a private and a public cloud.
Companies can maintain control of their own private cloud infrastructure, and leverage resources from the public cloud as needed – giving more flexibility and mobility.

Companies can i.e put some workloads not needed 24/7 to public cloud with powermanagement solutions to control when the servers are powered on, making the cost parallel to the actual use for the workload.
For workloads having seasonal high demands, the company can scale up the workload in the public cloud on demand, when needed, and then tune it down when needed. Giving flexibillity and good user experience durint such times.

Having set up for a hybrid cloud also makes it easier to move step by step to full public cloud – no need to to a “forklift” to move all infrastructure at once, and rather move as time is right, and redisgning the infrastructure to reap the benefits most efficiently.

You could also leverage this approach to set up a failover site in the cloud in case of disaster, giving the business shorter recoverytime from a potential outage.

Senior System Consultant at Serit IT Partner Møre AS, localized in Møre og Romsdal, Norway. Primarily focus on virtualization and datacenter solutions. Specialized in Citrix XenApp/XenDesktop, certified CCE-V.

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