Let’s suppose you are an executive in a large company. You have the responsibility of making sure all employees have the hardware and software they require to perform their job. It’s not enough to buy computers for everyone. You also need to purchase software licenses or hardware to provide the tools your employees require. You will need to purchase additional software for a new hire or ensure that your current software license permits another user. It’s so stressful that you find it difficult to go to sleep on your huge pile of money every night.
There may soon be an alternative for executives like yourself. Instead of downloading a whole suite of programs for every computer, you would only need to install one application. This application would allow workers access a Web-based service that hosts all the programs they need to do their job. Remote machines owned by another company would run everything from e-mail to word processing to complex data analysis programs. It is called Cloud Computing and could revolutionize the computer industry.
A cloud computing system can significantly shift the workload. Cloud computing eliminates the need for local computers to perform all of the heavy lifting in order to run applications. Instead, the cloud’s network of computers handles them. The user’s hardware and software requirements decrease. Only one thing the user’s computer must be able to do is run the cloud computing system’s Interface software. This can be as simple and straightforward as a Web browser. The cloud’s network will take care of everything else.
You’re likely to have used cloud computing in some capacity. If you have an email account with a Web-based E-mail Service like Hotmail or Yahoo! If you have an e-mail account with a Web-based e-mail service like Hotmail or Yahoo! Mail, you will be familiar with cloud computing. Instead of running an e-mail program on your computer, you log in to a Web e-mail account remotely. Your account’s software and storage are not stored on your computer. They are on the cloud.
What is a cloud computing system? Learn more in the next section.
Cloud Computing Architecture
It is helpful to break down a cloud computing system into two parts: the front and back ends. They can connect through a network, which is usually the Internet. The client or computer user sees the front end. The “cloud” section is at the back of the system.
The front end includes the client’s computer (or computer network) and the application required to access the cloud computing system. Cloud computing systems do not all have the same user interface. Web-based e mail programs such as Web-based eMail use existing Web browsers, like Internet Explorer and Firefox. Other systems offer unique services that allow clients to access the network.
The back end of the system is where you will find the servers, computers and data storage systems that make up the “cloud” of computing service. A cloud computing system could theoretically include any program that you can think of, including data processing and video games. Usually, each application will have its own dedicated server.
The system is managed by a central server that monitors traffic and clients to ensure smooth operation. It uses special software called middleware and follows protocols. Middleware allows computers connected to each other. Servers don’t always run at their full potential. This means that there is unused processing power being wasted. You can fool a physical server to think it’s multiple servers running their own operating systems. This technique is known as server virtualization. Server virtualization allows for the maximization of the output from individual servers. This reduces the need to have more physical machines.
Cloud computing companies that have many clients will likely need a lot more storage space. Many companies need hundreds of digital storage devices. Cloud computing systems require at least twice as many storage devices to store all the information of its clients. These devices, just like all computers, can sometimes fail. Cloud computing systems must create a copy of all client information and store it on another device. These copies allow the central server access to backup machines in order to retrieve data that would otherwise be impossible. Redundancy is the making of backup copies of data.
What are some cloud computing applications? Continue reading to learn more.
Cloud Computing Applications
Cloud computing has many applications. Cloud computing systems can run all programs that a regular computer could, provided they have the right middleware. A cloud computing system could run everything, from standard word processing software to custom computer programs created for a particular company.
Who would want to depend on another computer system for programs and data storage? Here are a few:
Clients could access their data and applications from any location at any time. They could access the cloud computing system using any computer linked to the Internet. The data wouldn’t be limited to one computer, or even an organization’s internal network.
It could lower hardware costs. Cloud computing systems could reduce the requirement for high-end hardware on the client’s side. The cloud system will take care of all your needs, so you don’t have to purchase the fastest and most powerful computer. You could instead buy a cheap computer terminal. A terminal could have a monitor and input devices such as a keyboard or mouse. It would also be able to run the middleware required to connect to the cloud. Because all of your information would be stored on a remote computer, you won’t need a huge hard drive.
Computers are a critical part of any company’s business. They must ensure that they have the correct software to accomplish their goals. These companies have company-wide access and use cloud computing systems to access computer applications. Companies don’t need to purchase software or licenses for each employee. A metered fee could be paid to a cloud computing company.
Space is taken up by servers and digital storage devices. Because they don’t have the space on-site, some companies rent physical space to house servers and databases. These companies can store data on another company’s hardware without the need to have it on site.
Companies might be able to save money on IT support. A network of heterogeneous machines would have more problems than a streamlined hardware system.
The back end of the cloud computing system could be a grid computing system so that clients can take advantage the whole network’s processing power. Scientists and researchers often work with complex calculations that would require years of processing by individual computers. A grid computing system allows clients to send their calculations to the cloud for processing. The cloud system would use all the computing power available on the back end to speed up the calculation.
Although cloud computing seems to have many benefits, what are the potential issues? Learn more in the next section.
Who’s Who in Cloud Computing?
Many of the cloud computing companies are well-known names in the industry. Microsoft, IBM and Google are investing millions of dollars into research. Some believe Apple may explore the possibility of making interface hardware for cloud computing systems.
Cloud Computing: Concerns
Cloud computing is a hot topic because of its security and privacy. Some people are concerned about the idea of giving sensitive data to another company. Corporate executives might hesitate to take advantage of a cloud computing system because they can’t keep their company’s information under lock and key.
Contrary to this argument, cloud computing companies live and die by the reputations they have built. These companies benefit from having reliable security measures in place. The service could lose all of its clients if it didn’t have reliable security measures. They are motivated to use the best methods to protect their clients’ data
Privacy is another matter. It’s possible that a client could log in from any place to access data or applications. Cloud computing companies must find ways to protect clients privacy. One method is to use passwords and user names as authentication. Another option is to use an authorization format. Each user has access to only the data and applications that are relevant to their job.
Some questions about cloud computing are more philosophical. Is the cloud computing service owned by the subscriber or company? Is the data owned by the cloud computing service that provides the storage space? Can a cloud computing company deny access to client data? These and other questions are being debated by several companies, universities, and law firms.
What will cloud computing do to other industries? Cloud computing is causing concern in the IT sector. It could have a negative impact on computer maintenance and repair. Companies will have less IT requirements if they switch to streamlined computing systems. According to some industry experts, IT jobs will move to the back of the cloud computing system.
Autonomic computing is another area of computer science research. Autonomic computing systems are self-managing. This means that the system monitors itself and takes steps to fix or prevent problems. Autonomic computing is still a theoretical concept. However, autonomic computing could be a reality and eliminate many IT maintenance jobs.
You can find out more information about cloud computing or related topics by visiting the links at the bottom of the page.
Private Eyes are Watching You
Cloud computing companies could be hit with a few common hacker techniques. Key logging is one of these hacker tricks. A key logging program records keystrokes. A hacker can load a keylogging program onto a victim’s computer and then analyze the keystrokes for user names or passwords. It is possible to install the program on a user’s computer if it is a simple terminal.
This article is part of a series about cloud computing, cloud storage, and the future personal computing. Cloud computing was a buzzword that was used only by engineers, computer scientists and tech journalists at the time I wrote this article. Cloud computing is now a household name. Cloud computing applications are everywhere. Cloud computing technology is used by smartphone apps to store and retrieve data that would otherwise not be possible on your device. Cloud computing is used by research institutions to store large libraries of information. Video game companies are exploring ways to allow you to access state-of the-art games without having to invest in a large gaming rig. Although it can be hard to predict when a certain computing model will succeed, I believe we can all agree that cloud computing has been a great success.
Bogatin, Donna. “Google CEO’s New Paradigm: “Cloud computing and Advertising Go Hand-in-Hand.” ZDNet. August 23, 2006. Retrieved March 11, 2008. http://blogs.zdnet.com/micro-markets/?p=369
Brodkin Jon. “IBM unveils cloud computing. Network World. Nov. 19, 2007. Vol. Vol. 45. pg. 10.
Carr, Nicholas. “World Wide Computer” is at the horizon. USA Today. February 25, 2008.
Hickins, Michael. “Cloud Computing gets down to Earth” eWeek. January 21, 2008. 14.
IBM Introduces Ready-to Use Cloud Computing.” IBM. Nov. 15, 2007. http://www-03.ibm.com/press/us/en/pressrelease/22613.wss
Lohr, Steve. “Cloud Computing and EMC Deal.” New York Times. February 25, 2008. C 6.
Lohr, Steve. “Google and I.B.M. Jon in “Cloud Computing” Research. New York Times. Oct. 8, 2007, pg. Oct. 8, 2007. pg.
Lohr, Steve. “I.B.M. “I.B.M. to Push Cloud Computing,’ Using Data from Afar” New York Times. Nov. 15, 2007. pg. Nov. 15, 2007. pg.
McAllister, Neil. “Server virtualization.” InfoWorld. February 12, 2007. Retrieved March 12, 2008. http://www.infoworld.com/article/07/02/12/07FEvirtualserv_1.html
John Markoff. “An Internet Critic Who is Not Shy About Raising Big Names in High Technology.” New York Times. April. Apr. 9, 2001. pg.
John Markoff. “Software via the Internet: Microsoft Cloud Computing.” New York Times. Sep. 3, 2007, pg. Sep. 3, 2007. pg.
“Middleware.” Carnegie Mellon Software Engineering Institute. Retrieved March 12, 2004. http://www.sei.cmu.edu/str/descriptions/middleware_body.html.
Naone, Erica. “Computer in Cloud.” Technology Review. September 18, 2007. Retrieved March 12, 2008. http://www.technologyreview.com/Infotech/19397/?a=f
“Report shows big shift in IT delivery.” IT Week. London. Nov. 5, 2007.
Swanson, Bret, and Gilder George. “Unleashing The ‘Exaflood.’” Wall Street Journal. February 22, 2008, pg. A 15.
“The future IT? Nick Carr believes it’s not all bad news. Network World. January 14, 2008. Vol. Vol. 2. pg. 8.