Cloud Computing: The Next Generation of Computing Power

August 19, 2009

Cloud ComputingThis article is a technical overview to Cloud Computing. Cloud computing is a very broad and technical topic. To discuss the specifics of how Cloud Computing fits into your organization, give us a call at Emerson Technologies today.

What is cloud computing? Perhaps you’ve heard of it. Cloud computing is really the next generation of computing power. Cloud Computing isn’t a new fad that will be around for a limited time. It’s a new way of thinking about your company’s computing needs. Cloud computing is essentially having various parts of your company floating out on a “cloud” somewhere on the internet. There are three different levels of cloud computing.

The first level is the application layer. This is the layer that most people are actually using in one way or another, commonly through email services such as gmail or yahoo mail. It is greatly more important to the user that their email works and they can connect to it from anywhere more-so than how it works or where it’s stored. It’s out there somewhere. This is different than a typical exchange environment where the email is all stored locally or on a server. What if something were to happen to the server? What would happen to all the emails? There is no guarantee that everything will be safe.

Using the idea that it’s more important that an application works rather than how it works, we can expand to the next level of cloud computing: platforms in the cloud. Say you work for a company that sells specially cut ceramic tiles for counter-tops. Say you need to keep track of each individual piece and find out where it is going. Instead of having to have an application installed on each and every computer at your office, (and have to worry about always keeping it upgraded), there are companies that will design an application for you and host it on a platform in the cloud. This means that all a user has to do is log into the service via any computer, and all of your data is stored there. You never have to worry about the platform going down or crashing, and you never have to worry about making sure it’s up to date; all of that is done for you. You simply login to the web interface and your application is right there for you. If something happens to your computer, you can use a different one or replace the current one, but you don’t have to worry at all about reinstalling the application / upgrades / patches and everything else associated with it! That saves a lot of time. To understand more about this idea, see the video at the bottom of this article.

The third and most powerful layer of cloud computing is the infrastructure layer. This is essentially hosting in the cloud. Instead of having one or two local servers that you pay for up front and have to maintain, you use the cloud computing concept of paying as you go. The idea behind this is what if you are a rapidly growing company? It costs a lot of money to upgrade hardware and keep buying new servers to meet your needs. What if they break down? Now you have more costs associated with it. The entire idea behind cloud computing is that you only pay for what you use, and you don’t have to worry about maintaining hardware. The demand you have for more or less space, more or less power is all taken care of in the cloud. It is a variable amount of computing power that you have; you only use what you need.

Here is an analogy to further explain cloud computing. Say you buy software / hardware. You pay cash upfront and get all the support / warranty whether you use it or not, much like buying a brand new car. Say you use software as a service which is licensing software to you. You pay for however mean licenses you need and have to keep paying to keep a valid subscription, no matter how much you use it. It’s like leasing a vehicle. You can’t really change or modify it because it doesn’t really belong to you. Cloud computing is like a taxi. It’s at your disposal whenever you need. You don’t pay maintenance or tolls. You only pay for how far you go on a given day.

Overall, cloud computing is still in its early phases, but it can greatly decrease costs for larger companies by allowing them to only pay for what they use. It can help save costs associated with hardware and upgrades because everything is done for you on the “cloud”. It is powerful; it is efficient; it is cloud computing.

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