What Is Cloud Computing?
If you’ve come hear about tomorrow’s weather or to find out about clouds in the sky, then you’re in the wrong place but if you’ve been hearing about “the cloud” at work and you’re not sure what people are talking about, then hopefully this will help you better understand.
I have been working in IT for the last 24 years, seen technology come and go. But I have to say when I heard about “the cloud”, I was a bit skeptical to start with. The year was early 2010. I remember reading an article stating that IBM was going to change the way we all connected to company resources (company data like, email, files, folders, databases, etc.) and that the way of the future is “cloud computing”.
I have to admit we were a very early adopter of the whole “cloud computing” concept. In fact, we took a really big gamble at the time, because a lot of IT engineers believed that the whole “cloud computing” concept was just a buzz word, and that it would not last more than a year or two.
So knowing the history of computing over the last 60 or so years. I couldn’t help thinking that if cloud computing is the future of computing, then that means we are going full circle and going back to a concept that we all started using at the dawn of computing as we know it.
Here is some background:
Multiple users were able to access a central mainframe through dumb terminals.
1970 – 1980:
The concept of the virtual machine was created, it became possible to execute one or more operating systems in an isolated environment. The VM-CP by IBM was the first real hypervisor to support full virtualization. This was then later, in the 1980’s further developed by IBM to be the IBM AIX system, with a UNIX based operating system.
In the 1990’s (the era of the virtualized private network connections), telecommunication companies could provide the same service quality as their dedicated services, at a reduced cost. Telecommunication companies were able to provide users with shared access to the same physical infrastructure.
This then changed the way we could connect and access data:
Grid Computing – Solving large problems with parallel computing.
Utility Computing – Offering computing resources as a metered service.
Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) – Network-based subscription services and applications.
Cloud Computing – Anytime, anywhere access to IT resources delivered as a service.
So to make this simple, we need to go back a few years. Traditionally at every organisation there were a bunch of servers in a room – that’s basically a big tin box that runs software. The software running on that tin is used to manage your business. For example, when you get an email, that’s been through an Exchange Server to make sure it goes the right person, it doesn’t have any viruses and so on. Or if you collect data, that’s stored in a database which is usually on the server too. Or if you store your documents in a file share – yep you guessed it – that’s on a server also.
So servers have always been super important in running any business. But they cost a lot of money. You have to buy the hardware plus the software to run on it – plus you have to pay to allow people to access that software. Then you have to pay IT professionals to manage the servers and make sure they work. Then you need to have a cool room to store them in – oh, and you have to continuously back up everything on that server.
So some genius decided that the power of the internet could take all that pain and heartache away from businesses. ‘What if I could get someone else to run all the servers somewhere else?’ and boom the cloud was born.
The cloud is just a datacentre (i.e. a huge warehouse filled with rows and rows of servers) that runs somewhere else. And someone else manages those servers for you, and keeps them up to date.
I’m going to use Office 365 as an example to make this real. Office 365 is what we called Software as a Service which means that you subscribe to Office 365 just as you would to Netflix or Foxtel, and then you let Microsoft manage all the software you would have traditionally had to manage in your own servers. For example, as part of your subscription, you get email for all your employees and that email is secured and managed by Microsoft.
There is a good chance that you are already using the cloud in your every day, Instagram stores your photos in the cloud, most accounting software these days, ie: MYOB, Xero and Intuit software, already provide a cloud based solution. When you make bookings through travel websites, chances are you’re using the cloud. And that game you’re addicted to on your phone is likely being run out of the cloud as well. These days most businesses require access to information on the go, anytime, anywhere and a number of them have some or all of their technology running in the cloud.
Fast forward to now, I am now a CEO for the cloud computing company we took a gamble on, who specializes in the cloud computing space. We specialize in providing the total desktop experience in the cloud. We then took it one step further providing direct access to a company’s network in the cloud and providing exactly what cloud computing is … anytime, anywhere access to IT resources as a service.
As an outcome of all of our research and development in cloud computing, we have been listed in APAC CIO Outlook Magazine – Cloud Computing Edition, as one of the top 25 most promising cloud solution providers for 2016. It’s an honor to be listed in this magazine.
There is one thing I would like everyone to take away from reading this article. Some time ago, around 2013 I read an article from Gartner research, stipulating that they have predicted that by 2017 cloud computing will no longer be classed as “cloud computing”, that it will become the platform for what we will use in the future and it will just be known as … computing.
If you really think about it, we all have a smart phones these days, we all have some sort of connection to the cloud already, it’s a bit like judgement day in the movie Terminator … “it’s inevitable”.