The Information Technology (IT) industry has always been structured in a manner that enhances improvement on its services and computing powers with the minimal infrastructural acquisition, personnel training, or licensing of the new software (Knorr and Gruman, 2011). One technology that has been employed in the achievement of this endeavor is the use and creation of cloud computing. Cloud computing is a term that was coined as a metaphor representing the infrastructural network being used by myriads of computers and servers. This term has also been described differently based on its user application, infrastructure using it, and supplying the services (Vaquero, Rodero-Merino, Caceres, & Lindner, 2009). This paper explores the definition of cloud computing, its myriads of application in the IT industry, its advantages, histories, development, its future, and issues affecting it.
Based on the payment system, cloud computing is defined as a pay-per-use or subscription-based service that broadens its current capabilities and structures. In the networking field, cloud computing is comparable to grid computing, where computers in a network with idle processing cycles are harnessed to work out problems or issues that are too exhaustive for accomplishment by a single machine (Knorr and Gruman, 2011). In cloud computing, the shared IT infrastructure involves a network of servers that operate through virtualization to perform high-quality and highly intensive computing processes and tasks. Using web terminology, cloud computing is the storage and data processing via the use of a web browser, rather than the direct use of the personal computer or office server. Therefore, it can be described as the provision and acquisition of information, software applications, and IT resources through internet-based computing where computers and mobile devices get them on demand (Vaquero, Rodero-Merino, Caceres, & Lindner, 2009). Therefore, professionally, cloud computing can simply be described as the use of the Internet to access IT infrastructure, web services, and web-based applications as a service either freely, or on a structured payment system depending on the company providing the service.
Cloud computing offers a unique opportunity for different commercial entities, such as businesses and organizations, as well as experts in the IT industry to improve their computing performance at low costs. It allows for these improved capacities at low costs since the user or organization does not require the purchasing and maintenance costs for servers, but instead pays a cheap premium to use the same computing power as the servers. Second, cloud computing maximizes the use of computing through shared resources, where users access the resources in large numbers (Tsagklis, 2013). Additionally, the shared resources involve the redirection of the infrastructure on an as demanded basis. For instance, due to the global time differences, cloud users in Asia could use the infrastructure during their daytime hours, which is usually a night in America, while American users could use the cloud services during their daytime peak demand. This form of shared resources allows the users to access the cloud infrastructure on a continual basis without interruption as and when needed.
Cloud computing is also environmentally friendly since multiple users access one single server, which ultimately uses less power, rack space, and air conditioning of the machines. The need for the purchase of different licenses by multiple users to access single software is infinitely reduced since the same software is available on one single server. Cloud computing also offers unlimited storage capacities, which is critical for large businesses that process and store large volumes of data. Cloud computing also offers users an opportunity for backup and recovery of data stored in the cloud. Cloud computing offers automatic software integration whereby the applications spontaneously structure, customize, and integrate themselves according to one’s preferences, rather than one manually performing the customization. Cloud computing also offers users the ability for ease of information, in spite of their geographical or physical locations. This means that one does not have to travel around with storage devices or computer processing devices continually; rather, one only needs a device that can access the cloud. Finally, cloud computing allows for quick deployment, which means that it is easy to set up depending on the required technology to be used.
Privacy and Security
The storage and processing of data through the Internet creates an issue in relation to data security and threats. This is because the Internet is an open-source field with myriads of users including hackers (Kent, 2013). Therefore, unless one acquires high-tech data security systems, one’s information within the cloud is vulnerable to attacks, access, and manipulation without their knowledge or approval.
Technical Issues, Dependency, and Vendor Lock-In
Cloud computing infrastructure is prone to outages and mishaps that could have dire results on one’s usage. They present an inconvenience since one can no longer access the services due to low internet speeds, server timeout or log-off, or system malfunctions (Kent, 2013). In the event that one has become completely dependent on cloud computing, a malfunction could mean that all computing ends until the servers or cloud becomes operational thus limiting one’s performance and functionality while computing. Additionally, large businesses, store and process large volumes of information and in some instances use only one cloud service provider. This means that the large volume of information stored would be cumbersome to transfer to another cloud service provider hence having to stick with their original provider. This situation is referred to as vendor lock-in.
Latency and Inflexibility
Latency is a major issue when using cloud services since it affects the time one can access information in the cloud as compared to accessing it directly from the computer or office server. For instance, data speeds are significantly reduced during periods of heavy traffic. Second, the use of cloud services can be inflexible since some services offer software with limited usage capabilities, as compared to software that one has on their PC. Therefore, these restrictions for some Software as a service (Saas) may lead to the users feeling shortchanged and inconveniencing them greatly.
History of Cloud Computing
Cloud computing use can be traced to the 1950s during the use of large mainframe computers by schools and corporations. The hardware infrastructure for the gargantuan mainframe would be stored in a single space where multiple users could access it via ‘dumb or static terminals’. This central mainframe was structured in a manner that ensured maximum use through sharing physical access and CPU time during periods of inactivity. In the 1970s, IBM introduced the VM operating software that facilitated administrator with multiple virtual systems in one physical mode. This allowed multiple individual computer environments to be sustainable in the same physical environment, which is considered as the cradle for most virtualization software. The shared resources in the VM operating systems allowed for custom or guest operating systems with their own keyboards, memory, hard drives, CD-ROMs, and networking.
In the 1990s, telecommunication companies began the use of virtual private networks (VPNs) that allowed users to utilize the same physical infrastructure to increase bandwidth utility and network balance. During this period, the Internet was experiencing an upsurge in usage hence necessitating the need for the increase that was expensive to acquire. Therefore, to maximize efficiency, virtualization through virtual Private Servers, and Virtual Dedicated Servers was done via shared web hosting. These resources had limited features such as multi-tenant, easy-to-use interface, resource size flexibility, automated provisioning, and partial infrastructure demand. Additionally, using software called Hypervisor; several servers could be combined to represent one physical node (Liebenau, 2010).
Applications provision over the Internet began through salesforce.com, which in 1999 began delivering enterprise applications through their website. In 2002, Amazon introduced web-based services that had storage and computation. In 2006, it then introduced the Elastic Compute cloud that allowed users to rent their own online computers to run their online applications. Two thousand and nine witnessed the advent of web 2.0 and Google with the latter offering browser-based enterprise applications via such services as Google apps. One of the most recent and useful discoveries for cloud computing is the Soft layer’s IMS that allows for servers in data centers to automatically come online, rather than through the use of virtualization and hypervisor software.
A cloud client is simply the hardware or software that is reliant on cloud computing for delivery of some, or all of its applications, or for the delivery of cloud services, without which its functionality would be limited. Devices that are classified as cloud clients are such as computers, tablets, laptops, and smart phones, while those that deliver cloud services are as browser-based Chrome books and thin clients. Web user applications such as Ajax and HTML5 are useful for accessing cloud services, rather than using the software.
Currently, cloud computing is considered to have reached a desirable maturity level since a majority of issues or problems that affect its development have been sorted out, thus, making it attractive for commercial exploitation. One of the major areas that have been identified for improvement is data-centric platforms, in-memory services, and streaming data services (Ahmad, 2010). This is because it is estimated that in the future, there will be an increase in cloud applications that are data intensive. Cloud clients such as cars, glasses, and TOLED devices are expected to rise due to the huge investments in devices that cater to different needs of people (Page, 2010). Another improvement in cloud computing will be proactive application monitoring that will involve automatic and intensive data processing that has predictive technology. This could be useful to businesses and science in the forecasting of data that will guide their decision-making process.
The advent of low power processing for data centers will significantly lower costs, while simultaneously increasing performance and uptime for users thus improving service delivery and efficiency (Clark, 2012). Cloud clients such as mobile phones are also expected to become cheaper, lighter, and have higher performance as it is expected that manufacturers could revert to the use of cloud computing for data processing and storage. It is also expected that cloud computing will develop to have centralized data systems where companies can create huge databases such as patient records that can be managed, stored, and retrieved efficiently and from multiple locations. Finally, it is expected that in the future, cloud computing will be very cheap to access and use. This is already happening as evidenced by the recent price reductions by different companies such as Google, Microsoft, and Amazon that are seeking to increase their market share.
This is not a public cloud, but rather the users have to be accepted by the vendor to prevent unauthorized access. Data connections could be encrypted and the service could be guided by a contract that outlines the responsibilities of both the vendor of the service and the user accessing the services (Mirashe and Kalyankar, 2010). The cloud service vendor has to undergo audits by certified autonomous third parties such as ISO or AICPA to ensure their viability and ability to follow due process in enhancing customer safety, privacy, and service use.
This cloud is usually utilized by a single organization. Its management, operation, or ownership could be by the organization or an outside third party and it could be internally or externally located on the premises. This form of cloud is usually capital-intensive due to the physical footprint that needs to have space, environmental management, and hardware (Mirashe and Kalyankar, 2010). Therefore, this system does not support the ideals of cloud computing since it is costly to manage, operate, and own the hardware and software components, while cloud computing is supposed to reduce costs and hardware acquisition.
This is a form of cloud computing where services are open for public use. It employs a similar model as the private cloud, with the exception that communication for the former is over an untrusted network and the security considerations are minimal (Liebenau, 2010). In this system, services are only offered through the internet, while direct connectivity is unavailable. The cloud-computing infrastructure is owned, managed, and operated by any organization with its location being in the organization providing the service.
The cloud-computing infrastructure is structured for use by a specific community of consumers with shared ideals or concerns such as security, jurisdiction, compliance, and missions (Laharika and Parsi, 2013). The cost parameters are spread across the specific users thus acting as a communal sharing that is cheaper than a private cloud, but more expensive than a public cloud.
This system involves two or more distinctive cloud infrastructures, such as private, controlled, public, or community that share similar data and application portability, but tend to remain as distinctive entities.
According to the National Institute of Standards and Technology, there are five essential characteristics of cloud computing;
Broad Network Access: The network provides capabilities that can be accessed through ordinary systems that could either promote the use of heterogeneous thin or thick platforms such as laptops, tablets, computers, or mobile phones (Mell and Grance, 2011).
Resource Pooling: A multi-tenant model is utilized to furnish multiple customers by pooling the vendors’ computing resources. The consumer demand determines the assignation and reassignment of different virtual and physical resources. In this instance, the customer is unaware of the specific locality of the resources being provided, though they could be able to pinpoint this location at an elevated abstraction level.
Rapid Elasticity: It is possible to automatically or elastically liberate and provision capabilities based on the demand needs that would require rapidly inward or outward commensuration.
On-demand Self Service: In this system, there is less human interaction since the system automatically and unilaterally provides computing power like processing power or network storage as is needed by a consumer (Mell and Grance, 2011).
Measured Service: It is possible for transparency of service utility for both the user and vendor through the control, monitoring, and reporting of resource use. A metering ability applied at some level of the construct is leveraged to automatically enhance and regulate the use of resources for the cloud systems.
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