Over the last decade, cloud computing has gone from being a buzzword to an essential component of web technology. Businesses, enticed away from traditional data center models by lower upfront capital costs and simpler solutions to scaling and reliability issues, have been adopting cloud technology in droves. In fact, the market for cloud computing solutions grew a staggering 21% in 2015 and promises to continue growing at a similar pace over the next five years. Major cloud infrastructure services like Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services have fueled new hiring strategies, with 81% of enterprises adopting DevOps strategies and engineers.
Still, for business leaders without a strong technical background, cloud computing can seem almost impenetrable. At its core, however, are a set of simple concepts that underlie all the technical tools deployed by engineering teams. Public cloud technology allows businesses to abandon the traditional model of large scale datacenter deployment, and to distribute their infrastructure across the globe with ease. Furthermore, Software as a Service (SaaS) models allow companies to distribute their teams, focus on results, and simplify licensing and software upgrade issues. The cloud computing revolution, when harnessed correctly, can cut costs and improve performance for businesses of all sizes.
Cloud Computing Fundamentals
Before publicly available cloud computing was available, businesses were forced to purchase and maintain their own servers on which to host their web applications and enterprise software. This model required significant upfront capital investment, which proved to be a seriously limiting factor on new businesses trying to establish a significant online presence. Since servers were generally located in one or two locations, catastrophic events like floods or power outages could completely take down a company's operation and lead to enormous costs. Furthermore, building highly available applications required distributing data centers across the globe, which added additional real estate and utility costs to any company looking to grow internationally.
Companies offering public and hybrid cloud solutions addressed these problems by fundamentally changing the pricing structure of computing power. Instead of treating computing and networking as an upfront capital cost, companies like Amazon and Rackspace allow firms to treat these as utility costs, only spending money on services as their consumed. Furthermore, they allow companies to rapidly scale their infrastructure up and down to meet demand automatically, reducing waste and allowing companies to develop highly available infrastructure services. Since most cloud computing companies are distributed across the globe, issues arising from a single point of failure can be mitigated, which further contributes to maintaining services with a 100% uptime goal.
IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS
Understanding the three major categories of cloud computing platforms is vital to any company trying to understand the prevailing business landscape. Infrastructure as a Service, the most basic of the services provided, is designed to provide the underlying architecture for software while building their own platform, essentially providing a virtual datacenter for businesses. Platform as a Service provides more functionality, sacrificing the ability to configure every detail for a functioning operating system and containers to execute software in. Software as a Service, like Microsoft Office 365 or a cloud-based business intelligence platform, provides end users and companies with fully-developed software through their browsers, and reduces the need for manual updates and upgrade costs associated with more traditional software distribution models.
While the technical details on how to deploy cloud solutions are complex, businesses armed with a strong understanding of the value of cloud computing can assess the benefits of cloud deployment and figure out what kind of cloud services are right for them. By switching to a cloud-based model of computing, businesses can reduce upfront capital costs and mitigate risks posed by single points of failure without compromising performance or security. Essentially converting computational power into a utility, cloud service providers have revolutionized digital business models.
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