Cloud Computing Articles One of the recent trends in the fast paced field of Information Technology is the development of cloud computing. Simply put, cloud computing is the outsourcing of business processing and storage to “virtual” servers over a network, most commonly the internet. The advance of network technology has allowed companies to transfer large amounts of their business intelligence systems to outside servers, without compromising data-transfer speed. Two recent articles from different publications covered the subject of cloud computing. The first, found online from InfoWorld. om, describes the different levels of cloud computing and what each entails. The second article, found in a monthly publication of Computer World, details the pros and cons of clouds in IT. According to the InfoWorld. com article, cloud computing is “a way to increase capacity or add capabilities on the fly without investing in new infrastructure, training new personnel, or licensing new software. Cloud computing encompasses any subscription-based or pay-per-use service that, in real time over the Internet, extends IT's existing capabilities. ” (InfoWorld. om) Clouds are a modern answer to IT’s ever increasing needs for storage space and computing power. There are several types of services that these virtual servers offer, ranging from utility applications to email spam filtering. Currently, most of the servers must be accessed individually, but they are becoming more integrated as the field progresses. One type of cloud computing, software as a service (SaaS), is the hosting of one software application through the internet. An example this type of application is Salesforce. com, a sales representative management system.
By providing the software online, Salesforce. com provides an easy way for managers to monitor and diagnose sales data, without the need for their own costly IT system in-house. SaaS also gives an advantage to the host company, because updates and bug fixes are limited to one program which they control. There are several variations to the Saas system that are offered in cloud computing. Utility computing involves a company’s memory, input / output Storage, and computational capacity being accessed through the network to a “virtual” server.
Currently, most cloud utility computing is for non critical intelligence, due to newness of the system. According to the article, these online servers could one day replace most of the current physical datacenter. Another variation to Saas within cloud computing is web based application programming interfaces. APIs are “interfaces implemented by an online source that enable interaction with other software” (Wikepedia. org). There is a wide range of APIs used with business intelligence.
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Some examples would be Google Maps used by delivery services, shipping tracking for UPS, or online tax processing programs such as TurboTax. One of the original forms of cloud computing are managed service providers (MSPs), which are applications that are exposed to the host company, rather than the end user. Examples of MSPs are e-mail virus scanning and anti-spam services, or desktop management offered by companies such as CenterBeam. Managed security services, such as firewalls, are also found within cloud computing.
The Computer World article goes further to describe an aspect of cloud computing called infrastructure as a service (Iaas). “With public cloud IaaS, organizations pay per use or per cluster of resources for an external cloud service provider to host their virtual servers… IT maintains control over the applications without worrying about configuring, upgrading or patching servers and other infrastructure. If a new application is needed, IT simply loads that application onto the service provider’s virtual server and the software is available to users” (Computer World).
By migrating the physical datacenters to virtual servers, companies are saving maintenance, power and labor costs from the upkeep of those resources. Most established companies are making the transition to clouds slowly, a couple of datacenters at a time, as they become outdated. Startup businesses, however, can use virtual servers as a great advantage to avoid costly equipment purchases. “Bernard Golden, CEO of consultancy HyperStatus, agrees that Iaas offers a lifeline when it comes to rising data center costs and real estate constraints.
It offers IT the opportunity to reduce the data center management burden, yet improve customer service” (Computer World). For a company who is contemplating the switch to virtual servers, there is also security and legality issues to consider. Migrating large amounts of data, without disrupting critical files, can be risky. One company, Amylin Pharmaceuticals, “started slowly with self contained, non mission critical applications such as testing and development so they could learn the ins and outs of moving into the cloud” (Computer World).
The company should inquire as to the host server’s security and firewall systems, and should always keep hard copies of important data and applications. Business documents that are highly valuable to a company, such as patent documents, customer databases, and technical drawings are not usually stored in the cloud network. The international field of computer hacking is expanding, especially in developing countries, making industrial espionage a serious subject for businesses to consider. A company migrating to cloud computing must also consider the legal aspects of moving their IT systems.
Software licenses may not apply to a public network, where the applications can be shared by several end user computers. The company should also know the terms of contracting with the cloud servers, should they decide to break or end the agreement. All data that could be detrimental to the firm should be destroyed by the host server once the contract is void. Some businesses are closely regulated by government agencies such as the FDA or ANSA, and should keep relative files readily accessible. There are also government regulations to consider concerning customer information.
The article describes how IT manager Charles Swartz, of Preferred Hotel Group, adheres to regulations. “Because the company deals with credit card transactions, it must follow the Payment Card Data Security Standard, which requires physical control over servers handling that data. To avoid any complications, Swartz makes sure all credit card transactions go directly to a third party and he avoids keeping any of that data on his outsourced infrastructure” (Computer World). Another issue to consider when switching to a cloud network is computing speed.
Where IT systems may have been fast to load or run on a local area network, a wide area network could transfer at a higher or lower speed. With modern business transactions becoming faster than ever, customers expect quick response. “Delays of just a few milliseconds can cause them [end users] to be frustrated” (Computer World). Switching to cloud networks can be an advantage to speed, if the cloud provides a larger bandwidth than the in-house servers. A higher bandwidth also allows more end users to access the system at once without slowing download speeds significantly. Jason Harper, vice president of technology at Morgans Hotel Group in New York, say customer satisfaction has increased at his shop because end users are accessing their files faster via the cloud” (Computer World). One recommended use of the cloud system is test run or seasonal IT systems. Rather than expanding physical datacenter space for temporary projects, the public servers can be easily setup to run and store data. “The public cloud is great for short term usage, since very few enterprises have spare servers lying around anymore.
Instead, it enables IT to have quick response to new projects without having to preplan” (Computer World). The article does warn, however, that low barrier to entry can be over-sourced. Often-times end users might jump into applications on cloud networks without consulting their IT professionals. This could lead to costly changes down the line, which could have been easily fixed at the setup of the systems. Despite being in an early stage of development, cloud computing already has a definite niche in the business and IT world.
One of the main drawbacks at this point is the lack of integration between systems. Previous attempts to create cloud integration technology, such as CapeClear’s enterprise service bus, and a universal bus system by Grand Central, have failed to stay in business. The overall trend of using virtual servers, however, does seem appear to be here to stay. Sources: “What Cloud Computing Really Means” Infoworld. com Knorr, 4-27-2008 http://www. infoworld. com/d/cloud-computing/what-cloud-computing-really-means-031 “Moving to the cloud: Big savings, but plan ahead” Computer World Gittlen, March 2010
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