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Cloud Computing - So What Exactly Is 'The Cloud' and How Does It Help My Company?
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Cloud Computing

Cloud Computing

So What Exactly Is 'The Cloud' and How Does It Help My Company?

March 25, 2011

By Tracey E. Schelmetic
TMCnet Contributor

Cloud computing is one of those terms – you have to hear it many, many times before you actually absorb it. It gets thrown around a lot these days in business and even at home: numerous technology companies advertise the benefits of “cloud” direct to consumers in television commercials. But it's one of those terms that... if you're not looking for it... it passes you by. So what is it, and what can it do for you, particularly in the enterprise?

Cloud computing often goes by different names and can take several forms. Software-as-a-service (SaaS (News - Alert)) is a method of providing enterprise users with on-demand access to an applications that a company would have accessed 10 years ago by purchasing the physical software and running it on an in-house server, according to a new white paper by NaviSite called, “Cloud Computing Primer: Introduction to Cloud Computing Services.” Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS), another configuration of cloud computing, is also an application delivery model, but one that provides a comprehensive development platform to create applications and services. Finally, Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) provides the underlying infrastructure – for example, virtualized servers and storage – as an on-demand service.

The important take-away from this lesson is that when you go through “the cloud,” you are receiving applications – IT and communications functionality like customer relationship management software, e-mail management, enterprise resource management, inventory applications and even telephone service, to name a few examples – as services that are delivered over the Internet, not as a box of software that you must physically install on a computer that resides in your IT room.

At its core, cloud computing is on-demand provisioning and usage of elastic IT services, explains NaviSite (News - Alert). Cloud computing employs a pay-for-use billing model, ensuring that users pay only for what they provision and consume. Early-market cloud offerings were ideal for application development. Software developers, for instance, could quickly provision resources to accommodate their project requirements, and then turn off these resources once the development project reached completion.

When it comes to cloud services for enterprises, the requirements are unique. Companies need to be certain the application is working as it should, accessible to everyone who needs it, tracking and reporting on the pertinent events, and secure at all times. To this end, cloud-based services should provide enterprises with the tools – a Web-based management console or “dashboard” for instance – to allow enterprises to monitor, provision and manage the application in real-time. Well-made cloud applications offer resources to keep track of issues such as computing capacity, memory, storage and bandwidth. These management capabilities must be highly granular, allowing companies to use only the resources they need (since you're paying for only what you use, one of the great benefits of cloud-based applications).

Though some enterprises prefer to manage their applications on their own, most enterprises require some help – a more comprehensive management capability from their cloud service providers. Why? As enterprises start moving more of their workloads “to the cloud,” the tasks involved in managing the cloud environment become more complex and challenging. Without an appropriate level of management from the service provider, problems can occur that eat away at the benefits of using cloud-based solutions.

For more tips on enterprise management of cloud-based applications, read the full white paper here.

Tracey Schelmetic is a contributing editor for TMCnet. To read more of Tracey's articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Patrick Barnard

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