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Cloud Computing esssay

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  • 1. Steven Hotson COMP 3002 – Assignment 2 16/06/2010 Is Cloud Computing the Future of IT? The current volatility of the economy has put significant pressure on the budgets of small-to-medium sized companies. To reduce IT maintenance and running costs, a reduction in installed software and supporting hardware would greatly benefit a business. Cloud computing relates to the replacement of computing services and utilities physically from business servers or home computers onto the internet (cloud). The applications are then accessed directly from the internet via a subscription fee. As more applications are becoming available to anyone with access to an internet browser, is the future of IT set to be solely remotely accessible? Security and privacy are immediate issues which arise when a business is concerned with the internet. Businesses would need to determine the feasibility of acquiring their applications and utilities directly from the web rather than in- house from their own servers. Investigation into the underlying concepts and models of cloud computing and the implementation for a business, will allow a better understanding of the future of cloud computing and IT. This will include the study of current cloud computing utilities, what types of businesses are using them and their evident advantages and disadvantages. Underlying Concepts and Models ‘Cloud computing’ is described by Computer Weekly magazine as, ‘a deployment model leveraged by IT to reduce infrastructure costs and/or address capacity/scalability issues’ (MacVittie, 2008). Cloud computing refers to the virtualisation of an existing data centre in order to provide users with applications and utilities remotely. This involves the concept of ‘Software as a Service’ where ‘applications are available on demand on a subscription basis’ (Hirschfield, 2008). Software as a Service (SaaS) is believed by many to be the ‘new wave of application software distribution’ and that ‘traditional packaged desktop and enterprise applications will be swept away by the tide of Web-based products’ (Hoch et al., 2001). This supports the idea that web-based software removes an organisation’s responsibility for installation, upgrades and maintenance which subsequently reduces IT overheads. SaaS may initially display advantages but still faces several obstacles which must be overcome before widespread adoption of the concept can be achieved. As applications are developed with the idea that ‘one size fits all’, problems arise concerning larger organisations with more complex requirements. Other issues include the limitations on customising software whilst renting, as the software still belongs to the original vendor. ‘Virtualisation’ is described by Hirschfield (2008) as the ‘separation of the operating system from the underlying hardware’. This concept allows the understanding that by providing software services without the restriction of hardware and location, IT operating costs can be significantly reduced. The 1 of 9
  • 2. Steven Hotson COMP 3002 – Assignment 2 16/06/2010 increased utilisation of server computing power reduces the amount of applications competing for resources and therefore reduces server operating and maintenance costs. A ‘Cloud’ can be described a: ‘A totally reliable, extensible and manageable software platform that delivers a self-healing and self-managing data centre’ (Strassmann, 2008). A Virtual Data Centre (VDC) satisfies the needs of the user by providing ‘flexibility, speed, resiliency and efficiency’ whilst guaranteeing suitable levels of ‘availability, security and scalability to all applications independent of hardware and location’ (VMware.com, 2008). The virtualisation of a business’s current data centre transforms their system into an ‘internal cloud’, which unites their on- site hardware and software and also incorporates existing ‘external clouds’. This step ‘frees IT from the constraints of hardware-mapped applications’ (Strassmann, 2008). Unlike a traditional operating system which is suitable for a single server, the VDC or ‘cloud’ acts as an operating system (OS) for the entire data centre. The VDC helps to cope with the constant fluctuations in customer requirements and demand for round-the-clock support. The virtualisation of data centres and the availability of many ‘external clouds’ allows much needed computing power to be freed up for use elsewhere. This new cloud-based OS specifically aids mobile workers who are constantly on the move and require a constant and stable working environment. As the cloud OS can run on any computer with a suitable internet browser, ‘the technology facilitates collaboration among multiple work centres’ (Lawton, 2008). In order to adopt the concept of cloud computing into a business environment, it is necessary to follow a number of progressional steps. The model will aid in a deeper understanding of the employment of cloud computing for a business. The purpose of the Cloud Computing Adoption Model is to provide a: ‘graduated, stepwise approach which allows the benefits to be realised along the way by laying out a clear path without putting projects, budgets and careers at risk’ (Hirschfield, 2008). The adoption model (Figure 1) begins with the basic prerequisite level which is required before any organisation will be able to enter the world of cloud computing. Virtualisation is the ‘vehicle which makes it possible for application to become portable across platforms’ (Hirschfield, 2008). The five levels of the model progress an organisation from the basic level of ‘virtualisation’, up to the highest level of ‘true cloud actualisation’. 2 of 9
  • 3. Steven Hotson COMP 3002 – Assignment 2 16/06/2010 Figure 1; the Cloud Computing Adoption Model Source: The Pragmatist’s Guide to Cloud Computing (Hirschfield, 2008). The first step in the model involves the need to ‘virtualize infrastructure and applications’ in order to ensure compatibility and accessibility to others operating within the cloud. This involves the organisation making several essential decisions regarding their virtualisation strategy. This includes which virtualisation platform will be selected as the set standard and how their applications will be packaged and managed. Advantages of the virtualisation stage include ‘increased server utilisation, lower operating costs, rapid deployment and improved business responsiveness’ (Hirschfield, 2008). The second step looks at gaining real-life experience by experimenting with cloud computing and gaining valuable knowledge to help the business progress. Amazon provides a useful infrastructure tool1 allowing developers to test their initial virtual applications without the need of obtaining and configuring new servers first. The service only charges for the capacity that is actually used by the user. This stage also provides the IT team with essential cloud experience and allows the concept to be put forward other departments who may see the potential of employing this infrastructure. The third stage of the model is where the basis of the application architecture will be laid. Here the knowledge and experience gained during the model’s second stage is employed. This involves the formation of the cloud including procedures, policies, controls and governance, and focuses on ‘internal, non- mission critical applications’ (Sorofman, 2008). Stage four, ‘Cloud Advancement’, is where the business either builds their own cloud or commits to a commercially available cloud via subscription. This stage 1 ‘Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) is a web service that provides resizable compute capacity in the cloud’. Source: http://aws.amazon.com/ec2, 2008. 3 of 9
  • 4. Steven Hotson COMP 3002 – Assignment 2 16/06/2010 requires a solid infrastructure which must be implemented throughout the organisation. Here all the applications should be in production and will require ‘tweaking’ as the applications progress. At this stage it should also be possible to notice significant improvements in both ‘business agility and flexibility’ due to the implementation of the cloud-based applications (Hirschfield, 2008). Stage five represents the fifth and final level of the Cloud Computing Adoption Model. At this stage it is possible to see the effects cloud computing is having on both users and the business environment. Benefits of reaching the top level of the model include the ability to provide self-service facilities to customers and provide applications on request without the restrictions of hardware, implementation and configuration costs. Having successfully implemented a fully sustainable computing cloud, it is evident that a number of significant advantages and disadvantages will arise that must be addressed. These issues may be better understood with the analysis of current businesses and utilities that are currently supplying and utilising aspects of cloud computing. Cloud Computing Implemented Cloud Computing is not a new concept in the world of IT. There is already a great deal of evidence of this technology already taking off with companies such as Amazon, Google and Salesforce CRM are already providing services that utilise the technology of cloud computing. Amazon was one of the first businesses to break into the cloud computing market. Amazon provides any business with the opportunity to set foot in cloud computing market with an array of useful web-based services. They provide businesses with a variety of infrastructure services on a pay-as-you-go basis allowing them to be run directly from Amazon’s data centre. The web services cover a broad range of uses including storage, computer processing, message queuing and a database management system. These services have attracted businesses of all sizes due to ‘low up-front costs, scalability up and down, and IT resource flexibility’ (Hover and Martin, 2008). Interest has also developed with medical experts as potential for cost savings from flexibility and the ease of use for ‘cash-strapped biomedical researchers who need to collect and crunch terabytes of complex information’ (McGee, 2008). These web-based services also provide a potential for medical research collaboration around the world but security and privacy issues immediately raise concern. Government regulations are strict and especially so when breaches of patient confidentiality are possible. It is evident that Amazon has provided a vital opportunity for businesses to penetrate into the cloud computing market and displays unlimited potential in the future of many organisations. However, security and privacy issues still loom over the heads of any organisations wanting to invest into the world of cloud computing. 4 of 9
  • 5. Steven Hotson COMP 3002 – Assignment 2 16/06/2010 Internet giant Google is another major contributor to the ‘cloud’. In April 2008, Google introduced the Google App Engine allowing ‘developers to write Python- based applications and host them on the Google infrastructure and no cost up to 500MB of storage’. The potential for this venture is demonstrated by the fact that ‘more than half a million organisations have signed up for Google Apps including General Electric and Proctor & Gamble’(Hover and Martin, 2008). Google Apps includes a number of features including personalised messaging applications, collaboration applications, and support and integration capabilities2. Although similar to Amazon’s Infrastructure services, Google focuses on simplicity by opening the doors to their database and a huge variety of easy to use software applications. However, limitations include the current support of only the Python programming language in contrast to Amazon’s support of several operating systems, database tools and programming languages. Although proving extremely popular, drawbacks to using web-based applications has also become evident. Google Apps and Amazon Web Services (AWS) have both ‘suffered a series of outages and slowdowns’ (Hover and Martin, 2008) which cause problems for the many consumers attempting to rely on their services with their own businesses. It is clear that cloud computing holds a great of potential for the IT industry however, the advantages and disadvantages of introducing cloud computing to a business must first be investigated. Advantages and Disadvantages to Cloud Computing Cloud computing offers a variety of advantages to those that use the technology. The advantages can be split into several sections including technical, architectural, user and organisational. The technical advantages of cloud computing include, the ability to manage ‘peak load situations without the need for additional hardware infrastructures’ (Aymerich et al., 2008) which would normally remain unused. Resources are presented virtually allowing the customer to manage it themselves. Cloud storage also provides benefits over traditional client-based filing systems. As the data is held centrally it is possible to search huge amounts of information which would not normally be accessible or present on a single machine. A major benefit for a user is the cross-platform compatibility of applications which are not fixed exclusively to certain hardware platforms. This allows the same applications to be reused on several devices without compatibility issues arising. Maintenance issues are also minimised as storage, updates and compatibility issues are managed server-side by the vendor and should not concern the customer. The architectural advantages of cloud computing have already been briefly discussed. These include the increased efficiency in the use of hardware 2 Google provides messaging application features including Google mail and Google Calendar as well as collaboration applications such as Google Docs and storage and video playback facilities. Source: www.google.com/apps, 2008. 5 of 9
  • 6. Steven Hotson COMP 3002 – Assignment 2 16/06/2010 as resource utilisation has been greatly improved by the introduction of virtualisation. Increased efficiency results in a reduction in costs for the business which is critical in the current and predicted future of the economy. Services such as Amazon’s Web Service and Google’s Apps allow businesses to focus on innovation as these services ‘alleviate the need for innovators to find resources to develop, test, and make their innovations available to the user community’ (Aymerich et al., 2008). Organisational advantages include the relatively low cost of subscription fees compared to running and maintaining the applications in-house rather than ‘off the cloud’. This allows smaller business to gain access to affordable resources thus increasing productivity. Disadvantages to cloud computing and other areas of concern must also be addressed when considering ‘plugging into the cloud’. Availability problems have already become apparent in regard to Amazon and Google’s recent service interruptions. I recent survey (figure 2) by Information Week highlights the top concerns 172 business technology professionals have when receiving or considering cloud services. Figure 2; survey on concerns in regard to cloud computing services Source: How to plug into the Cloud, (Ely, 2008) This evidence suggests security as the topic with most concern regarding cloud computing. One of major issues with security is the secure transfer and storage of applications and data between a business and the cloud. Authentication issues arise when a user must leave their secure environment in- house and risk exposure when connecting to an external cloud. To overcome this problem a business would have to implement a new solution ‘with a separation between the cloud and existing infrastructure management’ (Ely, 2008). This however, requires the integration of several identity and authentication management systems to attempt to secure the data successfully. Some cloud vendors appear to be working on and have found solutions to some aspects of the security issues. Google ‘offers the ability to tie Google Apps into 6 of 9
  • 7. Steven Hotson COMP 3002 – Assignment 2 16/06/2010 existing single-sign-on implementations, increasing security and simplifying management’ (Ely, 2008). Data backup is also an important issue as it is an essential factor to modern businesses. Creation of backups must be addressed as some vendors provide backup facilities whilst other require customer to use their own or third-party applications. Access to backups and location of backups must also be considered by the business. Businesses must also be aware that, although they are not in control of ‘patching and monitoring for vulnerabilities, they’re still accountable for managing their risks’ (Ely, 2008). This means a business must still take steps to protect themselves and their assets within the cloud. Conclusion The underlying concepts of cloud computing raise a number of interesting issues regarding feasibility and security which a business must address when considering virtualisation. The popularity of current cloud computing vendors such as Google and Amazon are demonstrated by the sheer number of developers and companies that have signed up and shown interest in the services. This injects a significant amount of confidence into the market and indicates the inclination that cloud computing does have a huge potential within the current market environment. Top industry analysts including Morgan Stanley and Merrill Lynch have predicted cloud computing to be a multi-billion dollar market opportunity and a prominent technological trend (Buyya, et al., 2008). It would seem plausible to assume that many businesses will adopt aspects of cloud computing such as virtualisation and perhaps partial reliance on cloud services in the near future. It may however, be a considerable amount of time before the majority of businesses reach the Cloud Computing Adoption Model level of ‘hyper cloud’. In conclusion, it is possible to say that cloud computing could be seen as the future of IT once certain issues are resolved and the market has had sufficient time to stabilise and mature. This evidence also highlights the infamous words of Sir Thomas Watson, American President of IBM. Watson was alleged to have made the following statement in 1943; “I think there is a world market for maybe five computers”. Although initially swept aside as demand for personal computing power sky rocketed, the relatively new concept of cloud computing may even support his original statement. 7 of 9
  • 8. Steven Hotson COMP 3002 – Assignment 2 16/06/2010 References Aymerich, F, et al. 2008. An approach to a Cloud Computing Network [online]. In: Applications of Digital Information and Web Technologies. First International Conference, 4-6 Aug 2008. pp.115. [Accessed 27th Dec 2008]. Available at: http://ieeexplore.ieee.org/stamp/stamp.jsp? arnumber=4664329&isnumber=4664315 Buyya, R., et al. 2008. Market-Oriented Cloud Computing: Vision, Hype, and Reality for Delivering IT Services as Computing Utilities [online]. In: High Performance Computing and Communications. 10th IEEE International Conference, 25-27th Sept 2008. [Accessed 27th Dec 2008]. Available at: http://ieeexplore.ieee.org/stamp/stamp.jsp?arnumber=4637675&isnumber=4637649 Ely, A. 2008. Get Serious about Cloud Security [online]. pp.17. [Accessed 27th Dec 2008]. Available at: http://informationweekreports.com/shared/download.jhtml? id=173900001&cat=iwkr_bizstrategy&doc_id=InformationWeek_Analytics_Alerts_Cloud? cid=IWKRPT Hirschfield, R. 2008. Cloud Computing in Plain English [online]. pp.2. [Accessed 21st Dec 2008]. Available at: http://go.rpath.com/l/8/OHS-4764-WP-cloudinenglish-pdf/BBS7W Hirschfield, R. 2008. The Pragmatist’s Guide to Cloud Computing [online]. pp.2-6. [Accessed 22nd Dec 2008]. Available at: http://go.rpath.com/l/8/hite-papers-wp-cloud-adopt-pdf/BBJ76 Hoch, F, et al. 2001. Software as a Service: Strategic Backgrounder [online]. pp.4. [Accessed 21st Dec 2008]. Available at: http://www.siia.net/estore/ssb-01.pdf Lawton, G. 2008. Moving the OS to the Web [online]. 41(3), pp.18. [Accessed 27th Dec 2008]. Available at: http://ieeexplore.ieee.org/stamp/stamp.jsp? arnumber=4476216&isnumber=4476206 MacVittie, L. 2008. Defining Cloud Computing [online]. [Accessed 21st Dec 2008]. Available at: http://www.computerweekly.com/Articles/2008/12/15/233891/defining-cloud-computing.htm McGee, M. 2008. Cloud Role In Research, Health Care Isn’t Clear [online]. pp.15. [Accessed 27th Dec 2008]. Available at: http://informationweekreports.com/shared/download.jhtml? id=173900001&cat=iwkr_bizstrategy&doc_id=InformationWeek_Analytics_Alerts_Cloud? cid=IWKRPT Ramakrishnan, R. 2008. Cloud Computing: Was Thomas Watson Right After All? [online]. In: Data Engineering. 24th IEEE International Conference, 7-12 April 2008. [Accessed 27th Dec 2008]. Available at: http://ieeexplore.ieee.org/stamp/stamp.jsp? arnumber=4497407&isnumber=4497384 Sorofman, J. 2008. The Cloud Computing Adoption Model: Eating the Elephant One Bite at a Time [online]. [Accessed 23rd Dec 2008]. Available at: http://www.dabcc.com/article.aspx?id=8970 Strassmann, P. 2008. Data Center Evolution and the “Cloud” [online]. pp.18-19. [Accessed 21st Dec 2008]. Available at: http://www.strassmann.com/pubs/gmu/2008-11.pdf VMware.com. 2008. Virtual Datacenter OS from VMware [online]. [Accessed 21st Dec 2008]. Available at: http://www.vmware.com/technology/virtual-datacenter-os/ 8 of 9
  • 9. Steven Hotson COMP 3002 – Assignment 2 16/06/2010 9 of 9

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