What is Cloud Computing?
Updated on 21st Nov, 23 9.2K Views

These days, people are moving all old systems to the cloud, so the need for Cloud Solution Architects is growing. In the future, all web or mobile applications will be available on the cloud.

Before moving on, here are the topics you will learn in this blog:

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So, why do businesses opt for Cloud Computing rather than building their own infrastructure? Let us take a look at this in detail.

What is Cloud Computing?

Cloud computing is a way of delivering IT resources over the Internet. In cloud computing, you don’t need to buy data centers and servers. Instead, you can use technology services from Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Cloud Platform (GCP), or Microsoft Azure in the cloud.
If you look at it simply, Cloud Computing lets you store and access your applications or data over remote computers instead of your own. In a way, it outsources software, storage, and processing power. The applications and files are available for access through logins from any connected device.

Outside parties host programs and information that reside on a global network of secure data centers. Since physical hard drives are not of use in this scenario, it frees up the processing power, enables sharing as well as collaboration, and allows for secure access from any location, regardless of the device used as long as it is connected to the internet.

Cloud Computing has proven to be a more efficient method when it comes to delivering computing resources. The software and service environments are entirely subscription-based, i.e., instead of having to buy licenses, users are charged a monthly fee.

The platform and software are managed by the provider. They are regularly updated to ensure optimum security and performance. The remote computing power makes it easy for users to tap into extra capacity if the need arises. Programs and files can be shared with multiple users and they can collaborate from separate locations in real-time.

Virtualization has made it possible for Cloud providers to make the most of their data center resources. Most corporations have now begun to adopt Cloud delivery models for their on-premises infrastructure. Unlike the traditional IT infrastructure, Cloud Computing helps with maximum utilization and cost savings but with the same self-service and agility to the end users.

People often use some form of Cloud Computing almost every day in the age of computers and mobile devices. Google, Gmail, Netflix, Salesforce, ChatGPT, etc., are all great examples of day-to-day applications and use of Cloud Computing.

According to ResearchAndMarkets.com, the global market size of Cloud is expected to reach US$1,251.09 billion by 2028 from US$36,700 million in 2019. This growth is mainly due to the contribution of several factors such as digital transformation across various industries, big data consumption across various verticals, sudden growth in internet penetration, etc.

Additionally, the increased adoption of the Internet of Things (IoT), 5G, and Artificial Intelligence (AI) is expected to further promote the growth of the Cloud market.

Businesses are adopting Cloud Computing services because they offer valuable insights into go-to-market approaches, alliance and acquisition strategies, investments, partnering tactics, and best operational practices to adopt.

Furthermore, Cloud Computing services play a big role in the measurement, correlation, and analysis of business activities. On top of that, this technology is able to ensure that the operations of the business align with the demands of the customer.

Major Cloud vendors spend much of their time focusing on introducing new Cloud services, solutions, and workloads. The vendors also focus on releasing upgrades of their current offerings that can further strengthen their foothold in the market.

‘I don’t need a hard disk in my computer if I can get to the server faster … carrying around these non-connected computers is byzantine by comparison.’– Steve Jobs, Former CEO of Apple

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A Brief History of Cloud Computing

Cloud Computing was first thought of as a far-off idea in the 1960s. They suggested an “intergalactic computer network.” They didn’t know this technology would revolutionize suppliers and enterprise IT.

JCR Licklider, the person who suggested the “intergalactic computer network” wanted everyone in the world to be interconnected and access programs and data regardless of location. It subsequently became the footing for grid computing, which connected geographically dispersed computers and created a loosely coupled network.

The evolution of cloud computing can be seen in the table below:

YearEvolution of Cloud Computing
1960sCloud computing concept conceived with “intergalactic computer network” proposal.
1970sVirtualization technology emerges as a precursor to cloud computing.
1990sTelecommunications companies begin offering virtual private network (VPN) services.
2000sAmazon Web Services (AWS) introduces Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2), a key milestone in modern cloud computing.
2006Google launches Google Apps (now G Suite) for cloud-based office applications.
2008IBM and Google collaborate on cloud computing research.
2009Microsoft introduces Azure, its cloud computing platform.
2010OpenStack, an open-source cloud computing platform, is launched.
2011The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) releases a formal definition of cloud computing.
2013Docker, a containerization technology, is released, simplifying application deployment in the cloud.
2015Alibaba Cloud becomes a significant player in the cloud computing market.
2017AWS Lambda introduces serverless computing to the mainstream.
2020sOngoing advancements in cloud computing, including edge computing and hybrid cloud solutions.

Interestingly, the term, “cloud” was actually adapted from telephony. The telecommunication companies that offered VPN used the cloud symbol to mark the demarcation point that was their sole responsibility.

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Examples of Cloud Computing

When it comes to the applications of Cloud Computing at home, local computing can, sometimes, make that line blurry. That is because the Cloud, these days, is, undeniably, an integral feature of almost everything on our computers.

Any local piece of software, such as Microsoft Office, utilizes at least one form of Cloud Computing. In this case, it is Microsoft OneDrive for the purpose of storage. Microsoft also has a range of web-based apps, called Office or Office for the Web, that are web-only versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote. They are accessible via web browser without the need for installing anything.

Listed below are some of the major examples of Cloud Computing that you are most likely using:

  • Google Drive: This is a pure Cloud Computing service that offers online storage for use with various Cloud productivity apps such as Google Docs, Sheets, Forms, Slides, etc. Google Drive can also be used on tablets, such as iPad, as well as smartphones that have Docs and Sheets as separate apps. As a matter of fact, most Google services, such as Gmail, Google Maps, Google Calendar, etc., are based on Cloud technology.
  • Apple iCloud: The primary application of Apple’s Cloud service is online storage, backup, and synchronization of your contacts, mail, calendar, etc. All the data that you need is accessible from your iOS, macOS, iPad OS, or Windows devices (after installing the iCloud control panel.) Apple iCloud offers Cloud-based versions of Word Processors (Pages), Spreadsheet (Numbers), and Presentations (Keynote.) iCloud also has the Find My iPhone feature that enables one to find their device when the same goes missing.
  • Dropbox: It is a simple, reliable file-sync and storage service that is, now, enhanced with a number of paid collaboration features and services.
  • Social Media: Even though its power is undeniable, yet social media is the most overlooked example of Cloud Computing. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, etc., keep communities connected. They have network-based storage that holds personal data on the Cloud. Since the Cloud can extend its resources based on demand, it can easily store enormous amounts of data.

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Types of Cloud Computing Service Models

Cloud Service Models - What is Cloud Computing - Intellipaat

Basically, cloud services are divided into three categories:

Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS):

Also known as Cloud infrastructure services, IaaS is responsible for the management of applications data, middleware, and runtime environments. A Cloud provider provides a user with a virtual machine or any other resource without letting the user worry about the physical aspects of the machine. More importantly, a user gets access to the operating system in IaaS. Therefore, you can install or uninstall any software on these servers. Example: AWS EC2, GCE, and Cisco Metapod.

Software-as-a-Service (SaaS):

SaaS is also known as Cloud application services. Most of the time, these applications run directly through the web browser and need not be downloaded and installed. A user just gets access to the software that is installed on the server. No dashboard is provided, and no access to the operating system is given. Example: Google Apps, Dropbox, Netflix, Slack, Salesforce, Hubspot, Cisco WebEx, etc.

Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS):

These Cloud platform services are quite similar to SaaS. PaaS, however, provides a platform required for software creation. In this service, one does not get access to the operating system. If a user needs a web server with PHP installed on it, the user will get the web server without getting access to the OS. What a user gets is a dashboard through which they can upload and deploy their files; the rest is managed by the Cloud provider, i.e., software installation, security patch on OS, etc. Example: Windows Azure, OpenShift, Magento Commerce Cloud, Force.com, etc.

Confused between Grid and Cloud, get to know the difference from our blog on Grid Computing vs Cloud Computing.

Features and Characteristics of Cloud Computing

Let’s discuss some of the characteristics of cloud computing:

1. Resources Pooling – Cloud providers pull computing resources with the help of a multi-tenant model to provide services to multiple customers. These resources can be physical and virtual and are assigned and reassigned depending on the requirements of the customer.

2. On-Demand Self-Service – A user can continuously monitor the allotted network storage, server uptime, and computing capabilities.

3. Easy Maintenance The maintenance of servers is very easy and the downtime is low, so much so that sometimes, there is no downtime at all. Regular updates gradually aim to make Cloud Computing better with each update.

4. Large Network Access – The user can upload data to the cloud and access data from the cloud from anywhere with the help of a device that has an internet connection.

5. Availability – The capabilities of the cloud can be extended and modified as per use. It analyzes the storage usage and gives the user the option to buy extra cloud storage.

6. Automatic System – Cloud computing is capable of automatically analyzing the data required and supports a metering capability at some level of services. Users are able to monitor, regulate, and report the usage thus providing transparency for the host as well as the customer.

7. Economical – It is a one-time investment and saves the host from heavy costs as parts of the storage that have been bought can be provided to many companies. The only expense is on basic maintenance and a few other light expenses.

8. Security – Cloud security is one of the best features of Cloud Computing. The data storage and backups are automated and are less vulnerable to physical damage or hackers.

9. Pay-as-you-go – The user has to pay only for the service or the space they have used. There are no hidden costs to be paid. Most of the time, some of the space is allotted for free.

10. Measured Service – The resource utilization is analyzed by supporting charge-per-use capabilities. The resource usage gets monitored, measured, and reported by the service provider.

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How does Cloud Computing work?

We are already aware that Cloud Computing is a software infrastructure that is application-based and stores data on a remote server accessible through the Internet. Let us now understand how it actually works. Cloud Computing can be divided into front end and back end.

The front end is what enables users to access data that is in the Cloud with the help of a Cloud Computing software or internet browser. However, the main component of Cloud Computing that is responsible for storing data securely is the back end. These components are computers, servers, databases, and central servers.

Operations are facilitated by the central server by following a set of protocols. It employs a middleware for ensuring seamless connectivity between devices that are linked via Cloud Computing. Cloud Computing service providers usually maintain multiple copies of the data to quickly address situations in the event of security threats, data breaches, data loss, etc.

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Cloud Computing Architecture

Cloud Computing architecture is a blend of event-driven architecture and service-oriented architecture. It is divided into:

  • Front End – The front end contains the client-side interfaces and applications that allow users to access the cloud computing platforms. It includes web servers, thin & fat clients, tablets, and mobile devices.
  • Back End – The back end is for use by the service provider and helps manage all the resources to provide cloud computing services. It includes huge data storage, virtual machines, servers, deploying models, security mechanisms, traffic control mechanisms, etc.

Both the front-end and back-end are connected to others through a network.

Cloud Computing Architecture

Cloud Computing architecture has the following components:

1. Client Infrastructure – Client infrastructure is part of the front end that provides GUI to interact with the cloud.

2. Application – Application may be any software or platform that a client wants to access.

3. Service – A cloud service manages the type of service that can be accessed as per the client’s requirement.

Cloud Computing offers the following three types of services:

a) Software as a Service (SaaS)

b) Platform as a Service (PaaS)

c) Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)

a) Software as a Service (SaaS) – SaaS is also known as cloud application services. Most of the time, these applications run directly through the web browser and need not be downloaded and installed. Example: Google Apps, Dropbox, Slack, Salesforce, Hubspot, Cisco WebEx, etc.

b) Platform as a Service (PaaS) – These cloud platform services are quite similar to SaaS. PaaS, however, provides a platform required for software creation. Example: Windows Azure, OpenShift, Magento Commerce Cloud, Force.com, etc.

c) Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) – Also known as cloud infrastructure services, IaaS is responsible for the management of applications data, middleware, and runtime environments. Example: AWS EC2, GCE, Cisco Metapod.

4. Runtime Cloud – It provides the execution and runtime environment to the virtual machines.

5. Storage – An important component of cloud computing that provides a huge capacity of storage in the cloud for data.

6. Infrastructure – Cloud infrastructure provides services on three levels—host, application, and network level. It includes both hardware and software components like storage, servers, network devices, virtualization software, and other storage resources to support the cloud computing model.

7. Management – It is used for the management of Cloud Computing components and establish coordination between them.

8. Security – Security is part of the back end and an in-built component that implements a security mechanism.

9. Internet – Through the Internet, front end and back end are able to communicate with each other.

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Advantages and Disadvantages of Cloud Computing

Following are the benefits of Cloud Computing:

1) Back-up and restore data – Data back-up and restoration is a piece of cake once the data is in the cloud.

2) Improved collaboration – Cloud applications make it easy to quickly share information via shared storage.

3) Excellent accessibility – It is possible to quickly and easily access stored information from anywhere and anytime.

4) Low maintenance cost – It reduces hardware and software maintenance costs significantly.

5) Mobility – All cloud data is easily accessible via mobile.

6) Services in the pay-per-use model – Cloud Computing offers APIs to users for cloud services and charges are as per the usage.

7) Unlimited storage capacity – Cloud offers huge storage capacity for storing data in one place.

8) Data security – Cloud offers many advanced security features and ensures the security of the data stored.

However, Cloud Computing is not without its disadvantages:

1) Internet Connectivity – It goes without saying that If you do not have good internet connectivity, you cannot access data in the cloud. There is no other way to access it without internet connection.

2) Vendor lock-in – As different vendors provide different platforms, it can cause difficulty for organizations to move their services from one cloud to another.

3) Limited Control – Cloud users have limited control over the functions and execution of services within a cloud infrastructure.

4) Security – One should be aware that an organization’s sensitive information is shared with a third party, i.e., a cloud computing service provider. While sending the data to the cloud, it is possible that hackers might try to gain access of that information.

That will be all in the section on the advantages and disadvantages of Cloud Computing. Next, we will learn about the types of Cloud Computing.

Cloud Computing Deployment Models

There are three basic cloud deployment models:

  • Public Cloud
  • Private Cloud
  • Hybrid Cloud
Types of Cloud - What is Cloud Computing - Intellipaat

Public Cloud

In a public cloud, your applications would reside on a shared infrastructure. Although Cloud Providers provide complete isolation from other users who co-exist on the same hardware, it is advisable not to store any sensitive documents or information on it when using a public cloud.

Private Cloud

A private cloud is not very different from a public cloud, only that the security features vary. In a private cloud, your infrastructure or server will just have your applications. It will be completely isolated from public cloud servers. These servers are commonly used by companies which have sensitive information to store. A private cloud can either be provided to you by your Cloud Provider or you can create your own private cloud by buying your own stack.

Hybrid Cloud

A hybrid cloud is a combination of a public cloud and a private cloud. It provides functionalities of both public and private clouds.

So, if a company wants to keep its mission-critical data in a private cloud and run its services and applications on a public cloud, it can make a hybrid integration.

Apart from the three basic cloud deployment models, there is multi-cloud and hybrid multi-cloud.

Multi-Cloud and Hybrid Multi-cloud

Multi-cloud is when two or more clouds are used from two or more different providers. A multi-cloud environment can be as simple as using an email SaaS from one vendor and sourcing an image editing one from another.

However, enterprises are typically more about using multiple cloud services like SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS services from multiple leading public cloud providers.

Hybrid multi-cloud, on the other hand, is the use of multiple public clouds together with a private cloud environment.

Organizations opt for multi-cloud in order to have more services to choose from, prevent vendor lock-in, and have access to more innovation. But with the increasing number of clouds used, it becomes more and more difficult to manage the environment since each comes with its own set of management tools, data transmission rates, and security protocols.

Multi-cloud management platforms have a central dashboard that provides visibility across multiple provider clouds. Here, the development teams can view their projects and deployments, the operations teams can monitor the clusters and nodes, and the cybersecurity team can keep an eye on potential threats.

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Cloud Computing Applications

1. Art Applications – Art applications in Cloud Computing are used for conveniently designing attractive cards, creatives, images, etc. Some commonly used cloud art applications are Vistaprint, Adobe Creative Cloud, Moo, etc.

2. Business Applications – Business applications are used to grow businesses and ensuring that they are 24*7 available to users.

3. Data Storage and Backup Applications – Cloud Computing allows storage of information on the cloud and access to it whenever required. There are various Cloud backup recovery applications provided for retrieving lost data as well.

4. Education Applications – Cloud Computing in the education sector includes various online distance learning platforms and student information portals. It offers strong virtual classroom environments, ease of accessibility, scalability, greater reach for the students, minimal hardware requirements for the applications, and secure data storage.

5. Entertainment ApplicationsIn theentertainment industry, a multi-cloud strategy is used to interact with the target audience. Online games and video conferencing are different types of entertainment applications.

6. Management Applications – Various cloud management tools that are available help admins manage resource deployment, disaster recovery, data integration, along with administrative control over the platforms, applications, and infrastructure.

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Cloud Use Cases

With more and more organizations planning to make the move, all their applications to the cloud use cases for cloud computing seems to be limitless. But even for enterprises that have no plans to make a complete shift to the cloud, certain initiatives and cloud computing are nothing less than a serious improvement.

Disaster recovery and business continuity is, for obvious reasons, a walk in the park with cloud capabilities because of the cost-effective redundancy of data protection against system failures as well as the physical distance required for data and application recovery in the event of a local outage or disaster. All major public cloud providers offer Disaster-Recovery-as-a-Service (DRaaS).

Cloud Computing is the ideal solution for anything that requires storing and processing of massive volumes of data at high speeds or more storage and computing capacity than possible on-premises. Take, for example:

  • Internet of Things (IoT)
  • Big Data Analytics
  • Artificial Intelligence— with machine learning and deep learning applications

Development teams that are adopting Agile, DevOps, or DevSecOps for the purpose of streamlining development, will benefit from cloud due to the on-demand end-user self-service that prevents operations tasks from becoming development bottlenecks.

Cloud Security

Naturally, security concerns have been a key reason keeping organizations from considering cloud services, particularly the public type. However, the security offered by cloud service providers is easily surpassing on-premises security solutions.

According to McAfee, 52% of companies currently are benefiting from better security in the cloud than on-premises.

Despite all that, maintaining cloud security definitely, demands a variety of procedures and skillsets than in traditional IT environments. Following are some of the best practices in cloud security:

  • Shared Responsibility: Generally, cloud service providers are the ones responsible for cloud infrastructure security and customers protect its data within the cloud. It is good practice to have a clearly-defined data ownership between private and public third parties.
  • Data Encryption: Data should be encrypted whether it is at rest, in transit, or in use. Customers should maintain complete control over security keys and hardware security modules.
  • User Identity and Access Management: Customers and IT teams need to have full understanding of and visibility into devices, applications, networks, and data access.
  • Collaborative Management: There should be proper, clear, and understandable communication and processes between IT, operations, and security teams for seamless, secure, and sustainable cloud integrations.
  • Security and Compliance Monitoring: Understanding all regulatory compliance standards applicable to the specific industry and active monitoring of all connected systems and cloud-based services is essential for maintaining visibility of all data exchanges in public, private, and hybrid cloud environments.

The Top Cloud Computing Vendors

Here is a brief look at a few of the top Cloud leaders in the world.

Amazon Web Services (AWS)

It all started with AWS. It was the standalone leader in public Cloud Computing. It quickly became a major player in database, serverless deployments, machine learning, and AI. AWS was the first one that came up with Cloud Computing IaaS and has, since then, become this Cloud Computing goliath.

AWS’s new services are getting introduced and released at a breakneck pace. It is also building its own compute stack with an aim to be more efficient and cost-effective. AWS has progressed and grown beyond Cloud Computing and storage.

Microsoft Azure

Microsoft is a close second option when it comes to enterprises picking their preferred Cloud vendor despite AWS occupying 32 percent of the cloud market in 2021 as compared to Microsoft’s 19 percent. Microsoft Azure, with Microsoft’s efforts with SaaS, catapulted the company to a strong second rank after AWS. Azure is a tremendous player in the field with its history in enterprise, machine learning, and AI.

Google Cloud Platform (GCP)

Google Cloud Platform along with Anthos is trying hard to break into the digital transformation budgets. GCP is constantly expanding its key verticals—retail and financial services. However, the necessity that arose out of the COVID-19 situation, drove Google Meet to tackle multi-cloud workloads. It is not a stretch to expect this leading Cloud provider to continuously expand its footprint in new regions and with new data centers.

Know about the difference between AWS, Azure, and GCP in the blog by Intellipaat.

Alibaba Cloud

Alibaba has undergone rapid scaling with support from a host of enterprise partners. What everyone is curious to know is whether it can make its mark significantly, beyond China, due to its promising potential to reach the global level. If a company has dealings or operations in China, Alibaba is highly likely to be a key option for any Cloud-based activity.

According to Statista, Alibaba Cloud generated US$9.18 billion in revenue worldwide in the fiscal year of 2021. It has forged alliances with major enterprise vendors and is considered the leading cloud service provider in Asia. The most notable mention is that 59 percent of China-listed companies are Alibaba Cloud customers.

This Chinese Cloud vendor is shifting its focus and efforts to the next-gen Cloud and capacity in China, EMEA, and other regions.

Future of Cloud Computing

Over the past decade, Cloud Computing has significantly changed the way businesses operate. It has accelerated digital transformation and companies are using web applications to manage teams and automate processes.

Traditional infrastructure can’t keep up with the market change speed and takes weeks or months to allocate resources. Whereas, cloud resources take less than an hour.

Cloud computing is more efficient than on-premise IT infrastructure in the sense that it helps to quickly develop new products and services, assess their market potential, and implement them. This helps the company stay competitive.

Companies relying on cloud resources only have to bear the operating costs. Predictable pricing helps plan the IT budget.

For cloud providers, client service resiliency should be high because many clients focus on SLA first. Competition between suppliers makes it so that they have improved infrastructure quality and reliability.

There are over 265,000 Cloud Computing jobs in the USA listed on LinkedIn. The average annual salary for Cloud Computing professionals in the USA is about US$126,300 as per PayScale. Clearly, there is a very high demand for professionals in this field.

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A company offering cloud solutions allows for computing to be done in a much more collaborative and shared manner. It works with a service rather than a product. Through the cloud, users can easily and conveniently share information with the whole world or specific groups of people within the cloud network.

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1 thought on “What Is Cloud Computing?”

  1. Seriously, what a great reference for people who need help and advice when it comes to ideas! This is perfect!! I also learned a few things myself.

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