Alan Rodrigues

You may have come across the term “cloud computing” more than once. This term has become so common. Not everyone knows what it means, but every IT professional needs to have experience in cloud computing.

Companies are adopting cloud computing at a fast pace. They are continuing to invest in hosting their applications on various cloud platforms. Gartner has published a forecast showing future public cloud services spending. It gives a good idea of where we are heading when it comes to cloud computing. Companies are looking at investing millions in public cloud services in the years to come.

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Why is cloud computing so popular?

So now the question is: Why are cloud computing platforms becoming so popular? Below are some of the reasons why many industries see the cloud as the future of business.

Range of services

Cloud platforms have a range of services to offer. Whether you want to host documents, a web application, or a multi-tier application, cloud computing platforms have you covered.

New features 

All cloud platforms tend to roll out new features at a rapid pace. Cloud providers always consider the latest market trends. They then incorporate the latest features on their platform. 

Cost Benefits

You don’t need to invest millions to get started. You can begin using basic cloud services as they are, and you will only have to pay for the services you use. This is the biggest benefit. Companies don’t have to set aside huge capital funds to get started on cloud platforms. They can start small and scale their services as needed. 

In fact, companies can migrate their current workloads to a cloud platform and benefit from the significant cost savings that cloud platforms provide.

Below is an example total cost of ownership comparison. This calculation was done with the Azure TCO calculator. It provides the cost savings between using an on-premises data center and Azure. You can see significant cost savings over time. 

Low maintenance 

The burden of maintaining infrastructure lies with the cloud provider. This tends to lessen the load on companies for ongoing maintenance activities. In-house staff can spend time on improving services instead of maintaining the infrastructure.

Highly Available 

Cloud platforms provide a service level agreement or SLA that guarantees a high level of availability. This means businesses that use cloud services can count on their services staying up and their data being available when they need it. 

Global reach

Since services are available on the cloud, they are accessible from anywhere. Users across the world then access applications hosted on the cloud.

Easy to start

With an on-site corporate data center, setting up a new application can be complex and takes a lot of time. With the cloud, developers can get an environment up and running in just a few minutes. 

The general architecture of cloud platforms

Below is a simple graphic representing a cloud platform’s architecture.

Cloud services 

This is the main entry point for accessing cloud services. Here all services are accessible via the Internet, through a dashboard, APIs, and command line tools.

Services 

There are different types of cloud computing services that are available. They fall under the following categories. We will be going through these services in more detail in the next section.

Storage 

Using the storage that a cloud platform provides, you can store all types of data on the cloud. Some types of data like images and PDF files will need to be open to the public, while other types must be kept private. You can configure these types of storage settings quicker and easier in the cloud than provisioning a new server yourself.

Management

There is always a management layer that allows you to control the services you use, usually with an online visual dashboard, APIs that you can call from applications and scripts, and command line tools for quick execution.

Security

This is an important aspect of any cloud platform. Security settings in a cloud environment are very granular. Access to data and services can be customized on a user-by-user and resource-by-resource basis if needed.

Types of cloud computing

We’ve seen the benefits of cloud computing. Let’s now go through the different types of cloud computing. 

Public clouds 

Public cloud platforms are open to the public. They have a web presence, and anyone can sign up and get set up in minutes. An example is Microsoft Azure. Microsoft manages the underlying physical infrastructure of the cloud platform. Customers can start using the services that the cloud platform offers just by signing up. 

Some of the most popular public cloud platforms are: 

  1. Amazon Web Services
  2. Microsoft Azure
  3. Google Cloud Platform
  4. IBM Cloud
  5. Oracle Cloud Infrastructure

Private clouds

A private cloud platform is owned solely by one company. The company could host its own infrastructure in its corporate data center or use a third party to provide the services. The point is that the platform is private.

A couple of benefits of the private cloud platform are control and security. Sometimes companies need complete control over the deployment aspects of their physical IT infrastructure for various reasons, and a private cloud will give them that control. Next comes security. Companies may need to have control over all security aspects of their IT platform, maybe because of mandatory compliance requirements that public cloud platforms can’t meet.

Hybrid clouds

With a hybrid cloud platform, a company would have both a public and private cloud setup. The company may need to have partial control over certain aspects of its infrastructure and use a private cloud for this. Then they can use public cloud services to eliminate the need for infrastructure management.

Companies can easily extend their on-premises setup into the cloud with a hybrid setup and enjoy the benefits of both.

Different types of cloud services

Next, let’s discuss the different types of cloud services.

Infrastructure as a service (IaaS)

This is a basic service offered by cloud service providers. The cloud provider manages the underlying physical infrastructure. A common example is the virtual machine service. In Azure, you can create a virtual machine to run applications in, but Azure manages the physical server that hosts the VM.

With infrastructure as a service, you manage the following

Platform as a service (PaaS) 

PaaS takes infrastructure as a service to the next level. With PaaS, even the software comes preinstalled on the hardware, not just the virtual machine. This helps developers get a quick-start developing application on the cloud platform. An example of this is the Azure SQL database service. The database service comes pre-installed in Azure. PaaS also come with added features like automated patching and backups.

With platform as a service, you only need to manage the applications and data.

Software as a service (SaaS)

Here the cloud provider manages software or an entire suite of software. They also manage the underlying infrastructure. You don’t even have to configure the software. A common example of such a SaaS architecture is Microsoft Office 365 or SalesForce.

With software as a service, the cloud provider manages all aspects of the software stack.

Serverless computing 

Many cloud applications are moving from servers that run in virtual machines that a business still has to manage to serverless computing. With serverless computing, a company doesn’t have to deal with the underlying infrastructure, a virtual machine, or even a server. Using serverless, you can execute functions as needed.

Below is a common representation of the different services of IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS.

Final thoughts

Cloud computing is here to stay. All modern businesses are embracing cloud computing platforms. There are many benefits to using them. It is easy to get started. It can save money. And you will have a wide range of services to choose from.
Having a grasp on the workings of various cloud services is necessary for IT professionals. One role an IT professional can aspire to is Azure Architect. We have only touched on the topics you would need to know to fulfill that role. For more details on the Azure Architect role, you can read this blog.

Page Last Updated: April 2021

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