Emerging Platforms - Cloud Computing

Emerging platforms are new technology developments and business models for which a theory is yet to be formulated, and yet there are rapid, radical innovations happening in their field.

In this article, we will learn about one such platform - Cloud Computing by doing a critical assessment of its current trends, appreciate the challenges in implementing it and gain a perspective on how this technology impacts business outcomes.

What is Cloud Computing?

Cloud computing is a suite of tools which enables companies to lease their digital assets somewhere ‘in the cloud’. So unlike the ‘on-premise’ data centers, the location of computers, applications and databases that employees are using is unknown.

The point is to free companies from details and ‘rent’ whatever is needed from the cloud. They don’t need to buy and thus the IT expenses are switched from fixed capital to operating expenses.

Let us clarify some jargons that are often used in tandem with the cloud terminology. The offerings of the cloud can broadly be categorized into the following:

  1. INFRASTRUCTUR-AS-A-SERVICE (IAAS): This is the simplest form wherein server(s) or a storage capacity is there on cloud. Clients opting for this arrangement are typically IT companies who don’t want the hassle of installing or maintaining the space, but want to avail access to their material whenever required.
  2. PLATFORM-AS-A-SERVICE (PAAS): This platform enables employees to write code, develop applications and integrate with their existing resources. The environment is conducive to development as it comes installed with technologies such as .NET, Java, Ruby on Rails, Python, etc that can prepare code and then host it for sharing.
  3. SOFTWARE-AS-A-SERVICE (SAAS): This is the most mature offering of cloud that comprises of applications residing on the cloud as opposed to the physical database. CRM Salesforce.com was the first to implement this offering all customer relationship management data and analytics on cloud instead of on the hard drive.

How does the Cloud help?

Apart from doing away with purchasing and installing massive data centers and making information available on web browsers, cloud has several benefits:

  • Productivity: Employees can control their own accounts reducing precious time. Consider a non cloud environment such as the FTP server. Usually it is difficult to use and runs out of capacity.

    The IT department has to perform the repetitive task of creating a folder for each user and granting them the required access. If the folder details are to be shared with anyone else, the requisition has to again be routed via the IT department. In contrast, a cloud environment can enable self administration of accounts.

  • Collaboration: Teams and communities can work collectively as all resources are shared online. This proves very useful in a typical IT onsite-offshore arrangement.
  • Better Intelligence: Cloud platforms have their own study softwares that can be combined with company specific resources to create unique results. For example, Google Earth Builder, an application pre loaded on cloud, facilitates to companies to upload their own data on Google Earth or Google Maps thereby establishing their presence on these resources.
  • Cost Savings: Instead of purchasing and maintaining expensive servers themselves, companies can invest in cloud based platforms which proves out to be a cheaper alternative. This is because cloud providers acquire mammoth quantities of bandwidth, hardware and power to get better price points.
  • Reliability: Cloud providers build redundancy to avoid major disruptions. This investment may not be possible for individual companies. To illustrate, as monitored in 2010, Gmail was available 99.984% of the times, with an admirable down time of only 7 minutes per month. As per research, this is 32 times more reliable than a typical company email setup.

Concluding Remarks:

The cloud is still in its infancy stage and hence is an emerging platform. There is a fast increase in the number of cloud vendors; they are trying to be creative and segregate their offerings. In times ahead, there are expected to be transformative changes in this field and wider acceptance of the technology.

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