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What is Cloud Computing?

Cloud computing is the latest inflexion point that corporare CIOs must consider when planning how to develop and deploy new services and applications. This is important to SoftTree because database technology and administration processes must evolve as new computing models emerge, inevitably raising questions about selecting the right database technology to match the new requirements.

In this first of serveral posts, I'll define what SoftTree understands the "the cloud" to represent. The cloud is an elastic computing and data storage environment, a virtual infrastructure of servers, storage devices, and application resources. The cloud represents a evolutionary development in on-demand or utility computing.

Over the past year I've been very amused at how closely server virualization resembles the mainframe-based timesharing environments that I supported early in my career. It's fair to say that cloud computing is a direct decendent of the computer timesharing industry that emerged four decades ago which pioneered the model for on-demand computing and pay-per-use resource sharing of storage and applications.

Today's on-demand computing industry is being segmented into public and private cloud offers.

Public clouds are best described as commercial hosted offers, such as Software as a Service (Saas), Platform as a Service (PaaS), Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) and Database as a Service (DaaS). Infrastructure providers include Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2), GoGrid, Rackspace Mosso, and Joyent, whereas Microsoft Azure, Google AppEngine, Force.com, Zoho, and Facebook are platform providers.

Private cloud infrastructure is the new markettecture term for initiatives such as server consolidation, clusters, and virtualization. It represents another evolutionary step in data center technology. Gartner Research predicts that governments will build the largest private clouds, but vendors are targeting any organization having thousands of servers and massive storage requirements. In fact, EMC, Cisco and VMware have formed a strategic alliance to evangelize their new cloud computing architecture to the F1000 market.

Security and reliability are the appeal of private clouds for large enterprises that can afford the infrastructure. As I stated in an earlier post, public cloud computing lacks the security necessary to provide a viable solution for systems storing PII. They also lack the 99.99% uptime that enterprise data center managers desire for service level agreements. The fact a private cloud sits behind a firewall mitigates the risk from exposing data to the cloud. The private cloud also alleviates concerns about data protection in multi-tenancy cloud environments.


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