Simply put, cloud computing is the delivery of computing services—servers, storage, databases, networking, software, analytics and more—over the Internet (“the cloud”). Companies offering these computing services are called cloud providers and typically charge for cloud computing services based on usage, similar to how you are billed for water or electricity at home.
You are probably using cloud computing right now, even if you don’t realize it. If you use an online service to send email, edit documents, watch movies or TV, listen to music, play games or store pictures and other files, it is likely that cloud computing is making it all possible behind the scenes. The first cloud computing services are barely a decade old, but already a variety of organisations—from tiny startups to global corporations, government agencies to non-profits—are embracing the technology for all sorts of reasons. Here are a few of the things you can do with the cloud:
- Create new apps and services
- Store, back up and recover data
- Host websites and blogs
- Stream audio and video
- Deliver software on demand
- Analyse data for patterns and make predictions
Cloud computing is a big shift from the traditional way businesses think about IT resources. What is it about cloud computing? Why is cloud computing so popular? Here are 6 common reasons organisations are turning to cloud computing services:
- Cost Cloud computing eliminates the capital expense of buying hardware and software and setting up and running on-site datacenters—the racks of servers, the round-the-clock electricity for power and cooling, the IT experts for managing the infrastructure. It adds up fast.
- Speed Most cloud computing services are provided self service and on demand, so even vast amounts of computing resources can be provisioned in minutes, typically with just a few mouse clicks, giving businesses a lot of flexibility and taking the pressure off capacity planning.
- Global scale The benefits of cloud computing services include the ability to scale elastically. In cloud speak, that means delivering the right amount of IT resources—for example, more or less computing power, storage, bandwidth—right when its needed and from the right geographic location.
- Productivity On-site datacenters typically require a lot of “racking and stacking”—hardware set up, software patching and other time-consuming IT management chores. Cloud computing removes the need for many of these tasks, so IT teams can spend time on achieving more important business goals.
- Performance The biggest cloud computing services run on a worldwide network of secure datacenters, which are regularly upgraded to the latest generation of fast and efficient computing hardware. This offers several benefits over a single corporate datacenter, including reduced network latency for applications and greater economies of scale.
- Reliability Cloud computing makes data backup, disaster recovery and business continuity easier and less expensive, because data can be mirrored at multiple redundant sites on the cloud provider’s network.
Types of cloud services: IaaS, PaaS, SaaS
Most cloud computing services fall into three broad categories: infrastructure as a service (IaaS), platform as a service (PaaS) and software as a service (Saas). These are sometimes called the cloud computing stack, because they build on top of one another. Knowing what they are and how they are different makes it easier to accomplish your business goals.
The most basic category of cloud computing services. With IaaS, you rent IT infrastructure—servers and virtual machines (VMs), storage, networks, operating systems—from a cloud provider on a pay-as-you-go basis.
Platform as a service (PaaS)
Platform-as-a-service (PaaS) refers to cloud computing services that supply an on-demand environment for developing, testing, delivering and managing software applications. PaaS is designed to make it easier for developers to quickly create web or mobile apps, without worrying about setting up or managing the underlying infrastructure of servers, storage, network and databases needed for development.
Software as a service (SaaS)
Software-as-a-service (SaaS) is a method for delivering software applications over the Internet, on demand and typically on a subscription basis. With SaaS, cloud providers host and manage the software application and underlying infrastructure and handle any maintenance, like software upgrades and security patching. Users connect to the application over the Internet, usually with a web browser on their phone, tablet or PC.
Types of cloud deployments: Public, Private, Hybrid
Not all clouds are the same. There are three different ways to deploy cloud computing resources: public cloud, private cloud and hybrid cloud.
Public clouds are owned and operated by a third-party cloud service provider which deliver their computing resources like servers and storage over the Internet. Microsoft Azure is an example of a public cloud. With a public cloud, all hardware, software and other supporting infrastructure is owned and managed by the cloud provider. You access these services and manage your account using a web browser.
A private cloud refers to cloud computing resources used exclusively by a single business or organisation. A private cloud can be physically located on the company’s on-site datacenter. Some companies also pay third-party service providers to host their private cloud. A private cloud is one in which the services and infrastructure are maintained on a private network.
Hybrid clouds combine public and private clouds, bound together by technology that allows data and applications to be shared between them. By allowing data and applications to move between private and public clouds, hybrid cloud gives businesses greater flexibility and more deployment options.
Cloud computing services all work a little differently, depending on the provider. But many provide a friendly, browser-based dashboard that makes it easier for IT professionals and developers to order resources and manage their accounts. Some cloud computing services are also designed to work with REST APIs and a command-line interface (CLI), giving developers multiple options.
Software as a Service (SaaS) opened a flexible and financially attractive door for businesses and consumers to try early cloud services. The growth of infrastructure and platform as a service (Iaas and PaaS, respectively) has expanded the number of cloud solutions available in the public and private sectors. In 2018, we expect to see many more organizations take advantage of the simplicity and high-performance the cloud guarantees.
According to a forward-looking 2016 survey on cloud services from Cisco, these solutions will continue to be deployed and used worldwide to accomplish diverse goals on an unprecedented level. 2018 will see SaaS solutions take the cake as the most highly deployed cloud service across the globe. The Cisco survey also forecasts that SaaS will account for 60% of all cloud-based workloads—a 12% increase over 2017 predictions. PaaS solutions will experience a modest five percent growth rate, while IaaS solutions are also set to increase. Given that these projections were made in 2016 and given positive performance in 2017, we can reasonably expect even greater growth in cloud services solutions than these predictions. Businesses that want to simplify operations and make it easier for their customers to access services will move more aggressively toward integrating SaaS, IaaS, and/or PaaS into their business processes.
2. Increased cloud storage capacity
As cloud services increasingly become a de facto part of doing business, we expect data storage to grow exponentially in the coming year. To accomplish this, service providers will bring more data centers online with larger-capacity storage equipment. The Cisco survey estimates that in 2017, the total amount of data stored in data centers would be 370 EB, while global storage capacity would reach 600 EB (see page 12 of the survey). These numbers are set to grow in 2018 to an estimated total storage capacity of 1.1 ZB, which is approximately twice the space available in 2017.
While data centers owners move to increase available storage, forward-thinking businesses will be able to take advantage of that space to further their objectives. For example, businesses that work with big data will use this increased space to store large data sets, perform analytics on them, and harvest valuable insights into areas such as customer behavior, human systems, and strategic financial investments. For small businesses, increased storage capacity means that 2018 will provide custom or bespoke storage options at far lower prices than were available in 2017.
3. The Internet of Everything (IoE) will take center stage
In 2017, the internet of things (IoT) and artificial intelligence played a stellar role in the tech community, with respected innovators like Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking commenting on their near-term potential. While industry experts anticipate IoT will see its own growth, continuous innovations in real-time data analytics and cloud computing are set to push the internet of everything (IoE) to the fore in 2018. IoE relies on machine to machine communications, data, processes, and how humans communicate with everything in their environment. Cloud computing will play a significant role as the IoE develops into complex systems aimed at simplifying all interactions.
For humans, this means we will be able to interact intelligently with every device in a network—just like IoT. Even more intriguing, humans will be able to interact more easily in human-to-human communications. For example, Google’s Pixel Buds(which are expected to be released in late 2017) are a headset equipped with the ability to recognize and translate 40 languages in real-time for its user. IoE will also provide businesses with more insight into how consumers relate to their products or services, customer care units, and one another. This data can then be used in multiple ways, including simplifying customer experience through automation and the use of smart robots. Japanese hospitality robots, which are imbued with the ability to welcome guests, converse in real-time, and provide certain services, give a sneak peek into what IoE could accomplish in the near future.
4. Enhanced internet quality and the rise of 5G
Just as the amount of data generated and stored around the world is poised to grow tremendously in 2018, consumers will also expect better and faster connections from network providers. Qualcomm Snapdragon has been spearheading the move to faster network speeds, and 2018 should see an increase in the number of groups working on these improvements. As this work gains momentum, we anticipate strong movement from gigabyte LTE speeds to full 5G networks, helping us reach 5G capabilities in record time.
Enhanced network quality will increase consumer expectations for highly-responsive, fast-loading services and apps. Savvy business owners will move quickly to reevaluate and upgrade their SaaS, PaaS, and website platforms to be more responsive. The IoT and IoE industries will also benefit from faster network speeds by allowing organizations in this space to receive and deliver data more efficiently in real time.
5. Security challenges and the cloud
Although 2017 hasn’t come to an end, it has already made a name for itself as the year of more cyber attacks than any other in history. Attacks such as the , the hack, and the Equifax data breach are reminders that cyber attacks are a reality of the 21st century.
We expect 2018 will see more individual and state-sponsored attacks aimed at undermining the security of cloud infrastructures. As cyber attackers become more sophisticated, security analysts in government, public, and private sectors will also have to become more sophisticated and timely in their methods for detecting and preventing attacks. Businesses will recognize the necessity of investing in tools like security information and event management (SIEM) and malware detection systems as fundamental defense mechanisms for cyber security. Cloud services can play a role here as well, with managed security service providers offering robust services to businesses that could not otherwise implement full security measures.