Breaking Down the Fundamentals of Cloud Computing

Following in the footsteps of industry buzz words like utility computing, clustering and virtualization, cloud computing is on the tips of everyone’s tongues lately. Cloud computing does have its own unique meaning, although it shares overlapping ideas with distributed, utility and grid computing. The reason for the conceptual intersections partly stems from the evolving technological usages, changes and implementations in recent years.

The waning general interest in grid, utility and distributed computing coupled with marketing and service offerings from large corporations like Amazon, Google and IBM drive the increased interest in cloud computing in the past year. Google search trends confirm that the term cloud computing has only been in use for about one year. Some suggest that the term ‘cloud computing’ likely comes in part from the use of an image of a cloud representing the Internet or a huge network. While what lies in the cloud remains somewhat ambiguous, the cloud is relied upon to send and receive data.

Allied with an abstract notion of the cloud, cloud computing replaces servers, routers and data pipes with services. While the fundamental hard- and software of networking remains in place, applications are built through higher level service capabilities, data and compute resources, with cloud computing. How the service is managed, implemented and what types of technology are used are not of importance to the user, as the access to the service and confidence in the reliability of meeting application requirements are the only things that matter.

At its core, cloud computing is distributed computing. Using the resource from multiple services (possibly from multiple locations as well), an application is built. As opposed to relying on the cloud for available resources, the endpoint to access the services is usually still required at this point and is also known as Software as a Service, or SaaS. A grid of computers typically lies behind the service interface, provides the resources, and is typically hosted by one company, which makes it easier to support and maintain. Although definitions of a grid vary, it is commonly described as a uniform environment of hard- and software. Utility computing is in place when a user starts paying for the services and resources utilized.

The essence of cloud computing is accessing services and resources required to perform functions with actively changing needs. Rather than requesting access from a specific named resource or endpoint, an application or service developer uses the cloud. The events taking place within the cloud manage multiple infrastructures over multiple organizations and include one or sometimes more than one frameworks covering and uniting the infrastructures. These frameworks serve as catalysts for self-monitoring, self-healing, automatic reconfiguration, resource agreement definitions and resource registration and discovery.

While people maintain the order of hardware, operation systems and networking, the cloud is self managing and maintaining virtualization of resources. The user or application developer only reference the cloud in the process of cloud computing. A framework executing across a heterogeneous environment is a local area network, the Assimilator project offers a local cloud environment and the addition of a network overlay to begin providing an infrastructure across the Internet to further the goal of cloud computing is in the works.

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