The Tech Review - "The Cloud" Explained

The cloud: "Reigning" on Humanity's Parade

If you work in Information Technology or a related field, chances are sooner or later someone will ask you about the “Cloud” and what exactly you do in relation to it. We have been told by various IT communities that there is no commonly accepted technical definition of the cloud. In some ways, they are correct. However it can be easily explained to people on all levels of technology by associating the popularized term with its most essential functions.

In essence, “the cloud” has become the marketing term for Data Center. The term is most commonly used to sell hosted services through application service provisioning, running client server software at a remote location. For those with little or no tech experience it can be even more simply explained as networking, storage, security and application services provided via internet protocol. Network-based services which appear to be provided by server hardware are in fact provided by virtual hardware; simulated by software running on one or more actual devices. Because the virtual servers do not physically exist, they can therefore be moved or scaled up and down without affecting the end user.

In the early days of information technology, cloud computing was used most often by the scientific community for computing over a network, by running a program on many connected computers simultaneously.  As the internet evolved and client terminals which were originally used only to communicate to mainframes began to “share” physical access and CPU time, academic institutions and corporations put a greater emphasis on the ability to expand by sharing resources. The practice became known as “time sharing” and in some cases it eliminated the need for large expensive computer equipment. As a result, several corporations began to market time sharing commercially beginning in the 1960’s.
In early 1990’s, telecommunications companies saw a golden opportunity. Most Telco companies had previously offered only dedicated point-to-point data circuits. With the advent of network-based virtual services they began to offer virtual private network (or VPN) services with comparable quality of service but at a lower cost. They were able to use bandwidth more effectively by switching traffic on the network and balancing server use. Today, the cloud symbol typically designates the demarcation point at which the provider’s responsibility ends and the user’s responsibility begins. In some cases the cloud extends this boundary to cover servers and network infrastructure.

Cloud computing now shapes the relationship between consumers of IT services and the companies who provide them. More and more organizations are switching from company-owned hardware and software to per-use service-based resources resulting in dramatic growth in IT products and services.

Skip Pulley
Editor in Chief, Catharsis Magazine


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