Cloud computing, the next step on the path to more efficient use of computing resources, is a disruptive technology that is changing the way enterprises look to meet their IT hardware and software requirements. Cloud computing is a mix of the latest ideas, technology and delivery models including Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS) and Software as a Service (SaaS), and other models in the IT sector that use the Internet for delivering services to the user. Users can access infrastructure namely, the servers, software, and data center space or network equipment; the required computing platform and solution stack for a building an application, covering the cycle of development, testing, deployment, hosting and maintenance; and also most of the regular software applications; these are all provided cheaply and efficiently over the Internet.
Some of the benefits of the Cloud are listed below:
Decreased Costs: The Cloud eliminates the need for each user to invest in stand-alone servers or software that is capital intensive, but under-utilized most of the time. As technological innovations take place, these resources become obsolete and must be replaced with the latest in order to ensure operational efficiency – requiring more capital investment – and the cycle repeats. The Cloud eliminates the need for such ‘replacement’ capital expenditure.
Many users share a Cloud leading to distributed costs and economies of scale as resources including real estate, bandwidth, and power, are centralized. The enterprise also saves on overheads such as management costs, data storage costs, costs of software updates, and quality control and is able to use Cloud services at economical rates.
Scalability and Speed: Enterprises no longer have to invest time in buying and setting up the hardware, software and other resources necessary for a new application. They can quickly scale up or scale down their usage of services on the Cloud as per market demands, during hours of maximum activity, while launching sales campaigns, etc. Cloud services are most usually reliable, since many service providers have data centers in multiple locations for keeping the processing near users.
Innovation: Enterprises can focus on innovation, as they do not have to own or manage resources. Cloud computing facilitates faster prototype development, testing and validation. Research and development projects or activities where users have to collaborate for a task/project are especially benefited.
Convenience: Sharing of infrastructure and costs ensures low overheads and immediate availability of services. Payments are billed on the basis of actual consumption only. Details of billing are made available by the service provider also serves to check costs.
Other than an Internet-connected device, special equipment or specially-trained manpower is not needed. One-off tasks can be performed on the Cloud. High-speed bandwidth ensures real-time response from infrastructure located at different sites.
Location Independence: Service providers can set up infrastructure in areas with lower overheads and pass on the benefit. They can set up multiple redundant sites to facilitate business continuity and disaster recovery. This helps the enterprise cut costs further.
Optimal Resource Utilization: Servers, storage and network resources are better utilized as the Cloud is shared by multiple users, thus cutting down on waste at a global level. Cloud computing is more environment-friendly and energy efficient. Down-time is cut and optimization of resources across enterprises on the Cloud is achieved.
Flexibility: Users can opt out at will and thus gain a high level of operational flexibility. The services are covered by service level agreements and the service provider is required to pay a penalty if the quality agreed to is not provided.
Device Independence: Applications provided through the Cloud can be accessed from any device – a computer, a smartphone, an iPad, etc. Any device that has access to the Internet can leverage the power of the Cloud.