The language of cloud computing

Organizations are increasingly using cloud computing and cloud solutions, which has spawned a new set of terms that correspond directly to the world of cloud computing. Software consultant Nari Kannan explains briefly what cloud computing is all about and defines the key terminology used.

We hear a lot about cloud computing, and though people in the computing industry know we’re not talking about the weather, as with any technology, the terminology can be confusing. In this tip we’ll take a look at some of the common terms and definitions used in cloud computing.

Cloud Computing – Cloud computing refers to the delivery of computing as a service (or the computing architectures involved in its delivery) rather than as a product. Shared resources, software and information are provided to computers and other devices as a utility (like an electricity grid) over a network, internally within an organization’s network, over the Internet or a combination of both. The history of cloud computing is tied to some large companies building a computing infrastructure meant for peak demand (like Christmas shopping season) and finding that they are not using that capacity at other times. They then enabled these resources to be used by others as needed for a fee over the Internet, and that’s how cloud computing evolved.

Private Cloud A private cloud is the cloud infrastructure dedicated to one single organization, whether they are hosted internally within the organization, or externally.

Public Cloud A public cloud is an infrastructure that could be used by many organizations. It is provisioned dynamically as needed to perform computing through Web services, typically as a set of third-party administered, metered services.

Hybrid Cloud A hybrid cloud is a combination of private and public cloud computing infrastructure. Organizations may have their own servers and storage, but may provision resources on demand from public clouds as needed, use them, and release them when not needed.

Community Cloud A community cloud is a cloud infrastructure that is shared by many organizations that have common concerns and approaches to security, availability, privacy, business continuity, etc. Costs are more than a public cloud since fewer organizations are sharing resources.

Multi-Tenancy Multi-tenancy is when a single application runs on a server, but for multiple organizations, at the same time. Users belonging to each organization see customized versions of the application for their use. This allows for sharing of the application itself as a resource as opposed to single-tenancy when only one organization uses an application that runs on one or a set of servers.

Web Services Web services allow different applications from different servers to communicate with each other without time-consuming custom coding, and because all communication is in XML, Web services are not tied to any one operating system or programming language. For example, Java can talk with Perl, and Windows applications can talk with UNIX applications. Web services share business logic, data and processes through a programmatic interface across a network.

Cloudburst – Cloudburst refers to the dynamic acquisition of computing resources as needed, on demand. It also carries the negative meaning of the failure of cloud computing to expand on demand, resulting in outages seen by all or a portion of users trying to access an organization’s application.

Scalability Scalability in the cloud computing context refers to the ability of the cloud infrastructure to expand itself and meet the demand when it increases.

Cloud Reliability Reliability is an attribute of any computer-related component (software, hardware or a network, for example) that consistently performs according to its specifications. Cloud reliability refers to whether the cloud resources perform consistently within their specifications.Are they available when needed? Do they perform as needed on demand?

Vertical Cloud A vertical cloud is a public cloud computing infrastructure built and optimized for any one industry vertical that has special requirements, like healthcare or financial services.

Client A client in the context of cloud computing is a set of hardware, operating systems and some application software that is useless without the cloud part. For example, any browser -based computing done by logging into a server on the cloud. A netbook is a good example of a cloud client.

Application (Also “Software as a Service or SaaS) – This refers to the functionality of an application delivered not as a product installed locally, but as a product remotely accessed on a server in the cloud.

Infrastructure – Infrastructure in cloud computing refers to resources used in the cloud for computing rather than servers, storage and hardware. Typically, infrastructure refers to combinations of computing cycles, storage units used and networking bandwidth.

Platform (Also “Platform as a Service” or PaaS) When complete application capabilities are made available in the cloud in which users build their own additional capabilities or programs, it is known as a Platform or a Platform as a Service. For example, a hosted advanced program development environment library on top of which you develop your own computer programs is a platform.

Cloud Storming Cloud storming refers to combining multiple clouds into a single, cohesive, virtual cloud for computing.

Cloud ware Cloud ware refers to the software necessary for provisioning, deploying, running, and managing applications in the cloud.

Cloud provider A cloud provider is an organization that builds, and makes available, cloud computing for other organizations to use and pay for.

Cloud Portability Cloud portability refers to the ability to move applications across multiple clouds with ease. This could be across private and public clouds or between public clouds.

Cloud Spanning Cloud spanning refers to splitting application components, and running them across multiple clouds. Cloud bursting refers to running full copies of the whole application on other cloud resources. Cloud spanning refers to splitting the application itself and running the pieces on multiple clouds.

Internal Cloud An internal cloud refers to cloud computing set up for use within the confines of an organization, exclusively by its members. This could be a national or an international network.

External Cloud – An external cloud is cloud computing set up for use by select other organizations and their members only, and not for the general public.

About the author: Nari Kannan is currently the Chief Executive Officer of appsparq Inc., a Louisville, Kentucky-based mobile applications consulting company. Nari has over 20 years of experience in information technology and started out as a senior software engineer at Digital Equipment Corp. He has since served variously as vice president of engineering or CTO of six Silicon Valley startup companies, working in the areas of business process improvement, IT consulting, automotive claims processing, human resources and logistics applications. He can be reached at nari@appsparq.com.

This was first published in November 2011

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