What is cloud computing? How did it evolve and what economic value is it adding to organizations that are struggling to sustain in this volatile market environment?
To begin with, cloud computing is simply about storing data and information in remote online architecture rather than on one’s own drive. The online storage space is metaphorically described as “Cloud”. Having said that, when we talk of cloud computing as a system we are compelled to believe that it is an output of the 21st century industrialized economy. But that’s not quite the truth.
This concept began to evolve almost five decades ago, that is in early 1950s to be precise, and it holds its genesis in mainframe computing.
Back then multitudes of users were capable of accessing a central computer through staid terminals, whose sole function was to provide access to the mainframe. And it was a hugely expensive proposition to procure and maintain mainframes. Organizations could ill-afford to buy and maintain one each for every employee. Plus it was not value adding for the employees either, since he/she did not require such unwieldy systems with unusually large storage capacity and processing efficacy.
The need therefore was to provide shared access to a single resource and that’s how this sophisticated piece of technology (cloud) was born.
As several thinkers and philosophers have said “invention kindles the appetite for further invention”. And nowhere can this be more apt than in the case of Cloud.
After about a decade or so, an enhanced version of the cloud landscape came into existence and in the year 1970, the concept of virtual machines (VMs) got created..
These machines would typically use a software like VMware, and corporations could execute one or more of such operating system in a totally independent and isolated environment. The “new” VM operating system took the 1950s’ shared access mainframe to altogether a different level, wherein multiple computing eco-systems could seamlessly reside in a single physical environment.
Further, the communication and information revolution that we talk of today traces its origins to the whole process of virtualization that took shape in early 70s.
Meanwhile, this new development (virtualization) also started seeing increasing applications and utility in the telecom industry.
Accordingly, in the 90s telecom companies began offering virtualized private network connections. This was a big change from the past when telecommunication providers would offer a single fixed point-to-point data connection. The virtualized systems also arrived with benefits galore. For one, pretty much like the dedicated services virtualized private network offered the same or even higher service quality in certain instances, that too at a significantly reduced cost. At another level, with the ability of the telecom entities to provide shared access with same physical infrastructure they could do away with creating legacy physical infrastructure systems.
The following briefly summarizes the evolution of cloud computing:
Grid computing: It had the wherewithal to solve complex problems with parallel compute power
Utility computing: The concept involved offering the resources for computing as a metered service
SaaS: Network-based subscriptions to applications
Cloud computing: Access to IT resources anytime, anywhere that is usually delivered as a dynamic service
It provides security, management, monitoring and governance services to make corporations crisis-proof and agile.
Doing so means using predictive analytics to determine when performance will become an issue, or when you see patterns emerge that show the likelihood of a breach.
In summary, legacy machines, equipment, and networking have been a burden for companies to maintain and manage and they also do not yield reasonable returns on investment. That’s where Cloud is gaining increased user-acceptance amongst CIOs of new-age corporations.
Although Cloud has its own share of constraints and limitations, but it nevertheless reduces the burden on corporate IT organizations and offers flexibility by letting firms outsource their computing needs and focus more on offering a tailored solution to the customers.