Welcome!

IBM Cloud Authors: Liz McMillan, Pat Romanski, Yeshim Deniz, Carmen Gonzalez, Elizabeth White

Related Topics: Linux Containers, Microservices Expo, IBM Cloud, @CloudExpo

Linux Containers: Article

Cloud Computing: What It Is and What It’s Not

The logical next step in dynamic infrastructures and architectures

IBM Session at Cloud Expo

Cloud computing is a concept. It is an architectural framework by which one or many organizations can deploy, manage and retract any workload, public or private. Cloud computing addresses business needs from a workload perspective. The concept collectively addresses all the aspects of modern computing from components (SAN, network, servers, software) to implementations (virtual desktops, hosted applications, e-mail, etc.) in a comprehensive, cohesive solution.

What It Is
The industry has evolved from implementing disparate individual systems to sharing workloads and the cost of those workloads (grids), to offering software and solutions as services (service-oriented architecture [SOA]). Cloud is the next step in the evolution of the industry; it is the step that meets business requirements with a dynamic approach. "My business, my user, needs to do this." Cloud makes this possible with the fewest number of duplicated efforts.

The buzzword-laden and slightly more complete definition:

A cloud is a dynamic, infinitely scalable, expandable, and completely contractible architecture. It may consist of multiple, disparate, local and non-local hardware and virtualized platforms hosting legacy, fully installed, stateless, or virtualized instances of operating systems and application workloads.

What It Is Not
Cloud computing is not a platform, specific hardware architecture, specific software architecture or any specific product. It is not Internet-based computing, nor is it merely the use of shared resources or the storage of data somewhere abstract. Were any of this the case, then the first time an e-mail, a document or any other piece of data were ever stored on a server on the Internet, that would have been considered a cloud.

Marketers seem to be struggling with how to position and sell cloud computing and the offerings based on it. This is leading to many misrepresentations of what a cloud is. Most of the cloud computing solutions being marketed today are merely hyped up hyperbole of Internet-based or Web 2.0 computing. These solutions and offerings are components of what a cloud computing architecture would represent.

Amazon's online resource offering, EC2, is a good example of the common divide between marketing and technology. Amazon's site defines EC2 as: "Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) is a web service that provides resizable compute capacity in the cloud." It would more appropriately be defined something to the effect of "... is a web service based on Amazon's cloud computing architecture that provides resizable compute capacity to its users via the Internet."

The Internet is not "the cloud," yet that seems to be the most common misuse of the term. This misuse is confusing business people as to what the cloud really is and technology professionals as to how a cloud is useful within their organizations. As a technology professional, it is important to understand that cloud computing has benefits and applications far beyond large web service and hosting providers.

This does not preclude cloud computing from use in Internet-based solutions. Amazon's EC2 and Google Apps are good examples of this. The technologies used to deploy these systems are either heavily or entirely cloud-based. The systems are dynamic, extensible and expandable. They may or may not exhibit all of the qualities of a true cloud computing architecture, but they certainly qualify as being cloud-based.

Another misconception of clouds is that they are exclusively public, private, internal or external. Based on its definition, cloud computing is a construct to implement any of those solutions, independently of each other or inclusive. A properly designed cloud computing architecture could allow an organization to dynamically deploy, manage and retract internal, external, public and private workloads.

Although a public and a private cloud could be one and the same, most commonly, if a cloud computing architecture is implemented to offer billable, service-based offerings to external users or customers, it is being considered a public cloud. Likewise, it is becoming commonplace to refer to cloud computing architectures that only offer compute services to internal employees as being private clouds.

Cloud computing is fast becoming fantastic marketing jargon for companies and organizations that may or may not have the capability or the desire to really explain it or deliver on its promise. It is not an easy concept to grasp. The more abstract a concept is, the harder it is to explain; and even harder to properly implement. Cloud computing is an abstract concept that includes the implementation of multiple abstract technologies. All of the intangibles involved make explaining cloud computing difficult, but poor explanation should not minimize what cloud computing can accomplish.

Cloud Characteristics

Extensible: It can be modified to suit multiple purposes while the base architecture remains intact.

Accessible: The services are easy to deploy, access and manage.

Scalable: The components used in the design can be scaled indefinitely.

Contractible: The deployed services can be easily removed.

How We Get There
Clouds are built from existing and emerging technologies. Cloud computing architectures will be put in place and merged with existing, installed systems. They will incorporate every major technology used today. Virtualization and interconnectivity are only a few of the vital technologies that go into implementing a cloud computing solution. Service-oriented architecture (SOA), Storage Area Networks (SAN), and dynamic configuration of Virtual Networks (VLANs) and physical networks are all part of it. Self-service user portals, virtualized desktops and shared compute resources could all be part of a well-designed cloud.

Cloud computing is accomplished with a building block approach. Start with the base reference architecture. Install the underlying tools to deploy, manage and retract the resources on that architecture. Then add the necessary components (hardware and software) for the workloads that a particular cloud needs to support. As workloads requirements increase, additional building blocks are added to the cloud.

What about traditional operating system (OS) deployment tools? What about application deployment and orchestration tools? These legacy tools are part of the building blocks that get added to a cloud computing architecture. On their own, they do not constitute a cloud. They are part of the components that provide the ability to add and customize workloads within the cloud.

One of the major requirements of cloud computing is that the underlying tools to deploy, manage and retract the resources in a cloud must be indefinitely scalable. If the underlying architecture is not scalable beyond any known capacity, then the design could be limiting.

Why Clouds?
Why are we building clouds? What does cloud computing accomplish?

Cloud computing:

  • Reduces time to deployment
  • Reduces administration
  • Increases application flexibility
  • Decreases dependence on proprietary platforms
  • Enables fit for purpose computing
  • Decouples the workload from the platform

Conclusion
The industry will build clouds because cloud computing is the next major step in delivering solutions, not just applications. Organizations need to rapidly deploy new workloads faster than ever. They need to be able to dynamically modify how those workloads are deployed. They need to be able to redeploy and retract those workloads, on-demand, like never before. Cloud computing is the logical next step in dynamic infrastructures and architectures.

More Stories By Bill Bauman

Bill Bauman, WW Cloud & Virtualization Solution Architect at Red Hat, is an expert on Cloud Computing, Virtualization and scalable systems. He has 17 years of IT experience in everything from programming to processor debugging and complex systems architecture. Follow Bill @ http://billbauman.com.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


@ThingsExpo Stories
In his keynote at 18th Cloud Expo, Andrew Keys, Co-Founder of ConsenSys Enterprise, provided an overview of the evolution of the Internet and the Database and the future of their combination – the Blockchain. Andrew Keys is Co-Founder of ConsenSys Enterprise. He comes to ConsenSys Enterprise with capital markets, technology and entrepreneurial experience. Previously, he worked for UBS investment bank in equities analysis. Later, he was responsible for the creation and distribution of life settle...
BnkToTheFuture.com is the largest online investment platform for investing in FinTech, Bitcoin and Blockchain companies. We believe the future of finance looks very different from the past and we aim to invest and provide trading opportunities for qualifying investors that want to build a portfolio in the sector in compliance with international financial regulations.
Leading companies, from the Global Fortune 500 to the smallest companies, are adopting hybrid cloud as the path to business advantage. Hybrid cloud depends on cloud services and on-premises infrastructure working in unison. Successful implementations require new levels of data mobility, enabled by an automated and seamless flow across on-premises and cloud resources. In his general session at 21st Cloud Expo, Greg Tevis, an IBM Storage Software Technical Strategist and Customer Solution Architec...
Nordstrom is transforming the way that they do business and the cloud is the key to enabling speed and hyper personalized customer experiences. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Ken Schow, VP of Engineering at Nordstrom, discussed some of the key learnings and common pitfalls of large enterprises moving to the cloud. This includes strategies around choosing a cloud provider(s), architecture, and lessons learned. In addition, he covered some of the best practices for structured team migration an...
Product connectivity goes hand and hand these days with increased use of personal data. New IoT devices are becoming more personalized than ever before. In his session at 22nd Cloud Expo | DXWorld Expo, Nicolas Fierro, CEO of MIMIR Blockchain Solutions, will discuss how in order to protect your data and privacy, IoT applications need to embrace Blockchain technology for a new level of product security never before seen - or needed.
Imagine if you will, a retail floor so densely packed with sensors that they can pick up the movements of insects scurrying across a store aisle. Or a component of a piece of factory equipment so well-instrumented that its digital twin provides resolution down to the micrometer.
No hype cycles or predictions of a gazillion things here. IoT is here. You get it. You know your business and have great ideas for a business transformation strategy. What comes next? Time to make it happen. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Jay Mason, an Associate Partner of Analytics, IoT & Cybersecurity at M&S Consulting, presented a step-by-step plan to develop your technology implementation strategy. He also discussed the evaluation of communication standards and IoT messaging protocols, data...
Coca-Cola’s Google powered digital signage system lays the groundwork for a more valuable connection between Coke and its customers. Digital signs pair software with high-resolution displays so that a message can be changed instantly based on what the operator wants to communicate or sell. In their Day 3 Keynote at 21st Cloud Expo, Greg Chambers, Global Group Director, Digital Innovation, Coca-Cola, and Vidya Nagarajan, a Senior Product Manager at Google, discussed how from store operations and ...
In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Raju Shreewastava, founder of Big Data Trunk, provided a fun and simple way to introduce Machine Leaning to anyone and everyone. He solved a machine learning problem and demonstrated an easy way to be able to do machine learning without even coding. Raju Shreewastava is the founder of Big Data Trunk (www.BigDataTrunk.com), a Big Data Training and consulting firm with offices in the United States. He previously led the data warehouse/business intelligence and B...
"IBM is really all in on blockchain. We take a look at sort of the history of blockchain ledger technologies. It started out with bitcoin, Ethereum, and IBM evaluated these particular blockchain technologies and found they were anonymous and permissionless and that many companies were looking for permissioned blockchain," stated René Bostic, Technical VP of the IBM Cloud Unit in North America, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Conventi...
A strange thing is happening along the way to the Internet of Things, namely far too many devices to work with and manage. It has become clear that we'll need much higher efficiency user experiences that can allow us to more easily and scalably work with the thousands of devices that will soon be in each of our lives. Enter the conversational interface revolution, combining bots we can literally talk with, gesture to, and even direct with our thoughts, with embedded artificial intelligence, whic...
When shopping for a new data processing platform for IoT solutions, many development teams want to be able to test-drive options before making a choice. Yet when evaluating an IoT solution, it’s simply not feasible to do so at scale with physical devices. Building a sensor simulator is the next best choice; however, generating a realistic simulation at very high TPS with ease of configurability is a formidable challenge. When dealing with multiple application or transport protocols, you would be...
Smart cities have the potential to change our lives at so many levels for citizens: less pollution, reduced parking obstacles, better health, education and more energy savings. Real-time data streaming and the Internet of Things (IoT) possess the power to turn this vision into a reality. However, most organizations today are building their data infrastructure to focus solely on addressing immediate business needs vs. a platform capable of quickly adapting emerging technologies to address future ...
We are given a desktop platform with Java 8 or Java 9 installed and seek to find a way to deploy high-performance Java applications that use Java 3D and/or Jogl without having to run an installer. We are subject to the constraint that the applications be signed and deployed so that they can be run in a trusted environment (i.e., outside of the sandbox). Further, we seek to do this in a way that does not depend on bundling a JRE with our applications, as this makes downloads and installations rat...
Widespread fragmentation is stalling the growth of the IIoT and making it difficult for partners to work together. The number of software platforms, apps, hardware and connectivity standards is creating paralysis among businesses that are afraid of being locked into a solution. EdgeX Foundry is unifying the community around a common IoT edge framework and an ecosystem of interoperable components.
DX World EXPO, LLC, a Lighthouse Point, Florida-based startup trade show producer and the creator of "DXWorldEXPO® - Digital Transformation Conference & Expo" has announced its executive management team. The team is headed by Levent Selamoglu, who has been named CEO. "Now is the time for a truly global DX event, to bring together the leading minds from the technology world in a conversation about Digital Transformation," he said in making the announcement.
In this strange new world where more and more power is drawn from business technology, companies are effectively straddling two paths on the road to innovation and transformation into digital enterprises. The first path is the heritage trail – with “legacy” technology forming the background. Here, extant technologies are transformed by core IT teams to provide more API-driven approaches. Legacy systems can restrict companies that are transitioning into digital enterprises. To truly become a lead...
Digital Transformation (DX) is not a "one-size-fits all" strategy. Each organization needs to develop its own unique, long-term DX plan. It must do so by realizing that we now live in a data-driven age, and that technologies such as Cloud Computing, Big Data, the IoT, Cognitive Computing, and Blockchain are only tools. In her general session at 21st Cloud Expo, Rebecca Wanta explained how the strategy must focus on DX and include a commitment from top management to create great IT jobs, monitor ...
"Cloud Academy is an enterprise training platform for the cloud, specifically public clouds. We offer guided learning experiences on AWS, Azure, Google Cloud and all the surrounding methodologies and technologies that you need to know and your teams need to know in order to leverage the full benefits of the cloud," explained Alex Brower, VP of Marketing at Cloud Academy, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clar...
The IoT Will Grow: In what might be the most obvious prediction of the decade, the IoT will continue to expand next year, with more and more devices coming online every single day. What isn’t so obvious about this prediction: where that growth will occur. The retail, healthcare, and industrial/supply chain industries will likely see the greatest growth. Forrester Research has predicted the IoT will become “the backbone” of customer value as it continues to grow. It is no surprise that retail is ...