The Cloud Understood (Part 1)

In this blog series, my goal is to explain the concepts of “Cloud,” its features, methods, strengths, weaknesses, benefits, and risks. Not since the late 1980s and early 1990s, when the “Internet” buzz-word consumed the mindset of everyone who was at least tangentially exposed to information technology, has a term become so pervasive as has the word “Cloud.” We see it everywhere; in the news, email, on the web, even in TV commercials. Everybody (and their brother) has the “Cloud Solution” for you. If only it were that easy.

bunny_cloud

As we begin this journey to the understanding of Cloud, I want to offer a caveat by way of an analogy. If, like me, you grew up without the advantages or distractions of technology-based entertainment devices, you probably remember playing with your friends outside. Often as a respite between more vigorous activities, I would lay down on the grass with my friends, stare up at the sky, and we would describe to each other the images that we saw in the ever-changing clouds above. One of us would say, “It looks like a train coming out of a tunnel”; another would say, “It looks like my kitten hiding under the covers”; and yet another would say, “No, it’s definitely a ninja warrior delivering a flying kick.” The differences in our backgrounds, needs, desires, and fantasies all had an effect on our perspective of what those clouds represented. Similarly, there are many different interpretations of Cloud technology today.

The first step of the journey: a little history and some definitions. Although the term “Cloud computing” was coined as a phrase in 2006 when Amazon launched its Elastic Compute Cloud services (EC2) and Google Apps were deployed via the Internet, the idea of computing in a cloud traces back to the 60s:

  • John McCarthys proposal in 1961: If computers of the kind I have advocated become the computers of the future, then computing may someday be organized as a public utility just as the telephone system is a public utilityThe computer utility could become the basis of a new and important industry.
  • Leonard Kleinrock, a chief scientist on the ARPANET project stated in 1969: As of now, computer networks are still in their infancy, but as they grow up and become sophisticated, we will probably see the spread of computer utilities.’

These ideas are coming to fruition as evidenced by the following definitions:

  • Gartner Group: “…a style of computing in which scalable and elastic IT-enabled capabilities are delivered as a service to external customers using Internet technologies.
  • Forrester Research: “…a standardized IT capability (services, software, or infrastructure) delivered via Internet technologies in a pay-per-user, self-service way.
  • Nation Institute of Standards and Technology: Cloud computing is a model for enabling ubiquitous, convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (e.g., networks, servers, storage, applications, and services) that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction. 
  • Thomas Erl in Cloud Computing: Cloud computing is a specialized form of distributed computing that introduces utilization models for remotely provisioning scalable and measured resources.

My summarized definition of “Cloud Computing” is…

  • At a minimum, Client-Managed Virtualized Storage and/or Infrastructure in a Pay-Per-Use Model
  • Client-Managed Elasticity/Scalability of Compute/Storage/Networking Resources
  • Ability to design Virtual Private Clouds with Resources blended from Vendor-Agnostic Disparate Sources (Client On-Premise, AWS, Oracle-Cloud, DropBox, eSky, etc.)

As in everything related to Information Technology (IT), Cloud computing is rife with acronyms. For the rest of this first installment of my blog, I want to provide a list of the most common (and a few lesser known) acronyms that all end with “…as-a-Service.” While this list is long, it is not exhaustive. I’m confident that I’ve left out many and that the list will continue to grow as Cloud providers deploy new and exotic ways to serve its consumers.

At the head of the list is XaaS—Anything as a Service. XaaS is a general category to which the rest belong.

Here’s the list in order of complexity and risk.

  • StaaS Storage as a Service
    • Gigabytes, Terabytes, Petabytes
    • Think Virtually Limitless Storage
    • Ability to choose Volume and Performance
      • Archival Data stored on Near On-Line Devices
      • Recent Historical Data stored on Slower More Resilient Spindles
      • OLTP Data Stored on Fast (80k IOPs) SSD
      • Application & Web Server Running on Optimized Blended Storage
    • Security and Sharing definable by Device/Partition/Folder/File
    • Automatically scalable based on Usage and Need
  • IaaS Infrastructure as a Service
    • Providing only as much CPU Processing Cores and RAM as required for Modularized Implementation
    • Scalability – add or remove Servers on a needs basis
    • Mix and match Operating Systems
    • Automatically scalable based on Usage and Need
  • NaaS Networking as a Service
    • Firewall
    • Elastic Load Balancer
  • BRaaS Backup/Recovery as a Service
    • StaaS with Backup/Recovery Management Toolset
    • Option for varying storage type depending on BU Age
  • MaaS Monitoring as a Service
    • Server Statistic Gathering/Analysis
      • Assist in determining Auto-Scaling Rules
      • Notice of Over/Under use of Resources
    • Application Statistic Gathering/Analysis
      • Application Performance
      • Bottlenecks
        • Infrastructure
        • Networking
        • Operating System
        • Middleware
        • Application
    • Who is Accessing the Application(s)
      • Who
      • What
      • Why
      • Where
      • When
      • How
  • CaaS Communications as a Service
    • VOIP
    • Email
    • Instant Messaging
  • AaaS Authentication as a Service
    • Single Sign-On management and authentication
    • Multi-Factor authentication
    • Federated authentication
    • LDAP/Active Directory
  • DBaaS Database as a Service
    • Combines StaaS and IaaS with Data Management Engine
    • Oracle RDBMS
    • Microsoft SQL-Server
    • MySQL
  • PaaS Platform as a Service
    • Combines StaaS, IaaS, NaaS and Optionally MaaS, DBaaS, HAaaS and DRaaS
    • Client provided licenses for OS, Middleware, Application(s)
    • Template based models of varying sizes including Web, App, Batch, File, Search, Attachment (Document/Image) and DB Servers
    • Client Managed Maintenance Schedule for Updates/Upgrades/Patches
  • SaaS Software as a Service
    • Microsoft 365 (Azure)
    • Google Docs
    • com
    • Workday
    • Combines StaaS, IaaS, NaaS and Optionally MaaS, DBaaS, HAaaS and DRaaS
    • Licensing combined with SaaS Provider Contract
    • Template based models of varying sizes including Web, App, Batch, File, Search, Attachment (Document/Image) and DB Servers
    • SaaS Provider Managed Maintenance Schedule for Updates/Upgrades/Patches
    • HAaaS High Availability as a Service
    • Multiple Redundant Servers (IaaS) at Each Server Tier or Paired Tier
    • Load Balanced
  • DRaaS Disaster Recovery as a Service
    • Provide Server and Storage redundancy across multiple geographic regions or from On-Premise (Primary-Site) to Cloud (DR-Site)
    • Built-In HAaaS via Elastic Load Balancer and Virtual Private Cloud design
    • Automatic triggered failover and IP reassignment
    • Automated recovery processes upon primary-site availability

Next time, I’ll dig a bit deeper into the features of Clouds in general and talk about how Cloud service providers address the needs of individuals and organizations.

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