5 Questions To Ask About Cloud

Gartner describes Cloud (Computing) as “a style of computing in which scalable and elastic IT-enabled capabilities are delivered as a service using Internet technologies.” While the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), defines Cloud Computing as “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.”

In layman terms, Cloud (computing) is a way for people to use hardware, software, and data through the Internet.

Basically, what this means is that instead of using their own devices (e.g., computers, mobile devices, etc.), we use our own device to access a cloud provider’s services. Some examples of cloud computing services used by consumers include Gmail, Facebook, and Amazon, etc. For organizations, ‘going to the Cloud’ can mean different things depending upon the business models and the main objectives to be achieved.

Within an organization, the Information Technology (IT) is responsible for all technology-related hardware, software, data, services, and security across all departments (e.g., accounting, administration, business development, customer service, finance, human resources, management, manufacturing, marketing, operations, production, R&D, sales, etc.) This is a huge undertaking especially when we consider that different departments within an organization can have different needs and those needs change can change rapidly based on consumer behaviors, market conditions, regulatory requirements, and other changes. This implies that rapid changes require organizations to move fast and adapt. This is where the IT department can help or become an obstacle.

The IT department responds to changing organizational needs by gathering relevant requirements from other departments to develop IT systems. These IT systems can be custom-built or bought from technology vendors or a combination. The hosting, development, maintenance, and update of these IT systems typically become the responsibility of the IT department. The speed at which these IT systems are deployed and respond can have a direct effect on the organization. For example, an IT system that is only capable of handling 2000 simultaneous users will crash if 30,000 simultaneous users accessed it. What to do? This is one example among many where Cloud Computing shines.

Generally speaking, cloud services provided by cloud service providers can be stacked into Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS), and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS). Additionally, Cloud can be private – where it is hosted on an organization’s data center, public – where it is hosted on a cloud vendor’s data center or hybrid.

To begin your Cloud journey, here are some questions to ask:

 

Today Tomorrow
Who is going to use Cloud services? Who should be using Cloud services?
What organizational departments provide the Cloud requirements? What organizational departments should provide the Cloud requirements?
Where is the biggest Return on Investment (ROI) when it comes to going to the Cloud? Where should be the biggest Return on Investment (ROI) when it comes to going to the Cloud?
When are organizational weaknesses identified? When should organizational weaknesses be identified?
Why is the Cloud for you? Why should the Cloud be for you?

If the organization is going to the Cloud to provide software (cloud) services to consumers then some of the things they have to figure out how to make them easy to use and always available. If the organization is going to the Cloud to improve IT operations then they have to identify efficiencies, be specific in terms of time and costs, figure out vendor lockdowns, and data hosting considerations. Sometimes organizations want to tackle both the internal improvements and consumer-focused services which can add more complexity to what going to the Cloud could mean for them. In certain respects, Cloud computing is about being efficient but it is more about being flexible enough to respond to changes quickly.

To be clear, going to the Cloud is not for every organization but if proper due diligence is done then it is beneficial for most organizations.

What is the relationship between Cloud Computing and Service Orientated Architecture (SOA)?

According to the publication from Mitre, Cloud Computing and Service Orientated Architecture (SOA), cloud computing has many services that can be viewed as a stack of service categories. These service categories include Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS, Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS), Storage-as-a-Service, Components-as-a-Service, Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) and Cloud Clients. The following figure shows the service categories stack as depicted in the Mitre publication:

Mitre's Cloud Stack
Mitre’s Cloud Stack

SOA is a framework that allows business processes to be highlighted to deliver interoperability and rapid delivery of functionality. It helps system-to-system integration by creating loosely coupled services that can be reused for multiple purposes. The concept of SOA is similar to Object-Orientated Programming where objects are generalized so that they can be reused for multiple purposes.

Now that we have an understanding of the various types of Cloud Computing services and SOA, let’s explore how Cloud Computing and SOA are similar and different.

Similarities between Cloud Computing and SOA:

  • Reuse – Conceptually speaking, the idea of reuse is inherent both in Cloud Computing and SOA.
  • As needed basis – In Cloud Computing, the services are provided to the users on-demand and as needed. SOA is similar to this since the system-to-system services are on-demand and as needed as well.
  • Network Dependency – Cloud Computing and SOA both require an available and reliable network. If a network does not exist then the cloud services provided over the Internet would not be possible. Similarly, if a network does not exist then the communications between systems would not be possible. Thus, both Cloud Computing and SOA are dependent on a network.
  • Cloud Contracts – In Cloud Computing, contracts entail the mutual agreement between an organization and cloud service providers. In cloud contracts, there is a cloud service provider and a cloud service consumer (the organization). In the case of SOA, contracts are important and can be either external (e.g., Yahoo! Pipes) and/or internal (e.g., organizational system integration). In SOA contracts, there are service producer(s) and service consumer(s) that are conceptually similar to cloud contracts.

Differences between Cloud Computing and SOA:

Despite the similarities between Cloud Computing and SOA, they are not the same. Following are some of the differences between them:

  • Outcome vs. Technology – In Cloud Computing, we are paying for the outcome but in SOA we are paying for technology.
  • External vs. External and/or Internal Point-of-View – In Cloud Computing, the services that organizations get are from external organization but in SOA these services can be either from external organizations (e.g., Yahoo! Pipes) and/or internally (e.g., system-to-system integration between two or more systems).
  • IaaS, PaaS, SaaS vs. Software Components – In Cloud Computing, the services provided can go up and down the stack but in SOA the services are software components.

References:

  1. Raines, Geoffrey. “Cloud Computing and SOA.” The MITRE Corporation. The MITRE Corporation, Oct. 2009. Web. http://www.mitre.org/publications/technical-papers/cloud-computing-and-soa
  2. Gedda, Rodney. “Don’t Confuse SOA with Cloud.” CIO. CIO Magazine, 28 July 2010. Web. http://www.cio.com/article/2414614/cloud-computing/don-t-confuse-soa-with-cloud.html

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