Defining Cloud Computing

When you download an image, where does it get stored? You select the path in your system and say then store in a folder in the D:. But if you upload a video on YOUTUBE, where does it get stored? If you own an Apple device and upload your documents to iCloud, where does it get stored? Answers to all these questions lie in just one word - The Cloud.

But what exactly is the cloud? In most basic of the terms, a cloud is someone else’s computer which has insane crazy amounts of space in it. Companies like Google, Apple, Amazon, Microsoft and many more have built huge data centres around the world. These data centres are the places which have terabytes of information being stored and processed every second. The cloud hence is just the servers that are working around the clock from these data centres.

But this is just a layman understanding of the cloud. We must understand what makes a cloud - A cloud. What if I have a small data centre with 10 Linux servers, Can I call that as a cloud service? There are some characteristics which have been defined by the Cloud Security Alliance, which are required for calling a bunch of servers together to be a cloud in itself.

Here we will look at 2 definitions and understand them in detail.

NIST defines cloud computing as:

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.

Well, these are some heavy words, to begin with. Let’s dissect this definition piece by piece to understand it.

Ubiquitous - means present everywhere. Your cloud service should be accessible over the internet. It does matter whether the user has logged in from New York or New Delhi. The person should be able to access his/her documents.

Convenient - Ease of access and convenience is the key. The cloud service should not involve hassles of filling out forms, waiting in a queue or for matter, spend days for installing a server, uploading documents, or, perhaps reaching to a particular destination for enabling the service.

On-demand Network access - This may cause confusion for some of the readers. This does not mean that you can get free Wifi on demanding. It rather refers to the fact that a user can provision what is required by him on his own without speaking to or interacting with any human administrator. Service availability on demand.

Shared Pool - This means all resources are gathered together and then made available for the users. Let’s take an example to understand this. Suppose I set up a cloud service by having 10 Linux servers of 1000 TB each. The shared pool of 10000TB will be available for the users. They will be able to provision for themselves the amount which they require from this complete pool.

Rapidly provisioned - The provisioning should not take time. You click a button or so and the requested storage space/ server configuration should be available for your usage.

The ISO/IEC definition is very similar:

Paradigm for enabling network access to a scalable and elastic pool of shareable physical or virtual resources with self-service provisioning and administration on-demand.

If you look closely, all these aspects are absolutely similar to what is mentioned in the NIST definition. 

If you still feel that you have not understood the logic of the cloud, let’s take some everyday examples to help you understand it better.

  1. Gmail - This is a cloud service ( yes, it’s true) offering you the mail software on the cloud. You can access it from anywhere, it’s highly convenient, you get around 15GB of storage space from a shared pool of storage. If you need more than 15 GB, you can easily provision extra storage space within a minute without standing in any queue or filling in any application forms or take any government approvals. 

  2. Google Docs - Well, I use Google Docs almost every day. It is accessible from anywhere, scalable, elastic and I don’t have to get any approvals or speak to a human admin if I need any service provisioned.

  3. DropBox / iCloud / Google Drive - Think on the same lines.

These services are publicly available and hence they represent the public cloud.

We will learn more about the types of cloud in the upcoming blogposts and also what are the key techniques to create a cloud.

Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.

Image Courtesy - Pixabay


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