Cloud World i – Cloud Computing

In trying to define more clearly the “digital world” of the introduction I realized that I need to define “Web-based apps.” This led me to the following two questions:

What does “cloud computing” mean? What’s the “cloud?”

Trying to work that out I did what I think the Average Joe would do – I checked out the Wikipedia entry for cloud computing and the discussions page and followed some links. Checking YouTube produced several videos, including this one (from salesforce.com) and this one, which is, thankfully, from 05/08.

And here are a couple of quotes, from the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) and the The New York Times (NYT):

- from a Wall Street Journal article (Geoffrey A. Fowler/Ben Worthen) on 03/26/09:

In its broadest sense, cloud computing describes something apparent to anybody who uses the Internet: Information is stored and processed on computers somewhere else — “in the clouds” — and brought back to your screen.

- from a recent (7/19/09) Op-Ed piece (Jonathan Zittrain) in the NYT:

“[Google’s new operating system] Chrome moves us further away from running code and storing our information on our own PCs toward doing everything online — also known as in “the cloud” — using whatever device is at hand.”

Then I found the current NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology) (6/1/09) draft working definition of cloud computing. I don’t understand it completely, being an Average Joe (and remembering that my personal motto-of-the-moment is “The more I know, the less I know,”) but in my geekiness I am in awe of it and I reproduce it here in its entirety for your enjoyment. Here are four mental notes I made as I read it:

  • Note 1 must be the kicker.
  • The Internet is a special case.
  • The SaaS part is key.
  • The cloud is a product of cloud computing.

Reference URL: http://csrc.nist.gov/groups/SNS/cloud-computing/index.html

Draft NIST Working Definition of Cloud Computing

Authors: Peter Mell and Tim Grance

6-1-09

National Institute of Standards and Technology, Information Technology Laboratory

Note 1: Cloud computing is still an evolving paradigm. Its definitions, use cases, underlying technologies, issues, risks, and benefits will be refined in a spirited debate by the public and private sectors. These definitions, attributes, and characteristics will evolve and change over time.

Note 2: The cloud computing industry represents a large ecosystem of many models, vendors, and market niches. This definition attempts to encompass all of the various cloud approaches.

Definition of Cloud Computing:

Cloud computing is a model for enabling 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. This cloud model promotes availability and is composed of five essential characteristics, three delivery models, and four deployment models.

Essential Characteristics:

On-demand self-service. A consumer can unilaterally provision computing capabilities, such as server time and network storage, as needed automatically without requiring human interaction with each service’s provider.

Ubiquitous network access. Capabilities are available over the network and accessed through standard mechanisms that promote use by heterogeneous thin or thick client platforms (e.g., mobile phones, laptops, and PDAs).

Location independent resource pooling. The provider’s computing resources are pooled to serve all consumers using a multi-tenant model, with different physical and virtual resources dynamically assigned and reassigned according to consumer demand. The customer generally has no control or knowledge over the exact location of the provided resources but may be able to specify location at a higher level of abstraction (e.g., country, state, or datacenter). Examples of resources include storage, processing, memory, network bandwidth, and virtual machines.

Rapid elasticity. Capabilities can be rapidly and elastically provisioned to quickly scale up and rapidly released to quickly scale down. To the consumer, the capabilities available for provisioning often appear to be infinite and can be purchased in any quantity at any time.

Measured Service. Cloud systems automatically control and optimize resource use by leveraging a metering capability at some level of abstraction appropriate to the type of service (e.g., storage, processing, bandwidth, and active user accounts). Resource usage can be monitored, controlled, and reported providing transparency for both the provider and consumer of the utilized service.

Note: Cloud software takes full advantage of the cloud paradigm by being service oriented with a focus on statelessness, low coupling, modularity, and semantic interoperability.

Delivery Models:

Cloud Software as a Service (SaaS). The capability provided to the consumer is to use the provider’s applications running on a cloud infrastructure and accessible from various client devices through a thin client interface such as a Web browser (e.g., web-based email). The consumer does not manage or control the underlying cloud infrastructure, network, servers, operating systems, storage, or even individual application capabilities, with the possible exception of limited user-specific application configuration settings.

Cloud Platform as a Service (PaaS). The capability provided to the consumer is to deploy onto the cloud infrastructure consumer-created applications using programming languages and tools supported by the provider (e.g., java, python, .Net). The consumer does not manage or control the underlying cloud infrastructure, network, servers, operating systems, or storage, but the consumer has control over the deployed applications and possibly application hosting environment configurations.

Cloud Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS). The capability provided to the consumer is to provision processing, storage, networks, and other fundamental computing resources where the consumer is able to deploy and run arbitrary software, which can include operating systems and applications. The consumer does not manage or control the underlying cloud infrastructure but has control over operating systems, storage, deployed applications, and possibly select networking components (e.g., firewalls, load balancers).

Deployment Models:

Private cloud. The cloud infrastructure is operated solely for an organization. It may be managed by the organization or a third party and may exist on premise or off premise.

Community cloud. The cloud infrastructure is shared by several organizations and supports a specific community that has shared concerns (e.g., mission, security requirements, policy, and compliance considerations). It may be managed by the organizations or a third party and may exist on premise or off premise.

Public cloud. The cloud infrastructure is made available to the general public or a large industry group and is owned by an organization selling cloud services.

Hybrid cloud. The cloud infrastructure is a composition of two or more clouds (private, community, or public) that remain unique entities but are bound together by standardized or proprietary technology that enables data and application portability (e.g., cloud bursting).

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