Tech Word for The Week is a weekly series where we look to explain commonly used words in the tech ecosystem in a simple, engaging way.

In last week’s edition, we examined SaaS and how it has evolved to the choice option for software installation. This week, we are going to look at the technology which powers it - cloud computing.

To begin with, what is cloud computing?  Before we deep dive into a technical definition, permit me to show you how you have been using cloud computing (maybe unknowingly.)

Cloud computing enables you to share documents or files with your colleague (who is probably in another state) on Google doc. It allows us to host a video conferencing session on Zoom, record and upload it for anyone around the globe access to rewatch. Catch the drift?

It makes us able to store, send, upload, download, edit, and retrieve our data on Gmail, Whatsapp, and every networking software, app or website we use today. Cloud computing allows us to do these things from any device, anywhere, and whenever we want.

Cloud computing is basically renting computer services. It is the delivery of services such as storage, software, analytics, database, intelligence, and servers over the internet. (Now, over the internet here means “the cloud.”) This facilitates faster innovation, lower cost, flexible resources and economies of scale.

Organisations who provide cloud services permit users to store files, softwares and applications on remote servers. They also provide access to all the data via the Internet. Users are not required to be in a specific place to gain access to it, allowing the user to work remotely.

Before the introduction of the cloud, organisations had to manage their files or service on premises. This means they had to have all the computers in the network on the premises of the developer or startup operating the software. But now, using the cloud enables you to pay as you go, run your infrastructure more efficiently, reduce your operating costs and scale your startup faster.

The Evolution of Cloud Computing

The evolution of cloud computing can be traced back to the 1950s with mainframe computing. Then, the mainframe computers were gigantic and expensive to maintain for individual employees. So organisations bought one or two mainframe computers. They used time sharing schedules which permitted multiple users to access the central mainframe computer from on premise connected stations.

During the 1960s, J.C.R. Licklider (an American computer scientist) conceptualised an interconnectedness of computer systems. This was a major advancement towards modern day cloud computing. Licklider created a version of today’s internet known as the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (ARPANET).

The ARPANET enabled computers that were not in the same physical location to share digital sources. Licklider imagined a world where computers around the globe would be interconnected and anyone could access the data from anywhere. Yes. This thought process contributed to the internet which is at our fingertips today.

Further advancements were made through the subsequent decades. For instance, IBM introduced an operating system (OS) called the Virtual Machine operating system in 1972. This virtual machine was with a fully-operational OS, and it acted like what we have today. As a result, organisations started to offer virtual private networks as a rentable service. This contributed to the development of the modern cloud infrastructure.

Also, in the 2000s Amazon introduced Amazon Web Services and Elastic Compute cloud. These permitted companies and individuals to rent virtual systems which enabled organisations to run their own programs and applications. Around 2006, Google launched Google Doc. services, which allowed users to create, edit, share, save and transfer documents in the cloud.

Netflix also runs its video streaming services in the cloud.  Thousands of computers around the world are able to stream movies and video contents from the comfort of their homes.

Also Read: Cloud engineering for beginners

Cloud Computing Deployment Models

There are 3 basic deployment models of cloud computing; Public, private and hybrid. Let’s examine them

Public Cloud: Third-party companies operate this model. They handle, maintain, and control all of the hardware, software and general infrastructure. They are sold on demand by the minute or hour. Consumers pay for only CPU cycles, bandwidth and the storage they consume. Some notable providers of public cloud services include IBM, Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform.

Private Cloud Computing: A private cloud permits an organisation to build and maintain its own cloud infrastructure. As the name implies, “Private”, they are meant for specific individuals or usually one organisation. The model offers convenience and versatility while preserving the control, management, and security for the local data centre. Organisations who use this model are OpenStack and VMware.

Hybrid cloud allows a combination of both public and private services. This enables the user more flexibility and helps optimize the user's infrastructure and security. Businesses who use hybrid cloud can use the public cloud to run a spike in demand and then administer sensitive applications on the private cloud. Hybrid cloud aims to create an automated, scalable and unified environment which takes advantage of all the features a public cloud infrastructure provides and still maintain control over critical mission data.


Types of Cloud Computing

There are three basic types of cloud computing services at the moment. Although, others are emerging everyday. They are:

  1. Software as a Service (SaaS): SaaS is a cloud-based software licensing model where the provider creates and maintains the cloud application software and every other underlying IT infrastructure for the users. The service is provided on a subscription basis.
  2. Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS): Infrastructure as a service delivers everything from servers, storage, and operating systems through IP-based connectivity which is part of an on-demand service. Customers don’t have to purchase software or servers, rather they can procure the resources from an outsourced on-demand service.
  3. Platform-as-a-service (PaaS): PaaS shares some similarities with SaaS. It is a model that provides a complete cloud platform (software, hardware, and infrastructure). The platform develops, runs, and manages applications for the users. This saves customers costs and the complexity of building and maintaining the platform on-premises.

Final Thoughts

Over the years, organisations who are looking to drive their business forward are increasingly embracing cloud computing. This trend will go on for a long time. Cloud computing is still evolving and there are going to be more disruptions and regulations in the future.