Grid computing

In the last few years, Information Technology (IT) has embarked on a new paradigm — cloud computing. Although cloud computing is only a different way to deliver computer resources, rather than a new technology, it has sparked a revolution in the way organizations provide information and service.

Thus, to put cloud computing in the proper context, keep in mind that in the DNA of cloud computing is essentially the creation of its predecessor systems. In many ways, this momentous change is a matter of "back to the future" rather than the definitive end of the past. In the brave new world of cloud computing, there is room for innovative collaboration of cloud technology and for the proven utility of predecessor systems, such as the powerful mainframe. This veritable change in how we compute provides immense opportunities for IT personnel to take the reins of change and use them to their individual and institutional advantage. What is cloud computing?

Cloud computing is a comprehensive solution that delivers IT as a service. It is an Internet-based computing solution where shared resources are provided like electricity distributed on the electrical grid. Computers in the cloud are configured to work together and the various applications use the collective computing power as if they are running on a single system.

The flexibility of cloud computing is a function of the allocation of resources on demand. This facilitates the use of the system's cumulative resources, negating the need to assign specific hardware to a task. Before cloud computing, websites and server-based applications were executed on a specific system. With the advent of cloud computing, resources are used as an aggregated virtual computer. This amalgamated configuration provides an environment where applications execute independently without regard for any particular configuration. Why the rush to the cloud?

There are valid and significant business and IT reasons for the cloud computing paradigm shift. The fundamentals of outsourcing as a solution apply.

• Reduced cost: Cloud computing can reduce both capital expense (CapEx) and operating expense (OpEx) costs because resources are only acquired when needed and are only paid for when used. • Refined usage of personnel: Using cloud computing frees valuable personnel allowing them to focus on delivering value rather than maintaining hardware and software. • Robust scalability: Cloud computing allows for immediate scaling, either up or down, at any time without long-term commitment. Characteristics

There are several key characteristics of cloud computing: • The customer doesn't have to know (and buy) the full capacity they might need at a peak time. Cloud computing makes it possible to scale the resources available to the application. A start-up business doesn't have to worry if the advertising campaign works a bit too well and jams the servers. • Customers pay only for what they use. They don’t have to buy servers or capacity for their maximum needs. Often, this is a cost savings.

• The cloud will automatically (or, in some services, with semi-manual operations) allocate and de-allocate CPU, storage, and network bandwidth on demand. When there are few users on a site, the cloud uses very little capacity to run the site, and vice versa. • Because the data centers that run the services are huge, and share resources among a large group of users, the infrastructure costs are lower (electricity, buildings, and so on). Thus, the costs that are passed on to the customer are smaller. Layers

There are several recognized layers in cloud computing. The vendors in these layers have very different service offerings and operating models. Some vendors concentrate on building and maintaining a huge data center, while others concentrate on building a user friendly and feature-rich application. The layers, from bottom to top, are: infrastructure, storage, platform, application, services, and client. Infrastructure

At the bottom is the infrastructure of the service, or the platform virtualization. You get the kind of server environment you want. This is the basic offering; customers still need to handle the server, all software installation, and maintenance by themselves.

The cloud computing infrastructure does differ from traditional hosting services because of scalability, and pay-as-you-go pricing. A start-up company might be very interested in getting the scalability, and in not paying for the time they're not using the service. It is convenient, especially if you’re trying to grow the traffic on your Web application but don’t know how soon, or how well, you'll succeed. Storage

With the storage layer, you get a database or something similar, and pay per gigabyte per month. A storage layer is nothing new or special, except for the full stack of services. It is, of course, vital.

There are several possibilities for storage. Some are traditional relational databases, and some are proprietary solutions such as Google's Bigtable or Amazon's SimpleDB. Platform The platform layer has solution stacks such as Ruby on Rails, LAMP, or Python Django. Now things start to get interesting. That fictitious start-up company doesn't have to deal with the installation of server software, or keep their versions updated, because that comes with the service. They can focus on developing and marketing their application. Application

The application layer contains applications that are offered as services. The most famous examples are probably Salesforce.com and Google Docs, but there are hundreds if not thousands of (real) applications that can be purchased as services.

Popular Web applications such as Facebook, Flickr, and LinkedIn are cloud services. In these cases, the customer probably doesn't know if the application is run in a scalable data center, in an ordinary hosting service, or in the service providers basement. But, that isn't a concern or problem for the customer who needs to use the application. This layer is probably the most visible part of cloud computing. It emphasizes the benefits that can be seen by customers. Services

The services layer contains interoperable machine-to-machine operations over the network. The most prevalent example of this layer is Web services. Other examples include payments systems, such as Paypal, and mapping services, such as Google Maps and Yahoo Maps. Client

At the top of the stack is the client layer, which contains the users of the cloud systems. Clients are, for example, desktop users (thin client or thick client), and mobile users (Symbian, Android, iPhone). As you can see, there are vast opportunities for vendors to offer exiting and new services, and for customers to find services and applications that solve their problems. However, there are some risks that customers need to understand.

Cloud formations There are three types of cloud formations: private (on premise), public, and hybrid. • Public clouds are available to the general public or a large industry group and are owned and provisioned by an organization selling cloud services. A public cloud is what is thought of as the cloud in the usual sense; that is, resources dynamically provisioned over the Internet using web applications from an off-site third-party provider that supplies shared resources and bills on a utility computing basis. • Private clouds exist within your company's firewall and are managed by your organization. They are cloud services you create and control within your enterprise.

Private clouds offer many of the same benefits as the public clouds — the major distinction being that your organization is in charge of setting up and maintaining the cloud. • Hybrid clouds are a combination of the public and the private cloud using services that are in both the public and private space. Management responsibilities are divided between the public cloud provider and the business itself. Using a hybrid cloud, organizations can determine the objectives and requirements of the services to be created and obtain them based on the most suitable alternative. IT roles in the cloud

Let us consider the probability that management and administration will require greater automation, requiring a change in the tasks of personnel responsible for scripting due to the growth in code production. You see, IT may be consolidating, with a need for less hardware and software implementation, but it is also creating new formations. The shift in IT is toward the knowledge worker. In the new paradigm, the technical human assets will have greater responsibilities for enhancing and upgrading general business processes. The developer

The growing use of mobile devices, the popularity of social networking, and other aspects of the evolution of commercial IT processes and systems, will guarantee work for the developer community; however, some of the traditional roles of development personnel will be shifted away from the enterprise's developers due to the systemic and systematic processes of the cloud configuration model.

Cloud computing provides an almost unlimited capacity, eliminating scalability concerns. Cloud computing gives developers access to software and hardware assets that most small and mid-sized enterprises could not afford. Developers, using Internet-driven cloud computing and the assets that are a consequence of this configuration, will have access to resources that most could have only dreamed of in the recent past. The administrator

Administrators are the guardians and legislators of an IT system. They are responsible for the control of user access to the network. This means sitting on top of the creation of user passwords and the formulation of rules and procedures for such fundamental functionality as general access to the system assets. The advent of cloud computing will necessitate adjustments to this process since the administrator in such an environment is no longer merely concerned about internal matters, but also the external relationship of his enterprise and the cloud computing concern, as well as the actions of other tenants in a public cloud. To cloud or not to cloud: Risk assessment

The main concerns voiced by those moving to the cloud are security and privacy. The companies supplying cloud computing services know this and understand that without reliable security, their businesses will collapse. So security and privacy are high priorities for all cloud computing entities. Governance: How will industry standards be monitored?

Governance is the primary responsibility of the owner of a private cloud and the shared responsibility of the service provider and service consumer in the public cloud. However, given elements such as transnational terrorism, denial of service, viruses, worms and the like — which do or could have aspects beyond the control of either the private cloud owner or public cloud service provider and service consumer — there is a need for some kind of broader collaboration, particularly on the global, regional, and national levels. Of course, this collaboration has to be instituted in a manner that will not dilute or otherwise harm the control of the owner of the process or subscribers in the case of the public cloud. Bandwidth requirements

If you are going to adopt the cloud framework, bandwidth and the potential bandwidth bottleneck must be evaluated in your strategy. Financial impact Because a sizable proportion of the cost in IT operations comes from administrative and management functions, the implicit automation of some of these functions will per se cut costs in a cloud computing environment. Automation can reduce the error factor and the cost of the redundancy of manual repetition significantly. Mitigate the risk

Consider these possible risks: • Adverse impact of mishandling of data. • Unwarranted service charges. • Financial or legal problems of vendor. • Vendor operational problems or shutdowns. • Data recovery and confidentiality problems. • General security concerns. • Systems attacks by external forces. With the use of systems in the cloud, there is the ever present risk of data security, connectivity, and malicious actions interfering with the computing processes. However, with a carefully thought out plan and methodology of selecting the service provider, and an astute perspective on general risk management, most companies can safely leverage this technology.