What is cloud computing, and why does your business need it?2022-03-28 12:11:48
The adoption of the cloud has been on the rise. So what is cloud computing definition, when we first heard about the "cloud" – where did this name come from, and finally: what is the future of serverless computing development? Read Tenesys CEO's feature to find out.
The popularity of the cloud is growing
The cloud has been on everybody’s lips, and that’s for a reason.
While cloud adoption was expanding rapidly before 2020, with the outbreak of COVID, its implementation picked up even more speed. And, as Flexera 2021 State of the Cloud Report reveals, 9 in 10 organisations exceeded planned cloud usage due to the pandemic.
Having worked extensively with Azure and AWS clouds since 2015, our team at Tenesys has also noticed a kind of ‘cloud rush’ in the last year or two.
The topic has become so pervasive that I thought it would make sense to tackle it from different perspectives, and not just the technical one.
So let’s get back to basics.
What is cloud computing, and why is it called this way?
Microsoft Azure defines cloud computing as the delivery of computing services—including servers, storage, databases, software–over the Internet.
The shift to the cloud has brought numerous benefits for the business: from cost reductions to improved availability of services, data security, performance, and scalability of applications.
This model started gaining momentum around the year 2006. Around the same time, tech giants like Amazon or Microsoft began to speak about 'cloud computing'. According to the then Google CEO Eric Schmidt, in that new paradigm, data services and architecture should be on servers, in a ‘cloud’ somewhere.
But some accounts track its coinage back a decade earlier when in the mid-’90s Compaq Computer’s execs envisioned a future in which all software would move online. They even named this idea ‘cloud computing’, but the new concept didn’t gain much traction back then.
As this fascinating history from MIT proves, perhaps we’ll never pin down one individual or organisation behind the idea. Most probably, just as in the case of the Internet, its emergence resulted from many agents and stakeholders.
The humble beginnings of cloud computing
In the 1950s, mainframe computers started making their way to organisations. However, their hardware was expensive, so it became a practice to allow multiple users to share access to the same data storage layer and CPU.
Twenty years later, a new operating system–VM– took the idea of shared access further by permitting admins to have multiple ‘virtual machines’ on a single physical node. Every VM ran custom operating systems with their own memory, CPU, and hard drives even though those resources were shared.
“Virtualization” became a technology driver, galvanising some of the most significant evolutions in telecommunications and computing.
The history of the cloud begins
As the Internet became more popular, the next step was to take virtualisation online to reduce hardware costs. But sharing servers quickly proved insufficient for the growing appetite of Internet users who started to want to add more power to the network. That’s where hypervisors were used to visualise the environment’s scattered resources as if they were in a single node.
Cloud computing is how technologists described such environments. Adding resources to them was easy–you just had to connect and configure another server. At some point, enterprises like AWS wanted to make the benefits of cloud computing accessible to users with no physical infrastructure. Its Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) became available in 2006.
Servers had already been online, so the process of adding instances was almost immediate, while overheads–minimal. Not a bad point of departure for a new business model, right?
New opportunities never come without risks
Cloud service providers (CSPs) have carved out quite a niche by solving many technical issues suffered by businesses and laying the groundwork for further technological disruptions. While our growing reliance on the cloud is understandable, it doesn’t come without threats.
First of all, data breaches. Data in the cloud is vulnerable to whatever threats a CSP might face. Unauthorized access and account hijacking can expose vital business resources to threat actors–and these often start as a result of phishing, keylogging, and buffer overflow.
One of the top causes of breaches lies in cloud misconfiguration. Inadequate access restrictions, mismanaged permission controls, and random setting changes can lead to unwanted modifications, service interruption, and data loss. Faulty configuration can also give rise to Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS), a type of attack in which cybercriminals make a system or service unavailable to legitimate users.
Another weak point lies in insecure Application Programming Interfaces. APIs can help integrate various cloud platforms and tools, but they can enable attackers to access sensitive data if left unsecured. Luckily, you can mitigate these threats with the right selection of solutions and controls. But as always, the most critical security factor is people and their awareness.
What is the future of cloud computing?
Despite threats, the growth of the cloud is more than certain–Gartner forecasts that end-user spending on public cloud services will exceed $480 billion this year. This fact shouldn’t come as a surprise, considering that the cloud has proven irreplaceable over the last two decades thanks to its scalability, speed, and flexibility.
Organizations continue migrating to modernize systems, support hybrid work models, and address new realities, while wireless communications advances like 5G are pushing its adoption to new levels. Gartner named the four key trends continuing to expand the breadth of public cloud capabilities. These include:
regional cloud ecosystems,
sustainability and carbon-intelligent cloud,
and cloud infrastructure and platform service providers’ automated programmable infrastructure.
How they will play out is yet to be seen – and this topic is broad enough to deserve a separate article. For now, one thing is sure. It’s time to move to the cloud.