This thesis attempts to evaluate the effectiveness of cloud computing technology in terms of its efficiency through allowing of the in house IT staff to focus on key business. The thesis first introduces an overview of cloud computing and its relevance in the current business context and Information Technology infrastructure. It will further examine how cloud computing streamlines the process of execution of core business process in an organization. The thesis also covers on conclusions and recommendations concerning the effectiveness of cloud computing in the business context.
Cloud computing technology refers to an Information Technology infrastructure which is independent on the location; this is achieved through the use of shared servers over the network which provides resources, required data and software and their associative services upon request. Cloud computing represents an integration of the concepts of virtualization, utility computing and an IT architecture that is purely service oriented (Blokdijk & Menken, 2009). The end users of cloud computing basically have no control over the IT infrastructure within thecomputing grid that supports them. The basic underlying requirement for successful implementation of cloud computing is the internet, since it serves as a delivery model for the required services and data. An important concept of cloud computing is its scalability and variability. Cloud computing maximizes on the concept of ease of access of the internet to provide reliable access to central virtualized resources to a number of users supported in the cloud. A typical cloud computing model can be used to provide access to resources online through platforms such as web services or web based applications. However, the application and the data are stored in a remote server (Furht & Escalante, 2010). Most of the cloud computing IT infrastructures comprises of data, applications and services which are delivered through cloud computing centers which serve as access points for the users of the system. The allocation of resources and the services usually vary in accordance with the computing needs of the users (Blokdijk & Menken, 2009).
Cloud computing can be viewed to be an integration of the various computing approaches such as utility computing, grid computing, client server computing and the service oriented computing model. A more simplified approach to cloud computing is the mail servers; an end user does not really need a mail application to access his or her mail, all one needs is an internet connection and tools such as web browsers and web based applications. In such a kind of computing architecture, the user does not need to have the software; rather he enjoys the benefits of using a leased application. The underlying principle is that the end user needs only to use the application rather than having it and the required hardware. The infrastructure of cloud computing can be classified into three fundamental categories: applications or software layer, the platforms service and the infrastructure layers; which are generally referred to as IaaS, PaaS and SaaS (Chang, Abu-Amar, & Sanford, 2010). Every component of the cloud computing model serves a different purpose.
Presently, the applications component of the cloud computing model is one of the most useful business models. Since applications and date are stored in remote servers which are centralized, business organizations can curtail some operational costs associated with the maintaining of on-site servers, licensing costs and costs associated with the hardware that is required for the running of on-site servers. Apart from a reduction of costs, business organizations are able to run the applications efficiently and effectively from a cloud computing data center.
Software requirements of users are priced depending on the amount of disk space and the amount of network resources that the applications use. The end users of the on demand software can only use the application provided they have access to internet; this means that they do not require additional hardware and the resource limitations that the application may require (Furht & Escalante, 2010). Several companies offer on demand software, examples of which include: Net suite, Google, Concur Technologies, Taleo and Salesforce.com.
The Software as Service (SaaS), which are sometimes referred to as the Cloud application services are used deliver applications via the internet. This eliminates the requirement associated with the purchasing of off-the –shelf applications thereby eliminating procedures such as installation and running the applications on onsite work stations or servers (Marks & Lozano, 2009). This implies that maintenance support is provided for the end user is provided. Some of the features of the SaaS are outlined below.
- The delivery of application is uses the one to many approach, implying that the platform is based on single instance but multi user architecture. The application management characteristics are based on the same approach.
- The access and the management of software is network based, the applications are usually commercial and not customized.
- Activities are carried out at the cloud data centers that are centralized, thereby eliminating the need of the end user to download and install update patches and upgrades.
- The end user can only access the demanded software and associated services remotely.
The platform as a Service (PaaS) sometimes referred to as cloud platform services serve to deliver the required computing platform in accordance with the end user computing needs. The platform uses the cloud infrastructure and cloud application services in ensuring that whole cloud computing architecture is sustained and operational. The basic role of the cloud platform is to facilitate the use of applications and associated services without incurring extra cost and elimination of the complexity associated with the purchasing and managing of the fundamental software and hardware platforms (Reese, 2009).
The platform component of the cloud computing model generally comprises of the products that are use to set up the internet. Companies such as Hewlett-Packard (HP), Intel and Yahoo are currently providing cloud computing platforms jointly which use hardware from the HP Company and processors that are manufactured by Intel. Active cloud platforms facilitate the access of the applications by the end users through the use of a central server connected through the internet. For instance, Google uses the Apps Engine, Microsoft uses the Windows Azure, and Net Suite uses the Suite flex and Rock Space uses the Cloud servers and cloud files (Hariri & Parashar, 2004).
The cloud computing infrastructure is a vital segment in the computing architecture. It is sometimes referred to as infrastructure as a Service (IaaS). It represents a virtualization of the cloud computing platform. It serves to eliminate the purchase of servers, the required application software, network equipment, and the disk space required a computing data center. The end users instead acquire the above resources as a form of an outsourcing, since they only use the software without having the required hardware requirements (Hariri & Parashar, 2004). The cloud computing infrastructure uses the concept of utility computing in its implementation and depends on the data and software requirements of the end user. IaaS is an evolution of the virtual servers, and usually takes the three tier data center consisting of four tier attributes which have been assembled from a large number of interconnected computers which represent the cloud.
Cloud servers form an essential component of the cloud computing model. They primarily consist of the computer hardware, software or both, which are specifically designed to deliver cloud applications and software. They usually include multi-core processors and cloud computing system software. A typical cloud computing layer is shown below. The application, platform and the infrastructure serve to link the end user and the cloud server (Beard, 2008).
Characteristics of cloud computing data centers
The cloud computing data centers serve as the access point for the end user. One of the significant characteristic of cloud computing data center is that it deploys the use of a dynamic computing infrastructure which uses the concept of virtualization. Dynamic computing infrastructure means that the end users location needs not to be static; rather resources are allocated according what the user requires. For instance, a user only requires using the application but does not need the application itself. This means that only the interface is provided to the user via platforms such as the internet and web based access methods while the relevant data and storage space that the application utilizes are stored in a remote server. Provided a user has access to the internet, he can access the software and relevant data from the cloud servers via web based tools and applications. The computing infrastructure is generally offsite and location independent (Marks & Lozano, 2009). A dynamic computing infrastructure ensures that there are high levels of computing reliability and less redundancy; this implies that the cloud computing data centers have the capability to quickly respond to the computing needs of its customers therefore facilitating IT staff to focus on key business needs. A dynamic computing architecture results to improved reliability through the use sites and applications that are redundant. This implies that cloud computing data centers provide strategies that are aimed at fostering business continuity and strategies that offer recovery. Dynamic infrastructure means that requests use the on demand strategy and provisioning (Reese, 2009).
Another significant characteristic of the cloud computing data centers is the Information Technology service-centric approach. This basically entails a self service approach to computing. Services are provisioned according what the user demands and they can be deprovisioned once the user is done with them. Cloud computing facilitates the transfer of control of services or applications to the service owners as an alternative of having it controlled in the data center. This implies that there is improved Information technology efficiency through allowing the IT staff of the data center to lay emphasis on other vital business requirements. Service centric approach to computing ensures that the end users do not need to engineer the peak requirements and it is usually characterized by standardized user interfaces. Performance is usually kept in check through the use of coupled architectures which are developed as web services. In order to overcome the bottlenecks of associated with online computing, cloud computing data centers employ the use of distributed grid computing whereby data processing is parallel (Reese, 2009).
Another distinctive characteristic of cloud computing data centers is that the system has a self-managed platform. This attribute is significant in developing an effective cloud computing datacenter. The maintenance of the cloud applications and the cloud operating software is easy because they are not installed in the individual work station but rather in the centralized remote server where the client has no control over the resources associated with application. An update on the central server reaches the client in real time (Gillam, 2010).
Another defining attribute of the cloud computing data center is consumption based billing. An end user simply incurs the expenses for what has been used in terms of the resources of the amount disk space on the cloud server. Consumer based billing is based on the concept of metering by the data center. Metering implies that the consumption by a client can be measured basing on the specifications such as per day billing, weekly, on a monthly or yearly basis (Marks & Bell, 2006). Metering can be based on application attributes such as the data volume required for the application to run, the storage space on the server, the complexity of the application software and the amount of resources that the leased applications requires to run effectively.
The challenges faced by the present data centers
A number of constraints are associated with the infrastructure of the current data centers. One of the significant challenges that data centers face is the increasing labor costs. Information technology budgets are increasing due to the need of adequate personnel to effectively manage data centers. Administration costs for file and network servers are ever increasing and presently constitute one of the huge expenses incurred within a data center (Hariri & Parashar, 2004). Averagely, a network administrator earns $ 80000 annually, the various network management applications are costly, file managers too have earn a hefty sum for their services to the data center. This is costly for the data center (Gillam, 2010).
Another challenge that is facing the current data centers is increasing energy consumption. This is usually incurred through the costs associated with power and cooling. It is predicted the in a period of the coming two years, most of the data centers will be spending twice as much on the power costs and twice as much the amount they spend on server administration and hardware resources. Despite the risk of incurring extra power costs, there are usually no provisions on the power grids to accommodate extra power consumptions by the enterprise data centers (Beard, 2008).
Another significant challenge is the increasing demand from the end users. Currently, there is increasing demand for real time access in a secure manner. Anything that does not meet the above standards is regarded as unacceptable. This increase in expectations by end users implies that IT demands for the IT staff are increasing and posing a challenge to satisfy (Urquhart, 2010).
Another significant challenge facing the current data centers is the exponential increase in the data volumes. Increasing user requirements implies increased data volumes. Other driving factors that fuel the increase of data volumes in the current IT context is the increased use of online transaction processing systems, increased system performance and the increase in the number of IT devices. Increased data volumes pose a challenge of data handling by the data centers (Beard, 2008).
A further challenge that faces the current data centers is the lack proper data organizational structures in terms of software and hardware. Current data centers are characterized by multiple operating systems, complex hardware systems. The degree of structural complexity in the data centers makes it difficult for the IT staff to effectively execute their jobs (Gillam, 2010).
It is evident that the problems observed in current data centers are basically hardware and software oriented. An effective approach to this problem is to this problem is to adapt a computing technology whereby the end user has minimal access to the hardware and application software configuration. This puts cloud computing approach as an effective solution (Scheier, 2009). With the ever increasing user needs in terms of applications, it is only effective if they are provided with a computing infrastructure that is reliable and scalable at the same time. Scalability implies that the user can demands his provisions to be adjusted so as his current user requirements can be met. The only computing approach that provides a reliable solution to this requirement is cloud computing due to the fact that user requirements can be provisioned or deprovisioned in accordance with his needs since the billing strategy is utility based; the user gets to pay for he has used only (Foley, 2008).
Why use cloud computing
Adoption of cloud computing technology by a business organization plays a significant role in helping the business to execute their core business functions with less difficulties and improved efficiency. Organizations using cloud computing have the capability to take full advantage of their existing hardware through planning for peak use. Cloud computing approach provides a framework for facilitating easy management of the hardware and applications for the users under the supported cloud (Beard, 2008). This is principally due to the fact that the management of application services such as updates and maintenance are reserved for the cloud computing service providers. This saves the organization hefty expenses that are usually associated with application maintenance and hardware maintenance. In addition, the need for personnel to manage the application is eliminated, therefore saving the organization’s labor costs (Urquhart, 2010).
Through the use of cloud computing, business organizations can reduce power costs since they are no onsite servers required. Compared to other computing approaches, the most of the computing hardware that consume a lot of power are onsite. Cloud computing on the other hand eliminates power associated costs since only little hardware is need on site. The Information Technology staff also spends less time in the monitoring of the data center; this means that their efficiency is enhanced through placement of free staff members to help in the streamlining other operations of the organization. The IT teams efficiency is also enhanced basing on the fact there are few machines in the cloud computing environment (Marks & Bell, 2006).
Through the use of cloud computing, business organization can respond to their clients’ requirements in an effective and efficient manner. Cloud computing has the potential of improving how the organization delivers services to its customers and also facilitates the way in which an organization can meet its own Information technology resource requirements. This therefore implies that an organization should effectively adopt the cloud computing technology to increase its efficiency. An instance is the IBM cloud computing initiative which made it possible for the IBM to meet the demands of its customers through providing them with flexible and scalable Information Technology solutions during peak periods. This success at IBM can be attributed to cloud computing through the IBM computing on demand Service; whereby clouds made it possible the IBM to place servers and other storage and networking resources within the timeframes that their customers requested (Marks & Lozano, 2009).
It is evident that problems which face computing organizations are based on hardware and software issues. Developing a solution to such problems require a dynamic computing infrastructure which is capable of handling all the computing needs of an organization and its customers. With the use of cloud computing, Information Technology professionals can deploys their skills in enhancing the value of IT rather than tackling the everyday challenges associated with information technology. Cloud computing facilitates the dynamic accessibility of information technology applications and associated computing infrastructure, irrespective of the location. Another important advantage of using cloud computing is that it enhances scalability at the same time avoiding under utilization of IT resources. Services can be expanded or reduced to meet the requirements of the organization (Furht & Escalante, 2010).
Future trends in cloud computing
Hybrid cloud computing is one of the future approaches to cloud computing. Hybrid cloud computing involves the integration of two clouds, it involve a combination of two virtual cloud servers to provide a common service in an integrated cloud environment (Gillam, 2010). Hybrid cloud computing entails the integration of physical hardware and the virtual remote servers so as to offer a single integrated cloud computing service through the concept of a combined cloud. A combined cloud incorporates the use of multiple cloud service providers, which has been projected to be a useful trend for most of the business enterprises of the future. This is due to the fact that users of cloud services will have no difficulty in moving to public cloud computing services, and at the same time eliminating issues that are associated with PCI compliance (Scheier, 2009).
An important concept that could be used in the implementation of hybrid cloud computing is the development of web applications through the use of hybrid web hosting; whereby webhosting will incorporate a combination of cloud hosting and the normal managed web servers that are dedicated. The managed web servers will be running on physical hardware while cloud hosting will involve the use of virtual cloud instances. Hybrid storage is also another important aspect of hybrid cloud computing, which is significant in providing back up at the both the local level and replication at the cloud level.
Ahson, S. A. (2009). Cloud Computing and Software Services: Theory and Techniques. Boca Raton: Taylor and Francis.
Beard, H. (2008). Cloud Computing Best Practices for Managing and Measuring Processes for On-Demand Computing, Applications and Data Centers in the Cloud with Slas. Emereo: Lulu.
Blokdijk, G., & Menken, I. (2009). Cloud Computing – The Complete Cornerstone Guide to Cloud Computing Best Practices: Concepts, Terms, and Techniques for Successfully Planning, Implementing and Managing Enterprise It Cloud Computing Technology. Emereo: Emereo Pty Ltd.
Chang, W., Abu-Amar, H., & Sanford, J. (2010). Transforming Enterprise Cloud Services. Springer: Springer.
Foley, J. (2008). Private Clouds Take Shape. Web.
Furht, B., & Escalante, A. (2010). Handbook of Cloud Computing. London: Springer.
Gillam, L. (2010). Cloud Computing: Principles, Systems and Applications. London: Springer.
Hariri, S., & Parashar, M. (2004). Tools and environments for parallel and distributed computing. Hoboken, NJ : Wiley-IEEE.
Marks, E., & Bell, M. (2006). Service-oriented architecture: a planning and implementation guide for business and technology. Hoboken, N.J.: Wiley.
Marks, M., & Lozano, B. (2009). Executive’s Guide to Cloud Computing. New York: John Wiley and Sons.
Reese, G. (2009). Cloud application architectures. Sebastopol, Calif: O’Reilly Media, Inc.
Scheier, R. (2009). What to do if your cloud computing provider disappears/ Cloud computing. InfoWorld , 89.
Urquhart, J. (2010). Cloud computing’s green paradox. Web.