What Is Cloud Computing?

May 2nd, 2014 by

Cloud computing is a tricky term to define. To understand it, you need to go back in time.

The term cloud computing is now one of the hottest trends i n the IT sector, along with Big Data and wearable tech. But it’s not the easiest concept to grasp. After all, it’s not as if puff-like clusters of computer hardware can actually be found hanging in the sky or even the stratosphere above earth. Having said that, cloud computing is anything but The Emperor’s New Clothes.

The term cloud computing was officially added to the Oxford dictionary in June 2012. But it existed a long time before that, all be it under a different name. In fact, as long ago as the Sixties, the technology behind cloud computing started being known as timesharing. Then, in the Seventies, IBM got their hands on it and called it virtualisation.

The ability for several devices or users to share resources on the same computer, independently, is the basis for the modern-day explosion of cloud computing, and in particular Virtual Private Servers or Cloud Servers.

Hosting companies have championed the cloud, because is has given them the opportunity to consolidate several servers into one, thus reducing their hardware and consequently their carbon footprint and costs to the customer. Cloud has also allowed them to introduce a utility pricing model into their hosting packages, which allows customers to avoid over-provisioning resources.

Businesses have also joined the Cloud fan club. Virtual Private Servers give companies the ability to scale resources like RAM, disk space and CPU up and down, which means business only pay for the resources they need when they need it. In turn this has allowed them to save on IT operating costs, including server administrators, and focus on revenue-generating processes.

Currently, the goal posts of what defines the cloud are moving. In addition to virtualization, hosting companies are radically altering their datacenter operations to pursue automation in the areas of servers, networks and storage. This has the added benefit of simplifying the hosting experience for customers and also makes it more affordable. Modern day hosting dashboards for cloud server accounts now offer amazing ways to launch new software or request additional hardware resources in the form of CPU and RAM.

For instance, cloud servers built on top of virtualization software and software-defined networks allow business leaders to quickly launch a range of operating systems including Windows or Linux, with a few simple mouse clicks. This extends to other popular software packages like WordPress or Drupal.

This ability to order resources “on-demand” is often referred to as Software-as-a-Service or SaaS, which was initially made famous by Salesforce, who many believe coined the term “cloud”.  Before that, a company like Salesforce would be have been referred to as an Application Service Provider or ASP.

Yet despite all this jockeying over terminology, the rapid advances in hosting technology are real and tangible to modern day customers in the form of cloud servers. While the underlying technology may be older than most people realize, the way it is being used today is radically transforming the cost basis for both customers and hosting companies.

That’s why, by 2016, Gartner Research predicts cloud growth will increase to become the bulk of new IT spend. Watch this space.

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