Introduction to Cloud Services and Its Impact of Tech and Humanity
Part 1 of Principia Cloud Series
Cloud is the Silver Lining
History repeats itself, albeit in different forms and advancements that we call ‘Future’.
Independence and global progress have surprisingly been directed through the congregation of influential powers. Take the medieval times for instance. People would have been in utter despair if they individually had to build armies, sow lands, arouse factories, construct dams to preserve daily existence. A congregation of chiefs led by a king/ruler exerted complete control over such utilities and all commoners had to do was pay a periodic tax to avail the benefits. Fast forward, it would seem an alternate reality if everyone had their own electricity-producing plants to meet the daily power necessities. Dedicated organizations achieve the feat and all we do is to ‘plug and play’ switchboards, connect cables, and pay a monthly fee to keep our home appliances running.
Scale up to the 21st-century reality, almost nine out of ten daily living necessities are ‘accessed’ or ‘availed’ by us with a simple tap, text, or call. What we call freedom is a hassle-free, no-brainer life-as-a-service.
Sounds familiar? YES, why shouldn’t technology, that has fast-tracked millennia worth of global progress within five decades, be any different? Why do enterprises need to spend billions of dollars on costly technological infrastructure, platforms, systems, applications to meet their daily operational needs? Just like centuries before, this is a conceptual loophole and an outdated methodology that demands a speedy fix to avail the game-changing capabilities of technological advancements, researches, innovations worldwide with unprecedented ease and agility.
‘It’s time. Take the Cloud Pill’
Enter the Cloud Service Provider:
By definition, cloud services entitle the delivery of cutting-edge computing, storage, networks, servers, development and software platforms, applications that are end-to-end IT necessities via the internet. All users need is a computer to access the services on-prem and a stable internet connection. Cloud platforms, on the other hand, are distantly managed, highly secure centralized computing environments by Cloud Service Providers (CSPs) whose mammoth IT resources are shared, accessed, pooled amongst millions of enterprises worldwide (multi-tenant architecture), available to individual businesses on-demand (as-a-service) or on a subscription basis. Yes, even, CPU and RAM of computing systems would be abstracted and connected to the cloud service provider.
Just as highlighted before, the cloud computing services revolution is not to be viewed as just ‘another trend’. On the contrary, this is the natural evolution of techno-powered mankind wherein computing requirements, data generation and storage needs, networking, and server requisites have reached abominable levels, exponentially increasing year on year defying Moore’s Law. As such, millions of enterprises suffer from legacy infra limitations yet are forced to continue with the same. Frequent IT infrastructure upgrades are not only unthinkably expensive but are strenuous too, thwarting business as usual. How many times in a year have you upgraded your computer’s RAM or changed your mobile even though the applications have had countless upgrades and are slowing down your devices? Now, think on the enterprise scale.
Peeping through History: Cloud Computing Services
Enter 2006, the birth of Amazon Web Services (AWS). Recognized today as the first cloud services provider and one of the top 2 global cloud players, Amazon Web Services disrupted the software and IT industry by doing exactly what organizations have done with utilities for ages. No need to build thousands of square feet long data centers with hundreds of servers, CPUs, monitoring devices, cloud storage accessories, and wired meshes of private networks. Avail all on-demand by connecting your desktops/local devices to AWS via a stable internet connection. Utilize only as much as you need and pay only for what you use! The Cloud Revolution was BORN.
No wonder, Marc Benioff, Salesforce Founder and another pioneer of the cloud revolution had predicted two decades back - “The End of Software”. Shoo-ed away as a marketing gimmick then, Salesforce enjoys a 200 billion dollar market capitalization today with its major marketing cloud offerings.
21st Century: A Cloud Reality
One and half decades since AWS’s announcement to the world, cloud services have triumphed over the IT industry and the business world as a whole. The legacy giants, Microsoft, Google, SAP, Adobe, Oracle, Cisco, Verizon, and IBM have adopted a cloud-first approach to preserve their market relevancy and center all enterprise, consumer offerings around cloud architectures. Apple, though a proclaimed ‘devices disruptor’, is increasingly focusing on the end-to-end “Apple experience” (Guess what, that is powered by the cloud too).
New megastars on the block, Redhat, Slack, Zoom, Facebook, Rackspace, DropBox, Zendesk, Workday to name a few have either diverted towards a cloud-powered business or centralized their offerings on global cloud services platforms to deliver ultra-fast, seamless digital experiences worldwide. Even traditionally non-tech behemoths such as McKinsey have invested in cloud providers and cloud startup companies to bolster operations and services.
Almost every application or digital service you use daily is delivered through cloud computing services: the new foundation for modernized experiences, innovation agility, and secure disruption-free global operations. IDC predicts that the public cloud service infrastructure market would top 500 billion dollars by 2023. Gartner takes a more aggressive route to claim that IaaS, SaaS, and PaaS (the three bedrock cloud services) would cross 300 billion dollars ‘spending’ by 2022. To put these mind-boggling numbers to scale, these dwarf market values of global behemoths like Reliance, TCS, Uber, Ford, Netflix, Toyota, Disney, etc, and close to three-quarters of nations’ annual GDPs. A study claims that 94% of enterprises around the world already deliver or utilize services that are powered by the cloud.
We live in a ‘clouded’ reality. And, that’s the real sunshine for humanity and its mega techno-advancement aspirations.
The Game-changing Perks: Cloud and Clear
“Almost every application or digital service you use daily are delivered through the cloud: the new foundation for modernized experiences, innovation agility, and secure disruption-free global operations.” - READ THE SENTENCE AGAIN
Believe it or not, we have scaled only a few inches of cloud’s revolutionary significance. Far from extending cutting-edge IT infrastructure (compute, storage, networks, servers) virtually, cloud platforms such as Microsoft Azure, AWS, Google Cloud Platform, etc serve as the delivery bedrocks for new software platform developments, custom web application developments, task collaborating, and sharing, risk analysis, and automated cybersecurity management, RPA or process automation solutions, Big Data Analysis, IoT and Edge infrastructure management, Blockchain, and advanced ML-AI-Deep Learning capabilities. Needless to mention, this transition from traditional IT to cloud IT is usually disruption-free, seamless, and glitch-proof.
Akin to a digital transformation one-stop-shop, enterprises can shift their IT landscapes to the cloud and choose tailored technologies to meet their current and future business needs: operations, security, resilience, innovation. Furthering the case of how cloud catalyzes the enterprise adoption of mind-bending tech advancements that were reserved for ‘big-ticket players’ not long back, Microsoft recently announced Microsoft Azure Quantum: a quantum computing enterprise ecosystem for leveraging innovative ‘qubit solutions’, optimization tech, and quantum applications development. Google had announced ‘quantum supremacy’ (In layman’s terms, quantum computing could achieve a task better than the world’s best computers) only 2 years prior! Talk about the speed of ‘techno-democracy’!
So, what are the overarching benefits of cloud computing for businesses? Below is a detailed account:
- IT on Demand, Minimal Costs:
Cloud computing negates the requirements for infrastructure capital expenses. Buying, maintaining, and upgrading physical hardware such as servers, storage, networks, data centers could be a mammoth task that drains enterprises of monetary as well as manpower resources. With the infrastructure now virtually integrated on the cloud that can be utilized anytime and anywhere on demand, enterprises can bid adieu to IT management hassles and put greater emphasis on core operations. Moving the needle a notch up, a firm could modernize applications and platforms also on the cloud to embrace an end-to-end cloud IT experience. The best part: alienate idle expenses (cranking up power bills even when not in use), vendor lock-in, and pay for only the time and resources you utilize on the cloud. Choose also to adopt a dedicated Cloud Adoption Framework or Migration Factory approach to virtual transition. Via a dedicated assembly line methodology and intelligent automation solutions, avail ultra-fast transition and maximum benefits out of your cloud platform and significantly lower costs. Optimize expenses at every stage of the cloud journey.
- Robust Infrastructure with Hyper Scalable Performance: Cloud computing resources are mostly on-demand and shared. This downscales the latency issues as delays are mostly caused by traffic backhauling (When IT teams are redirected to traffic within internal, private networks). With virtual machines (VMs: processing architectures that act similar to physical CPUs) such as AWS EC2 Instances, seamlessly autoscaling up or down basis enterprise traffic loads, operational outages, and processing latencies are achieved. Dedicated hyperscale systems (Large-scale datacenters infused with state-of-the-art infra capabilities) deliver optimum, high-level cloud experiences with high-end throughput at a near-zero outlay
- Cloud-Native Applications and Solutions - Quite unfairly, enterprises equate the different types of cloud services and systems with IT cost optimization strategies. While that’s no doubt transformative, the biggest advantage of migrating to a cloud ecosystem is its native applications and solutions. As a one-stop-shop, adopt cutting-edge tools for Delivery optimization, process automation, cybersecurity management, data analytics, Customer Relationship Management (CRM), Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity Planning (DR - BCP), Enterprise Backup and Recovery, Artificial Intelligence including Machine Learning, Deep Learning. Akin to an app store that hosts and supplies applications to be used by consumers in every vertical possible, cloud platforms act as the host to applications, systems, operating system assets, platforms, solutions from third parties that could be used anytime, anywhere by enterprises to streamline daily operations end-to-end.
- Centralized Monitoring and Management: Gain centralized, on-click visibility to all your assets, workflows, platforms, systems, applications, web services, and assets on your adopted cloud environment with ease. Measure and track the performances of your cloud-based assets, map them based on business KPIs and avail useful insights to improve organizational IT standards. Opt for custom, smart cloud-native tools to visualize, monitor, and manage daily operations successfully on the cloud with unprecedented ease. Embrace end-to-end IT resource and assets management on the cloud via intuitive dashboards.
- Zero Disruption Transformation: Transition to cloud without data loss or operational disruption fears. Avail an agile Cloud Deployment Framework catered to core Business needs that result in always availability, industry-best uptimes, zero thwarts to Business as Usual. Modernize your IT backend on the cloud without a single hitch to daily processes and revenue flows. With systems on the cloud that autoscale basis traffic requirements and dataflow secured at state-of-the-art hyperscaler datacenters, run daily operations and manage all your administrative platforms, systems, applications without a single disruption.
- Fail-proof, Near-zero Outage Operations with Integrated Disaster Recovery: Business Continuity Planning encompassing enterprise backup and disaster recovery is one of the most significant business strategies that numerous companies often fail to comply with. Cloud platforms streamline the conundrum with integrated Disaster Recovery tools and solutions to help businesses achieve near-zero operational outages. Avail advanced automated backup, recovery, and disaster management solutions with stringent, custom RPO/RTO standards. Build your custom DR strategy on the cloud, adopt tailored solutions, streamline-protect data storage platforms, and opt for periodic DR drills for maximum impact. Avail geo-native hosting for maximum impact.
- Compliant-ready IT Architecture: Non-compliant IT and enterprise operations could lead to major consequences. On the flip side, examining critical regulatory standards at local, regional scales could serve as a major deterrent to business expansion. With cloud platforms, avail a globally compliant-ready cloud architecture that includes stringent adherence to local-national-global regulations such as PCI-DSS, NESA, SAMA, GDPR, FedRamp, MSA, IRAP, GxP, CSA, OJK, MEITI, RBI. Worldwide standards include dedicated certifications for ISO 27001, ISO 27017, ISO 27018, ISO 20000, ISO 22301, SOC1, SOC2. Global public cloud giants such as Google Cloud Platform, AWS, Azure deliver specific cloud-native tools and solutions including documentation planning, policy checking, governance that streamlines compliance activities for enterprises with ease and agility. Adhere to data residency and locality laws easily with secure, in-country hosting. Let compliance issues never deter your organization’s progress again.
- Advanced Data and Cybersecurity Management: With numerous cloud-native tools, 40+ Security Controls, dedicated Security Operations Center managed services, and cybersecurity experts, gain end-to-end protection of all your assets, networks, servers, applications, databases, virtual platforms, and more. Embrace end-to-end data and information security on the cloud through special perimeter networks, data lakes, community cloud policies, compliant-ready architectures, and more. Leverage the advanced Managed Detection and Response platform for automated threat, malware management. Lower Mean Time to Detect and Response across all touchpoints, avail complete end-point security, and utilize advanced data analytics to gain unique security management insights. With threat intelligence, move the need further and predict, avoid risks even before they occur. Embrace game-changing preventive maintenance capabilities (Self-Healing Operations).
- Automation and Enterprise Intelligence: ‘Techno-democracy’ - Access to game-changing techno innovations and advanced technologies under a simple pay-per-use scheme without the need for special investments is one of the biggest advantages of the cloud. Leverage proprietary cutting-edge AI, Big Data, Analytics, RPA, and automation tools and solutions to modernize processes and embrace intelligent, informed decision-making capabilities. Choose from hundreds of advanced, cloud-native tools in Azure, AWS, GCP, Oracle, IBM Cloud to streamline asset management, workflows, compliance, governance, and more. Streamline manual redundancies and automate repetitive workflows to maximize cloud ROI. Empower your business with end-to-end digital intelligence transformation on the cloud platforms.
Cloud Services 101: The Pillar Models
All platforms, applications, infrastructure, systems, networks, servers, experiences that users (commoners or enterprises) access through the internet can be safely traced back to an as-a-service (Read ‘Cloud’) architecture.
Here are some jaw-dropping realizations on physical infrastructure wastage around the world:
- There are over 200 million businesses worldwide wasting billions of dollars annually on physical computing, storage, network infrastructure (read: cables, wires, routers, etc)
- Electronics wastage is poised to cross 100 million tonnes annually in the first half of this decade including biologically hazardous materials
- Most standalone architectures that require separate physical counterparts can be re-architected as codes on a centralized infrastructure.
The Case for ‘Virtualization’
‘Virtualization’ as we know directly stems from the last pointer above and is a ground-breaking realization of the cloud services industry. The technology defines the replacement (Read: ‘modernization') of individualized bulky physical networks, server, storage, compute set-ups with virtual machines/coded architectures running on a centralized cloud ecosystem (Distantly located mammoth computing-datacenter infrastructure under world-class surveillance whose resources are shared amongst millions of companies without a hitch). This delivers a ground-breaking impact on an enterprise’s IT capabilities, helping realize maximum gains against minimal expenses. Delivered on-demand or as-a-service, a business can seamlessly scale up compute, storage, connectivity basis operational needs and pay extra only for the additional resources utilized during the peak periods. How would it feel if you suddenly got an extra 4 GB RAM whenever you are streaming your FIFA or latest action game?
However, as highlighted prior, most enterprises don’t simply opt for core infra virtualization modernization. Doing away with on-premise IT hassles, they occasionally opt for software and application modernization too: utilize core OS, Containers, Kernels, Development platforms, microservices architectures, database management systems, Middleware to accelerate project delivery (DevOps), streamline e-products development, administer data assets without loss, and fast-track Go to Market rates with undisrupted continuity. A move further, enterprises can also opt for customized web applications to run varied daily tasks along with end-point information flow management, security via the adopted cloud infrastructure. In such a scenario, the enterprise is embracing an end-to-end cloud IT or datacenter modernization (databases, storage systems, information flow networks, software platforms, applications) that includes all categories of hardware and software to address its operations.
The above cloud adoption scenarios give rise to the three fundamental types of cloud services worldwide, referred together as the ‘Cloud Stack’:
Often recognized as the premier cloud services model and initially made popular by AWS, IaaS catalyzed the burst of cloud computing into the enterprise world. As the name highlights, Infrastructure-as-a-Service gives enterprises the unique opportunity and flexibility to avail cutting-edge computing infrastructure via the adopted cloud platform - Compute, Network, Storage, Datacenters.
How to deploy IaaS Cloud Services?
Business owners can access such high-fidelity computing resources on-demand based on daily operational needs without a single glitch. The IaaS vendor provides virtualized infra, servers, networks, data partitioning, security and backup infra, data assets through the utilization of cloud orchestration technology like OpenStack, Apache, CloudStack, and OpenNebula. The latter methodology helps generate virtual machine architectures for the firm’s physical infrastructure, administers the same, and collates the virtual machines into hypervisor clusters. These hypervisors such as Xen, Oracle VirtualBox, Oracle VM, KVM, VMware ESX/ESXi, or Hyper-V runs the virtual machines within the cloud ecosystem, handling its day to day usage including processor functionalities, load balancing, auto-scaling: scaling the Virtual machine resources up and down basis the client’s traffic or operational loads. An alternative to these hypervisors is Linux containers.
The client cedes complete control of physical infrastructure and datacenters to the IaaS cloud services provider including infra upgrades, maintenance, compliance, configurations, customizations, and protection. The firm’s IT environment can now access these virtualized or modernized computing infrastructure on the cloud via high-level APIs or dashboards. Needless to add, the resources are accessed by the user on a cost-efficient pay-as-you-go model (user firm billed only for the amounts of resources utilized without any idle costs). IaaS cloud environments occasionally also extend complimentary resources such as a virtual-machine disk-image library, raw block storage, file or object storage, firewalls, load balancers, IP addresses, virtual local area networks (VLANs), and software bundles to name a few. A subset of IaaS offerings known as Bare Metal-as-a-Service (BMaaS) is also extended by multiple providers that allow client companies to rent world-class computing hardware on a subscription model.
Snippets of IaaS:
- Delivery and administration of cloud computing infrastructure via a stable internet connection (from the cloud) without a glitch. Bid adieu to all IT management hassles.
- Move from a Capital Expenditure (CapEx) to an Operational Expenditure (OpEx) model. Scale resources with ease as the business load increases via a seamless, subscription-based pay-as-you-go or pay-as-you-grow model.
- Have complete control over the virtualized or modernized assets via state-of-the-art APIs
- Operate on an effective shared resource model: Retain control over your software platforms, applications, data
- Guarantee complete security of your underlying cloud infrastructure: Administer datacenter operations, manage user access controls and identity authentication, protect virtual machines, and monitor threat possibilities with ease.
Platform-as-a-Service was historically conceived to make lives easier for techie geeks and coding prodigies. Often they harbored game-changing product ideas and even wrote the codes for the same only to face the wall when it came to deploying on an accessible platform, syncing with common computing infra, and hosting on servers. A step otherwise would result in a dormant piece of genius code without being accessible to users worldwide. Unsurprisingly, its PaaS systems, delivered by global cloud services and solutions companies such as IBM-Redhat, Microsoft, Google, AWS, Salesforce, and Oracle that have supported the meteoric rise of digital start-ups and tech innovators around the globe.
How to Deploy PaaS Cloud Services?
Simply put, PaaS cloud computing service delivers a secure, scalable, and advanced developer environment hosted on virtualized machines and computing, networking, servers infrastructure on the cloud. In contrast with IaaS where only the infrastructural segments are extended via the Cloud platform, PaaS dives into the software architectural scheme of things to deploy Operating Systems, Kernels, Microservices architecture, Containerization (Dockers, Kubernetes), UX architectures, Automation tools, APIs, Middleware (Example: Java runtime, .NET, etc), and Runtime-Integration in addition to IaaS offerings. Thus enterprise developers can utilize a cutting-edge environment to create, host, and deploy applications with ease with the additional leverage to access a vast library of developer tools, solutions stacks, architecture APIs, and much more. The user company firm exerts on-premise control over the created applications, data generated through these apps, and end-point workflows.
In addition to application designing-hosting-deploying-testing, extended PaaS offerings may also include task collaboration services, integration with web service offerings and marshaling, database administration and connecting with relevant architectures, core architecture and application protection, performance monitoring and hyper scalability, data storage and state management, application versioning and instrumentation functionalities, and promotion of developer kits-tools-communities. PaaS also delivers cutting-edge business modalities in terms of workflow management and monitoring, discovery, and reservation services. A highly popular mode of PaaS is the Communications Platform-as-a-Service (CPaaS) that specifically allows developers to integrate state-of-the-art communication features (voice, video, and messaging) into their applications without worrying about the insane backend architecture and infrastructure complexities. Hosted PABX, cellular networks such as 4G-5G connectivity, real-time applications, are usually designed on top of CPaaS platforms.
Snippets of PaaS:
- Avail a cutting-edge platform or framework delivered online that enables developers to create, host, test, and deploy applications with unprecedented agility
- Bid adieu to software infra management hassles including periodic updates, maintenance, backend security, backups, and recovery, etc
- Create, test, debug, deploy, host, upgrade, maintain, and protect all software backend under one secure cloud infrastructure
- Gain software stack universality. Ensure that built applications run seamlessly with a different vendor, user, client backends
- Leverage only singular control on resource management, CPU, and memory to access the PaaS resources.
Arguably the world’s most popular cloud services model, the roots of SaaS date back to the 1960s when IBM dominated the computing industry with its colossal, power-hungry mainframe computers. A dedicated group of businesses referred to as Application Service Providers (ASPs) allowed client companies to host, access, and utilize third-party applications on these centralized mainframe computers basis a locked-in client-provider relationship. A complicated but effective partnership required separate application instances for each client’s requirements.
First, forward to the second decade of the 21st century, SaaS brings much-needed relief and flexibility to companies especially in fundamental sectors such as banking, healthcare, manufacturing, real estate, travel, and energy. Such firms harbor operations and deliverable processes that are vastly different from core technology developments resulting in a lack of sufficient IT, developer resources. Yet, they need to leverage cutting-edge platforms, applications, and technologies to support effective operations monitoring, workflow management, and customer service excellence.
How to Deploy SaaS Cloud Services?
In contrast to previous service models, SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) offerings entitle complete control over the user’s IT software and applications environment on top of PaaS and IaaS offerings, addressing IT requirements end-to-end on Cloud. SaaS providers build cloud-native systems and software technologies to address key business functionalities that are leveraged by all cloud users (multi-tenants) on a shared basis and customize basis individual requirements. Examples include office software, messaging software, payroll processing software, DBMS software, management software, CAD software, development software, gamification, virtualization, accounting, collaboration, customer relationship management (CRM), management information systems (MIS), enterprise resource planning (ERP), invoicing, field service management, human resource management (HRM), talent acquisition, learning management systems, content management (CM), geographic information systems (GIS), and service desk management. Notable examples include Microsoft’s Office 365 suite, Google’s drive suite, WordPress Content Management Software, and Salesforce’s Customer Relationship Management Software.
User companies can access SaaS solutions on the cloud via dedicated web browsers and customize the applications privately to leverage maximum benefits. Billed on a pay-as-you-use model, cloud services providers take care of the software’s updates, maintenance, management, and security while firms control their operational activities using the service. Enterprises might also utilize dedicated APIs such as REST or SOAP or dedicated user interfaces to access the SaaS solutions during instances where providers are denied direct access to the client’s on-prem platform. Open source SaaS wherein businesses can directly adopt the SaaS solutions’ source codes and create customized applications from scratch is also gathering immense popularity.
Snippets of SaaS:
- SaaS provider administers all IT requirements end-to-end including networks, servers, compute, databases, datacenters, OS, VMs, MiddleWare, Architectures, runtime, applications
- Gain high application uptime and initiate cloud operations with a fraction of costs
- Multi-tenant architectures of the cloud allow SaaS solutions to be leveraged by multiple users simultaneously that helps drive scalability and reduces overall costs
- Architect role-based access and user monitoring of your applications with ease. Integrate compliant regulations and security standards for maximum protection.
- Customize applications, personalize UI according to the user, customer needs for maximum benefits and top-notch experiences. Easily connect SaaS applications with third-party solutions and external data assets and resources with dedicated APIs.
Mapping the As-a-Service Models:
Other Commonly Availed As-a-Services:
The following as-a-service deployment models (under the broader cloud services quantum) often overlap and fall under the above three main categories. However, the models have gained immense popularity over the years owing to enterprises occasionally opting for specific operations as-a-service or functionalities modernization on the cloud platforms instead of the traditional full-scale IaaS, PaaS, or SaaS.
- Artificial Intelligence-as-a-Service
- Big Data-as-a-Service
- Edge Computing-as-a-Service
- Disaster Recovery-as-a-Service
- Business Process-as-a-Service
- Contact Center-as-a-Service
The list goes on, highlighting the endless possibilities and custom services enterprises can avail via the cloud.
Coming up next is in this series is the Popular Cloud Deployment models. Keep watching this space.