What is the Cloud?

The common non-technical person often ask me a generic and legit question, "What exactly is the cloud?" In non-techical terms, it is a huge building called a datacenter taking up a lot of real estate and with lots of computers. After I log into my Microsoft Azure portal, you can see all the Microsoft datacenters that are online with green check marks.

Each datacenter can be referred to as a Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS). This consist of a physical building with all the hardware that is needed to support the resources needed for cloud computing. I also like to include the overlooked variables within IaaS:

  • Climate controlled environment: Microsoft provides energy efficiency datacenters that have an average temperature of 75 degrees Farenheit.
  • Backup generators: Huge generators are available if their is ever a disturbance in the power grid.
  • Physical Security: Security guards and gated work environment.
  • Digital Security: Security cameras and controlled access with security badges.
  • Servers: Hundreds of thousands of servers per datacenter all connected to the internet.

Microsoft datacenter generators

Cooling Systems
Microsoft datacenter cooling systems

Server Room
Microsoft datacenter server room

Microsoft datacenter servers

The images above are from the Microsoft datacenter in Dublin, Ireland. Take a virtual tour here: Click Here

In summary for IaaS, organizations are provided infrastructure components such as computing power and storage capacity. For example, I'm hosting this website in a Microsoft datacenter on one of their servers instead of my business purchasing and standing up our own server. I do not own a server, but instead rent sever space from Microsoft, which saves my business money. I can scale up and down and pay only for what I use, meaning processing power, networking traffic, storage, etc.

There are other ingredients for cloud computing that fall within IaaS. Platform as a service (PaaS) and Software as a Service (SaaS), but I only wanted to highlight the parent root of cloud computing in this blog entry. Without IaaS, there would not be any other cloud computing services.

These are common IaaS advantages I got from Microsoft website[1]:

  • Eliminates capital expense and reduces ongoing cost: IaaS sidesteps the upfront expense of setting up and managing an on-site datacenter, making it an economical option for start-ups and businesses testing new ideas.
  • Improves business continuity and disaster recovery: Achieving high availability, business continuity, and disaster recovery is expensive, since it requires a significant amount of technology and staff. But with the right service level agreement (SLA) in place, IaaS can reduce this cost and access applications and data as usual during a disaster or outage.
  • Innovate rapidly: As soon as you’ve decided to launch a new product or initiative, the necessary computing infrastructure can be ready in minutes or hours, rather than the days or weeks—and sometimes months—it could take to set up internally.
  • Respond quicker to shifting business conditions: IaaS enables you to quickly scale up resources to accommodate spikes in demand for your application— during the holidays, for example—then scale resources back down again when activity decreases to save money.
  • Focus on your core business: IaaS frees up your team to focus on your organization’s core business rather than on IT infrastructure.
  • Increase stability, reliability, and supportability: With IaaS there’s no need to maintain and upgrade software and hardware or troubleshoot equipment problems. With the appropriate agreement in place, the service provider assures that your infrastructure is reliable and meets SLAs.
  • Better security: With the appropriate service agreement, a cloud service provider can provide security for your applications and data that may be better than what you can attain in-house.
  • Gets new apps to users faster: Because you don’t need to first set up the infrastructure before you can develop and deliver apps, you can get them to users faster with IaaS.

1. Microsoft Azure: What is IaaS?

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