Cloud Computing presents a number of interesting opportunities and challenges for businesses trying to design a computing solution. A number of companies offer cloud computing solutions, but what does this mean exactly? The first thing that is important to mention is that the actual definition of cloud computing can and will essentially vary. Cloud computing is a marketing term, and while there is some understanding of what this means, there is no effective consensus on whether a solution is ‘cloud computing’ or it is something else.
The precise definition of cloud computing is something based around the concept of Software as a Service. While it is true that SaaS is often delivered over the internet, on hosted servers and has other meaningful options that make it a ‘cloud’ solution this does not necessarily mean that it is. A cloud computing solution should have the following features. Larry Ellison from Oracle claims the following features:
- Is a Development and Deployment Platform
- Runs a wide variety of Applications
- Runs on both Public and Private Clouds
Based on this idea, Salesforce would not be a Cloud Computing Solution, but instead a SaaS application. I personally do not agree with Ellison’s definition of cloud computing in terms of it being a full, open, development and deployment platform. While I do agree that certain amounts of flexibility and scalability are required, Salesforce does actually meet these features.
Security and Privacy
Security is obviously a big concern, and as applications used protocols like SOAP and REST to transfer data, there is a possibility for data sniffing. Furthermore, distributed computing models will be especially susceptible to security breaches. There are also privacy concerns with outsourced cloud computing solutions. The data may be subject to the laws of different countries depending on where it is hosted or even accessible. There is also a concern that a cloud computing solution provider may hand over your data to authorities much faster than you would do so yourself. This means that you and your company could suffer invasions of privacy much more easily with a cloud computing infrastructure.
Cloud computing is a catchy buzzword and may be used to sell you a software product that is actually inferior. Cloud computing doesn’t necessarily mean good. It merely is a rough description of a feature set that may or may not be required or optimal for your business. If we are talking about something that simply copies your data from a device to another device somewhere on the internet, for example simple web storage solutions, then this is not ‘cloud computing’. It is simply using the internet to copy data to somebody else’s storage farm. Convenient and handy yes, but as there is no development capability or serious utility then this is not cloud computing but it may still be all that your company actually needs. When looking at computing solutions, don’t buy in on terms like ‘cloud computing’ but instead evaluate all the features and benefits that exist between comparative software packages.