Cloud Computing: A Primer

Because of the increased volume, complexity, interfaces and connectivity that require service providers and enterprises to architect, operate and manage networks very differently, many are moving to cloud computing, a term for any activities that involve delivering hosted services over the Internet. There are basically three types:

  • Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS)
  • Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS)
  • Software-as-a-Service (SaaS)

Each of these services offers a different level of flexibility and control:

IaaS: Existing applications run a cloud; suppliers provide hardware; Physical or virtual servers

PaaS: Advantages include rapid development at low cost; provides environment and tools for creating new online applications; private or public deployment. Disadvantages include limits developers to providers programming languages and tools; risk of vendor lock-in.

SaaS: Advantages are free or paid for subscription; accessible from anywhere & facilitates collaborative working. A disadvantages is that generic applications not always suitable for everyone.

Cloud offers the following benefits:

  • Reduced Cost: Cloud technology is paid incrementally, saving organizations money.
  • Increased Storage: Organizations can store more data than on private computer systems.
  • Highly Automated: No longer do IT personnel need to worry about keeping software up to date.
  • Flexibility: Cloud computing offers much more flexibility than past computing methods.
  • More Mobility: Employees can access information wherever they are, rather than having to remain at their desks.
  • Allows IT to Shift Focus: Organizations no longer have to worry about constant server updates and other computing issues; they are free to concentrate on innovation.

There are roadblocks with cloud:

  • Definition: If you ask four different people, you will get four different definitions of the cloud. This lack of agreement can be attributed to lack of standards or to the absence of a governing/regulating body.
  • Security Concerns: Information security is a prime concern of organizations because their confidential data is being hosted on third-party data centers.
  • Service Availability: Since the cloud-based model is not just confined to application delivery but also to the platform for computing services under the IaaS model, service availability becomes a concern.
  • Data Lock-In Concerns: In the case of cloud computing, most of the APIs are proprietary and lack standardization, which means applications for a particular cloud platform cannot be migrated to another. Similarly, customers cannot easily extract their data or programs from a provider's site and run it on another site.

Network architectures that build on optimization and consolidation are a key interest and increasingly, a requirement for all service providers. Cloud computing platforms enable enterprises to provision an infrastructure and add computing capacity on demand. This elasticity promotes rapid deployment of solutions and allows service providers to scale their infrastructure based on demand and, consequently, to improve time to market for new services.

Cloud computing is one of the fastest growing segments in the IT industry, and service providers are uniquely positioned to capitalize on it because they already have the size and depth to build scalable services. By assuming an end-to-end position (application to end user) in the cloud computing value chain, the service provider can improve and add significant quality of service to experiences. This network-based approach to service assurance can position service providers to capitalize on the software revenue market related to the use of the applications, a market that network providers have yet to fully explore and utilize.

  • Before adopting cloud, enterprises and service providers should consider the following:
  • How quickly should I migrate my network from legacy to IP?
  • What is my role in delivering cloud services? Which investments should I make?
  • When, and to what extent, should I integrate my mobile and fixed networks?
  • How can I collaborate with OTTs? Which programs should I implement?
  • What should I do about a structural separation of the business? Will this be mandated?
  • How do I monetize the huge growth in network traffic? Where do I need to invest?

With cloud computing the economic advantages are great: reduction of costs and increased productivity. The risks are minimal, especially as new systems and checks are continuously being designed and instituted. The question is not if but when your business needs to move to initiatives to take advantage of cloud computing trends.

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