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FAQs Cloud Computing

What's the point of cloud computing?
Reasons vary, but often include the desire to outsource the maintenance burden of servers and applications; the need to scale systems up or down on demand; the benefit of being able to access your data from anywhere with an internet connection; and the ability to replace occasional heavy expenditure on IT with regular and predictable operational expenditure.

What is utility computing?
The idea is that businesses should not be spending effort and money on installing and maintaining complex hardware and applications, when a specialist can supply those same services on a pay-as- you-go basis. Businesses do not generally generate their own power - utilities are bought when needed. In the same way, the argument runs, essential IT services can be managed better externally.

What is software-as-a-service (SaaS)?
Pre-baked services that you access simply by navigating via a web browser. Google Mail and Google Docs are examples of this kind of cloud computing.

What is platform-as-a-service (PaaS)?
A set of lower-level services such as an operating system or computer language interpreter or web server offered by a cloud provider, on which developers can build custom applications. Microsoft Windows Azure and Google App Engine are examples of PaaS.

What is infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS)?
Provision of servers or virtual servers that organisations use on a pay-as- you-go basis. Amazon's Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) is an example of IaaS. In practice, cloud suppliers often provide additional services alongside IaaS offerings, so the boundary between IaaS and PaaS is ill-defined.

What is a rich internet application (RIA)?
Modern web browsers have fast script engines and rich graphics and plug-ins, such as Adobe Flash, to extend their capabilities. A rich internet application has applications running in the browser that have rich graphics and the kind of sophisticated user interface that at one time would only have been possible in a locally installed desktop application. The term was made popular by Adobe for applications using its Flash plug-in, but it is also sometimes used to describe advanced HTML applications.

 

What is multi-tenancy?
Cloud-hosted applications where multiple customers share a single application, even though they only have access to their own data. Salesforce.com is an example. Multi- tenancy is the most cost-effective form of cloud computing, since the software itself is shared.


What is the difference between public, private and hybrid clouds?
Some organisations, especially larger ones, want the benefits of cloud computing but without the risks inherent in trusting their data to a third party. They can achieve this by creating a cloud-like infrastructure in their own data centre. This is called a private cloud. The public cloud refers to providers such as Amazon, Google and salesforce.com, whose shared services are available to all. A hybrid approach uses both public and private services.


What is virtualisation?
Emulating computer hardware in software, so that one or more emulated computers can run simultaneously on a single physical computer. This is a boon for cloud computing: service providers can use hardware efficiently by running many virtual servers on each machine in a data centre. Sometimes virtual machines can be moved between company premises and cloud providers.


Is cloud computing green?
Cloud computing goes some way towards solving a problem called under-utilisation, where servers run constantly with little computing load, wasting money and power. Service providers use virtualisation and other techniques to make full use of their hardware. The downside is that these data centres are power-hungry, and we are using more of them as demand grows. The hope is that a new generation of more efficient super computers will make cloud computing a truly green option.

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