Cloud Computing Definitions and Solutions

Cloud Computing topics covering definition, objectives, systems and solutions.

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Microsoft Azure: The hypervisor build into Windows Server 2008 competes directly with VMware's virtualization software, but Azure is Microsoft's real entry into the cloud. Still in beta, Azure provides database and platform services starting at $0.12 per hour for compute infrastructure; $0.15 per gigabyte for storage; and $0.10 per 10,000 transactions for storage. For SQL Azure, a cloud database, Microsoft is charging $9.99 for a Web Edition, which comprises up to a 1 gigabyte relational database; and $99.99 for a Business Edition, which holds up to a 10 gigabyte relational database. For .NET Services — a set of Web-based developer tools for building cloud-based applications — Microsoft is charging $0.15 per 100,000 message operations, including Service Bus messages and Access Control tokens.

Snapshot: Pros, Cons, Risks

Pros of Cloud Computing Model

• Quick deployment – add capacity or applications almost at a moment's notice.

• Metered cost – pay-as-you-go approach for storage, processing and applications means more efficient use of IT spending.

• Little or no capital investment – costs don't stay on the books for years.

• Little or no maintenance cost – maintenance is all from a workstation or configuration screen. You never have to go touch a physical server.

• Lower costs – Many customers use the same infrastructure, so the vendor is able to buy in bulk and amortize costs over more customers, potentially lowering per-unit cost to each customer.

Cons of Cloud Computing Model

• Little or no capital investment – services don't depreciate over years as capital expenses do, so there could be a tax disadvantage over time.

• Monitoring and maintenance tools are not mature yet – visibility into the cloud is limited, despite recent announcements by BMC, CA, Novell and others that they're modifying their data-center management applications to provide better control over data in Amazon's EC2 and other cloud services.

• Immature standards – groups such as the Distributed Management Task Force, the Cloud Security Alliance and the Open Cloud Consortium are developing standards for interoperable management, data migration, security and other functions, but real standards at the quality levels corporate IT requires are still a couple of years away, most analysts agree.

Risks of Cloud Computing Model

Data mobility – Most SaaS or cloud vendors have some ability for customers to download and store data, but the cost of using someone else's application is often that you can't get all your data out of it in a way that's usable in a different vendor's software.

Privacy – Most cloud contracts include privacy language that promises a customer's data is secure and private. But with cloud-monitoring and management software still in its infancy, a customer's ability to know for sure who's looking at what data — especially who within their own organizations is using it — is limited.

Service levels – Cloud computing isn't entirely one-size-fits-all; there is some ability to customize the applications and services each customer gets. But the ability to tailor service-level requirements to the specific needs of a business is far less than with internal data centers where IT's whole purpose is to further the company's business goals.

Interoperability – The highly-customized internal applications that many companies rely on most heavily are often incompatible with generic IT infrastructures available within the cloud. That may be fine with many companies, which would prefer to use only relatively generic applications outside their own firewalls.

For more information, read CIO.com's "Case Against Cloud Computing" series, in which cloud expert Bernard Golden discusses and picks apart the key arguments against enterprise cloud computing, including issues of migration, compliance, management, SLAs and cost.

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