Cloud Computing – Kickstart

Cloud computing is one of the richest, most intrusive, highly beneficial, and highly progressive technologies that we have seen so far. There is so much to learn, and so much to digest. It has its benefits, and as any other technology it has its nightmares as well. Most of world now is somehow affected by this technology. In cloud computing vast computing power is available to people and processes from anywhere in the world at anytime. There are diverse business models associated with this as well. We will be covering many facets of Cloud Computing in this post, so keep an eye, and do contribute more in the comments.

Software as a Service

This is one of the service model of cloud computing. In this model, the provisioning of a software is entirely handled by the provider. There is a thin client associated with the user. Each user can access the services provided by the software through this thin client. In most cases it is your browser. Or if it is some other application then there are Application Programming Interfaces available as well.

Software is licensed on a subscription basis. The software itself is centrally hosted. Many a times provider does not tell where the actual software is location but mostly it is said that it is near to the user. There are Content Distribution Networks available which make sure that the service is near to the user so that it can be provisioned in a timely fashion. It is just like a service which is on-demand. You don’t need to install anything on your system apart from a generic thin client. And you can access whenever you like.

It is now pretty common and almost majority of the software firms provide this service. E.g. Office suites like Google Docs, and Microsoft Office have their online versions available. Similarly there are Customer Relationship Managements systems out there e.g. Zoho provide this service. Online Enterprise Resource Planning systems is another such example.

Platform as a Service

This is another service model provided by Cloud Computing. In contrast to Software as a Service, in this model a user can also develop their own systems while in a specific environment run by the Cloud Provider. Amazon AWS, Google Platform Services, Microsoft Azure, IBM Blumix etc provide this. One such near to native, in terms of definition, service is Heroku.

A user is provided with tools and programming language compile time and runtime environments. The environments are totally upgraded, and maintained by the service provider. The use has a control over the use of these tools in a certain context. You can control software deployments without very complex configurations. The service provide provides the network, storage, and OS capabilities. The middle-wares e.g. Java Virtual Machine, Node.js runtime etc are also provided by the provider. You just need to focus on the software part of your service only.

In this model, a user is locked to the vendor provided specific environment. If you want to interface with further technology that is not provided by the service provided, you have to think otherwise. And there is another service model available which will help you in this regard. It is called Infrastructure as a Service model.

Infrastructure as a Service

This model provides virtualized computing services over the internet. You have full control over the server or the machine which you have been given access to. You can install new software, you can interface with any other software. There are few limitations available e.g. in terms of configuring an email you have to make sure that the emails that are going from your machine are not doing any harm e.g. spam to other systems. This sort of firewall is actually a good deal in terms of what you are getting. The hardware, and software is hosted at the providers network, which also provides networking and storage capabilities. It is different to Platform as a Service because in this one you can change or tweak the environment in which your software application runs.

There are varied level of benefits associated with this. There are times when you need to scale your software. It is very intuitive and easy to do that with the help of provider. You only worry about the computing, network, and storage capabilities and power. The scalability aspect whether vertical or horizontal is maintained by the service provider. You can also make use of load balancing and other services provided by the provider. Nowadays SSL certificates, email management, and backend configuration can easily be done using the same service provider.

Amazon AWS, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud are the richest that we have found in our operations at Infoginx. All these providers also provide policy-based services in which we can easily control access levels to our machines. There are different levels of charging mechanisms as well. E.g. some charge per hour for a virtual machine, per GigaByte for storage, per GigaByte for bandwidth, per Internet Protocol Address, etc.

Disaster Recovery as a Service

In Disaster Recovery as a Service, a service provider makes sure that your application is protected when an uncertain event occurs. E.g. in some cases you are hit by a DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attack, and your service becomes unavailable, then your provider can help you in this regard. Similarly if there is a calamity or human or natural disaster which made your machines unavailable or unusable then there are backups provided by the DaaS provider. This is mostly a failover mechanism. The provider makes sure that there is a suitable replication is available within the same cloud or a third party cloud environment.

Security as a Service

In Security as a Service a highly capable service provider makes use of their own security procedures. These security procedures are sometime really expensive for individual or small to medium sized companies to provide themselves. So a subscription based service is available by some providers, which integrate their security infrastructure with your applications. This integration helps you maintain the service level for your customers without further going to provisioning of on-premise security mechanisms.

These days Distributed Denial of Service attacks are pretty common. And it is very difficult for small companies to defend against them. Many cloud providers now provide a defence against this tough-to-tackle attack.

There are further mechanisms which can be integrated e.g. antivirus software, policy-based firewall, multi-factor authentication, intrusion detection service, security incident reporting and management etc.

Marketing as a Service

This is somewhat similar to SaaS but dimension of the service is narrowed to a specific service domain i.e. Marketing. It is an extension of the Marketing automation software provisioning. Marketing automation has been around for couple of years now. But the automation can now be provided from the cloud instead of in-house.

The issues like lead and campaign management is entirely handled by the cloud provider. These tools are then provided with handles that can be interface with your thin clients. The control and execution of these services can be done by you. Oracle Eloqua is one such example. It is further coupled by real time reporting and insights.

You can create or customize landing pages for your website, score and distribute your leads, and do some market, campaign and audience analytics. Remember it is different from Sales Force management, and Customer Service management.

3D Printing as a Service

There are some of the highly complex and expensive 3D printer now available in the market. It is very difficult for individuals and small companies to buy or get access to them. There are companies which provide subscription based online services in which you can order your 3D print by giving a specific design.

Rapid prototyping, 3D CADs, and even 3D scanning is also available on demand.

Shapeways specializes in this domain, and it has a marketplace available as well. They can print in different types of material based on what is demanded. You can easily upload your design to the company’s website, then they will create a real product out of it. Similarly there are local companies as well. E.g. in US and UK, there are some companies which provide 3D Printing as a Service for the local audience e.g. universities, companies, organizations etc in New York, Washington, or London.

Mobile Backend as a Service

This service provides a developer an opportunity to link their application with storage from cloud providers. It is coupled with other services as well. E.g. there are Application Programming Interfaces provided by the service provider to do storage management, user management, insights generation, push notifications etc. This is highly relevant, as many people are learning how to develop mobile applications but they don’t have resources to go full own with an infrastructure that backs their app.

There are app development platforms and software available that only require you to know basics of HTML, CSS3, and Javascript only. Since most of the people can easily learn these languages, and it is hard for most of them to learn or hire people who can manage the diverse infrastructure to manage the user-base and reach, it becomes highly attractive.

There are some examples in the market where the demand of the app surged exponentially. Fortunately some of those apps had a Backend as a Service provider. Due to this they were able to handle the load, mostly in the aspect of scalability.

BaaS provider examples include Kumulo, Kinvey, Kii, and anypresence.

Desktop as a Service

This service is around here for a debate. There are certain scenarios in which it has become highly useful though. There is a high cost associated with a desktop provisioning e.g. in universities mainly. In companies the Virtual Desktop Infrastructure provisioning is still an issue. It is again the same goal, how to reduce the up-front investment. In that respect look no further because Desktop as a Service can help you in certain very mature scenarios. In Virtual Desktop Infrastructure you as a service provider to your desktop consumers have to worry about the user experience, and up-front cost. And also when you think about maintainability VDI costs you a lot.

In this situation Desktop as a Service comes to the rescue, to some extent. First it reduces your up-front cost. The problem with it that you cannot get all of the same features. I have seen some companies who are building full-on desktops in the browser using javascripts e.g. Javascript Cloud OS is a good example. But still there are limitations on user experience, and other features which you can get from VDI. But still it is a budding market, and you should look into Desktop as a Service and compare it with your requirements. If they satisfy then well and good otherwise you still have to go with VDI.

Software Distribution as a Service

This is one of the highly specialized market. The service provider provides a distribution platform from where you can distribute your application to diverse locations and environments. E.g. if you have a docker, maven, rpm, debian, vagrant, or any other package with you, you can make sure with SDaaS that it gets distributed to the right locations automatically. This automation is quite important and one of the reasons this service is getting successful. One such example in this realm is JFrog Bintray.

IT Management as a Service

In ITMaaS the features provided by your IT department are delegated to the SaaS provider. It is very important to know that this model is delivered entirely through SaaS. This new model enriches itself with almost all facets of IT. And it is getting more traction. It is estimated by some analysts (especially at RNR Market Research) that this industry will get boost of 38.2% CAGR (Compound Annual Growth Rate) from 2016-2020.

This is the area you should also look at especially if your business falls in Small and Medium-sized Enterprise (SME). It is such a powerful concept that many features for which you have to pay even in office out of hours timings, you no longer have to worry about that. Service desk management, resource monitoring and reporting, and infrastructure management are some of the issues addressed by ITMaaS.

There are other X-as-a-Service models available that you can look at. It would be great if you can contribute your thoughts on how other models are emerging, and how these models are going along.


The author can be reached at khawar@infoginx.com.

If you would like to contribute on Infoginx, feel free to reach out at info@infoginx.com.