The course is part of this learning path
This module explains what servers and data centers are, before explaining what the cloud is and contrasting the different types of cloud service models.
The objectives of this course are to provide you with and understanding of:
- The basic components and operation of servers and data centers.
- What the cloud means and its role in providing software, hardware and other computer services.
- The different types of cloud service models.
- The key business benefits of cloud services, including economic and security benefits.
The course is aimed at anybody who needs a basic understanding of what the cloud is, how it works and the important considerations for using it.
Although not essential, before you complete this course it would be helpful if you have a basic understanding of server hardware components and what a data center is.
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You probably use cloud services and you might already have experience of working with them through the IT Team in your organization. You could argue that not using cloud services and doing everything yourselves in-house is the best way to go – you can do what you want, using the hardware and software you need. And you control everything. You might even argue that, for security reasons, you can’t outsource anything.
These are all valid arguments but, when you weigh them up against the reasons for using cloud services, they’re usually trumped.
Before we look at some of benefits for an organization, here’s a summary from the Cloud Adoption Report based on research carried out by McAfee in 2019.
McAfee surveyed 1,000 IT Professionals across the world and collated anonymous user data from 30 million cloud users. The results related to benefits to the organization as a whole – not just the IT Department – and, as you can see, they are better at getting products to market and are more efficient; both things which help the organization grow. And operational costs, IT spending and IT maintenance costs are all reduced, which supports increased profitability.
So, that’s the top level – now let’s break that down and see how cloud services can benefit users ‘on the ground’.
Cloud services are flexible because they’re available on-demand, you only pay for what you use, services are scalable, there are economies of scale and there’s a lot of choice. Let’s look at what each of these mean.
On-demand services mean that, if you want a resource, you can get it almost immediately and allocate it where you need it. This might mean more server capacity or application user licenses. There’s no waiting around for hardware to be ordered, installed, cabled, and configured before you can use it.
You only pay for what you use which is known as utility pricing. Think of it like the electricity in your house – you only pay for what you use (plus a bit for the actual supply), and you can keep track of this and do things to keep the costs down – like turning off the lights when you're not using them. Utility pricing in the cloud is the same; you only pay for resources when you use them.
Because they’re on-demand and utility-priced, cloud computing means resources can be scaled up and down depending on your demand for applications and services. This can mean altering the power and performance of the resources, perhaps through more memory power, or increasing or reducing the number of resources you're using – like servers and user applications.
The option to scale resources is important at times when the IT infrastructure takes a heavier amount of traffic than at other times. Think of things like online services that help people to fill in their tax returns which hit a bottleneck towards the end of April, or a new online game is being released and the demand is not accurately known. In a classic data center environment, the organization would need to provision their storage database and network capacity to reflect this additional traffic. There will be additional costs for this extra infrastructure and it might only be used for a couple of months of the year – or not at all. The cloud can be used to traffic burst by scaling resources up when they’re needed and reducing them again when they’re not.
Cloud providers benefit from economies of scale because of the huge number of resources they buy to provide services to the customers they support. Because these services run on a common infrastructure, shared between all the customers, each organization benefits from lower resource costs.
As well as economies of scale and scalability, there’s also what’s known as elasticity. This relates to the amount of choice cloud services provide an organization to fully customize their IT environment, and then lets them use only the resources they require.
Availability and opportunity
By design, many of the core cloud services are replicated across multiple data centers. This means the services and data are always available and supports disaster recovery. It relies on efficient back-up processes by the provider and services can be switched from one data center to another very quickly if they need to be.
As organizations evolve, they might want to experiment with different IT infrastructure and service set-ups. If they run their IT in-house this can be expensive, especially if the experiment fails. Using cloud resources makes experimentation quick and cost-effective – resources can simply be terminated if the experiment’s stopped and another test can be tried with a different configuration.
The level of automation of cloud services also helps organizations evolve. Cloud providers expose their services through Application Programming Interfaces – or APIs – and there’s often a web-based user interface for the organization to create and modify resources. But the real power of the cloud comes from its programmability; customers can write scripts or programs to create, modify and remove resources from the cloud.
Availability, scalability and cost-effectiveness all support organization growth. Constraints are significantly reduced through on-demand services which enable organizations to easily reach global customers through provisioning resources across the cloud supplier’s network. The reason that so many start-ups are cloud-native is because there are effectively no up-front costs.
Security is one of the most contentious topics in cloud computing and many organizations still have concerns about how secure the cloud is. But, public cloud vendors like Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure are considered to be more secure than most in-house data centers. This is because their customers are required to meet a wide range of global compliance standards across their many industries, so to be viable, their IT infrastructure must be compliant.
The provider will operate to an exceptionally high standard of security for the underlying infrastructure of the cloud, and it's down to the user organization to then architect the security they need in the cloud, using the tools, services and applications available.
The cloud also makes it easier and cheaper to manage big data by providing the resources to handle huge, complicated data sets. And it’s efficient and scalable – an organization only uses the resources they need to analyze data when they need it.
Often, cloud suppliers will offer specialized managed Big Data services to run workloads on and schedule activity. These mean organizations can focus on the data processing and not worry about the maintenance or underlying architecture.
There’s more information about how organizations are using the cloud in the ‘McAfee Cloud Adoption and Risk Report’. You’ll find the link in the Cloud Literacy Resources.
About the Author
Daniel Ives has worked in the IT industry since leaving university in 1992, holding roles including support, analysis, development, project management and training. He has worked predominantly with Windows and uses a variety of programming languages and databases.
Daniel has been training full-time since 2001 and with QA since the beginning of 2006.
Daniel has been involved in the creation of numerous courses, the tailoring of courses and the design and delivery of graduate training programs for companies in the logistics, finance and public sectors.
Previous major projects with QA include Visual Studio pre-release events around Europe on behalf of Microsoft, providing input and advice to Microsoft at the beta stage of development of several of their .NET courses.
In industry, Daniel was involved in the manufacturing and logistics areas. He built a computer simulation of a £20million manufacturing plant during construction to assist in equipment purchasing decisions and chaired a performance measurement and enhancement project which resulted in a 2% improvement in delivery performance (on time and in full).