Monday, November 2, 2009

Visualizing Cloud Computing

Cloud computing serves customers that need not be familiar with the technology underlying the services.

Cloud computing provides virtualized and highly scalable services.  Virtualization is a form of simulation. For example, a cloud service could provide a highly scalable simulated computer, or virtual machine with a processing capacity that increased or decreased as needed.  The actual computing could use varying portions of one or more computers behind the scenes.   By facilitating the sharing of equipment, utilities and skilled technical support, cloud services can be more cost-efficient than dedicated hardware, and can be designed to be more reliable at lower cost than comparable dedicated environments.

Cloud computing takes several often overlapping forms:
  • Infrastructure-as-a-service provides basic computing building blocks, like virtual machines, firewalls, and storage
  • Platform-as-a-service provides infrastructure plus additional software such as databases and web servers that facilitate efficient delivery of other services, such as websites
  • Software-as-a-service provides platforms with software that is immediately useful without programming, like the blogging software I am using right now
  • Communications-as-a-service can provide everything from email and chat to voice-over-Internet-Protocol (VOIP), well as integrated multi-modal  unified communications (UC).
For a great visualization of cloud computing, see Life in the Cloud on the blog of Mozy, a cloud-based data backup service. For more information, see the Wikipedia article Everything as a Service.

Cloud services often add value to widely-used infrastructure like public transit.  For example, Portland's regional transit agency TriMet makes its real-time schedule and route data available free-of-charge. Software developers have used these cloud services to create a variety of PC and mobile applications .

Think about all the government services we receive.  How could cloud services be used to further enhance infrastructure in Portland?

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