Basic Infrastructure of Digital Transformation: Cloud Computing

The internet is the foundation of digital transformation. It has been rapidly evolving in terms of volume and performance allowing the emergence of new disruptive technologies. Collectively these emerging technologies form the technological foundation of the current phase of digital transformation.

Among these emerging technologies is big data, 3D-printing, smart homes, deep learning and artificial intelligence, machine automation and the inclusion of robots into everyday life, VR (virtual reality) and AR (augmented reality) and the Internet of Things (IoT). This list is not exhaustive or categorized in any order since digital transformation is an ongoing process still taking form.

The basic infrastructure supporting all these emerging technologies heavily relies on cloud computing to deliver on-demand services to customers anywhere anytime.

Cloud computing is the provision of on-demand computing resources over the Internet on a pay-as-you-use basis.
It is one of the most disruptive forces in IT and business history and is a primary basic infrastructure of digital transformation.
Cloud computing is used in business and in consumer environments. In 2016, over $100 billion worth of IT spending was shifted to the cloud, and that number will almost double to over $200 billion by 2020.
Pro-actively and strategically using cloud services tends to boost revenue growth rates for companies.
The Cloud computing can be segmented into three main types:
  1. Public: Public cloud services are provided by companies that offer interested parties access to computing resources over a public network. Users of public clouds do not need to own any supporting infrastructure like software or hardware. These are owned and managed by service providers.
  2. Private: private cloud services are operated for a single organization. All infrastructure can be managed internally or by a third party, and hosted either internally or externally.
  3. Hybrid: A hybrid cloud uses a private cloud foundation combined with strategic integration and use of public cloud services.
  • Platform as a service (PaaS): In PaaS, a third-party provides both hardware and software infrastructure needed for application development to users over the internet. Typically, businesses rely on PaaS providers for key services like application hosting.
  • Software as a service (SaaS): SaaS is basically a development platform provided by a third-party to customers who develop and run applications over the internet without installing the applications in their own data centers.
  • Infrastructure as a service (IaaS): IaaS is a way of delivering virtualized computing resources – servers, storage, network and operating systems – over the internet.

Cloud characteristics

Some of the defining characteristics of cloud computing are:
  • On-demand self-service: end users receive services as needed to meet fluctuating needs efficiently.
  • Responsiveness: Ability to access cloud service via different platforms (desktop, laptop, mobile etc)
  • Resource pooling: Resources are pooled across multiple customers.
  • Elasticity: Dynamic adaptation of capacity thus allowing the system to adapt to workload changes autonomously.
  • Measured Service: Billing is metered and delivered as a utility service.

Cloud Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Ease of scalability: Easy to grow applications.
  • Convenience: Scalability at short notice.
  • Cost-effective: pay only for what you use which means reduced infrastructure and upfront costs.
  • SLAs: Everything under cloud computing services is managed under Service Level Agreements (SLAs).
  • Environmental benefits: lower carbon emissions of many users efficiently sharing large systems results in overall environmental benefit.

Cons

  • Greater dependency on service providers puts the company in a reactionary position since problems have to be resolved by a third-party. Even with SLAs there’s no guarantee problems will be solved quickly.
  • Risk of being locked into proprietary or vendor- recommended systems. How easily users can you migrate to another system or service provider if there is a need to?
  • What happens if a cloud service provider decides to stop supporting a product or system the user depends on?
  • Potential privacy and security risks. You’re putting valuable data on someone else’s system in an unknown location. There’s much at risk.
  • If a significant number of people migrate to the cloud, where they’re no longer free to push new developments themselves, what does that imply for the future development of the Internet and innovation in general ?
  • Dependency on a reliable Internet connection.

 


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