Cloud Revolution... or Evolution?

February 02, 2018 by Alex Collins

hybrid-cloudThe more things change, the more they stay the same. This is true of computers, too. Some of the most cutting-edge ideas in technology have roots in the beginnings of the computer age.

Cloud computing, for instance, might seem like a recent innovation, but its basic idea has been with us from the beginning. Dumb terminals were some of the first networked computer terminals - they were capable of displaying, sending and receiving text, but had no processing power on their own. Dumb terminals depended on their connection to other computers to run programs and processes.

True PCs, on the other hand, were "intelligent" terminals by comparison: they could run programs without needing to connect to a network of machines. This was the status quo... until the Internet came around and started connecting PCs to one another again.

Back to Basics

And so we've come full circle, with cloud computing. Terminals on the cloud depend on resources shared by a group of users; these resources are dynamically allocated as needed. As software gets more resource-hungry, and as users demand more mobile data that isn't physically tied down to a single machine, the state of the art has circled back to the networked computer model. You can't keep a good idea down.

But cloud computing comes in a few flavors that the first users of dumb terminals could only dream about.

How do people use cloud computing in the first place? We're all accustomed to thinking about the cloud as a storage medium: moving, storing and retrieving data over the Internet. You buy a certain amount of storage for a given time, upload your data and stop thinking about it till you need it, as the data center takes care of the nitty gritty details.

Public, Private, Hybrid

This is called a public cloud, where the servers are offsite and capable of dealing with massive loads thanks to load balancing, clustering and other specialized technologies. Public clouds are extremely efficient and very easy to use, but it's somewhat challenging as far as security goes. Google Drive and Dropbox are two common examples of a public cloud.

On the other hand, a private cloud works over a private network that only a select group can use. This can be as simple as a shared storage drive in the office, which only employees can log into and use.

Security-wise, private clouds are safer to use and easier to control than public clouds. But you pay additional costs for procuring and maintaining the necessary hardware: unlike with the public cloud, the nitty gritty is now your problem.

The hybrid cloud, as the name implies, combines attributes from both public and private cloud services. This type of cloud really comes into its own when Software as a Service (SaaS) comes into play. This is a growing trend towards a subscription-based model of software usage, particularly tempting when local computers don't have the resources to install the software locally. One example is Adobe’s Creative Cloud: users pay a subscription fee in exchange for use of Adobe’s suite of software, which is delivered over the Internet.

The Cloud Revolution

Hybrid clouds offer far more customizability, allowing clients to pick and choose providers and services. The only real downside is that it can be a lot to keep track of, especially if different parts have to communicate with one another.

Anybody who has run into a problem with too many documents in too many different places understands this. A graphic design firm that stores its data on a local shared drive and has a subscription to Adobe Creative Cloud is using a hybrid cloud setup.

The right provider can set all this right, by setting up a hybrid cloud that hearkens back to the original dumb terminal. This hybrid setup can use barebones, cheap, basic computers with internet connectivity and an operating system to access software that it could not run locally, and harness virtually unlimited data storage to boot!

That's the beauty of a hybrid cloud, properly implemented: hardware becomes irrelevant. That insights' been around since the dawn of the computer age - the cloud revolution has actually been a long time in the making.