What is “the Cloud”?

During the first ever Expansão Telecommunications Forum (Expansão is an angolan economics newspaper)I spoke to a few people about hosting services. During our conversation, an angolan service provider employee said:

We have cloud hosting in our data center, why don’t you host your services there?

I knew that provider didn’t really offer cloud services but that started a battle in my mind since while I knew the services from that provider were not really cloud, I couldn’t explain why.

So, what is the cloud?The “best” answer comes in a document from NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology).

Cloud computing is a model for enabling ubiquitous, convenient, on-demand network access to a shared
pool of configurable computing resources (e.g., networks, servers, storage, applications, and services) that
can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction.
This cloud model is composed of five essential characteristics, three service models, and four deployment
models.

Yeh yeh … I know! You have to read it about 10 times until you start to get an idea of what these guys want to say. But the best way to clearly define if a service is cloud or not is given in the document as the 5 essential characteristics of cloud computing:

  • On-demand self-service: A consumer can unilaterally provision computing capabilities, such as server time and network storage, as needed automatically without requiring human interaction with each service provider.
  • Broad network access: Capabilities are available over the network and accessed through standard mechanisms that promote use by heterogeneous thin or thick client platforms (e.g., mobile phones, tablets, laptops, and workstations).
  • Resource pooling: The provider’s computing resources are pooled to serve multiple consumers using a multi-tenant model, with different physical and virtual resources dynamically assigned and reassigned according to consumer demand. There is a sense of location independence in that the customer generally has no control or knowledge over the exact location of the provided resources but may be able to specify location at a higher level of abstraction (e.g., country, state, or datacenter).
  • Rapid elasticity: Capabilities can be elastically provisioned and released, in some cases automatically, to scale rapidly outward and inward commensurate with demand. To the consumer, the capabilities available for provisioning often appear to be unlimited.
  • Measured service: Cloud systems automatically control and optimize resource use by leveraging a metering capability1 at some level of abstraction appropriate to the type of service (e.g., storage, processing, bandwidth, and active user accounts). Resource usage can be
    monitored, controlled, and reported, providing transparency for both the provider and consumer of the utilized service.

Its a very interesting read and it also lists cloud computing’s service models and deployment models. You can find the complete document here (pdf).

What is NIST?

NIST is the acronym for the National Institute of Standards and Technology, an american federal institution with the mission to promote U.S. innovation and industrial competitiveness by advancing measurement science, standards, and technology in ways that enhance economic security and improve our quality of life.

Do you want to try it?

Most cloud computing providers allow you to test for a limited ammount of time most of their services and products. See below informative links for the 3 leaders in this matter:

AWS – Amazon Web Services

12 months free for select products. After the 12 months there are some that fall in the list of “Always Free” that can be use free forever under certain usage limits.
https://aws.amazon.com/free/

Microsoft Azure

200$ free credit to use in 30 days.
https://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/free/

GCP – Google Cloud Platform

Where Evernote runs, one of the best software of all time. 300$ free credit to user in 12 months for select products. Like AWS, there are a few “Always Free” products as long as usage is below certain limits.
https://cloud.google.com/free/

Alibaba Cloud (Bónus)

The lider of cloud services in China. In 2017 it showed up for the first time in Gartner’s magic quadrant for Cloud Infrastructure as a Service. 300$ free credit to use in 60 days.
https://www.alibabacloud.com/campaign/free-trial

 

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NIST – Our Organization
https://www.nist.gov/about-nist/our-organization

Magic Quadrant for Cloud Infrastructure as a Service, Worldwide
https://www.gartner.com/doc/reprints?id=1-2G2O5FC&ct=150519

AWS vs. Azure vs. Google Cloud: Which free tier is best?
http://www.infoworld.com/article/3179785/cloud-computing/aws-vs-azure-vs-google-cloud-which-free-tier-is-best.html

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