There’s much talk of ‘cloud computing’ these days and anyone who uses Google Docs is using it already. There’s a very clear recent introduction to it at Ars Technica.
As part of this, they offer the following definition (as always, not everyone agrees on just what it is):
Cloud computing is an approach to client-server in which the “server” is a dynamically scalable network of loosely coupled heterogeneous nodes that are owned by a single institution and that tends to be biased toward storage-intensive workloads, and the “clients” are a wide variety of individuals and institutions that use fractions of shared nodes to run jobs that are transient with respect to time, lightweight with respect to compute-intensity, and anywhere from lightweight to heavy with respect to storage-intensity.
Admittedly this might not make much sense unless you’ve read the full article!
In more commercial terms (and from Apps.Gov):
- Significant cost reduction: Cloud computing is available at a fraction of the cost of traditional IT services, eliminating upfront capital expenditures and dramatically reducing administrative burden on IT resources.
- Increased flexibility: Cloud computing provides on-demand computing across technologies, business solutions and large ecosystems of providers, reducing time to implement new solutions from months to days.
- Access anywhere: You are no longer tethered to a single computer or network. You can change computers or move to portable devices, and your existing applications and documents follow you through the cloud.
- Elastic scalability and pay-as-you-go: Add and subtract capacity as your needs change. Pay for only what you use.
- Easy to implement: You do not need to purchase hardware, software licenses or implementation services.
- Service quality: Cloud service providers offer reliable services, large storage and computing capacity, and 24/7 service and up-time.
- Delegate non-critical applications: Cloud computing provides a way to outsource non-critical applications to service providers, allowing agency IT resources to focus on business-critical applications.
- Always the latest software: You are no longer faced with choosing between obsolete software and high upgrade costs. When the applications are web-based, updates are automatic and are available the next time you log into the cloud.
- Sharing documents and group collaboration: Cloud computing lets you access all your applications and documents from anywhere in the world, freeing you from the confines of the desktop and facilitating group collaboration on documents and projects.”
Picture credit: Ars Technica