Skip to content

What is Cloud Computing?


You may have heard of cloud computing. Cloud computing is this buzz word describing a virtual method of accessing computers. Berkeley’s “Above the Clouds: A Berkeley View of Cloud Computing” explains the term nicely, and it provides a wide overview of cloud computing. I’ll summarize the contents of the paper.


Summary of the paper

“Above the Clouds: A Berkeley View of Cloud Computing” establishes definitions of cloud computing and explains the parts that make up the service.

Introducing the concepts of the cloud, the paper describes cloud computing specifically as a pay as you go service that sells virtual computing power for the public. Companies and organizations also tend to have private clouds to store their datacenters.

The benefits of cloud computing or the public cloud are that the overall costs tend to be less than owning the actual machine. If you pay as you go with cloud computing, you leave room for the service that you host on cloud computing machines to gain popularity or fail.

The paper attempts to answer some of the recent, skeptical questions on cloud computing such as the general benefits and disadvantages of the system.

What is cloud computing? Why and when to use cloud computing? Should I be a provider?

The cloud provider sells the service, which is known as utility computing to a Software as a Software (SaaS) provider or cloud user.

The SaaS provider or cloud user can, for example, create web applications on the cloud computing systems. Basically, you purchase virtual computers at an hourly rate that can be accessed from any physical computer.

Cloud computing virtual machines or computers are sold hourly for a seemingly low cost. The advantage here is that you can add more machines at that very low cost in pennies and have many of them.

When demand is high, you add more virtual machines or space. When demand is low, you can delete those virtual machines. There is opportunity for adjusting towards any situation.

Even though the hourly price of small virtual computers are in pennies, becoming a cloud computing provider is very lucrative because the price cloud computing virtual computers are sold by the hour eventually grows beyond the price for buying the hardware.

The paper provides comparisons between the services of Amazon EC2, Google AppEngine, and Microsoft Azure. Each of these clouds can be hosted on top of each other. A cloud service provides resources in the form of computation, storage, and networking and not necessarily accessible virtual computers.

The paper’s main contribution speaks of whether the cost and benefit of the cloud computing is worth using, and whether the current evolution of the cloud computing is appropriate depending on one’s needs.

The appeal of cloud computing comes from the fact of elasticity, which means that one can add or remove resources and build horizontally.

The elasticity provides a good balance of getting resources during light and peak times. Elasticity is certainly valuable to startups who live in a world of unpredictability. Separating resources into different portions of cloud computing can save money because one can simply extend and demand whatever portion one needs.

The paper can be split into three sections.

  1. An understanding of cloud computing and its biggest providers.
  2. Reasons why you should potentially use cloud computing.
  3. Obstacles to moving to cloud computing and the results after moving to the cloud. Some obstacles originate mainly because the cloud provider may have outage issues or one may lose data due to the provider.

The fact that the cloud provider is a third party means that you do not have the data securely on your hardware at home. You are dependent on the cloud provider, and whatever happens to that cloud provider is beyond your control.

Though, the benefits of cloud computing are clearly put as short-term usage. no up-front cost, and infinite capacity on-demand. The writers of the paper are optimistic on the growth of the cloud since they see the usefulness and adaptability of the system, but they also acknowledge that it is not for every situation.

I provide a video where I explain generally what cloud computing is and how to get started with Amazon AWS EC2, which is Amazon’s service to provide virtual machines for the public.