By Ubong Udoh
Cloud Computing has steadily been growing in popularity in the IT industry since early 2007. In non technical terms, I would define a CLOUD as a (C)OMMON (L)OCATION- INDEPENDENT (O)NLINE (U)TILITY on (D)EMAND SERVICE.
In recent times, I’ve been engaged in discussions on Social Networks most especially on Facebook as regards Cloud Computing because I’ve been a cloud evangelist a little over a year now and I’m dismayed by the pessimism a lot of Nigerian techies posit in these discusses.
First and foremost, there have been myriad variations on the definition of the Cloud. Everyone has a different perspective and understanding of the technology and the misconceptions surrounding the subject matter was obvious when Steven Ballmer, Microsoft CEO had problems communicating his company’s cloud strategy & infrastructure, Microsoft Windows Azure to a select group of C-level executives last November.
The vagueness surrounding this ‘phenomenon’ is largely attributed to what I call the ‘hype cycle’. Since February 2007, Cloud Computing has been a buzzword for enterprises and Governments that are looking forward to saving costs and reducing their energy usage and carbon footprints.
For my non techie audience, Cloud Computing is basically an outsourced, pay-as-you-go, on-demand and a somewhere on the internet experience that is always offered as a service. Even if you are not a good technology adopter or in technical parlance a ‘digital immigrant’, you would be surprised at how much you interface with the ‘Cloud’.
The mobile phones we possess, the email addresses (Yahoo!, Windows Hotmail, Google Mail etc) we have, the Instant Messengers (Blackberry Messenger, Yahoo, Windows Live, Nimbuzz, Meebo, 2GO, eBuddy etc) we use to communicate on the go are typical examples of Cloud Computing services.
It’s as a result of the fact that the physical layer of the OSI (Open Systems Interconnect) model has been abstracted. In plain sense for instance, it means an Airtel subscriber should not be concerned about where the server serving him/her is located but his/her focus should be geared towards the service that’s been delivered.
Neither should a Gmail user bother about where Google server is located because it’s completely unimportant. This generation is a serviced generation. Everything is now been offered as a service and the benefits of being serviced is too indispensable to avoid.
From a technical perspective, Cloud Computing is divided into 3 major tiers namely:
1. Software as a Service (SaaS): This is basically what everyone already has in form of Gmail, Yahoo! Mail, Wordpress, the various search engines, wikipedia, Facebook, Twitter etc.
2. Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS): This is an offering Amazon pioneered as the grand-daddy with the Elastic Compute 2 (EC2). Developers and system administrators obtain general compute, storage, queuing, and other resources and run their applications with the fewest limitations. This is the most powerful type of cloud in that virtually any application and any configuration that is fit for the internet can be mapped to this type of service. Microsoft’s Cloud Infrastructure is known as Windows Azure.
3. Platform as a Service (PaaS): This is the newest entry where an application platform is offered to developers in the cloud. Developers write their application to a more or less open specification and then upload their code into the cloud.
Highlighting all of these, the benefits of Cloud Computing to enterprises, individuals and Governments cannot be over-emphasized. Cloud Computing in every facet frees up budgets handcuffed by IT expenses. Instead of purchasing software licenses for new employees and locations, businesses simply add accounts to expand computing capacity.
Governments would benefit from it because it pools all disparate sectors as a whole and it would ensure openness, accountability and prudence. For instance, the Nigerian Government can create a cloud where citizens pay their tenement, water and electricity bills on a central platform. The Nigerian Police Force can create a Cloud Infrastructure we would name in this instance, The Nigeria Intellipedia® that would have sub cloud systems like The Police Reporting Software® which advertently takes away statements from being on paper to a central database and makes crime management a less cumbersome issue.
In moving with the times and trends, some young Nigerian entrepreneurs are creating overtly ambitious private Cloud infrastructures which is beginning to generate positive ripples. First is the Naija Info Bank ® which when completed would be the largest Human Resources database in Sub-Saharan Africa with a capacity of over 80 million users and secondly www.traffic.com.ng which is still in its Beta Phase and after completion would offer descriptive traffic report with GPS Coordinates of every nook and cranny of Nigeria. All you have to do as an end-user is to plug into the cloud and enjoy these services.
The odds are good that within the next five years, the popularity of Cloud Computing within the enterprise and government would grow significantly. Yet Cloud Computing alone is not the answer. The key to achieving great success is for enterprises and governments to use efficient software to integrate their existing on- premises infrastructure with the Cloud.
For a more detailed understanding of Cloud Computing, sign up for the largest Cloud Computing event in Africa this Summer in Lagos, Nigeria and secure your company and agency’s future in the Cloud at The African Summer School on Cloud Computing, Cloud Identity and Virtualization Technologies on www.SSWorldSeries.com