While the term seems to be ubiquitous, cloud computing is a relatively new innovation within the tech industry. However, in order to fully understand the convenience and importance of cloud computing, we need to know what network infrastructure looked like in the past. Let’s start back in the early days when IT infrastructure was centralized.
A Brief History of Network Infrastructure
For years, organizations had to outsource data-processing from a third party or even house their own network computer systems. In the 1990s, we began to see a movement towards having personal computers, where one’s own computer could perform a multitude of data-processing on its own, like when VisiCalc, a spreadsheet computer program, was launched on the Apple II.
It was at this time that network architecture was decentralized. But, just as all things ebb and flow, computing is no different.
Since the early 2000s, we have seen an emergence of recentralization due to cloud computing and the rise and dominating role of the internet. These changes allowed organizations to not only lower expenses, but also allowed them to simplify their network architecture for the betterment of their IT departments.
What is Cloud Computing?
“The cloud” is a network of interconnected servers and networks (or quite simply, the internet). Cloud computing allows the access and delivery of computing services such as storing data, streaming content, and/or creating apps.
When you first hear the term “cloud,” you may think of iCloud—that place where you can store and backup photos taken on a smartphone. Other recognizable examples of cloud-based services are Microsoft OneDrive and Google Drive—both of which offer word-processing and file storage, in-browser.
Different Shapes and Sizes
Let’s take a dive into the nitty-but-not-so-gritty details of what cloud computing looks like.
First, we need to understand the difference between public and private clouds. The former allows you to use the provider’s data center for platforms, infrastructure, and applications, and provides the potential for pay-to-use services to the public, such as Gmail and DropBox. The latter allows companies to secure data on the provider’s services behind a firewall and makes it accessible to a limited number of users, similar to an intranet. Public or private, both types of cloud simplify network architecture.
Alternately, hybrid clouds blend both third-party public cloud services and private clouds alike. This environment allows work to be moved from private and public clouds as various needs arise, like cost and/or scalability.
In general, the IT world speaks of three breeds of cloud computing. They are as follows:
Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS): allows access to raw serving power and data storage. Oftentimes, IaaS is a pay-as-you-go service, in that you only pay for what you use.
Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS): allows the development of tools and applications that run on another company’s software and hardware.
Software-as-a-Service (SaaS): allows the use of another company’s application, meaning you don’t need to worry about installation and upkeep. Think Google Docs.
Freedom in Flexibility
Running a company network program no longer necessitates a server room. In fact, cloud computing eliminates that need. When agencies adopt cloud computing, they see a multitude of benefits.
Quid pro quo - You pay for the computing resources you use. It doesn’t make much sense to invest in your own servers and data centers when you’re not sure how much you’ll utilize them.
Scalability - Quickly adjust the computing power you need from your buyer. Purchasing new servers may take days or weeks to handle new demand from your site or application.
BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) - The world is filled with mobile devices and laptops. As it happens, there are more cell phone subscriptions in the world than there are people, according to The World Bank. Cloud computing provides mobility. Users can access web-based applications and services both on-the-go and at home from their personal devices.
Productivity - IT departments can focus time and effort on other tasks. For example, SaaS from a provider assumes the maintenance and upkeep of said services. A drawback is the need for internet connectivity.
Add-and-Drop - Quickly add or take away services as your business changes. This saves time and money as programs can be pushed out to a whole network within hours rather than installing them one-by-one.
Security - By using cloud computing, you are allowing a large, dedicated team of IT professionals to protect your data, your software, and your intellectual properties. A smaller, in-house team may not suffice when you work globally.
Shifting to the Cloud
It looks like Obama’s Federal Cloud Computing Strategy issued back in 2011 is finally taking shape. While arguably it’s taken longer than it should have, U.S. government agencies are finally prioritizing the modernization of their IT infrastructure.
Not only did Obama’s report highlight the Federal Government’s pain points (ie. lower asset utilization, fragmented demand for resources, duplicative systems, etc.) he highlight the massive $20 billion savings that could be obtained from adopting a cloud computing approach to IT. This “Cloud First” initiative was followed up by the Trump administration’s Report to the President on Federal IT Modernization.
Consistent with other initiatives, Trump signed an order in April which intends to revitalize the federal government's IT infrastructure by “[performing] a risk assessment and [identifying] areas in which additional attention is needed.” From here, the President’s plan is to “prioritize an infusion of technical talent, capital, and updated security policy as needed to enable prioritized cloud migrations.”
Now that the ball is rolling, a multitude of federal agencies are following suit. NextGov highlighted the fact that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the National Security Agency (NSA) are both implementing Amazon Web Services. According to Fortune, the CIA “loves it’s new Amazon cloud.” Other government agencies that are following in their footsteps including The Department of Veterans Affairs, The Department of Justice, and Defense Digital Services.
Find the Right Resources
Cloud Computing simplifies network architecture, reduces costs, and provides a myriad of the benefits. If you would like to learn more about cloud computing for the betterment of your agency, contact Federal Resources Corporation to learn more.