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Cloud technologies: definition, influence and future prospects

The cloud has completely changed the way we store and transmit information. Its technologies have helped overcome the limitations of a physical device and opened up a whole new dimension of the Internet.

What is cloud technology?

Cloud computing is a way of providing computing power as a service over a network.

Users get a platform, also called the cloud, where they can do anything from storing photos to building their own IT infrastructure. This is essentially a server located in data centers around the world, which is accessed via the Internet. The user does not need to set it up on their own; the service provider does it for them.

What services use cloud technologies? All the services you are used to using. Previously, all information was stored on a computer and transferred via a flash drive (disk). Later, file storages, Dropbox, Google One, and Microsoft Office 365 appeared. Correspondence moved to Telegram, WhatsApp, and Skype, Zoom, etc. were used for working meetings or private communication. Thanks to cloud technologies, you can open the same file on different devices at the same time. Or access your social media page from a new phone.

How it works

Cloud computing is made possible by virtualization. It allows you to create a simulated digital virtual computer, similar to a physical computer, with its own hardware. It is called a virtual machine.

One physical server can run many virtual servers at the same time. A data center becomes like a web of data centers capable of serving many users. VMs are isolated from each other, the files, and programs of one virtual machine are not visible to others, even if they are on the same physical server. Users access services through a browser or application using the Internet.

History of cloud technologies

In the 1950s, mainframes were first used. They were expensive, and it was impossible for every researcher to buy one. Therefore, companies introduced the concept of time-sharing to make more efficient use of CPU time on central mainframes. This allowed users to access multiple instances of a mainframe computer at the same time to maximize computing power and minimize downtime. This technology, cloud computing, is the first example of sharing computing resources and is the basis of cloud computing today.

Cloud computing began to take on a more recognizable form with the introduction of the first virtual machines in the 1970s. This allowed users to run multiple computing systems on a single physical machine. In the 1970s and 1980s, leading tech companies Microsoft, Apple, and IBM improved cloud environments and promoted the use of cloud server hosting.

In 1999, Salesforce was the first company in the world to provide access to its software via the Internet. Companies could buy and use software without leaving their offices.

In 2006, Amazon launched AWS to provide cloud computing and data storage services. Since then, other IT giants, including Microsoft and Google, have launched their own cloud solutions to compete with AWS.

The main service models of cloud technologies

SaaS (software as a service). The cloud provider develops and maintains applications, programs, hosts them in the cloud and provides them to the user through a browser/application on a PC. The client pays a subscription fee or uses them for free. It’s similar to renting a house: the landlord maintains the property, but the tenant uses it as if he or she were the owner. Examples include Microsoft 365, TikTok, Gmail.

PaaS (platform as a service). The supplier provides everything you need to create IT services: development tools, infrastructure, and operating systems. PaaS can be compared to renting all the tools needed to build a house instead of renting a ready-made one. Examples are AWS Elastic Beanstalk, OpenShift.

IaaS (infrastructure as a service). The provider provides resources and storage that the company uses to host and develop services. It is similar to a company renting a land plot on which it can build whatever it wants, but it must provide its own building materials. Among the providers are Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud, and GigaCloud.

You can read more about models and examples in a separate article – SaaS, PaaS, IaaS.

Types of cloud deployment

Public cloud. A public cloud belongs to a service provider that manages it. Many companies can rent its resources.

Private cloud. A private cloud is built by a provider specifically for use by only one organization.

Hybrid cloud. A combination of public and private clouds that allows a company to use the best features of both solutions, depending on the tasks.

Advantages of cloud technologies

More space for data storage. Cloud storage is not limited by the capacity of any physical device. You can store more data without worrying about memory upgrades.

Better scalability. There are businesses with changing resource requirements. The cloud allows you to flexibly increase and decrease the amount of RAM, virtual machines, disks, etc. as needed.

Organization of remote work. Employees can connect to services from anywhere in the world and from any gadget, which contributes to better interaction between remote teams.

Savings. Renting cloud resources eliminates the need to purchase equipment and reduces capital expenditures. These funds can be used for business development and conquest of new markets.

Backup and disaster recovery. It is possible to implement backup and recovery solutions in a cost-effective and hassle-free manner.

The future of cloud computing

Here are some predictions:

Hybrid and multi-cloud solutions. Businesses will choose a combination of hybrid and multi-cloud infrastructures as they try to find a balance between flexibility, security, and control.

Internet of Things. As more and more devices are connected to the Internet, the need for a reliable, scalable cloud infrastructure will only grow. The IoT will create a huge amount of data that needs to be stored and processed, and the cloud is the ideal platform for this.

Artificial intelligence. With the rapid development of AI, businesses and users are increasingly turning to the cloud to store and manage their data. One of the main reasons is that AI-powered data analytics can help identify patterns and trends that would otherwise be impossible to detect.

Serverless computing. This trend can radically change the way we think about hosting applications and services. In the serverless model, there are no physical servers to maintain.