Cloud Computing Technology: The Essential Elements

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The world of cloud computing is coming at us—fast. Within the next few years, over 94% of all backend computing will occur in a cloud rather than a privately managed data center. Cloud computing is defined as software maintained on shared servers instead of physical servers to provide on-demand availability of resources like data storage and computing power. 

This kind of computing will rely on technology that has driven Amazon Web Services (AWS) to become the most profitable division of Amazon, Adobe to move from perpetual licenses to subscriptions, and salesforce.com to knock out its fiercest rival, Siebel Systems. 

The Three Layers of Cloud Computing Technology

There are three fundamental layers of cloud computing technology:

  1. The technology that runs the infrastructure and underlying systems, which enable everything else to function

  2. The software that enables the services offered across the cloud, from data storage to big data analysis to machine learning and artificial intelligence

  3. The Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) and microservices that act as the connective tissue between the far-flung elements of the environment and empower developers to build extraordinary applications

Essentials of Cloud Computing Infrastructure 

The technology behind the first layer of cloud computing—the technology that makes it possible for backend software to be nowhere specific, yet everywhere and always available—ranges from the impossibly esoteric and proprietary to the broadly understood and open source. At its heart, though, are some core concepts of cloud computing:

Software Needed to Support Cloud Computing

With the infrastructure in place, a prospective cloud provider must now settle on the software that will be the backbone of its cloud computing capabilities. If they act as an Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) provider, they will need to include more options than a Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) provider. PaaS commonly provides limited features focused on solving a narrower set of problems. Either way, there are core cloud computing technologies that companies must inevitably include to offer a credible product and service set, such as:

Cloud providers can choose from a vast array of technologies that they feel customers would be ready, willing, and able to pay for, from load balancing to DDoS protection, from functions-as-a-service to Virtual Private Networks (VPNs), and from containerization to auto-scaling.

APIs and Cloud Computing Technology

Tying these pieces together is the core element of cloud computing technology: APIs. Just as organizations had to get used to pushing their computation to the cloud through the simplest concept of virtualizing a physical server, so APIs are helping developers shift from monolithic to microservice architectures. APIs generally represent an easy-to-comprehend entry point into a sophisticated set of services. A simple JavaScript hook, for instance, might identify a user's exact location, provide an up-to-the-second list of their friends who are online simultaneously, or show the value of a given cryptocurrency. The technology behind the API may be deep and complex—but the beauty of the cloud computing paradigm is that that technology is fully abstracted, and the application becomes ever-richer with the addition of just a few lines of code.

Cloud computing ultimately relies upon three layers of technology: the converged and centrally orchestrated infrastructure, software that enables cloud services, and the APIs that knit the infinite possibilities of cloud-resident solutions together.