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Cloud computing offers computing resources over a network to provide convenient and on-demand services. Cloud computing uses applications, hardware, services, servers, and storage for cloud customers with minimal management effort and cloud-provider interaction. Cloud-based applications and data are accessed over the internet. Cloud computing has many characteristics and benefits which make it extremely powerful for companies. Today, we will discuss the five major characteristics of cloud computing.
#1 On-demand Self-Service
The procurement of cloud services is very easy and simple in the case of cloud computing. With just a click of a button, users can easily provision the infrastructure immediately. This is contrary to the traditional on-premise procurement process that takes many weeks to complete the service provisioning.
The ability to self-service the infrastructure and services perfectly aligns with modern businesses’ agile software development needs. Instead of waiting for new servers to be set up in a private data center, you can use the self-service portal of the cloud vendor and build the system within minutes. Both the provisioning and removal of cloud infrastructure and services is accomplished through the same self-service portal. Cloud vendors take care of the security of the self-service console.
To keep a balance between the developer’s autonomy to build, deploy, and run the applications, cloud vendors provide a secure role-based access system so that you can authorize specific users to manage specific services.
Self-service also allows you to monitor the health of your cloud services along with any alert notifications you have set up upon these services. The lack of manual intervention eliminates the element of human error.
Cloud vendors keep adding new services to the system, and users can use the same self-service portal to use the newly added services.
#2 Rapid Elasticity and Scalability
A prominent feature of cloud computing is its elasticity and scalability. Scalability refers to an increase in the capacity to meet the increasing load; usually, this is static demand growth. Elasticity, on the other hand, is the automatic allocation of memory, CPU, and storage to meet rapid workload needs.
Consider a scenario where you expect extra workload on a Black Friday sale. With the click of a button, you can upgrade your virtual machines to handle the expected workload. Note that upgrading cloud based virtual machines do not cause any downtime. You can also add a new virtual machine in the pool of existing virtual machines so that the VM cluster can now handle the increased load with the addition of a new VM.
Most cloud vendors provide built-in elasticity in the services. That’s why the majority of AWS service names include the word “Elastic” as most of the AWS services have built-in elasticity. Referring back to the example of Black Friday sales, you can configure the dynamic scaling to your fleet of virtual machines. As soon as the load on the existing VM cross a certain threshold, the load balancer will automatically provision a new VM and will include it in the distribution of requests.
Elasticity is applied not only in the case of adding resources but removing resources as well. In the case of Black Friday sales, the system will monitor the load on the VM. As soon as the workload falls below a certain threshold (e.g., CPU below 40%), the elastic load balancer will remove the additional VM which was provisioned temporarily to handle the load. This is a landmark for cloud computing because that allows manufacturing companies to rapidly add or remove any cloud computing resources. The resources can be storage, computing, memory, networking, etc.
The ability to dynamically add or remove resources also lets you control your costs. You can plan the new customer’s onboarding and the cost which will be incurred to handle the new workload. The self-service portal enables customers to control the cloud costs directly because they can create and remove new cloud services on a need basis.
Note that the feature of adding or removing the cloud resources on a need basis comes for free, and you are only charged for the actual infrastructure/services used.
#3 Multi-tenancy and Resource Pooling
Cloud computing is designed to support the multi-tenancy model for maximum utilization of the cloud infrastructure. In this model, multiple customers share the same physical infrastructure without compromising privacy and security. For example, multiple customers might use the same physical computer where each customer is assigned a separate VM on the same computer. Similarly, for a large SSD storage device, different customers might be allocated some portions of storage from the same SSD device. The ability to share the infrastructure resources is called resource pooling because different customers are served with the infrastructure from the same resource pool. This reduces the cost for the customers and ensures maximum utilization of the infrastructure because it provides economy for scale.
Cloud computing allows customers to select the best cloud service, network, or server that matches their specific requirements. This capability exists only because of resource pooling. The resource pool contains different versions of the same service so that customers can pick and choose the best one for their business needs. For example, a customer can select any of the EC2 instance types from the available pool of 275 types of EC2 instances. The newly offered services are automatically added to the pool and immediately available to the customers.
Also, resource pooling eliminates the conflict between the administration process and the client’s experience, as the resources are provisioned in real-time.
#4 Pay-per-use Pricing
Another important characteristic of cloud computing is the “charge per use”. Customers can select various charging methods based on various factors, including:
- Need is long-term or short-term (e.g. AWS reserved instances)
- Need is mission critical or not (e.g. AWS spot instances)
The usage of cloud services, whether it is the databases or the VM, are monitored and measured by the cloud vendor. The cost is based on “pay as you use” and the actual payment is based on the actual consumption by the customer. The feature of pay-per-usage shifts the IT costing model shifts from Capex to Opex as cloud vendors offer per-minute or per-hour billing instead of forcing to reserve the hardware for long periods. By reducing costs on a large scale and achieving an increase in efficiency, this model offers economies of scale.
However, the pay-per-use model also comes with responsibilities for the customer. Customers should turn off their VM when not in use (e.g. after working hours) or scale down the infrastructure if not needed. If you do not right-size your infrastructure, you will be wasting valuable money on the cloud.
#5 Broad Network Access
Almost all cloud providers offer public, private, and hybrid clouds. It is the public cloud that customers most commonly use, and it is also the most powerful one. The public cloud is available everywhere around the globe. The public cloud has broad network access, which means you can access cloud services anywhere and from any device.
The feature of broad internet access is further empowered by edge computing. Cloud providers offer geo-specific cloud services, resulting in fast delivery of services to customers around the cloud edges. These are usually small or micro data centers spread across different geographical locations around the globe. Some examples of edge computing are AWS cloudfront and S3 transfer acceleration.
The use of cloud infrastructure is gaining significant rise over time. All modern applications are cloud-native, which makes cloud computing a great career choice. AWS being the market leader in the cloud world, has the largest pool of services, with new services being added every year. If you are starting your career in cloud computing, then AWS certifications are the best way to launch your cloud career. Our AWS certification training will help you develop the right skills and knowledge of AWS cloud services.
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Note: Last updated May 10, 2023