Cloud Computing Definitions and Use Cases

September 9th, 2010

An active discussion on cloud computing use cases brings a somewhat more practical approach to what this service might offer to a company and how it might evolve over time.  Not everyone can use salesforce.com or Google mail services, which are the most frequently cited examples of cloud computing.

The NIST definition describes five essential characteristics of cloud computing:

  • Rapid Elasticity:  Elasticity is defined as the ability to scale resources both up and down as needed.  To the consumer, the cloud appears to be infinite, and the consumer can purchase as much or as little computing power as they need.  This is one of the essential characteristics of cloud computing in the NIST definition.
  • Measured Service:  In a measured service, aspects of the cloud service are controlled and monitored by the cloud provider.  This is crucial for billing, access control, resource optimization, capacity planning and other tasks.
  • On-Demand Self-Service: The on-demand and self-service aspects of cloud computing mean that a consumer can use cloud services as needed without any human interaction with the cloud provider.
  • Ubiquitous Network Access: Ubiquitous network access means that the cloud provider’s capabilities are available over the network and can be accessed through standard mechanisms by both thick and thin clients.  This does not necessarily mean Internet access.  By definition, a private cloud is accessible only behind a firewall. Regardless of the type of network.
  • Resource Pooling:  Resource pooling allows a cloud provider to serve its consumers via a multi-tenant model. Physical and virtual resources are assigned and reassigned according to consumer demand. There is a sense of location independence in that the customer generally has no control or knowledge over the exact location of the provided resources but may be able to specify location at a higher level of abstraction (e.g., country, state, or datacenter).  In many cases privacy laws and other regulations require the cloud provider’s resources to be in a particular location.  The cloud provider and cloud consumer must work together to adhere to those regulations.

Starter set of use cases include:

Customer Problem Solved Requirements & Capabilities Applicable Use Case
Payroll Processing
  • Processing time reduced
  • Hardware requirements reduced
  • Elasticity enabled for future expansion
IaaS (VMs), cloud storage Enterprise to Cloud
Logistics & Project Management
  • Processing time reduced
  • Manual tasks eliminated
  • Development environment updated and streamlined
PaaS (app framework), cloud storage Enterprise to Cloud to End User
Central Government
  • IT expertise consolidated
  • Hardware requirements reduced
IaaS, PaaS Private Cloud
Local Government
  • IT expertise consolidated
  • Hardware requirements reduced
IaaS, PaaS Hybrid Cloud
Astronomic Data Processing
  • Hardware expense greatly reduced (processing power and storage)
  • Energy costs greatly reduced
  • Administration simplified
IaaS (VMs), cloud storage Enterprise to Cloud to End User

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