Cloud computing is expected to transform enterprise IT by enabling enterprises of all sizes to take advantage of economies of scale and obtain the benefit of paying only for the resources they use.
As it stands, many aspects of computing are becoming available as a cloud service: infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) such as Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Windows Asure, VMWare vCloud and open source Eucalyptus and Cloudera provide elastic computing, network and storage capacity.
Software-as-a-service (SaaS) describes online applications, including productivity software, database and business process software. Microsoft Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS), Google Docs and Gmail, Salesforce CRM and Oracle CRM on Demand are types of SAAS.
Meanwhile, platform-as-a-service (PaaS) enables application development (e.g., Google Apps and Windows Azure), desktop-as-a-service (DaaS), and even XaaS or EaaS, everything-as-a-service.
With cloud computing, heterogeneity has become a core characteristic in computing. Cloud resources may be proprietary or open source or a blend of both.
A profile of the offerings of one company is illustrative: Citrix offers proprietary applications such as GoToMeetings desktop communications and conferencing software, and Desktops to Go remote desktop application along with open source products such as Xen server and XenDesktop, a virtual desktop. The open source Xen project which resides at Citrix has initiated the Xen Cloud Platform initiative, supported by Citrix, HP, Intel, Oracle and Novell.
With an Apple iPad application, Citrix Receiver, Citrix can serve the Windows desktop to the iPad giving it full functionality of any Windows application. Seven new cloud platform products, Citrix Cloud Solutions, are open-source and extensible by users. Citrix describes cloud solutions as a framework to enable interoperability with other software, even third-party virtualisation such as the competitors VMware.
Heterogeneous and global
Not only is cloud computing heterogeneousa mix of proprietary and open source solutionsit is global. For example, Windows Azure is available in 41 countries. In the cloud, a user may access an application hosted in Hong Kong from his office in South Korea. The users data may be saved on servers located in Poland, routed through the US.
From a software developers perspective, the global nature of the cloud is defined not only by network behaviour, but also by the structure of the business itself. Researchers working for a US multinational company in Russia may collaborate with a team in Singapore. The final product may be designed in US and Taiwan, made in India, Malaysia and the Philippines for sale in South America.
Technology drives economic growth
The economic opportunity for a country with compatible, technology-neutral laws and public policies abounds. As an example, the Singapore government has long recognised technology drives economic growth for the country. In 2008, the government partnered with Hewlett Packard, Intel, and Yahoo, and research institutions in Russia, Germany and the US, to form a partnership to develop an open-source test bed to support research in cloud services at a global scale. HP has also opened a Cloud Labs in Singapore.
Sign up for Computerworld eNewsletters.