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Cloud computing 101: An easy guide

Have you got a Yahoo, Gmail, Hotmail, Live or some other Web-based email account? Good. You have done some cloud computing, except that you probably did not know it. N Madhavan writes.

india Updated: May 29, 2011 21:48 IST
N Madhavan

Have you got a Yahoo, Gmail, Hotmail, Live or some other Web-based email account? Good. You have done some cloud computing, except that you probably did not know it.

The term “cloud computing” has become fashionable this year, and needs to be demystified for common folks.

Last week, Microsoft’s chief executive officer (CEO) Steve Ballmer told business leaders on an Indian visit that the country will see 300,000 jobs arising out of cloud computing over the next five years.

Such statements can make people wonder what this is all about. This column takes this week to re-state some obvious stuff.

Basically, cloud computing refers to the sharing of data, storage or software applications from a remote computer Anyone who uses a network-linked computer does this, but there are often two key differences these days. One, the computer need not be part of your organisation’s network and can be sourced from a third-party service provider. Secondly, the internet becomes the means through which this becomes easily deliverable.

In my earlier job at Reuters, I was on what was said to be one of the world’s biggest wide area networks (WAN), which is like a “virtual gated community.” And even small firms have local area networks (LANs).

Before the Internet expanded, early versions of third party cloud computing providers were called application service providers (ASP), who rented out software over a network or we had the “Software as a Service” (SaaS) model, more or less the same.

In its born-again terminology, cloud computing broadens this to include storage and outsourced data centres, with the Internet as a backbone. Given that companies are reluctant to keep confidential data outside their premises, or worried about network problems, service providers have created various combinations or hybrids to suit customer comfort levels.

Cutting edge technology firms like Citrix and VMWare are easing things further. Last week, Wipro in partnership with Citrix & Microsoft, launched Wipro “Desktop as a Service” (WDaaS), a desktop virtualization solution.

In plain terms, once you have this service, you can log on from any connected terminal, and what you get is a personal desktop – as if your own PC was virtually portable.

Such developments, along with a heady growth in bandwidth and 3G telephony are setting the stage of exciting times in computing – for the sheer convenience they bring. Cloud computing is like serviced apartments: they give you the comfort of a home, with the add-on conveniences of a hotel.

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