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History of Cloud Computing and SaaS

Page history last edited by davhodg@... 10 years, 1 month ago

 Cloud Computing and SAAS for Collaboration


History of Cloud Computing and SaaS


     While the term “Cloud Computing” is relatively new, and has become in industry buzz word, the roots of this concept go back to the earliest days of distributed computing where mainframes were the heart of an organization


Mainframe Computing


     Mainframe systems are large, expensive, resource intensive machines that began to make their way into businesses beginning in the 1960s[i]. The mainframe acts as a centralized workhorse whose resources' are shared among multiple users. In a mainframe architecture, terminals called “thin clients” are used to send commands to the mainframe, where they are interpreted and executed. While the thin client may receive feedback, no information is stored locally. It is used only as a communication device to send and receive input and output.

     The advantages of a mainframe architecture include the ability to provide consistent processing resources to a number of connections. Maintaining a central location for processing also allows technical resources to be focused on a limited area.

Disadvantages of using a mainframe or other centralized model of computing include high costs to purchase and maintain hardware, as well as a single point of failure for all computing operations it provides.


Client-Server Model


     In time, as the cost and size of hardware decreased, processing power and storage increased in what came to be known as Moore's Law.  During this shift, organizations began to move to a decentralized client-server architecture. Individual PCs with locally installed applications became more prevalent, and smaller, local file servers began to be used for tasks such as file and print serving.

Decentralizing computer operations had the advantage of minimizing a complete failure in operations, should one system go down. On the other hand, moving to “fat client” systems came with its own set of costs. An increased number of systems storing files and running applications locally meant the need for more backup and staffing to support the increased number of users and expanded infrastructure[ii]. Locally running operating systems and applications also created an upgrade cycle and system for patching individual computers whenever new versions were released.


     The Internet Boom and the ASP model in early 2000's  <need to research>

Technologies such as Microsoft’s Silverlight and Adobe’s AIR, along with advanced programming techniques like AJAX (asynchronous Javascript and XML) have allowed developers to create suites of products that run with little or no additional software on the client, providing access to user from almost any internet connected computer. Browser-based interaction with an application allows thin client-like access using fat client machines.


Enter the Cloud and Software as a Service


     The ability to combine an abundance of inexpensive hardware to dynamically scale services as needed ushered in the era of what’s been called “Cloud Computing”. The “Cloud” allows vendors to provision a set amount of resources from within a network to provide a shared environment for businesses or individual users to run applications or store data. Traditional concerns such as maintenance, upgrades and backups have been shifted to the cloud’s responsibility and control. The National Institute of Standards Technology defines Cloud Computing as, “a computing capability that provides an abstraction between the computing resource and its underlying technical architecture (e.g., servers, storage, networks), enabling convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction.”[i]The cloud provides a web-based front end to access the provider’s service or database, while removing the need to understand the structure (Figure 1).



Figure 1 [i] 



     One of the early innovators in Cloud Computing was Amazon.com, who in 2006 sought to position itself as a “21st century digital utility”[ii]. Amazon dubbed their service “EC2” (Elastic Compute Cloud) and allowed businesses to rent physical rack space, as well as computational space within their network, considered by many to be the highest caliber.

Software-as-a-Service is an example of one type of computing that may be provided by cloud computing. In SaaS, users “rent” the use of an application while all storage, upgrading and maintenance is provided by the vendor. Access is gained via a standard web browser. Through new SaaS applications and many existing vendors offering SaaS versions of their products, the cloud model and SaaS has been gaining widespread acceptance.  This software model has also opened doors for many corporations that are seeking ways to minimize staffing resources and increase productivity.



Collaborating in the Cloud


     There are numerous types of software aimed at assisting individuals and groups working together. Various methodologies are used within these applications to better organize and develop ideas. Cloud computing assists users by removing barriers of time and distance. Using a SaaS provider, or running an application that is cloud-based offers many advantages for collaborators[iii] to work together, overcoming obstacles that can impede collaboration in a traditional model. <need more details on how this works>


Examples of Collaboration Applications Available as SaaS or in the Cloud


     Software applications usually deployed from local machines have also found their way to the cloud and SaaS. Office file creating and editing, photo manipulation and storage, desktop publishing, calendaring, and project management have joined email as web-based applications. These applications have gained in popularity partially based on their familiar interfaces and their ease of use, but also because of their low cost or free price tag.  While the desktop-based versions currently remain dominant, these SaaS alternatives have been making significant inroads into the market.


     There are many great examples of cloud based collaborative tools. One of the most popular types are wiki's such as wikipedia, or pbworks, where you can perform collabortive authoring with many other simutaneously. Other tools are CRM, or Customer Relationship Managment systems. The most popular of which is Salesforce. Salesforce provides its customers access to enterprise level tools at a minimal monthy fee and without a large maintenance or operational overhead.


[i] http://blogs.msdn.com/b/dachou/archive/2009/01/13/cloud-computing-and-the-microsoft-platform.aspx

[ii] http://csrc.nist.gov/groups/SNS/cloud-computing/cloud-def-v15.doc 

[iii] http://www.informit.com/articles/article.aspx?p=1234970



Comments (6)

rbaird2000@yahoo.com said

at 11:47 am on May 24, 2010

Like Tarinee said, a more thorough definition of Moore's Law may be needed

Ryan McCaffrey said

at 11:29 am on May 24, 2010

A good history and understanding of the subject is displayed. I like the tie to collaboration in a cloud but it seems like that section could be flushed out a little more.

Tarinee Hemakom said

at 9:53 am on May 24, 2010

I think you need to elaborate on what Moore's Law is since you mentioned it because you don't really talk about it there of what it is.

Also, a very slightly grammatical error.

bhbui@... said

at 11:40 pm on May 23, 2010

"techniques like AJAX (asynchronous Javascript and XML)", "fat client"
-- I agree that there should be more discussion. Terms like above are understood by techies but for non-technical audience, it's not clear, even when the acronyms are spelled out

-- The section reads more like a bulleted list than a writting (understaning that this is the first draft.)

Daniella K said

at 8:16 pm on May 23, 2010

I think there should have been a more formal explanation of Moore’s Law because I’m not sure what it is about exactly.

I wish there was a better separation of Cloud Computing and Software as a Service (SaaS)

I think there should be more explanation about Examples of Collaboration Applications Available as SaaS or in the Cloud

Mary Remington said

at 6:14 pm on May 23, 2010

When including acronyms, be sure to include the actual name with the acronym immediately following the first time it acronym is used. For example "Software-as-a-Service (Saas)...".

I find it would be better to separate the Cloud Computing introduction from the SaaS intro instead of being together in "Enter the Cloud and SaaS...". This can provide a clearer distinction between the two.

The "Examples of Collaboration Applications..." portion is also included in the next portion, "Architecture of Collaborating in the Cloud", in more detail.

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