How Does Cloud Computing Work? [Technology Explained]

whatiscloud   How Does Cloud Computing Work? [Technology Explained]Cloud computing has been changing how most people use the web and how they store their files. It’s the structure that runs sites like Facebook, Amazon and Twitter and the core that allows us to take advantage of services like Google Docs and Gmail. But how does it work?

Before we dig further into how does cloud computing work, first let’s understand what the term “cloud“Âť refers to.  The concept of the cloud has been around for a long time in many different incarnations in the business world. It mostly means a grid of computers serving as a service-oriented architecture to deliver software and data.


Most websites and server-based applications run on particular computers or servers. What differentiates the cloud from the way those are set up is that the cloud utilizes the resources from the computers as a collective virtual computer, where the applications can run independently from particular computer or server configurations. They are basically floating around in a “cloud of resources”Âť, making the hardware less important to how the applications work.

With broadband internet, the need to have the software run on your computer or on a company’s site is becoming less and less essential. A lot of the software that people use nowadays are completely web-based. The cloud takes advantage of that to bring it to the next level.

For example, if you are hosting your website on a local server or from your PC, you must usually select a particular operating system (Windows/Linux/Mac), to determine what software you can run on that particular server. If your site is being hosted in the cloud, there is no need to do that. You can run Windows and Linux programs side by side.

How is that done?

To understand how does cloud computing work, imagine that the cloud consists of layers — mostly the back-end layers and the front-end or user-end layers. The front-end layers are the ones you see and interact with. When you access your email on Gmail for example, you are using software running on the front-end of a cloud. The same is true when you access your Facebook account. The back-end consists of the hardware and the software architecture that fuels the interface you see on the front end.

Because the computers are set up to work together, the applications can take advantage of all that computing power as if they were running on one particular machine. Cloud computing also allows for a lot of flexibility. Depending on the demand, you can increase how much of the cloud resources you use without the need for assigning specific hardware for the job, or just reduce the amount of resources assigned to you when they are not necessary.

backfrontend   How Does Cloud Computing Work? [Technology Explained]

Will it change the way we use computers?

The transition from being very ‘personal hardware dependent’ to a world where resources are shared among the masses is creeping up on us slowly and unobtrusively. Very many people have already transitioned to using a cloud environment for most of their time in front of the computer without even realizing it.

Sure, most of us still use some version of Microsoft Office or Quickbooks that was installed on our computers, but even those kinds of software are now offering an online version that can be used instead. The possibility of being able to access your data and software wherever you need it makes this transition very appealing to most people.

Are there problems with this concept? Of course there are. If for some reason your internet goes down, your access to your data also disappears. There are security concerns with the data and the risk that companies will use proprietary formats for the files and that require that you pay for a certain service monthly or you may lose access to your own data permanently.

So choose wisely when picking a service to use with your important data and make sure it can be downloaded if needed, but also enjoy the flexibility those services provide. The wave of the future is in the clouds”¦

What cloud services are currently part of your life?

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12 Comments -

Alfonso Gonzalez

Thanks for writing this article! Until I read this I thought cloud computing referred to those tag clouds you see on people’s blogs! lol This is much cooler and much more far reaching. It’s great to see how the Internet is evolving. I was just talking to one of my Science classes today and the topic of artificial intelligence came up. I mentioned Skynet from the Terminator movies. What if the Internet becomes self aware one day?! Or what if it turns out like the Cylon in the new Caprica series?! It’s mind boggling.

Taty

Hi Alfonso
Yes, it is a fascinating topic. Glad you see the possibilities clouds are opening. If you like philosophical discussions on it, you might also enjoy this excerpt from a book by the Quantum physicist Michio Kaku on computers in the future:
http://beholders.org/mind/poetryandshortstories/134-hyperspace.html

derek

Hello. I am about to make a presentation about cloud computing in my school but instead of talking about it’s technical stuff I wanted to tell the audience how they can benefit from it. I focused only on applications working in the cloud (life examples) which in my opinion are the part of cloud which typical user will deal with. Anyway examples are best to understand anything :)
What I want to ask you is if the apps I found on the web are really the cloud apps. Too bad there are no examples in the post :(. Please correct me if I am wrong. Here’s the list (they are very random):
Google Apps, Chrome OS / Jolicloud , Webtops (overally), Grooveshark.com , Spotify, Audiobox/Tunesbag , Boxee, Dropbox/box.net/Sugarsync etc., Mozilla Weave, Panda Cloud Antivirus.

Taty

Hi Derek
You can safely assume that most applications that are running as online applications are currently cloud based. There are a few examples ( I was focusing on the ones everyone uses) such as Gmail, but that includes virtually all of Google’s services with very few exceptions. The catch with most apps, such as some of the ones you listed, like Chrome OS and Jolicloud. Is that they aren’t a cloud per say, they are software, which once installed on someone’s machine, connects them to a cloud.
The difference is subtle, since one can claim that since it’s connecting directly to the cloud, it kind of becomes part of the cloud. I take a more purist approach, but that is all up to interpretation.

derek

Hello. I am about to make a presentation about cloud computing in my school but instead of talking about it’s technical stuff I wanted to tell the audience how they can benefit from it. I focused only on applications working in the cloud (life examples) which in my opinion are the part of cloud which typical user will deal with. Anyway examples are best to understand anything :)
What I want to ask you is if the apps I found on the web are really the cloud apps. Too bad there are no examples in the post :(. Please correct me if I am wrong. Here’s the list (they are very random):
Google Apps, Chrome OS / Jolicloud , Webtops (overally), Grooveshark.com , Spotify, Audiobox/Tunesbag , Boxee, Dropbox/box.net/Sugarsync etc., Mozilla Weave, Panda Cloud Antivirus.

Taty

Hi Alfonso
Yes, it is a fascinating topic. Glad you see the possibilities clouds are opening. If you like philosophical discussions on it, you might also enjoy this excerpt from a book by the Quantum physicist Michio Kaku on computers in the future:
http://beholders.org/mind/poet

dream interpreter

very interesting article. Matrix style. I bealive that computers will be used more in the future, and slowly we will do like 80-90 % with the help of them!

David Kramer

I liked the article a lot, but I don’t think it focuses on the downsides of cloud computing enough. Of course you can lose your connection to the internet, but the larger problems are that (1) Some other company has access to all your data and (2) if something goes wrong at the cloud service you use, you are powerless to help get it up again.

Individuals don’t seem to care very much about privacy of their data today, evidenced by the number of facebook and gmail users, but for a company that’s a much larger concern. Problem (2) can have a big impact on both individuals and companies, though. For example, the Sidekick phone stores ALL its data on their cloud. The phone doesn’t even have the contacts list in it. So a few years ago when that cloud broke, every single Sidekick phone was 100% useless for several weeks. And then they found that the backups hadn’t been working, so some users lost data, because there was no way for them to back it up themselves.

Stephen Black

Excellent article but being a simple man. Must say I’m not there yet, another couple of reads will do it.

Keep up the good work, love your site.

Stephen
The Nomadic Romantic English Gentleman

PRATEEK JAIN

thanx tatty for explaining the technology.

Buffet

Who wants to have their ‘head in the clouds’?

Geoffrey

You are just re-iterating the hype, Another hype word based on existing Tech with an addition of 1 small step, creating confusion.
OOP, AJAX,DHTML just to name a few.
But the fact is, from a single network address, ie facebook.com how does that give you access to a virtual location that is common, at the end of the day, a Server still needs to repond to the request and deliver the content. Traditional methods required load balancers, that took your incoming request and delivered it to a specific peice of hardware to deliver the conent. But in Clouds, what is it realy? is it a bank of load balancers, on top of other load balancers? or is it a range of IP addresses behind the DNS to choose the one closest to your location? a combination? And if it is a single distribution and respond node, would it go offline? and have fail over? Maybe V-Lan.
Dont know, still trying to understand the Tech implementation, which you failed to mention though your heading did say you would.