Cloud computing is the delivery of computing as a service rather than a product, whereby shared resources, software and information are provided to computers and other devices as a utility (like the electricity grid) over a network (typically the Internet)
Cloud computing provides computation, software, data access, and storage services that do not require end-user knowledge of the physical location and configuration of the system that delivers the services. Parallels to this concept can be drawn with the electricity grid, wherein end-users consume power without needing to understand the component devices or infrastructure required to provide the service.
The concept of cloud computing fills a perpetual need of IT: a way to increase capacity or add capabilities on the fly without investing in new infrastructure, training new personnel, or licensing new software. Cloud computing encompasses any subscription-based or pay-per-use service that, in real time over the Internet, extends IT’s existing capabilities.
Major Cloud Providers and Companies
Amazon Web Services: In 2006, Amazon launched its cloud computing platform, Amazon Web Services. AWS is comprised of a number of different products that allows businesses and application developers to build their own cloud-enabled applications.
Amazon is a huge player in the cloud platform space, with major web companies like Groupon and Foursquare using various parts of Amazon’s cloud infrastructure to power their products.
Salesforce.com: In the enterprise cloud, Salesforce.com is a huge player. Beyond its flagship Salesforce.com CRM system, Salesforce.com also allows enterprises and businesses to build their own tools on its Force.com platform.
Google: Although Google offers its own infrastructure product by way of its Google App Engine, the search giant’s bigger cloud ambitions are still emerging. Right now, most of Google’s cloud offerings are accessible in the form of consumer- and enterprise-focused services, such as Google Apps and Google Docs.
Still, Google maintains its own cloud infrastructure and has helped define the idea of the modern cloud-based web application.
Microsoft: Microsoft launched its platform appliance aimed at allowing large customers like eBay, HP and Dell to offer their own cloud services using Microsoft’s technology, but in their own data centers.
IBM: IBM has been working on various cloud initiatives for the last several years. In April, it launched its more robust set of offerings by way of the IBM SmartCloud and IBM SmartCloud Enterprise brands.
Consumer Cloud Services :
Google Apps: Google Apps, which includes your mail, contacts, calendar events, and Outlook notes are stored in your Google account in the cloud and in Outlook on your computer. Google Apps Sync makes sure data is the same in both places by regularly copying, or synchronizing it back and forth. Incoming messages, meeting invitations, and contacts are downloaded from the cloud to Outlook, while changes you make locally sync back up with the cloud. Because the cloud is accessible from anywhere on the Internet (not just from behind your firewall), you can access this information from any computer anywhere—either from Outlook, or by logging in to Google Apps using a web browser.
Box.net: Box.net unique because it has robust APIs and application support not just for other web apps, but for mobile and tablet apps as well.
Dropbox: Dropbox is one of the most popular cloud and file storage solutions because it makes sharing files with other users or across computers dead simple. The service is focused on consumers, but many businesses use it, too.
OnLive: The idea of being able to play games from the cloud — no disc or download required — is something that is likely to catch on, big time, in the next few years.
iCloud: Apple will formally roll out its iCloud offering, and the general consensus is that this will be what brings the idea of cloud to the mainstream.
Already, Apple has made its iTunes in the Cloud music service available to users.
Major technology companies, as well as small businesses and consumers, are seeing the benefits of the cloud and those benefits are only going to increase as products that heavily use cloud infrastructures and technologies integrate themselves into our lives.