The cloud — the very concept of what it is and what it does — remains ambiguous to lot of non-technical managers. This is partly why convincing executives to capitalize on cloud computing may prove to be challenging for some organizations.
What escapes most people is that, as consumers, they’re already using apps and digital services powered by cloud computing. Providing managers with a basic knowledge of its architecture and how it all works is a step forward in demystifying the cloud and its benefits.
Cloud computing pertains to the delivery of computing services through a network, typically the Internet, shifting the computing or processing away from physical computing assets, particularly servers and data centers, into cyberspace.
Cloud service providers or vendors — such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud, among many others — typically employ a pay-as-you-go (PAYG) model.
The cloud is a complex technology composed of parts that may sound intimidating or too technical for non-IT professionals. One way to better understand how the cloud works is by learning the basics about its architecture.
Components of cloud computing architecture
Cloud computing architecture refers to the technology components of a cloud computing environment and how they function altogether.
Cloud computing architecture consists of these principal components:
- Delivery method
The frontend refers to the client side of a cloud computing structure. Put simply, the frontend pertains to everything that users interact with. Cloud client architecture or the frontend consist of the following key subcomponents:
1. The application or software are typically web browsers or native applications, which have frontend and backend layers. The frontend of an application or software functions as the presentation layer. The user interface (UI) of any given application is what users directly interact with.
2. The client device is the hardware being used by the end user. In cloud computing, the processing load is borne more by the cloud than the client-side device.
The backend, in a cloud environment architecture, refers to the very cloud itself. The backend systems enable the frontend to function.
Cloud service vendors build and develop these backend systems that businesses pay for to host and manage their respective systems, applications, data, and other digital assets.
The backend consists of the following key subcomponents:
1. The backend layer of an application or software are its parts that users do not directly interact with. Also referred to as the data access layer, the backend layer of an application processes the requests of the user from the frontend.
2. The storage is where data resides. The types and capacity of cloud storage varies depending on the cloud provider and the requirements of the organization.
3. The management software enables cloud providers and their client organizations to monitor the cloud’s performance and capacity. Through this singular console, administrators can track cloud usage, deploy new applications, integrate data, perform disaster recovery measures, and execute other management tasks.
4. Security tools protect the integrity of a cloud’s data, resources, and systems. The security features of a cloud service include storage backup, debugging, and virtual firewalls, among others.
5. Infrastructure primarily pertains to the hardware components of a cloud system but also includes software that runs them. Infrastructure includes the CPU, Motherboard, Graphics Processing Unit (GPU), network cards, accelerator cards, and other hardware components needed in a cloud service.
6. The service executes and runs every task on a cloud computing system. These services include the other subcomponents below.
7. A hypervisor, also known as a virtual machine monitor, is a software that creates and runs virtual machines. Its main function is to allocate resources, particularly CPU, memory, and storage.
8. Virtualization or virtualized resources are software-based representations (hence “virtualization”) of physical resources such as servers or storage. This enables multiple applications to utilize the same physical resources, which increases the efficiency of servers, storage, and networking.
9. The deployment software manages the mandatory installations and configurations required in running the cloud.
10. Middleware are software components that enable networked computers and applications to communicate with each other.
A basic cloud computing architecture diagram is illustrated below.
In cloud computing architecture, the network connects the frontend and backend together enabling data to go back and forth.
In most cases, this is typically through the Internet. Alternatively, some organizations use intranet or intercloud as their network connection.
Depending on their needs, organizations choose which models of delivery they require. There are three main cloud-based delivery methods, as outlined below.
- Software as a Service (SaaS) architecture delivers and maintains applications and software to organizations through the Internet, which eliminates the need for end users to deploy and access the software in their personal or local devices.
- Platform as a Service (PaaS) offers organizations a computing platform and solution stack as a service, which they build upon to create their applications and services. In this delivery method, the cloud vendor provides the network, servers, and storage while their client organization focuses on configuration settings and software development and deployment.
- Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) eliminates the need for organizations to procure and maintain servers, networks, or storage devices by providing the cloud infrastructure. Organizations manage their applications and only pay for the capacity they use.
These delivery methods are not to be confused with the types of cloud computing, namely public cloud, private cloud, and hybrid cloud, each with their own advantages and disadvantages.
Benefits of cloud computing
Businesses and institutions of any kind can gain advantages in deploying their digital assets to the cloud.
Minimized upfront costs and optimize overall spending
Rather than procuring servers or setting up a data center, organizations can minimize their initial investment when opting for a cloud computing service instead.
Cloud vendors typically charge on a pay-as-you-go (PAYG) basis allowing businesses to spread their investment as an operational expense and minimize the initial capital expenditure.
No unused computing resource & always ready for higher traffic
Cloud services give organizations flexibility on the usage of computing resources. Because of dynamic provisioning, businesses don’t have to pay for unused capacity unlike in having paid for a data center. Cloud users can instantly scale down their infrastructure requirements, therefore limit spending.
In the same vein, in special circumstances (e.g. seasonal spikes in traffic) or when the business grows, organizations can easily scale up their cloud computing requirements.
Quicker time to market
Setting up a physical computing infrastructure can take months while engaging a cloud provider only takes days.
In shipping new digital products, businesses can focus on developing solutions that solve customer problems, resulting in faster time to market.
Cloud-based services enable company employees to collaborate with each other anywhere across the globe.
By using cloud computing solutions, organizations can provide their teams with a robust, secure way to work together.
Immediate access to innovation
There will always be updates and new technologies on storage, security, analytics, software, and every other feature in computing.
Cloud providers offer these innovations, which customers can automatically get access to. This enables organizations to adapt quickly at lower costs.
Grow your business with the cloud
Persuading non-technical managers to transition to the cloud may prove to be a challenge for some organizations. Providing them with a basic knowledge of its architecture and how it all works is a step forward in demystifying cloud computing.
Nevertheless, the pandemic served as a multiplier in the interest in the cloud. Adoption of and spending in cloud computing technologies is increasing.
Use cases for cloud computing are far-reaching, whether it be for internal systems, B2B software, B2C apps, data storage, among many others. Depending on your business needs, you can leverage the cloud to reduce spending, optimize resources, deploy services faster, and grow with the fast pace of computing and digital innovations.