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How does cloud computing work?

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I was challenged to describe how cloud computing works in 500 words. It was such an interesting challenge that I had to take it.

First, you have to know what cloud computing is to understand the advantages of this new way of providing computing resources in the cloud. Second, you have to understand the different types of cloud offerings, including infrastructure as a service (IaaS), platform as a service (PaaS), software as a service (SaaS) and business process as a service (BPaaS). Each service is  built on top of the other.

Now, how does it work? The Cloud Computing Reference Architecture (CCRA) is a great place to start. I don’t mean that the CCRA is the Holy Grail and should always be fully applied, but it gives you material to design your own solution and understand the architecture. You can find some questions and answers in this article: “What is CCRA?” You can read another good article about CCRA here.

The CCRA defines multiple components, and each component fulfills a given functionality.

CCRA cloud components

The first building block is the infrastructure where the cloud will be implemented. Some people make the assumption that environment should be virtualized, but as cloud is a way to request resources in an on-demand way and if you have solutions to provide  on bare metal, then why not? The infrastructure will support the different types of cloud (IaaS, PaaS, SaaS, BPaaS).

(Related: Cloud computing basics)

To be able to provide these services you will need Operating System Services (OSS), which will be in charge of deploying the requested service, and Business System Services (BSS), mainly used to validate the request and create the invoice for the requested services. Any metrics could be used to create the invoice (for example, number of users, number of CPUs, memory, usage hours/month). It is very flexible and depends on the service provider.

A cloud computing environment will also need to provide interfaces and tools for the service creators and users. This is the role of the Cloud Service Creator and Cloud Service Consumer components.

Now, let’s see how it works in reality.

Generally, you log in to a portal (enterprise or public wise) and you order your services through the Cloud Service Consumer. This service has been created by the cloud service provider and can be a simple virtual machine (VM) based on an image, some network components, an application service such as an WebApp environment and a service such as MongoDB. It depends on the provider and type of resources and services.

The cloud provider will validate, through the BSS, your request and if the validation is okay (credit card, contract), it will provision the request through the OSS.

You will receive, in one way or another, the credentials to access your requested services and you will usually receive a monthly invoice for your consumption.

Hopefully now you understand a bit more about how cloud computing works. Did I successfully complete my challenge? Follow me on Twitter @ITDoVe. Read other articles I’ve written here on Thoughts on Cloud or at http://cloud.itdove.com.

(Related: Top 7 most common uses of cloud computing)


Learn more about cloud basics in our series: Cloud 101

What is cloud computing?

How does cloud computing work?

Cloud computing basics

What is platform as a service (PaaS)?

What is infrastructure as a service (IaaS)?

What is software as a service (SaaS)?

What is hybrid cloud? 

Top 7 most common uses of cloud computing

Is cloud computing secure?

What is dynamic cloud?

How to explain cloud to your spouse

What is mobile cloud computing?

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