Cloud computing shares characteristics with:
- Autonomic computing — Computer systems capable of self-management.
- Client–server model — Client–server computing refers broadly to any distributed application that distinguishes between service providers (servers) and service requesters (clients).
- Grid computing — “A form of distributed and parallel computing, whereby a ‘super and virtual computer’ is composed of a cluster of networked, loosely coupled computers acting in concert to perform very large tasks.”
- Mainframe computer — Powerful computers used mainly by large organizations for critical applications, typically bulk data processing such as census, industry and consumer statistics, police and secret intelligence services, enterprise resource planning, and financial transaction processing.
- Utility computing — The packaging of computing resources, such as computation and storage, as a metered service similar to a traditional public utility, such as electricity.
- Peer-to-peer — Distributed architecture without the need for central coordination, with participants being at the same time both suppliers and consumers of resources (in contrast to the traditional client–server model).
- Cloud gaming – Also called On-demand gaming is a way of delivering to games to computers. The gaming data will be stored in the provider’s server, so that gaming will be independent of client computers used to play the game.
Cloud computing exhibits the following key characteristics:
- Agility improves with users’ ability to re-provision technological infrastructure resources.
- Application programming interface (API) accessibility to software that enables machines to interact with cloud software in the same way the user interface facilitates interaction between humans and computers. Cloud computing systems typically use REST-based APIs.
- Cost is claimed to be reduced and in a public cloud delivery model capital expenditure is converted to operational expenditure. This is purported to lower barriers to entry, as infrastructure is typically provided by a third-party and does not need to be purchased for one-time or infrequent intensive computing tasks. Pricing on a utility computing basis is fine-grained with usage-based options and fewer IT skills are required for implementation (in-house). The e-FISCAL project’s state of the art repository contains several articles looking into cost aspects in more detail, most of them concluding that costs savings depend on the type of activities supported and the type of infrastructure available in-house.
- Device and location independence enable users to access systems using a web browser regardless of their location or what device they are using (e.g., PC, mobile phone). As infrastructure is off-site (typically provided by a third-party) and accessed via the Internet, users can connect from anywhere.
- Virtualization technology allows servers and storage devices to be shared and utilization be increased. Applications can be easily migrated from one physical server to another.
- Multi-tenancy enables sharing of resources and costs across a large pool of users thus allowing for:
- Centralization of infrastructure in locations with lower costs (such as real estate, electricity, etc.)
- Peak-load capacity increases (users need not engineer for highest possible load-levels)
- Utilization and efficiency improvements for systems that are often only 10–20% utilized.
- Reliability is improved if multiple redundant sites are used, which makes well-designed cloud computing suitable for business continuity and disaster recovery.
- Scalability and elasticity via dynamic (“on-demand”) provisioning of resources on a fine-grained, self-service basis near real-time, without users having to engineer for peak loads.
- Performance is monitored, and consistent and loosely coupled architectures are constructed using web services as the system interface.
- Security could improve due to centralization of data, increased security-focused resources, etc., but concerns can persist about loss of control over certain sensitive data, and the lack of security for stored kernels. Security is often as good as or better than other traditional systems, in part because providers are able to devote resources to solving security issues that many customers cannot afford. However, the complexity of security is greatly increased when data is distributed over a wider area or greater number of devices and in multi-tenant systems that are being shared by unrelated users. In addition, user access to security audit logs may be difficult or impossible. Private cloud installations are in part motivated by users’ desire to retain control over the infrastructure and avoid losing control of information security.
- Maintenance of cloud computing applications is easier, because they do not need to be installed on each user’s computer and can be accessed from different places.
On demand self-sevice allows users to obtain, configure and deploy cloud services themselves using cloud service catalogues, without requiring the assistance of IT. This feature is listed by the The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) as a characteristic of cloud computing.
The self-service requirement of cloud computing prompts infrastructure vendors to create cloud computing templates, which are obtained from cloud service catalogues. Manufacturers of such templates or blueprints include Hewlett-Packard (HP), which names its templates as HP Cloud Maps RightScale and Red Hat, which names its templates CloudForms.
The templates contain predefined configurations used to by consumers to set up cloud services. The templates or blueprints provide the technical information necessary to build ready-to-use clouds. Each template includes specific configuration details for different cloud infrastructures, with information about servers for specific tasks such as hosting applications, databases, websites and so on. The templates also include predefined Web service, the operating system, the database, security configurations and load balancing.
Cloud consumers use cloud templates to move applications between clouds through a self-service portal. The predefined blueprints define all that an application requires to run in different environments. For example, a template could define how the same application could be deployed in cloud platforms based on Amazon Web Service, VMware or Red Hat. The user organisation benefits from cloud templates because the technical aspects of cloud configurations reside in the templates, letting users to deploy cloud services with a push of a button. Cloud templates can also be used by developers to create a catalog of cloud services.