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Cloud computing basics: a non-technical introduction
Lisdorf A., Apress, New York, NY, 2021. 208 pp.  Type: Book (978-1-484269-20-6)
Date Reviewed: Mar 22 2022

I was expecting to learn about cloud technologies like Xen/Citrix/VMware virtualization, Kubernetes clusters, and how to use Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2)/Simple Storage Service (S3) compute/storage services. What I got instead was a set of guidelines for senior managers who might be considering buying some cloud services--I should have paid more attention to the subtitle!

The first three chapters introduce the concepts of software as a service (SaaS), platform as a service (PaaS), and infrastructure as a service (IaaS). Thus, something like Zendesk is identified as SaaS, since it is entirely managed by its vendor and customers are only able to configure it through a browser. AWS Elastic Beanstalk allows customers to upload and deploy instances of applications developed by them, so it can be considered a PaaS. And DigitalOcean manages bare-metal and virtual machines for customers to use as they wish in its IAAS services.

Some driving factors for cloud adoption are considered. These include savings on capital expenditure, economies of scale, resilience, and scalability.

Chapters 4 through 9 discuss the five major players in the cloud industry. In each instance, the history and customer focus of the company is considered. For example, IBM invested heavily in research and became known for its IBM System/360 (S/360) mainframe machines. It now provides a number of IBM Cloud services and is known for products like IBM SPSS Statistics. IBM prefers big customers and is known for its continuing dedication to research.

In a similar vein, the author observes that the Oracle Corporation has used an aggressive sales strategy to become known for its database and (Siebel) customer relationship management (CRM) products. These products are now available through its Oracle Database cloud.

Microsoft is well known for Windows desktop, the Office Suite, and its SQL Server database products. Its Azure product is a cloud computing service for building, testing, deploying, and managing applications and services through Microsoft-managed data centers.

Amazon started life as an online bookseller and then reoriented itself as a technology company, offering EC2 and S3 through Xen virtualization on custom-built commodity-hardware servers.

Google is best known for its search engine. As demand increased, the company found it necessary to build its own network and data centers. It also started offering cloud-based office products like Google Docs, and developed its own browser (Chrome) and phone suite (Android). The Google Cloud Platform now delivers more than 90 information technology (IT) services.

Chapter 10 (“Cloud Technology”) identifies the compute and storage element types found in cloud servers. The characteristics of bare-metal servers, virtual machines, and containers are explained and compared. In a like manner, the differences between block storage, file storage, and object storage mechanisms are outlined. There are also some paragraphs explaining data, middleware, and analytics component types.

In traditional computing environments, a company’s computing and storage resources are contained within its premises, and those resources can be physically protected by its perimeter security measures. A chapter titled “Securing the Cloud” addresses some of the issues of concern when the resources are located outside the company premises. Amongst these are identity and access management, traffic management, backup practices, and system updates.

In chapter 12 (“Cloud Economy”) the author observes that a company’s economy is usually evaluated in terms of profit, calculated as revenue minus costs in a given period of time. He suggests that, in a cloud environment, a company’s revenue can be impacted by its agility (its ability to adapt to changes in circumstances), its ability to retain customers (through availability, resilience, and latency), and its capability for attracting new customers (exemplified by social network presence).

Some of the tasks associated with on-premise systems will disappear when those systems are transitioned to the cloud. This issue is outlined in chapter 13. Server acquisition, installation, and decommissioning activities will evaporate, and there will no longer be a need for server-room fireproofing or software upgrade tasks. There will, however, be increased needs for cost monitoring, account administration, network management, and resource monitoring.

The final chapter (“Adopting the Cloud”) examines some patterns for adoption. The cloud-native pattern is one where all information technology (IT) runs in the cloud; it is often seen in startups and relatively young companies. A cloud-first pattern is one that doesn’t require any current IT to be in the cloud; it is seen where a company sees the cloud as a first option when changes such as new development, upgrades, or modernization are undertaken. Some considerations relating to these patterns are presented. Some cloud activity may be undertaken during product experimentation, or some operations may be moved to the cloud for purposes of regional autonomy.

The city in which I reside has recently gained notoriety for having the most days of lockdown since Covid-19 first became a concern. In response, many companies are considering moving components of their operations to the cloud. If you are a manager or developer for a company in a similar situation, you need to read this book.

More reviews about this item: Amazon

Reviewer:  G. K. Jenkins Review #: CR147420
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