Network Services Provided through Cloud Computing

Three distinct kinds of networking services can be provided via the cloud: applications, platforms, and services (infrastructure). The following paragraphs describe these three types of cloud services in greater detail.

Applications in the Cloud

Most often referred to as Software as a Service (SaaS), fully functional applications can be delivered via the cloud. One of the best-known examples is Google Apps, which is a suite of cloud-based office applications designed to compete directly with Microsoft’s traditional office applications, including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Access, and Outlook. Google Apps can also replace the back-end software often used to support Microsoft Office, including Exchange and SharePoint.

When you use a cloud-based application, you don’t have to worry about any of the details that are commonly associated with running an application on your network, such as deploying the application and applying product upgrades and software patches. Cloud-based applications usually charge a small monthly fee based on the number of users running the software, so costs are low.

Also, as a cloud-based application user, you don’t have to worry about providing the hardware or operating system platform on which the application will run. The application provider takes care of that detail for you, so you can focus simply on developing the application to best serve your users’ needs.

Platforms in the Cloud

Also referred to as Platform as a Service (PaaS), this class of service refers to providers that give you access to a remote virtual operating platform on which you can build your own applications.

At the simplest level, a PaaS provider gives you a complete, functional remote virtual machine that’s fully configured and ready for you to deploy your applications to.

If you use a web provider to host your company’s website, you’re already using PaaS: Most web host providers give you a functioning Linux system, fully configured with all the necessary servers, such as Apache or MySQL. All you have to do is build and deploy your web application on the provider’s server.

More-complex PaaS solutions include specialized software that your custom applications can tap to provide services such as data storage, online order processing, and credit card payments. One of the best-known examples of this type of PaaS provider is Amazon.

When you use PaaS, you take on the responsibility of developing your own custom applications to run on the remote platform. The PaaS provider takes care of the details of maintaining the platform itself, including the base operating system and the hardware on which the platform runs.

Infrastructure in the Cloud

If you don’t want to delegate the responsibility of maintaining operating systems and other elements of the platform, you can use Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS). When you use IaaS, you’re purchasing raw computing power that’s accessible via the cloud. Typically, IaaS provides you access to a remote virtual machine. It’s up to you to manage and configure the remote machine however you want.

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