It’s the first cloud illustration I’d show to the nonprofit C-suite.
If we must reduce the non-hyped what of the cloud computing stack into its lowest common denominator — again, it would be this.
Mr. Czernicki at Silverlighthack nabbed this screengrab from this video series. He praised it as a clever way to take the tech and translate it into a concise visual.
I agree: don’t look for a hard definition of cloud computing; instead, visualize the delivery.
This is the current taxonomy of cloud computing simplified into a more pleasing form. The media has juggled haphazardly IaaS, PaaS, SaaS during the past few years. No longer is it a pain in the *aaS to understand.
But why touch upon the taxonomy for? Doesn’t the board just want to know the risks, benefits, and other big-picture assessments of how the cloud will help the organization? Yes, because it’s still relevant in the decision-making.
The smarter exec has to know that not all cloud solutions are created equal, so neither are vendors, their offerings, and the services delivered. To understand vendor offerings and service level agreements (SLAs), it pays to get an idea about what exactly you’re offsetting to the cloud, and how vendors are positioning their offers to you — the customer.
Czernicki interprets what each service model means. However, I’ll also take a stab at each one, although catered with a nonprofit slant.
In nonprofit tech circles, conversations may orbit around end-user apps, especially with collaboration, CRM, sales and even social networks. It reinforces the popular perception that SaaS service is the cloud, when it’s not. You’ve heard of them: web apps like Basecamp, ActiveCollab, Dropbox, Skydrive, and Salesforce, or even entire office suites such as GoogleApps, Office365, and Zoho. These examples are Software-as-a-Service (SaaS).
SaaS solutions should immediately do and perform the exact business function you signed up for. Hence the word “consume” in the above image. Just sign up and go. Backend stuff like hardware, middleware, and operating systems are managed by the vendor.
Let’s build upon the Salesforce example. Salesforce is a popular CRM for nonprofits to manage their constituents. By itself, the CRM is sufficient. Nonprofits sign up for it and start importing their old data.
But if one needs functionality that goes beyond the default, like prospect research, ratings, and analytics, then Salesforce offers Force.com, a platform where programmers can customize on top of the default CRM so that it is more tailored to an organization’s needs. Standalone cloud apps can also be built using Force.com.
This level of service involves application development, testing, and deployment. This is Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS), hence the word “build” in the image above. PaaS should allow you to start building something once you sign up. Other popular examples include Google App Engine, Microsoft Azure, Engine Yard, and Heroku.
Vimeo uses Amazon’s EC2 to handle video transcoding and uploading while using Amazon’s S3 to store video data.
Imagine the immensity of these daily processes if it was handled using on-site hardware.
Amazon’s EC2 (Elastic Compute Cloud) and S3 (Simple Storage Service) are Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), hence the word “host,” where you rent hardware components like servers, and the underlying networking stuff like firewalls, VPNs, etc. to host the rest of the upper cloud stack. Customers can expand storage, bandwidth, or even rent new hardware with the simple click of a mouse. Easy scalability and elasticity. Other IaaS vendors include GoGrid and Rackspace.
And when you put it all together:
Again, credit to Silverlighthack.com.
So there. Now you can visualize what you’re offsetting and why you’re saving time and money. Also, maybe you can see how security might be addressed differently with each cloud stack. Which kind of puts a sad face over the “Is the cloud secure?” question, because while it’s a legit concern, it cannot be answered as is. But that’s a topic for next time.
Hopefully this post helps a bit.
What do you think? Anything else to add? :)