Buzz Words Demystified! Episode 5: The Cloud

Chris HolmokFootball stadiums are an interesting study. They cost hundreds of millions of dollars to build and usually sit on the most prime real estate in a major city. They contain hundreds of employees and are guaranteed to be open only eight days each year. It's hard to believe this is a very profitable business model - but it is.
Now imagine this. That football stadium that spends most of the year empty can be built in 15 minutes, for a fraction of the cost, and after the big game it’s replaced with office buildings (that were closed on Sunday anyway). The stadium only exists when it’s needed, and only costs money when it does exist. This is the idea of “The Cloud,” or “Cloud Computing.”

Cloud computing is using virtual resources that are hosted on the Internet in lieu of physical hardware. One of the main features is elastic scaling. This allows you to add resources as you need them with push button ease, and scale back just as easily. Another good feature is all of the maintenance and defect failover is no longer a direct issue for the business because the cloud is hosted virtually on server farms across the Internet. Farms that are managed by a third-party provider.

Many websites need their resources to be built out based on their peak usage, not their everyday usage. Hardware, software licenses, and other cost centers focus on dealing with the heaviest possible load that may only occur a few times a year.

A good example to look at is a flower company. They get huge amounts of traffic on Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day. They buy or lease hundreds of servers to cover these few days, and then leave some of the servers to sit practically unused for the remainder of the year. It takes weeks to allocate space in a data-center, get the physical servers delivered and have them setup. There is also the risk of a defective server.

With cloud computing, those hundreds of servers are brought up in a virtual environment… in less than an hour. Once the rush is over, all of those servers are turned into a more cost effective 20 servers that fulfill the flower company’s needs during the non-rush portion of the year.

Cloud computing is not the be-all, end-all answer for resource scaling on the Web. But, its maintenance free elastic scaling does make it an effective option for doing business on the Web.

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