The phenomenon of cloud computing
Although the phenomenon of cloud computing is rather recent, it has become one of the most extensively discussed topics in the IT sphere. Despite a number of related challenges and vulnerabilities, cloud computing is now considered to be the most promising among next-generation technologies. A lot of research has been carried out in this field, highlighting both skeptical and optimistic approaches. The only point that professionals agree upon is that cloud computing is a near-term prospect that will revolutionize data storage and availability, virtualization, and operating systems.
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A brief overview of the technology, its pros, and its cons (Bowles’ approach)
The primary method of this research is a literature review, on the basis of which a comparative analysis of three academic sources will be performed. The major goals of this analysis are to point out the major aspects of cloud computing, to identify advantages and disadvantages of the technology according to several viewpoints, and finally to outline possible prospects based on the analysis.
The first approach under discussion is the one presented in Introduction to Digital Literacy by Mark D. Bowles (2013). In this work, the author gives a brief overview of cloud computing technology, highlighting its strong and weak points while refraining from expressing any personal opinions. He also provides several examples of existing cloud storage systems and compares their fundamental principles of operation. Finally, Bowles (2013) clarifies the difference between the four hierarchical types of clouds and concludes that the current state of the system is open to change.
According to the author, the ultimate goal of cloud computing is to replace computers that rely on complex operating systems with software-free machines that would only require Internet access for fully-featured functioning. Clouds will not only be employed for storing and accessing information but will also provide users access to some of the most commonly used applications, thereby relieving users of the need to install them on their computers (Bowles, 2013).
The chief benefits of the cloud as singled out by Bowles (2013) are the following:
- By moving operating systems online, the cloud would free up a lot of space on personal computers, making operating processes very quick.
- The problem of viruses would be eliminated because the system defense would be maintained on the cloud-scale so that users would not have to worry as long as the cloud was shielded from any possible attacks.
- The cloud would give users an opportunity to access their information from any computer that could connect to the Internet, and users would never again lose their data, as it would not be stored on the hard disk drive.
- Cloud computing systems would allow users to forget about updating their software, as it would be updated at the cloud level.
Despite these significant benefits, wide-scale adoption of cloud computing would also introduce a number of drawbacks:
- Though clouds are suitable for some simple applications, they would not be able to maintain complex programs like video games.
- The security and privacy of clouds are currently debatable, as users cannot be sure that their personal information is not being comprised or watched.
- Unless the Internet is available, a computer would be essentially useless.
- Last but not least, several cloud outages have already occurred that led to a total downfall of the system, demonstrating the general instability of the cloud (Bowles, 2013).
The research also touches upon the most popular cloud systems—including Google Drive, iCloud, SkyDrive, and Dropbox—and comes to the conclusion that although each of them has its benefits—ranging from pricing, storage space, search opportunities, and more—they are all significant players on the market. Ultimately, the choice of cloud computing system depends on users’ preferences alone (Bowles, 2013).
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The author gives a clear picture of the cloud technology without going into detail. Though the analysis of the pros and cons of the cloud system is perhaps a bit surface level, it is certainly accurate. The given descriptions of various storage systems help the reader understand the differences not only in the clouds themselves but also in the marketing policies of the companies. This information can help the reader make a more informed decision about cloud computing.
Despite the title of the chapter, the author does not give a thorough analysis of the technology prospects, reducing his study to the existing state of the problem and some possible trends of development. However, this information points to the fact that clouds are going to grow and upgrade as constantly regenerating systems up until the point at which they will be able to overcome all technical obstacles and entirely replace existing operating systems.
Three layers of the cloud; current trends and perspectives of the cloud system (Pallis’ approach)
The second approach for consideration is the one presented by George Pallis in his article Cloud Computing: A New Frontier of Internet Computing (2010). In this article, Pallis (2010) defines cloud computing as “a new field in Internet computing that provides novel perspectives in internetworking technologies and raises issues in the architecture, design, and implementation of existing networks and data centers” (p. 70).
According to Pallis, the primary layer of the cloud is its infrastructure, whose task is to provide “processing, storage, networks, and other fundamental computing resources as standardized services over the network” (Pallis 2010, p.71). The second layer is a platform that allows for the development, maintenance, and testing of applications. The highest layer is the application, which “features a complete application offered as a service” (Pallis, 2010, p. 71).
As for the perspectives, the article states that cloud computing technology has not yet fulfilled its potential but that it will ultimately affect all spheres of the Internet. The author presupposes that new service agreements will be introduced for consumers in the future and that providers will ensure the distribution of both content and services. It is also highly essential for cloud systems to improve their standards of interoperability in order to give users more flexibility.
Such interaction of different systems would call for a new data protection approach. These factors lead Pallis (2010) to the conclusion that it is now too early to speak about the next generation of clouds. However, when that time comes, the cloud will feature a new type of social network that gives users the opportunity to trade data and services. In the market, clouds will be used for trend prediction, pricing, and manufacturing optimization (Pallis, 2010).
Unlike the previous research, this article neither provides any general information about clouds nor highlights their strengths and weaknesses. The research mainly concerns the peculiarities of the cloud’s layers (i.e., infrastructure, platform, and application) and the current trends within the field. The article serves not only illustrative purposes, but it also gives convincing arguments as to why cloud computing can be called one of the most prosperous and promising technologies of the present day. Moreover, Pallis (2010) provides a brief overlook of possible changes in user experience that the new cloud will introduce, which makes this article very useful and practical.
Characteristic features of future clouds; security concerns (Zhang’s approach)
The third source of analysis in this paper is Cloud Computing Research and Development Trend by Shuai Zhang et al. This study is the most substantial of the three and touches upon almost all of the aspects of cloud computing: its operation principles, style, characteristic features, applications, benefits, hidden dangers, solutions, and trends.
According to the article, although the definition of cloud computing is vague and debatable, it’s present and future features are quite clear:
- large scale (more than a million servers within the Google cloud alone);
- virtualization, which implies that users can access the service anywhere;
- reliability, which is much higher than that of a local PC;
- versatility, which provides the support of several applications working simultaneously;
- extendibility, which allows the cloud to grow as necessary;
- on-demand service, which means that users can use only the amount of space that they require;
- low cost, which comes from saving on software (Zhang, Zhang, Chen, & Huo, 2010).
As mentioned above, this research seems the most profound and detailed. It is also very particular about perspectives on cloud computing and expresses the personal view of the authors. For instance, the article states that cloud computing is going to focus on an open platform and names Windows Azure as the best. Like the two other studies, the most worrying issue mentioned here is privacy protection, especially in terms of financial data, health records, emails, and tax information. The authors suggest data encryption as a possible solution, even though this safeguard cannot give a 100% guarantee of safety (Zhang et al., 2010).
The comparison of the three approaches
By comparing these three approaches to cloud computing, it becomes clear that the first two have very little in common, as they pursue totally different objectives: the first one is concerned with a brief outline of the issue, whereas the second considers possible outcomes and variations. The third viewpoint stands closer to the first, despite the fact that the analysis is more detailed and comprehensive, touching upon the background, the present state, and future prospects of cloud computing.
All three authors agree on the fact that cloud computing is now at an early stage of its evolution and is going to extend, featuring new applications and services. However, they place emphasis on different aspects: Bowles (2013) gives an extensive comparison of current clouds, Pallis (2010) is more particular about spheres of implementation of the technology, and Zhang et al. (2010) are mainly concerned with ways to protect the system and eliminate security concerns.
The second study, though not as in-depth as the third, seems the most applicable to real life, as it gives particular scenarios of what is in store for the cloud. The first research is perfect for familiarization with the topic, but it is not precise about possible outcomes. Besides, Bowles (2013) is rather restrained in expressing his personal view of the problem. Zhang et al. (2010) seem to be the most subjective and specific in this respect, as their estimations rely on personal judgments. This article is also the most solution-oriented of the three.
In conclusion, cloud computing is a complex issue that cannot be viewed from a single perspective. What is certain is that it will be the most challenging and forward-looking system that surprises users in the future. The benefits of cloud computing are capable of revolutionizing the Internet experience around the world, as long as related problems are resolved.
Bowles, D. M. (2013). Introduction to Digital Literacy. Kendall Hunt Publishing Company.
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Pallis, G. (2010). Cloud computing: the new frontier of internet computing. IEEE Internet Computing, 14(5), 70-73.
Zhang, S., Zhang, S., Chen, X., & Huo, X. (2010). Cloud Computing Research and Development Trend. 2010 Second International Conference on Future Networks, 93-97. Web.