July 30th, 2021            Click here to download the PDF file

Cloud Platform, Part 1 of 3


As discussed in our March and April newsletter "Storage Management", to manage the unrelenting expansion of today’s data storage needs, we expect Software-Defined Storage (SDS) will become an integral part of every data center.

To manage the thousands of storage devices and meet today’s always-on, always available access requirements, the focus of storage management has now shifted from physical infrastructure to aggregation of these assets using virtual storage management. Today's large-scale cloud computing exemplifies this trend. In particular, after the COVID-19 epidemic, the normal demands of the new economy, such as remote work, teaching, and online collaboration, have encouraged more and more companies to accelerate their investment in cloud computing to cope with the ever-increasing scale of data and transformative digital applications.

According to IDC's research, investments in cloud computing account now account for more than one-third of global IT expenditures. The cloud platform, as the foundation of cloud service delivery, is now a required part of every IT decision maker’s and staff member’s knowledge. To help understand why, in this and our next two newsletters, we will discuss the business benefits, technical components, and considerations in selecting a cloud platform for your needs.

What Is a Cloud Platform?

The cloud platform delivers dynamic and massively scalable virtualized computing and storage services through the Internet, using a physical infrastructure made up of storage servers, application servers, and network switches. Cloud platforms can be divided into three main types, based on application:

•  Storage cloud platform based on data storage

•  Computing cloud platform based on data processing

•  Comprehensive cloud platform for both computing and data storage and processing

The cloud platform provides cloud infrastructure for the development and deployment of cloud services, without local installation or maintenance. It can facilitate the flow of user data from the front-end client to the cloud service provider's system through the Internet, or vice versa. The specific architecture will vary depending on the content of the service, of which are three main types: IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS.

•  IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service): IaaS is the foundation of the cloud computing pyramid. The cloud provider provides the physical side of the management infrastructure, including servers, data storage space, etc. It provides a fully virtualized computing infrastructure. These virtualized resources can be configured, managed, and customized through the network to meet specific computing needs. This reduces the capital expenditure for managing different types of storage systems and infrastructure, reduces the burden of the daily management of the IT department, and increases the flexibility of data storage capacity expansion and data computing expansion requirements. Examples include Amazon AWS, Microsoft Azure, and Google Compute Engine (GCE).

•  PaaS (Platform as a Service): IaaS provides available tools through the cloud, allowing users to build things that suit their needs, while PaaS is more specialized. In addition to the infrastructure, it also provides the operating system, development tools, and data management system required for software development. PaaS serves as an application platform that allows users to access the operating system and related services through the network, control deployed applications, or control the configuration of the application-hosting environment to a certain extent. As such, it is mainly for developers and programmers, and provides users with a shared cloud platform for application development and management without the need to build manage and maintain the infrastructure associated with the process. Prominent examples include Google App Engine, and Amazon's Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2).

•  SaaS (Software as a Service): This forms the top layer of the cloud computing pyramid, and provides users with a fully developed software solution that enables access to web applications or mobile applications through a web browser without requiring control of the operating system or hardware operation. The network infrastructure also eliminates the need to install applications locally on each user’s computer, enabling multiple users to access the software anytime, anywhere in a variety of ways. At the same time, SaaS services usually provide management of software updates, bug fixes, and other related software maintenance, which greatly reduces the management workload of the IT department allowing enterprises to focus on their business rather than provisioning and maintenance of computing resources. Examples include Confluence, Microsoft CRM, Google Apps and Salesforce.

Cloud platform service model comparison chart

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