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June 11, 2010

Virtual Private Data Center Feature: Explaining 'The Cloud'

By David Sims, TMCnet Contributing Editor

We'll let you in on a little secret here: All this talk your techies throw around about "cloud" this and that, then look at you, grin and keep talking? It's not really that tough.
The cloud is "a set of services and technologies that enable the delivery of computing services over the Internet in real-time, allowing end-users instant access to data and applications from any device with Internet access," according to a summary on Novell (News - Alert).
Basically what that means is that the actual computers you're accessing your information from aren't located in your building, but the ones you're connected to via the Internet.
A slightly geekier explanation is on Web Hosting Help Guy, who explains that while cloud computing can be many things, "it is most accurately described as a network of computers with a centralized load balancer that constantly analyzes where resources are available. The load balancer then distributes those resources to fulfill the needs of whatever program or calculation that is being executed."
So applications running on the cloud computing model "do not require additional programming to function across multiple machines because the cloud acts as one machine," Web Guy says.
It's a great way to do research projects and large scale software or application development, since they chew up a whole lot of computing power and resources. "By using the cloud computing model for development and research projects, it is ensured that resources are available and distributed as needed," as Web Guy says - in other words, socialism that actually works.
You might have heard of Software-as-a-Service, also referred to as "SaaS (News - Alert)," or "cloud applications." These are applications - what you use on your computer, like - delivered over the Internet, usually through a Web browser. "Many of these services are consumer-oriented, but increasingly enterprise applications are coming from the cloud," Novell says.
They're right, too - examples of cloud applications include Google's Gmail and Google Docs, CRM, and Zoho (News - Alert) Office. "In each of these scenarios, applications and accompanying data is stored remotely and delivered over the Internet through a Web browser. Customers generally pay on a per-user subscription model."
Or in the case of Gmail, they're free. Currently.

David Sims is a contributing editor for TMCnet. To read more of David's articles, please visit his columnist page. He also blogs for TMCnet here.

Edited by Erin Harrison

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