Cloud computing

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Cloud computing is the delivery of computing services, including servers, storage, databases, networking, software, analytics, and more, over the internet (the cloud) to offer faster innovation, flexible resources, and economies of scale. Cloud computing enables users to access and utilize various IT resources and services on demand without needing to own or manage physical hardware or infrastructure.

Five key characteristics of cloud computing

  1. On-demand self-service. Users can provision and manage computing resources as needed, often through a self-service portal, without requiring human intervention from the service provider.
  2. Broad network access. Cloud services are accessible over the internet from a wide range of devices, including laptops, smartphones, tablets, and desktop computers.
  3. Resource pooling. Cloud providers pool and allocate resources dynamically to multiple customers. Resources are shared among users but are logically segmented and isolated.
  4. Rapid elasticity. Cloud resources can be rapidly scaled up or down to accommodate changes in demand. This scalability ensures that users can access the resources they need without overprovisioning or underutilization.
  5. Measured service. Cloud usage is often metered and billed based on actual usage, allowing users to pay for only the resources they consume. This “pay-as-you-go” model offers cost efficiency and flexibility.

Service models of cloud computing

There are three primary service models of cloud computing: IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS. Let’s break them down.


Infrastructure as a Service provides virtualized computing resources over the internet. Users can access virtual machines, storage, and networking components, allowing them to deploy and manage their software applications and services.

Description: IaaS provides users with virtualized computing resources over the internet. These resources typically include virtual machines, storage, and networking components. Users can provision and manage these resources on demand, giving them control over the underlying infrastructure.

Use Cases: IaaS is suitable for users who need flexibility and control over their computing environment. It’s commonly used for hosting virtual servers, running applications, and managing data storage.

Examples: Amazon Web Services (AWS) EC2, Microsoft Azure Virtual Machines, Google Cloud Compute Engine.


Platform as a Service offers a higher-level development and deployment environment. It includes tools and services for building, testing, deploying, and managing applications. Developers can focus on writing code while the platform handles infrastructure management.

Description: PaaS offers a higher-level development and deployment environment that abstracts much of the underlying infrastructure complexity. It includes tools, services, and development frameworks that enable users to build, test, deploy, and manage applications without worrying about the infrastructure.

Use Cases: PaaS is ideal for developers who want to focus solely on coding and application logic without managing servers or infrastructure. It accelerates application development and deployment.

Examples: Heroku, Google App Engine, and Microsoft Azure App Service.


Software as a Service delivers fully functional software applications over the internet. Users can access and use software applications hosted in the cloud without the need for installation or maintenance. Common examples include email services, customer relationship management (CRM) software, and office productivity suites.

Description: SaaS delivers fully functional software applications over the internet. Users can access and use these applications through a web browser without the need for installation or maintenance. SaaS providers handle everything from infrastructure management to software updates.

Use Cases: SaaS is widely used for various business applications, including email, collaboration tools, customer relationship management (CRM), human resources management, and more.

Examples: Salesforce, Microsoft 365 (formerly Office 365), Google Workspace, Dropbox.

These three cloud computing service models represent a spectrum of offerings, with IaaS providing the most control over infrastructure and SaaS offering the highest level of abstraction and simplicity for end-users. Organizations can choose the service model that best aligns with their specific needs, resources, and expertise.

How are cloud services hosted and delivered?

  • Public Cloud. Services are offered to the general public by cloud providers like Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform (GCP). Resources are shared among multiple customers.
  • Private Cloud. Cloud infrastructure is exclusively used by a single organization. It can be hosted on-premises or by a third-party provider. Private clouds offer more control and customization options.
  • Hybrid Cloud. A combination of public and private clouds, allowing data and applications to be shared between them. Hybrid clouds provide flexibility, enabling organizations to leverage the scalability of public clouds while maintaining sensitive data on private infrastructure.
  • Multi-Cloud. Companies use services from multiple cloud providers to avoid vendor lock-in and exploit each provider’s strengths. Multi-cloud strategies often involve managing resources and applications across various cloud environments.

Cloud computing providers

These are some of the most popular and widely recognized cloud computing providers.

Amazon Web Services (AWS)

AWS is one of the largest and most widely used cloud service providers globally. It offers a vast array of cloud services, including computing, storage, databases, machine learning, and analytics

Notable services: Amazon EC2 (Elastic Compute Cloud), Amazon S3 (Simple Storage Service), AWS Lambda, Amazon RDS (Relational Database Service).

Website: AWS

Microsoft Azure

Azure is Microsoft’s cloud computing platform, providing a comprehensive suite of cloud services, including infrastructure as a service (IaaS), platform as a service (PaaS), and software as a service (SaaS).

Notable services: Azure Virtual Machines, Azure App Service, Azure SQL Database, Azure AI and Machine Learning.

Website: Microsoft Azure

Google Cloud Platform (GCP)

GCP offers cloud services for computing, data storage, machine learning, and data analytics. Google’s expertise in data and AI is a standout feature of GCP.

Notable services: Google Compute Engine, Google Kubernetes Engine (GKE), BigQuery, Google Cloud AI Platform.

Website: Google Cloud

IBM Cloud

IBM Cloud provides cloud computing and AI services with a focus on hybrid and multi-cloud solutions. It offers a variety of cloud deployment options, including public, private, and on-premises.

Notable services: IBM Virtual Servers, Watson AI services, IBM Cloud Object Storage, Red Hat OpenShift on IBM Cloud.

Website: IBM Cloud

Oracle Cloud

Oracle Cloud offers cloud infrastructure and services, including databases, applications, and cloud-native technologies. It is designed to support enterprise workloads and applications.

Notable services: Oracle Cloud Infrastructure (OCI), Oracle Autonomous Database, Oracle Cloud Applications.

Website: Oracle Cloud

Alibaba Cloud

Alibaba Cloud is a leading cloud service provider in Asia and offers a wide range of cloud computing services, data storage, and AI capabilities.

Notable services: Elastic Compute Service (ECS), Alibaba Cloud Object Storage Service (OSS), Alibaba Cloud Machine Learning Platform.

Website: Alibaba Cloud

Salesforce (Heroku)

Salesforce provides a cloud-based platform known for its CRM solutions. Heroku, a subsidiary of Salesforce, is a cloud platform for building, deploying, and managing applications.

Notable services: Salesforce CRM, Heroku Platform as a Service (PaaS).

Website: Salesforce, Heroku

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