cloud computing


BI in the Cloud Part 1 - A Cloud Computing Primer

By: Paul

This blog post is the first in a series that I’m writing on the subject of cloud computing and business intelligence.  As cloud computing services such as Amazon Web Services have matured, now might be the time to consider using such services.  We will start with this high-level primer on what cloud computing is all about.

Google defines cloud computing as “the practice of using a network of remote servers hosted on the Internet to store, manage, and process data, rather than a local server or a personal computer.”

Wikipedia defines it as “computing in which large groups of remote servers are networked to allow centralised data storage and online access to computer services or resources.”

In essence the “cloud” refers to all the remote hardware, software, storage, and networks that are put together to form various services, usually subscription services, utilised over the Internet.  These services are SaaS (software as a service), PaaS (platform as a service), and IaaS (infrastructure as a service).

SaaS (software as a service) is a cloud computing service where a software provider hosts their application software for users on the Internet.  Google’s Apps for Work is an example of such a software service.  SaaS generally eliminates the need to install software on a local computer.

PaaS (platform as a service) is a cloud service in which users can “rent” an individual or a stack of virtual servers as a service on the Internet.  AWS Elastic Beanstalk and Microsoft Azure are examples of PaaS.  PaaS is typically used for software development, testing and deployment.

IaaS (infracture as a service) is a cloud service which offers hardware, storage and networking as a service on the Internet.  AWS again is an example of this service.  IaaS can take the form of a small IT department’s computer centre or large distributed data centres.

Some characteristics of cloud services are:

  • customers do not own the software, platform or infrastructure
  • customers avoid the capital expenditure required to purchase hardware or software licenses
  • customers can turn on and turn off these services as required
  • providers usually charge on a subscription or pay-per-use system

The main benefits of cloud services are:

  • Reduced IT costs - both capital and operating costs
  • Scalable - services can be ”dialled” up or down, manually or automatically
  • Continuity - redundancy and availability in cloud storage means that users can continue to work no matter where they are
  • Collaboration efficiency - geographically remote users can work together in realtime
  • Flexibility - cloud services can be turned on and off when needed

So what does cloud computing mean to business intelligence?

  • There is no desktop software installation
  • web-based deployment - software updates and maintenance are done once and available to all users
  • accessibility - access your data via a web browser or mobile BI app
  • scale up or down to suit the type of analytics work - particularly for the heavy crunching work of Big Data (Hadoop)
  • ease of data/information sharing - geographically remote users can use and share their data easily
  • ease of collaboration - users can interact, discuss and collaborate with other users in realtime

In the next few instalments we will go into a bit more detail.

If you would like to know more about business intelligence, cloud computing, or how we can help, please drop us a line via our contact page.

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