The following is the third in a series of conversations about digital innovation and the intelligent technologies powering the Intelligent Enterprise with Jeff Janiszewski and Ginger Shimp from SAP North America Marketing. In this blog, they discuss the mysteries of “the cloud.”
GINGER: So, we began by talking about the Internet of Things, and then we talked about the Big Data that those things collect. Now let’s talk about where all this data is sitting – in the cloud.
JEFF: Do you know why they call it “cloud computing?”
GINGER: Because “swamp computing” didn’t test well with the focus groups.
JEFF: Those high-tech marketing jokes just never get old.
GINGER: Actually, I do know why it’s called the cloud. Early on, like 20 years ago, when computer scientists were diagramming a system, they made an illustration that included a network, but they didn’t want to go into too much detail because they wanted to keep it simple. So, they just drew a cloud-shaped bubble in the middle of things and labeled it “the network.” Essentially, they were saying that stuff goes in and out of there, but what happens in between is unimportant. It’s just an obscure, nebulous place data travels through.
JEFF: That’s still how many people think of it. The cloud is a mysterious place with a lot of data in it. And naturally, this mystery inspires conspiracy theories and makes the average person paranoid about what happens there.
GINGER: It’s like dropping your kid off at daycare; it’s supposed to be safe, but it’s hard to hand over something so precious to complete strangers. You spend a lot of time worrying about what’s going on there.
JEFF: That’s exactly what it is – data daycare. You’re buying a service. You don’t need to store, manage, back up, or update your software anymore. And just like parents are hoping some kid doesn’t show up to daycare with pink eye, you’re hoping some virus doesn’t infect the cloud.
GINGER: A lot of people dismiss the cloud as just a matter of storing your information on someone else’s computer. They’re comfortable with the idea of data daycare. They’re completely unconcerned about what happens, as long as it isn’t their problem.
JEFF: In reality, it’s a lot more than just “someone else’s computer.” Ultimately, you need to understand what the cloud is really about so you’re neither afraid of it nor dismissive of it. Knowing how to best leverage cloud computing capabilities can be quite empowering.
GINGER: So, let’s demystify the whole thing. The first thing to know is that the information isn’t literally up in the sky or on satellites or some other “space-y” place. The information is in large data centers right here on Planet Earth, and there are actually three basic layers in the cloud: IaaS – infrastructure as a service, PaaS – platform as a service, and SaaS – software as a service.
JEFF: IaaS is the backbone of the whole thing. To begin with, it includes all the hardware. Inside the data center are rows and rows of servers that have hard drives just like in your PC, but there are thousands of them. The challenge is that they all have to be connected in a certain way with fiber optic cables to reduce latency, and then there has to be backups, and backups of the backups, and there has to be a giant power supply, and batteries for emergency power backup, and giant generators to back those up, and all of this means massive amounts of power and lots of heat and lots of water to cool everything down.
GINGER: And all of this takes place in a super-secure facility where there are a massive number of servers all laid out in rows. In fact, it’s often referred to as a server farm because workers go up and down the rows tending things just like a farmer would in an agricultural scenario. The servers need to remain at a constant temperature, and periodically they need to be tested or replaced to prevent failures, and of course they have to be monitored for viruses and other threats … just like a farmer looking for pests.
JEFF: And just as people don’t typically run their own farm to grow their own food anymore, server farms are more efficient than masses of businesses having their own servers because they’re working at a much larger scale.
GINGER: But the cloud is more than just the machines. The servers and networks are part of it, but IaaS also includes the operating systems, storage, and virtualization technology that allow businesses to virtually control their data. IaaS also allows businesses to purchase resources on-demand and as-needed instead of having to buy more hardware outright.
JEFF: You can also have a private cloud or a public cloud. The private cloud is for internal business, like supply chain and HR issues, and the public cloud is for customers and suppliers to interact with you.
GINGER: Then there’s PaaS. Platform as a service provides a platform for software creation. This allows developers the opportunity to concentrate on building software while not having to worry about operating systems, software updates, storage, or infrastructure.
JEFF: And finally, there’s SaaS – software as a service, which is what end users think of as the cloud. It eliminates the need to download and install applications on each individual computer and also allows people to store documents and access them from anywhere via the Internet.
GINGER: And there you have it – a high-level, non-technical explanation of the cloud.
To learn more about SAP Leonardo and the Cloud, visit https://sapinnovate.me/leonardo/.
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