The IBM Institute for Business Value recently released the second study in the ongoing series of CxO studies where 5,247 executives from 21 industries in 70 counties were interviewed. According to the results of a the IBM Global C-suite Study,
Most CxOs, regardless of role, believe cloud computing, mobile solutions, and the Internet of Things (IoT) will predominate in the coming three to five years.”
Of the technologies slated to change or shape our future, 63% of executives identified cloud computing services as the top game changer. Since it appears that this trend won’t be going away anytime soon, let’s explore the idea and get a deeper understanding of what “The Cloud” really is. Although typically thought of as the all-knowing magical fluff of the new age residing in the sky, “The Cloud,” a marketing term for the internet, actually lives in buildings and cables, which are ironically not in clouds, but found on the ground.
The Basics Components of Cloud
The very basic components that make up the cloud are physical elements- they are devices, cables and data centers. Things that you can see and touch, not things that are filled with vapor (and wonder) floating up in the sky. I’ll outline a few terms below that can be helpful in understanding the cloud. I’ll be using “cloud” and “internet” interchangeably, as they are synonymous.
Devices are the things like servers, routers, storage, and other hardware.
Cables are used in transmitting the cloud to and from devices all over the world. Some cables are even laid on the ocean floor, and provide internet transmission internationally. Cables move electronic information from one place to another at a rate so fast, it seems instant. A perfect example would be sending an email.
Data centers are massive buildings that house physical components like servers and storage drives. To see just how amazing these places are, check out this piece by Google.
Besides the physical components needed to access the cloud, there is one other necessity if you are utilizing a wireless device- a connection. This can be a radio frequency, such as WiFi, or a cable that connects you to the internet through a modem. Once the connection is established, you can access the cloud.
How Cloud Applications Work
Let’s talk about cloud applications. You’ve probably heard people say “I’m transitioning to the cloud,” or “we’re moving to the cloud.” But what in the world are they talking about? They’re talking about using a device to access and utilize a software application that lives in the service provider’s servers in a data center.
How Cloud Applications Work Network Diagram
As you can see, the user works on any device to log into a software application from a web browser or mobile app. The signal then travels through cables all across the globe to reach the service provider’s servers and storage in a data center. At the data center, the application gathers what the user had requested, then sends that data back through cables all across the globe, to arrive on the screen of the user’s device.
For a real world situation, think of opening Facebook from your smartphone. Since you are using a mobile app, you won’t need to login with your username and password since it is already stored. Instead, just the act of clicking on the Facebook icon starts the process described above. When you click on the icon, a signal begins to travel at incredible speeds through cables across the globe, arriving at a Facebook data center, where your account information (all of your photos, posts, etc.) is stored in a server. After it hits the server, all of your account data is transmitted back through cables to your phone, and you see the Facebook feed appear in front of your eyes.
An additional real world situation is when you open Google Docs from a web browser on your computer to continue editing a document that you had previously started. After entering your username and password at the login screen, you click on the document that you want to edit. This initiates the same process- electronic data transmitted through cables, arriving at a Google data center, grabbing your document information from a server, then transmitting it back to your computer screen.
These data requests and responses travel at incredibly fast speeds- so fast that before you even blink an eye, your Facebook feed or Google Doc is loaded to your device and ready for use.
While the process of utilizing cloud applications might still seem magical, it really comes down to three basic things: your device, the cables used to transmit the request and response, and the data centers where your application and files are stored. Clouds are still just clouds. When it comes to cloud computing, the ground is where it’s at … for now.