Architecture and Key Characteristics of Cloud Computing

Cloud Computing Architecture

Cloud computing architecture, the systems architecture of the software systems involved in the delivery of cloud computing, typically involves multiple cloud components communicating with each other over application programming interfaces, usually web services and 3-tier architecture. This resembles the Unix philosophy of having multiple programs each doing one thing well and working together over universal interfaces. Complexity is controlled and the resulting systems are more manageable than their monolithic counterparts.

The two most significant components of cloud computing architecture are known as the front end and the back end. The front end is the part seen by the client, i.e. the computer user. This includes the client’s network (or computer) and the applications used to access the cloud via a user interface such as a web browser. The back end of the cloud computing architecture is the ‘cloud’ itself, comprising various computers, servers and data storage devices.

Key characteristics of Cloud Computing

  1. Agility: Agility improves with users’ ability to rapidly and inexpensively re-provision technological infrastructure resources.
  2. Application Programming Interface: Application Programming Interface (API) is the accessibility to software that enables machines to interact with cloud software in the same way the user interface facilitates interaction between humans and computers. Cloud computing systems typically use REST-based APIs.
  3. Cost: Cost is claimed to be greatly reduced and in a public cloud delivery model capital expenditure is converted to operational expenditure. This ostensibly lowers barriers to entry, as infrastructure is typically provided by a third-party and does not need to be purchased for one-time or infrequent intensive computing tasks. Pricing on a utility computing basis is fine-grained with usage-based options and fewer IT skills are required for implementation (in-house).
  4. Device and location independence: Device and location independence aims to enable users to access systems using a web browser regardless of their location or what device they are using (e.g., PC, mobile phone). As infrastructure is off-site (typically provided by a third-party) and accessed via the Internet, users can connect from anywhere.
  5. Multi-tenancy: Multi-tenancy enables sharing of resources and costs across a large pool of users thus allowing for:
    • Centralization of infrastructure in locations with lower costs (such as real estate, electricity, etc.)
    • Peak-load capacity increases (users need not engineer for highest possible load-levels)
    • Utilization and efficiency improvements for systems that are often only 10–20% utilized.
  1. Reliability: Reliability is improved if multiple redundant sites are used, which makes well designed cloud computing suitable for business continuity and disaster recovery.
  2. Scalability: Scalability via dynamic (“on-demand”) provisioning of resources on a fine-grained, self-service basis near real-time, without users having to engineer for peak loads.
  3. Performance: Performance is monitored, and consistent and loosely coupled architectures are constructed using web services as the system interface.
  4. Security: Security could improve due to centralization of data, increased security-focused resources, etc., but concerns can persist about loss of control over certain sensitive data, and the lack of security for stored kernels. Security is often as good as or better than under traditional systems, in part because providers are able to devote resources to solving security issues that many customers cannot afford. However, the complexity of security is greatly increased when data is distributed over a wider area or greater number of devices and in multi-tenant systems which are being shared by unrelated users. In addition, user access to security audit logs may be difficult or impossible. Private cloud installations are in part motivated by users’ desire to retain control over the infrastructure and avoid losing control of information security.
  5. Maintenance: Maintenance of cloud computing applications is easier, because they do not need to be installed on each user’s computer. They are easier to support and to improve, as the changes reach the clients instantly.

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