Much more than a buzzword: What cloud computing is all about.

The spirit of a new age

Author: Manfred Beckers, CEO, Fact Informationssysteme & Consulting Ltd (GmbH)

Innovation and change have always been considered key drivers of the IT industry. It must have been shortly after the turn of the millennium when I first read the message in big letters at an industry conference: "The PC is dead. Long live the cloud."

At the time, this statement seemed presumptuous to me. At many companies, PC servers were just entering the field, bringing previously unknown computing power and storage capacity to the departmental level. But 20 years later, cloud solutions have indeed become an integral part of modern IT landscapes. Because cloud services have matured: They work, are used extensively and bring obvious benefits to companies and their users.

IT resources on demand

Today, cloud computing is primarily synonymous with the on-demand provision of IT resources via the internet. Businesses can use computing power, storage, databases and other IT services in a cloud provider’s remote data centres as needed rather than purchasing, maintaining and servicing physical servers themselves – with all that entails.

This is usually done “on demand”: Only services that you actually use end up on the invoice. If the customer no longer needs a resource, they release it. If they need more power, it is made available immediately.

The cloud service provider guarantees the required flexibility without any significant lead time. Costs are only incurred for resources consumed. This relieves budgets, creates more flexibility and reduces the cost of acquiring, maintaining and operating IT infrastructures. That’s why many IT departments love cloud solutions.

Applications are becoming mobile

From the user’s perspective, cloud computing also means being set free from fixed workplaces, prescribed end devices, operating systems and complex software set-up. Cloud solutions use modern internet standards to make their offerings available everywhere. They work wherever internet browsers and fast internet connections are available. That’s all it takes.

This is the reason why many people can no longer imagine using their familiar internet services and favourite applications only in a certain place or on a given device. That’s almost considered antiquated today.

Looking to the sky

But what does all that have to do with a cloud? This term is used because the internet is often depicted as a cloud symbol in technical illustrations. And as with a cloud in the sky, users are usually denied a glimpse into the innards of the internet. It is not so easy to identify where the many servers and switching nodes are located that together create what we experience as the internet. But they are there, otherwise the whole thing wouldn’t work.

And that it does. This year – in 2021 – more than 200 billion US dollars will be generated worldwide with cloud services. More and more companies and private users are using cloud services without giving it a second though – from entertainment services, communication services and productivity applications to dedicated industry solutions. And this trend will intensify. For cloud computing simply captures the spirit of our time.

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