In this introductory chapter, we look at what cloud computing really is, why it’s generating such excitement, and who are the major players. We make the point that most of us are already using cloud computing in our daily lives for personal use and show how enterprises are moving key applications to the clouds for improved customer experience, scalability, and cost control.
A cloud, of course, is a visible mass of droplets or frozen crystals floating in the atmosphere above the surface of the Earth or another planetary body. A cloud is also a visible mass attracted by gravity. Lately, cloud computing has been exerting a strong gravitational pull all of its own—one that has been attracting a mass of money.
The big players in cloud computing are Google, Amazon, and, of late, Microsoft and IBM. Maybe Oracle/Sun, maybe HP will join them. Rackspace, GoGrid, and AT&T want in too.
Google has built the world’s largest cloud computing infrastructure. Amazon has not only built the world’s largest marketplace, but also is a prime mover in the cloud computing revolution, hosting a myriad of other businesses on its Cloud Services infrastructure. With the recently gone-live Microsoft Azure, Microsoft has entered the cloud-computing business as well, simplifying migration for all Windows applications. Salesforce, VMware, Oracle (Sun), IBM, Adobe, and RackSpace among others, have all tied their futures to cloud computing. (Rackspace and Oracle are mostly into “private clouds”).
Specialized vendors such as Intuit (maker of Quickbooks) and “command and control” vendors such as CA Technologies (formerly Computer Associates) also have cloud-based offerings.
As cloud computing matures, it is being embraced not only by small start-ups, but also by major enterprises (albeit more slowly); they appreciate the scalability and reliability that cloud computing can provide.