Just what is cloud computing, why is there such buzz around it, and how can it be used by construction and real estate professionals?
Cloud computing is a conceptual term used to describe the act of providing information technology (IT) solutions to organizations through the Internet. Cloud computing allows organizations to implement IT solutions without having to purchase hardware and software and then hiring IT staff to maintain it.
The term “cloud” is used as a metaphor for the Internet, and it is represented by the cloud drawing in computer network diagrams as an abstraction of the underlying technology infrastructure. Another way to think about it might be an externally sourced (and theoretically limitless) seamless extension of an internal IT systems infrastructure that delivers capabilities and solutions on a “pay as go” fee-for-use basis.
Search.com provides this definition: “Cloud computing is a general term for anything that involves delivering hosted services over the Internet. These services are broadly divided into three categories:
Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), like Amazon Web Services, provides virtual server instances with unique IP addresses and blocks of storage on demand. Customers use the provider’s application program interface to start, stop, access, and configure their virtual servers and storage.
Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) is defined as a set of software and product development tools hosted on the provider’s infrastructure. Developers create applications on the provider’s platform over the Internet. PaaS providers may use APIs, website portals or gateway software installed on the customer’s computer. Force.com (an outgrowth of salesforce.com) and Microsoft Azure are two examples of PaaS as are open source PaaS projects, such as Cloud Foundry and OpenStack.
Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) is the software application that interacts with the user through their Web browser in a portal or website-type format. SaaS is a very broad market. Services can be anything from Web-based e-mail to financial, operational, marketing communications, customer relationship management, document management/ collaboration and reporting/analytics business applications. Because the service provider hosts both the application and the data, the end user is empowered to use the service from anywhere through a Web browser.