In today’s world, technology plays a crucial role in any field, be it in business or any other field. Technologies have evolved over the years, particularly Information Technology (IT), and they are benefiting organisations through various applications. Among the many emerging Informational technological concept which are having optimal applications, Cloud Computing brings in many applications for the efficient functioning of organisations. Cloud Computing, with softwares and hardwares, creates a virtual network from which the organisations can source various functional options, making their own network slightly redundant. However, their network cannot become totally non-existent, but has to optimally compliment the Cloud Computing architecture. So, this paper will first look at the technology behind this Cloud Computing, then as part of literature review will focus on the requirements on Network Management to support Cloud Computing and the differences from the more normal management requirements. Then the paper will critically evaluate the strength and weaknesses of Cloud Computing, comparing to normal Network Management as defined by the ISO.
Description of the Technology
Cloud computing, an Internet-dependant computer network, in which the ‘outside’ or ‘virtual’ servers or in total outside network infrastructure will play the key role, without the necessity to develop and maintain in-house infrastructure. The needed information or data, softwares, other business applications, etc can be stored in those servers, and can be accessed by the organisations or computer users from any place using a web browser based interface. This works on the basis of ‘services on demand’ concept, as organisations or users just pay the subscription charges, without owning any physical infrastructures. “Store and access apps and computer information often via a web browser instead of running installed software on your desktop or office server”. (cloudcomputingdefined).The basic concept behind Cloud Computing got originated in 1960s, when the American computer and cognitive scientist John McCarthy opined that “computation may someday be organized as a public utility”. (Frangulyan). This hypothesis came true because the main characteristic of Cloud Computing is computation is happening in a public or external environment.
Literature Review – Requirements on Network Management to support Cloud Computing
The complete Cloud architecture for the functioning of Cloud Computing consists of multiple cloud components particularly various hardwares components and softwares. These components are divided under two categories namely the front end and the back end. The front end comprises of the computer and the other applications that are used by the user, to access ‘Cloud’ of software, storage, etc through a web browser. While, the ‘Cloud’ itself can be considered as the back end, with all the installations and operation of various hardwares components like servers, data storage devices, work stations and softwares in the form of licensed softwares and specialized business applications, taking place within it. Among the various items that are part of Cloud or hosted by Cloud providers are data transfer in and out; storage (measured by the GB-month); I/O requests; PUT requests and GET requests; IP addresses, load balancing, plus various softwares or applications. (patriotnetworkservices). Although, computers and certain applications will be the “visible front end”, there are other invisible front end components as part of the Network management, which only works as the ‘bridge’ and support to connect, access and utilize the ‘Cloud’. This network management only carries out all the processes between cloud and user end terminal. “Network management is managing and maintaining big networks at the top level, but not including terminal equipment for users. Functions such as safety, tracking, control, allocation, deployment, coordination and planning are performed in network management.” (wisegeek). Among the various components of network management, routing is one among the crucial requirements for Cloud Computing. “Routing, which relates to the method of choosing the routes to send information on a computer network, is an significant area of network management.” (wisegeek). This acts as the ‘bridge’ by passing on the logically addressed packets from the set source to their logical destination through nodes, which are referred to as routers, in a process termed as forwarding. Thus, network management forms a key part of Cloud computing, but in an ‘invisible’ and supporting manner.
Cloud Computing makes network infrastructure and management inside the organisation mostly invisible because as all the physical infrastructure needs are taken care in the ‘Cloud’, the existing network management structure is mainly involved in managing the Cloud related processes. Hughes (2008) points out this nature of network management by stating that companies need a management system, but one tuned to managing in a cloud environment not a data centre environment. They will need to track their services and handle their communication with the cloud. Thus, it is clear that Cloud Computing demands different requirements from the network management. While the normal or traditional network management structures provided all the IT support for the organisational functioning by managing the infrastructures plus the services, Cloud Computing demands that network management only manages the services.
Nolle (2009) states that companies use IT for highly distributed activities including transaction processing, Web retail and customer support, data analysis and mining, and regulatory reporting. When these applications are hosted in the ‘Cloud’ and have to function as part of organisational functioning, then it will become necessary to connect the resources in the ‘Cloud’ with organisation’s data centre resources. That is, to run those processes, data from the company has to reach the ‘Cloud’, and it is the network management, which will provide the ‘bridge’. So, the major requirement on Network management for Cloud Computing is to have very fast transfer network for transfer of data from the organisation to the ‘Cloud’, and vice versa. Although, the large quantities of data, stored in large databases, can be stored in the ‘Cloud’ itself, it will be a costly proposition and there are clear security concerns. So, it will be viable and better to store in the organisation’s data centres itself, however a fast and reliable transfer option with very high QoS (Quality of Service) to support your cloud connections has to be actualized as part of the network.
The other requirement in network management for it to support Cloud Computing is to have an option that is dynamic to match with the dynamic processes in the ‘Cloud’. That is, for the applications in the ‘Cloud’ to process quickly and give effective results, quick and constant updates have to be given from the company’s data centres. Likewise, if the data in the data centres are dynamic, then also the dynamic data should be passed on to the ‘Cloud’ constantly. “If the application’s source information is extremely dynamic or has to be backed up or synchronized with other business information, the connection between cloud information resources and business information resources will need to be very effective.” (Nolle 2009). Thus, it is clear that network management have to actualize high QoS to support the dynamic nature of the data as well as the dynamic nature of the Cloud Computing. In the case of normal network management, even if the data is dynamic, network requirements for maintaining and processing those data will be less stringent, and there may not be necessity to actualize a fast transfer network.
Another important requirement is to have a network option that actualizes effective distribution of access. That is, if Cloud Computing has to be accessed from many locations in many countries, then fast and secure Internet or an Internet VPN option has to be incorporated into network management. In normal network management also, the need to connect from various locations arise, but in those scenarios they will connect to the data centres in the company’s headquarters, not an external source. However, this option cannot be applicable and workable from all locations, and in those cases, Cloud Computing based networking could work. So, the requirement for connecting with a ‘Cloud’ from various locations is to have efficient internet pathway. The Internet and Internet VPNs can be used to provide cloud computing communication, provided that availability are adequate, the cloud resource can be properly secured, and also that the connections between the cloud resource and the enterprise IT infrastructure are robust enough to handle the traffic (Nolle 2009).
Organisations cannot just shift their servers and other infrastructure to an external location or ‘Cloud’, thereby putting the onus on the Cloud Vendors, and use it as an excuse to avoid managing the network. “The most important matter for companies considering the cloud is to be certain they have their network analysis processes firmly in place before the transition. This will ensure that they are not relying solely on the cloud vendor for advice.” (wildpackets). As discussed earlier, managing the network or service is the key, because they will face many problematic issues. “Potential bottlenecks, bandwidth hogs and unauthorized protocol usage still adversely affect application traffic.” (wildpackets). So, to combat and manage these issues, all the above mentioned network requirements for Cloud Computing need to be implemented, plus apt management also need to carried out. Thus, “The transition to the cloud is evolutionary for any company and will be slow and methodical, but adequate network assessment will further promote the achievement of the company in applying this new technology” (wildpackets).
Strengths and Weaknesses of Cloud Computing
When an organization or other users adopts Cloud Computing, it or they can achieve many benefits because of their strengths, even while facing some threats due to some of their weaknesses. The first main strength of Cloud Computing and the requirement to support is they do not need any physical infrastructure for its IT related purposes. By paying nominal subscription charges for the facilities in the ‘Cloud’, they can lower the operational costs as well as future investments into IT maximally. However, when viewed from a particular perspective, the weakness is there will be cost factors for maintenance of the network. That is, although, there will be decrease in costs with no need for installation of infrastructures, as discussed above managing service in the network management, will lead to the recruitment and training of apt personnel, thus leading to extra costs. When this difference is compared with Network Management as defined by the ISO, it gives interesting perspectives.
Under the leadership of the OSI group, the ISO has developed a network management model, which is the main means of knowing the main features of network management systems. Among the five areas, Configuration Management focuses on gathering and tracking device configurations of the devices in the network management. The process of obtaining information from the network and setting up devices accordingly will allow centralized control over the configuration of devices. (Ho). Although, there is a sort of centralized control in Cloud Computing as well, unlike the network management model, Cloud Computing does not allow configuration of all the devices in the ‘Cloud’. While they can increase the needed capacities and decrease it, they cannot fully re-configure, like their own network management.
Optimally using the resources is an important necessity because ‘idling’ hardware as well as software (licenses and usage) costs could cause high expenditure for the firms. For this purpose, there is a cloud software services called “Software as a Service (SaaS)”. Under this service, the required software can be accessed by the user from the ‘Cloud’ through the web browser, doing way with the need to install and run specific software in their computer or computers. Thus, the strength is, there is no need to buy the software and also there is only minimal maintenance. “Cloud services guarantee that the most up-to-date software is accessible to businesses with continuous technological improvements and ever-changing needs.” (minttwist.wordpress.com). However, the weakness is, there could be times, when that particular software may not be aptly useful to the user, and so they may need specialized software, tweaked to their needs. Also, there will be security issues with these softwares, as they many some vulnerabilities. “Many SaaS applications have undiscovered weaknesses and vulnerabilities (which is why applications should be security tested before they’re launched onto the web),” (Schooff 2008). When the model of accounting management is compared with this feature of Cloud Computing, there are some minor differences. That is, accounting management monitors and assesses the usage of data and/or resources for the purpose of billing, with the work mainly done by the Internet Service Providers. (Elam). However, in the case of Cloud Computing, the usage is monitored by the Cloud host only, with the firm paying to ISP as well.
The other key feature of Cloud Computing is ‘Elasticity’. With this feature, the user can increase their usage of the services or facilities in the ‘Cloud’. That is, when there is a necessity for more storage of data or high transfer of data at peak times, the user themselves can increase their access to the services by paying extra charges, then scaling down after the peak period. “Can easily and seamlessly ‘scale up’ (add more resources in order to increase the overall processing power when needed) and ‘scale down’ (being able to ‘switch off’ some of those resources when the load on the overall system goes down). (Moyne, 2009). However, the weakness with this elastic or unlimited feature is that, the user could tend to overuse the facilities, under the assumption that they unlimited or flexible resources for their usage. On the other hand, if they go for limited plans for usage of cloud services, they will inevitably have to buy less and problematically have to start paying (perhaps at a premium) for usage beyond the plan. When this feature is compared with the model, performance management, commercial aspects seems to be the only difference. That is, performance management focuses on monitoring, assessing, and adjusting the available bandwidth and network resource usage in order make a network run more efficiently. (Elam). As far as Cloud Computing is concerned, although there is adjustment of resources, unlike network management it could lead to higher costs, and sometimes it will be difficult to corner in on the correct ‘quantity’ of resources, leading to further problems like mentioned above
Cloud Computing provides all the above discussed features and services in a secure way. With inbuilt features in the ‘Cloud’ as well as in at the front end, it is one of the key strengths. However, it can also be a weakness, because there is view that it can be hacked, leading to loss of crucial data. “The primary issues about cloud computing are safety and privacy, as information inside the cloud is outside the firewall of a company, resulting in an inherent risk threat.” (minttwist.wordpress.com). Therefore, due to this weakness, both the cloud host and the businesses need to introduce a number of safety characteristics and procedures in order to be completely fool proof. “…. Companies need to enforce strict safety measures such as proven techniques of cryptography to authenticate users.” (minttwist.wordpress.com). This aspect of Cloud Computing is slightly different from the network management models, because in the network, this aspect of security is divided into two models, Fault Management and Security Management. The purpose of fault management is to detect, log and alert the system administrators of problems, while security management deals with controlling access to resources and also alerting the authorities when certain resources are illegally accessed. (Elam). While this management puts the onus on the companies to secure their network, in the case of Cloud Computing, both the host as well as the company are responsible.
From the above analysis of Cloud Computing, it is clear that although it has some loopholes, it has sizable positive advantages and can have an optimal impact. When Cloud Computing is implemented, the traditional network management needs to fulfil certain requirements and incorporate certain features for optimal performance. When the requirements of fast transfer option, dynamic updates and even distribution of data are fulfilled, then it will align perfectly with the network. After alignment, there will be some strengths as well as weaknesses, which will be different from the traditional network models. So, the user need to optimally tap the strengths, even while plugging the loopholes or negatives, thus aptly using the Cloud Computing.
Also Study: Example of Cloud Computing Proposal
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- Is Cloud Computing the future of web design? viewed on November 8, 2010 http://minttwist.wordpress.com/2010/10/25/is-cloud-computing-the-future-of-web-design
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- Cloud Computing – The Demise of Network Analysis? viewed on November 8, 2010 http://blog.wildpackets.com/2010/03/cloud-computing—the-demise-of-network-analysis.html
- What is Network Management? viewed on November 8, 2010 http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-network-management.htm