One of the coolest things I have learned so far is about the cloud computing space. Cloud computing is a major part of my experience here in SF because I am spending my TEC internship at an open source cloud computing company called Piston Cloud. The story behind Piston Cloud and its founders is an impressive one.
Cloud computing technology falls into three main categories: IaaS, PaaS, and Saas. The “aaS” part stands for “as a service”. The “I” stands for infrastructure, the “P” stands for platform, and the “S” stands for software. The infrastructure enables the platform to function, which in turn enables the software to function. To use an example, think of an Android phone. The IaaS is the hardware (including the enabling code on the chips, etc.), PaaS is the Android operating system, and SaaS are all of the apps available in Google Play. The two pyramids of cloud computing traditionally represent this structure. The first (labeled below as Figure 1) depicts the layered structure in the Android example, known in the cloud world as the “architecture”. It resembles the food group pyramid with IaaS as the foundation, PaaS in the middle, and SaaS at the top. The second pyramid (labeled below as Figure 2) describes the number of companies in each of the three categories. It has the same three categories in the same three spots, but the pyramid is inverted, meaning that IaaS has the fewest companies, with PaaS in the middle, and SaaS with the most. Think of this as if only a few manufacturers made Android hardware, numerous companies built different app stores for the Android operating system, and then numerous developers and companies built many different apps. Piston Cloud and OpenStack are both IaaS platforms.
The other main characteristic about cloud computing is public vs. private clouds. According to the technical definition a public cloud is, “a service provider [that] makes resources, such as applications and storage, available to the general public over the Internet.” In other words, a third party owns and manages a cloud and charges a fee for customers to use it. Amazon Web Services, known as AWS, is a major player in this space, as well as Microsoft, Google, and others. Companies often use public clouds for their services because it is expensive and cumbersome to deploy, but public clouds are also less secure and render customers powerless during outages.
A private cloud is one that an individual or company owns, protects behind its firewall, and manages with its IT department. Usually companies have a private cloud to protect valuable information or run services that it cannot afford to fail at ANY time. They also give companies more flexibility and capability with the capabilities of their cloud. Google, Apple, Microsoft, and many other major companies have built its own for this reason. Apple, for example, recently built a $1 billion data center in North Carolina to significantly bolster the capabilities of their cloud. The major player in this space that provides products for companies to build their clouds is VMware. This is also where OpenStack and Piston Cloud fit in.
In July 2010 Rackspace Hosting and NASA first announced OpenStack. They partnered together with the mission of creating a cloud-computing platform that was compliant with all standard hardware. Believe it or not this was not previously the case. With behemoths like VMware, the products they provided often worked only with other VMware products. OpenStack changed this, finally providing a viable alternative IaaS platform to VMware. Piston Cloud contributed its own amazing services on top of OpenStack to create an enterprise-ready IaaS platform that is much easier, more secure, and more open than the competition. That, my friends, is the cloud computing space in a nutshell.
Until next time,