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Kicking “–aaS” with Cloud Basics

…plus getting connected via CloudLink

By Milos Marjanovic

To the uninitiated, “the cloud” sounds quite magnificent, invoking images of a lofty cumulus on a sunny day. The reality, of course, is more mundane. As the old adage goes, the cloud is really just someone else’s computer.

But that computer — or server, to be precise — is owned and operated by a cloud provider. It’s typically located in a data center, a carefully controlled environment, with high levels of security, redundant power and interconnection to your internet provider. And your computer, as well as the data centers, are maintained and updated by experts so you don’t have to.

Unlike colocation, where you own and operate your hardware from a data center, the cloud enables you to rent what you need – processing power, storage and application services. You can scale up or down as needed, pay for only what you consume and leave the capital investment, infrastructure management and maintenance to a third-party partner. The cloud itself has evolved considerably over the past decade, adding data analytics, machine learning and a wide range of application services.

“As a service” Cloud Options

Perplexed by all the “–aaS options” out there? It’s a challenge to keep up. Today, there are nearly as many “as a service” options as letters of the alphabet. The first letter, of course, stands for whatever is delivered through a cloud network, accessible via multiple devices.

Generally speaking, however, there are three foundational “as a service” options that move up the cloud computing stack:

Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS): Delivers virtualized hardware, storage, servers and processing power. IaaS effectively enables companies to have full control of their own “virtual data center” in the cloud. The companies are typically responsible for providing the operating system, applications, databases and security.

Zayo provides IaaS cloud services, as do many of the webscale providers including AWS, Azure and SoftLayer.

Platform as a Service (PaaS): Provides a platform for software development, testing, and deployment so developers don’t have to manage and upgrade hardware. PaaS services often include APIs and other development tools.

Examples of PaaS providers include Force.com, Google App Engine and Heroku.

Software as a Service (SaaS): The top layer of the cloud computing stack provides business software over the internet, such as email, office productivity suites (word processing, spreadsheets, presentations), and customer relationship management.

Salesforce, Microsoft Office 365 and Google Apps are examples of popular SaaS solutions.

What’s the Difference Between Public, Private and Hybrid Cloud?

We’re often asked about the differences between public, private and hybrid cloud, important distinctions to understand.

The public cloud is infrastructure that is delivered by a third-party provider, typically over the public internet. (Think Azure, AWS and SoftLayer.) A private cloud is dedicated, non-shared infrastructure, usually an extension of a company’s data center or on-premises infrastructure. Hybrid cloud is a blend of services distributed among public and private clouds based on the needs of an organization. A hybrid strategy, which delivers the benefits of both public and private, makes good sense to a growing number of enterprises.

One of the biggest advantages of a hybrid approach is its ability to match workloads to the environments that best suit them. Bursty, more volatile workloads are well suited to the scalability and speedy provisioning of public cloud hosting, as are any cloud-native apps your business relies on. More persistent workloads will almost always deliver greater value and efficiency with dedicated servers in a managed hosting or colocation solution.

So How Do I Get Connected to the Cloud?

Determining how to connect to cloud service providers is a critical element for your cloud strategy. Although you can connect to the large public cloud providers over the internet, many companies are opting for dedicated connectivity, especially for mission-critical workloads.

Zayo’s CloudLink supports all categories of cloud services. We offer private, high-performance connectivity to more than 50 cloud providers at over 180 on-ramp locations. Our solutions include Wavelengths, Ethernet and IP Services, including our bandwidth-on-demand offering FlexConnect.

Stay tuned to our upcoming blogs for more on the Cloud Exchange and the Federated Cloud and how Zayo can keep you connected.