Cloud Computing

Cloud computing is the delivery of a computing resource via the Internet and as a service. Commonly associated with software, cloud computing could theoretically be any computing asset or object being delivered via the Internet and as a service.

Cloud computing has its roots going back to the mid 1990s when Application Service Providers (ASP) were popular and delivered hosted applications as a service via the Internet. ASPs were unique because their applications were delivered to customers on a one to many basis. So, instead of a customer buying an application, hosting it and maintaining it themselves, they contracted with the ASP to do it for them. These ASP companies were close cousins to Managed Service Providers who delivered other forms of computing resources on a one to many basis, also as a service.

Today, the “cloud” is often used to refer to the Internet or “online”  by non-technical people, and has taken on a very generic meaning. Cloud computing today refers to both consumer and business grade solutions, from storing photos and music to performing complex computing services for businesses and organizations.

There are also large companies, like Apple, Microsoft, Google, Amazon, and others, all of whom have their own cloud computing environments. For example, Apple’s iCloud is a popular consumer platform used to provide email, photo storage and sharing, music stream, movie viewing, and other services. Amazon, on the other hand, has developed a cloud platform which is widely used by companies for cloud computing solutions like storage, security, etc.

In contrast to these “public cloud” vendors, there is a growing movement of MSPs who are developing “private cloud” platforms, which have a number of benefits and distinctions when compared to public cloud offerings.

Private Cloud

The term private cloud computing may have multiple meanings to different people, but it is generally considered to be the opposite of public cloud computing. Private cloud typically means cloud computing behind a corporate firewall. This means that the same benefits of public cloud computing are present, but the model also has enhanced  security because it is under the more watchful eye of the IT department or MSP who manages it.

Private cloud computing differs in one key aspect from public cloud and that is the ability to more closely and accurately audit the infrastructure supporting the private cloud. For example, public cloud vendors like Google, Microsoft, Apple, Amazon, and others, cannot easily explain, much less prove, where customer resides, how many people have access to the data, or how the data is secured. Any privacy or security controls for such an environment would naturally be abstract, almost to the point of being useless for any type of compliance or assurance purposes.

While there may be different variations of cloud computing, private cloud usually has a connotation of being more secure and private compared to public cloud, not to mention offering more control over of the data, including but not limited to physical storage, access, audit controls, and redundancy.

IaaS

Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) is the practice of delivering computing resources as a service, including essential infrastructure solutions like computer processing, storage, and other components, upon which a cloud computing service can be delivered. If cloud computing is the house, the IaaS is the foundation upon which it sits.

For MSPs who want to deliver cloud services but find public cloud solutions to be too vulnerable to pricing pressures and do not afford customers with enough security and privacy controls, utilizing Infrastructure as a Service can accelerate the time to market and reduce the costs of delivering a private cloud offering. In fact, there are many IaaS providers who are currently selling their solutions both to end-user customers as well as to MSPs.

IaaS can also be sold by MSPs to their customers as a means of assisting an organization with developing their own private cloud infrastructure. For the same reasons some organizations do not want to use public cloud, developing a private cloud offering based on a IaaS platform may be more desirable. The primary benefits of this approach is the customer has greater visibility into their infrastructure, they do not have to make the large capital investment into the infrastructure, and the maintenance of the technology can be managed by a third party, in this case, the MSP.

IaaS can most easily be understood as one of the building blocks of cloud computing. It is a component of cloud technology that can also be independently delivered to a customer (including a MSP) without the application or service, which ultimately may reside on top of that cloud infrastructure.

ASP

Application Service Providers (ASP) were early versions of managed service providers, who delivered applications via a hosted and one to many business model. Beginning in the mid 1990s, ASPs were largely vertical focused companies who delivered business critical applications.

In the 1990s, ASPs were unique because their applications were delivered to customers on a one to many basis. So, instead of a customer buying an application, hosting it and maintaining it themselves, they contracted with the ASP to do it for them. These ASP companies were close cousins to Managed Service Providers who delivered other forms of computing resources on a one to many basis, also as a service.

There are many similarities between ASP and MSPs, most notably the one to many business model. Because ASPs delivered their applications to many customers from a common infrastructure, it is not difficult to how MSPs emerged from this business model to not only manage and host applications, but to also manage the infrastructure.

ASP is not a term really used much anymore, but it did go through a few variations in terminology, including a few terms which are used still today. ASP quickly became Software as a Service (or SaaS), which is a term still in common usage, especially amongst technical people.

Today, ASP may not be used much anymore but cloud computing frequently involves hosting and delivering applications on a one to many basis via the Internet. The aspect is that ASP or application management is still very much alive today as a business model. Although it may be not called ASP any longer, the fundamental business idea is still a viable solution and still in high demand by many customers across the globe.

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