Fierce Fundamentals: What is the cloud?

You’ve heard the term, and you already know Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Cloud and Microsoft Azure dominate the space. But what the heck is the “cloud” really? Well, it turns out it’s very much a terrestrial technology.

As Google Cloud executive Amol Phadke previously told Fierce, the cloud is made up of three key components: storage, compute and networking. Storage lets the cloud retain user files and applications, while computing power processes data to enable the cloud to deliver services based on the aforementioned applications. Networking allows all of this information to be passed back and forth.

IBM cloud data center

The components of the cloud are housed in gigantic data center buildings which are filled with rows and rows of servers that host the storage and compute capabilities. These servers come in a variety of shapes and sizes, ranging from pizza box-shaped rack and blade servers to refrigerator-sized towers.

Data centers can be located on a customer campus in what are known as “on-premises” deployments for the private cloud, or they can be built at strategic neutral locations across the globe for the public cloud. Larger cloud players like AWS, Google Cloud and Microsoft Azure own their own data centers.

The cloud can be accessed through various on-ramps, including the internet or a direct fiber connection running to a data center.

Each cloud provider uses different software and because of that, each cloud comes with its own unique capabilities. To take advantage of the full range of tools, many cloud users are exploring multi-cloud models of operating, which incorporate the use of two or more public or private clouds.

As VMware previously explained, this raises questions around how resources spread across the different clouds will be accessed and secured. It also means users have to ensure applications deployed across multiple clouds communicate effectively with one another.

According to a Virtana survey of 360 enterprise executives published in May 2022, 82% of organizations are using a multi-cloud strategy and 78% are using more than three public clouds.