The Ultimate Guide: An Introduction to Cloud Computing Services

Comparing Amazon Web Services vs Google Cloud vs Microsoft Azure
illustration for outsourcing

Cloud computing services are revolutionizing the way businesses operate. By moving data and applications to the cloud, businesses can enjoy increased flexibility, scalability, and cost-efficiency.

While there are a host of providers of cloud computing services from IBM, Salesforce, Oracle, NVIDIA and more, from our perspective, there are three major cloud providers: Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform (GCP).

Each of these providers offers a unique set of features and services. For example, AWS is ideal for businesses that need high levels of security and compliance, while GCP is perfect for companies that want to leverage cutting-edge Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning technologies. Ultimately, the right cloud provider will help you optimize your business operations and drive growth.

What is Cloud Computing?

Cloud computing is a growing trend in the IT world, and for good reason. Cloud providers can offer a number of advantages over traditional on-premises hardware and software solutions, including greater scalability, flexibility, and cost-effectiveness.

When you opt for a cloud solution, you are essentially outsourcing the management of your computing resources to a third party. This means that you don't have to worry about the upfront costs associated with purchasing and maintaining your own hardware and software.

Instead, you can access the resources you need on an as-needed basis, paying only for what you use. This can be a great way to save money, especially if your computing needs are subject to spikes or fluctuate regularly.

In addition, cloud providers often offer high levels of security and reliability, as they have the expertise and infrastructure in place to protect your data. As more businesses and individuals look for ways to reduce their IT costs and increase their flexibility, cloud computing is likely to become even more popular.

It goes without saying that the entire technology landscape has been radically reshaped since the introduction of cloud computing services.

AWS, Azure, and GCP have all emerged as leaders in the space, offering a wide range of services and features to businesses of all sizes.

To help you better understand the cloud landscape, we've put together this comprehensive guide. In it, we'll introduce you to the three major cloud providers and explore the key differences between them. We will also describe some of the core cloud services that can help accelerate your business, software application or service.

Technology B.C. (Before Cloud Computing)

Before cloud computing, enterprise technology consisted mostly of on-premises hardware and software. Businesses would install and maintain physical servers in their own data centers, and they would host applications and store data on those servers.

This approach was costly and required a lot of technical expertise to manage. It also made it difficult to scale because businesses had to invest in more hardware as their needs grew. This paradigm also made innovation incredibly expensive. Without a way to spin up or spin down resources companies were trapped in a huge CAPEX vortex or completely shut out completely less they had a venture capital benefactor.

The titans of the age: Cisco, Oracle, EMC, Microsoft, SAP, and Intel dominated the conversation and technology budgets. You did what they said, and if you disagreed, you were wrong.

The Enterprise Data Center

The enterprise data center was the backbone of business technology before the cloud. It housed all of a company's on-premises hardware, including servers, storage systems, and networking equipment.

Data centers were expensive to build and maintain, and they required a lot of technical expertise to keep running smoothly. In addition, data centers were often not very flexible, making it difficult for businesses to scale up or down as their needs changed.

Cloud Computing Arrives

In the early 2000s, a new type of computing began to emerge: cloud computing. With cloud computing, businesses could access their applications and data over the internet, eliminating the need for on-premises hardware.

This new model was much more flexible than the traditional data center, making it easier for businesses to scale their IT resources up or down as needed. In addition, cloud computing was more cost-effective than on-premises solutions because businesses only had to pay for the resources they used.

AWS, Azure, and GCP Emerge

In 2006, Amazon Web Services (AWS) became the first major cloud computing provider. AWS offered a pay-as-you-go model that allowed businesses to only pay for the resources they used.

AWS quickly gained popularity, and in 2009, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Platform (GCP) were launched. These two providers followed in AWS's footsteps, offering their own pay-as-you-go cloud computing services.

But Software as a Service Came First

Before cloud infrastructure as a service (IaaS) and platform as a service (PaaS) were introduced, there was software as a service (SaaS).

With SaaS, businesses could access and use software applications over the internet. This model was much more cost-effective than traditional on-premises software because businesses only had to pay for the resources they used. SaaS quickly gained popularity, and today, it is one of the most popular types of cloud computing.

The SaaS companies proved how powerful cloud computing resources could be by overtaking their large peers by selling on-premise annual licenses and maintenance contracts to customers. With the emergence of SaaS, vendors like Siebel Systems, and PeopleSoft were outcompeted by smaller companies who sold enterprise applications with good enough feature sets that were financially attractive to the enterprise and smaller businesses. Netsuite, Salesforce, Workday (started by the PeopleSoft founders), and Successfactors were born in the cloud and quickly took market share.

Companies like Salesforce.com were first-movers not only in SaaS but also the Cloud via their AppExchange.  AppExchange is an online marketplace that allows businesses to find, try, and buy SaaS applications.

Cloud Computing Environments

There are four main types of cloud computing environments: private, public, hybrid, and community.

Private Cloud Computing

A private cloud is a cloud environment that is owned and operated by a single organization. Private clouds offer increased security and privacy because only authorized users can access the data and applications.

A private cloud is a computing network consisting of multiple physical servers that are not connected to the public internet. Private clouds can offer many advantages over traditional server deployments, including increased security, improved performance, and greater flexibility.

One of the key benefits of a private cloud is improved security. By keeping sensitive data and applications off of the public internet, businesses can reduce their exposure to hacking and other cyber threats.

Additionally, private clouds can offer better performance than public clouds, as they are not subject to the same congestion and latency issues.

Finally, businesses can have greater control over their environment in a private cloud, as they are not subject to the whims of a single service provider. As a result, private cloud implementations have become an ideal solution for very large organizations such as financial institutions, the federal government, and large telcos that have specific security, performance, or control requirements.

Public Cloud Computing

A public cloud is a cloud environment that is owned and operated by a public cloud provider. Public clouds offer increased flexibility and scalability because businesses only have to pay for the resources they use.

As we will get to in a moment the public cloud is a type of cloud computing that delivers services over the public internet. Public clouds are owned and operated by third-party companies that provide access to their resources, including applications and storage, over the internet.

Companies use public clouds to save on costs associated with building and maintaining their own infrastructure. Public clouds are also used for scalability, as organizations can quickly add or remove resources as needed. In addition, public clouds offer high availability and security, as they are typically managed by experienced professionals.

While public clouds offer many benefits, they also come with some risks, such as data breaches and cloud outages.

According to a study by the Ponemon Institute, the average cost of a data breach in a public cloud environment is $7.01 million. The most common causes of data breaches in public cloud environments are malicious or criminal attacks (58%), followed by system glitches (36%) and human error (34%). Some notable data security breaches that have occurred in public cloud environments include:

  • Equifax: In 2017, the credit reporting agency Equifax suffered a data breach that exposed the personal information of 145 million people. The breach was caused by a security flaw in an application that was hosted on a public cloud platform.
  • Yahoo: In 2013, the internet company Yahoo suffered a data breach that exposed the personal information of 3 billion people. The breach was caused by a security flaw in an application that was hosted on a public cloud platform.
  • Dropbox: In 2012, the file-sharing service Dropbox suffered a data breach that exposed the personal information of 68 million people. The breach was caused by a security flaw in an application that was hosted on a public cloud platform.

While data breaches are certainly a concern for companies using public clouds, outages are also a risk.

In the modern world driven by always on connectivity for the end user business continuity can be a key decision factor. Outages can occur for a variety of reasons, including hardware failures, software bugs, and human error. In truth security breaches and outages can happen in private cloud environments and certainly inside on-premise deployments.

Hybrid Cloud Computing

A hybrid cloud is a cloud computing environment that combines both private and public clouds. Hybrid clouds offer the best of both worlds, providing businesses with the security and privacy of private clouds and the flexibility and scalability of a public cloud.

The main benefit of a hybrid cloud is that it is much more flexible than a traditional public or private cloud. With a hybrid, you can choose which applications and data to store in the public cloud, and which to keep in the private cloud. This gives you the ability to tailor the cloud solution to your specific needs.

In addition, a hybrid cloud can also provide greater security and reliability than a public or private cloud alone. By using a mix of on-premises and off-premises resources, you can create a more robust and redundant system that is less likely to experience downtime. Ultimately, hybrid provides a higher level of flexibility, scalability, and security than either a public or private cloud alone.

A hybrid cloud combines on-premises infrastructure—or a private cloud—with a public cloud. Hybrid clouds allow organizations to keep some data and applications on-site while using the elasticity of the public cloud for others.

The main drawback of hybrid clouds is that they can be more complex to manage than either public or private clouds because they involve two separate IT environments. In addition, hybrid clouds can be more expensive than either public or private clouds because organizations have to pay for both on-premises infrastructure and public cloud services. Another drawback of hybrid clouds is that they can be less secure than private clouds because data and applications are stored in both on-premises servers and the public cloud.

Community Cloud  Computing

A community cloud is a cloud computing environment that is owned and operated by a group of organizations. Community clouds offer increased security and privacy because only authorized users can access the data and applications. In addition, community clouds offer the added benefit of economies of scale.

There are many examples of community clouds from educational institutions to government agencies or companies in the same industry. For instance, Google's community cloud called Google Apps for Education platform is used by millions of students and teachers around the world. Another example is the Amazon Web Services (AWS) GovCloud, which helps government agencies meet strict security requirements.

These community clouds can offer many benefits to organizations, making them an attractive option for many businesses and institutions who may not have the in-house talent or capability to build and manage a public or private cloud resources.

The Core Four: Types of Cloud Services

There are four main types of cloud services: Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), serverless computing, and Software as a Service (SaaS). Each of these services can be used by customers of all sizes.

Infrastructure as a Service

IaaS refers to the provision of virtualized computing resources, including storage, networks, and servers. IaaS is scalable and offered typically as a pay-as-you-go service, so you only pay for the resources you use.

IaaS providers typically offer a self-service portal for users to provision and manage their resources, as well as APIs for automation. IaaS can be used to host applications, websites, and databases, store data, and protect against disasters. IaaS services are frequently used to provide ordinary web hosting, but the model may be used for a wide range of purposes.

Developers using an IaaS model will typically need to resource the software infrastructure to deploy and maintain their cloud computing capabilities.

IaaS can provide a cost-effective way to build and scale your infrastructure.

Selected Vendors: Amazon AWS, Microsoft Azure, and Google Compute Engine.

Platform as a Service

Platform as a Service, or PaaS, is a cloud computing model that provides developers with a platform for building, testing, and deploying applications.

PaaS environments typically include everything that is needed to support application development, including the operating system, tools, middleware, and infrastructure. This allows developers to focus on their code, rather than worrying about managing underlying computing infrastructure.

PaaS providers offer a variety of services, including storage, networking, and computing power. This makes it easy to scale applications up or down as needed. PaaS is often used for developing web and mobile applications, as well as big data applications. It can be deployed on-premises or in the cloud.

PaaS has many benefits for developers. It can help save time and money by simplifying the application development process. In addition, PaaS makes it easy to deploy applications on multiple platforms. This makes it a good choice for organizations that want the flexibility to run their applications on-premises or in the cloud.

Selected Vendors: AWS, Azure, Google Cloud Compute, Digital Ocean, Vercel, and Heroku.

Serverless Cloud Computing

Serverless cloud computing services are revolutionizing the way businesses operate. By automating scaling, built-in high availability, and a pay-for-use billing model, these technologies increase agility while optimizing costs.

Serverless is a type of cloud service that enables businesses to run code without having to manage any underlying infrastructure. This allows developers to focus on writing code that serves customers instead of managing infrastructure.

Cloud Adoption and Lambdas

For example, serverless applications can start with AWS Lambda, an event-driven compute service natively integrated with over 200 AWS services and software as a service (SaaS) applications. With Lambda, there is no need to provision or manage servers, making it easier for businesses to get up and running quickly and efficiently.

In addition, Lambda automatically scales your cloud computing resources application based on demand, so you don't have to worry about capacity planning or bandwidth issues. As a result, serverless technologies provide a flexible and cost-effective solution for businesses of all sizes.

Microsoft Azure offers Azure Functions and Google provides Google Cloud Functions. For now, the pricing across cloud vendors for serverless are nearly identical (this of course may change).

Software as a Service

SaaS is a type of software that is delivered over the internet and accessed via a web browser. We covered this early and will not spend more time on it here.

Key Components of Cloud Computing Architecture

This introduction to cloud computing would be incomplete if we did not cover cloud computing components. Cloud computing is a model for affordable, scalable, and reliable computing resources. It is based on the principle of virtualization, in which physical resources are abstracted and shared across multiple users. This enables businesses to pay only for the resources they use, making it a more cost-effective solution than traditional data centers. The key components of cloud computing architecture include the following:

  • Cloud infrastructure: This refers to the hardware and software that make up the underlying platform of a cloud computing system. It includes the servers, storage, networking, and virtualization technologies that are used to enable cloud services.
  • Cloud services: These are the applications and workloads that are deployed on a cloud platform. They can be delivered as a service (SaaS), platform as a service (PaaS), or infrastructure as a service (IaaS).
  • Cloud management: This is the process of managing and administering cloud resources. It includes tasks such as provisioning, monitoring, and security.

Microservices

A microservice is a software component that is autonomous, independently deployable, and scalable. Microservices are often built around a business domain, and they can be deployed and updated individually without affecting the rest of the system. Microservices typically communicate with each other using well-defined APIs, and they are often hosted in containers or cloud-based environments.

Microservices can be developed using any programming language, and they are often deployed using a DevOps approach. The main benefits of microservices include improved scalability, availability, and resilience.

Many microservices are typically built around a capability, such as user authentication in a mobile app or product catalog management in progressive web app. This allows teams to maintain a high degree of autonomy and flexibility when developing their services.

Microservices promote code reuse and helps to prevent code dependencies from becoming too tightly coupled. The microservice architecture has become increasingly popular in recent years, as it helps to address many of the challenges associated with traditional monolithic applications.

However, microservices can also be more complex to manage than traditional monolithic applications.

Docker Containers

Docker is a powerful tool that can help to enable the cloud computing in a number of ways.

Docker is used for running microservices. Consider containers to be standardized packaging for microservices with all of the necessary application code and dependencies already included.

The architecture of a container-based architecture enables developers to simplify their infrastructure and improve scalability while lowering costs. Because each component runs in its own container, it has complete control over resources such as memory and storage. That means containers can be more capable than virtual machines, which run individual operating systems inside their containers. Furthermore, containers can be easily moved from one server to another, making them ideal for cloud-based deployments.

Docker containers also have the ability to run on a wide variety of platforms, including Windows, Linux, and MacOS. That means they can be used in hybrid clouds that span different types of infrastructure.

Docker enables Cloud Deployment

Docker containers are relatively easy to spin up and down, making it possible to quickly provision and de-provision new cloud-based services. This flexibility can be a major advantage for businesses that need to rapidly scale their operations up or down.

Docker containers can be used to package and deploy software applications in a consistent and portable manner. This makes it easier for organizations to move applications between different cloud environments, or even between on-premises and cloud-based infrastructure.

Finally, Docker containers offer built-in isolation and security features that can help to protect sensitive data and ensure compliance with regulatory requirements. Taken together, these capabilities make Docker an essential tool for any business that wants to take advantage of the cloud.

Kubernetes

Kubernetes is a system for operating containerized applications at scale. Kubernetes is an open-source system for automating deployment, scaling, and management of containerized applications. It groups containers that make up an application into logical units for easy management and discovery.

Kubernetes builds upon a decade and a half of experience at Google running production workloads at scale, combined with best-of-breed ideas and practices from the community. Kubernetes was originally designed by Google and donated to Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF).

Kubernetes is a portable, extensible platform for managing containerized workloads and services, that facilitates both declarative configuration and automation. It has a large, rapidly growing ecosystem.  and Kubernetes services, support, and tools are widely available. Kubernetes is used in production by thousands of companies including Cisco, eBay, Goldman Sachs, IBM, Microsoft Azure, Spotify, Twitter & Starbucks.

Docker has a its own orchestration solution called Docker Swarm. We won't get into the differences between Kubernetes and Swarm here but its good to know that you have an alternative.

Terraform

Last but not least there is Terraform which is used to manage cloud resources. Terraform is a tool for building, changing, and versioning infrastructure safely and efficiently. Terraform can manage existing and popular service providers as well as custom in-house solutions. Infrastructure as code means that server configurations can be stored in version control systems, reviewed by others, and reused to bootstrap or rebuild new environments.

Versioning infrastructure ensures rollbacks are possible if there are unexpected changes or failures during an update. Terraform automates the creation of VMs, load balancers, DNS entries, on new services on AWS. It uses configuration files (in HCL or JSON format) to describe the desired state of your cloud computing infrastructure.

Once you've created a configuration file terraform can bring your resources into your desired state and maintain them there. This includes provisioning servers, configuring DNS entries, creating S3 buckets, and more.

The powerful thing about Terraform is that it can use a variety of providers (AWS, Google Cloud Platform, Azure, Heroku, etc.) so you can write one configuration file and then use that same file to create resources on any provider you want. This makes it easy to standardize your computing infrastructure across multiple cloud vendors. Terraform is open source and has a strong community backing. HashiCorp, the company behind Terraform, also offers a paid enterprise version with additional features and support.

DevOps

DevOps is a set of practices that combines software development (Dev) and information-technology operations (Ops) to shorten the systems development life cycle while delivering features, fixes, and updates frequently in close alignment with business objectives.

The goal of DevOps is to bring Dev and Ops teams together to plan, build, test, and deploy software in a faster and more reliable way. DevOps is widely used in cloud computing, where the agility and scalability of the cloud makes it an ideal platform for DevOps practices.

Developers and DevOps engineers leverage cloud servers, Kubernetes, Terraform and monitoring tools to better manage cloud development infrastructure and businesses seeking ways on better managing software applications. Some of the key DevOps practices that can be used in the cloud include:

  • Continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD): In a DevOps model, mission critical applications are continuously integrated and delivered, rather than being pushed in large batches. This allows for faster feedback and more frequent updates.
  • Infrastructure as code: In the cloud, infrastructure can be treated as code, which means that it can be versioned, reviewed, and deployed using the same processes as software code. This helps to make infrastructure changes more predictable and less disruptive.
  • Automation: Automation is used extensively in DevOps to help speed up the software development and delivery process. In the cloud, automation can help to provision and manage resources more quickly and control cloud spending.
  • Monitoring and logging: In the cloud, it is important to monitor and log all aspects of the system in order to identify issues and improve performance.

By using DevOps practices in the cloud, you can achieve greater speed, agility, and efficiency in your software development, cloud based apps, and operations.

Introduction to the leading Cloud Service Vendors:  AWS,  Google Cloud, and  Azure

Assuming you want to get started with cloud computing, but don't know where to start, this guide will introduce you to three of the most popular cloud service providers: AWS, Google Compute, and Microsoft Azure.

Amazon Web Services

Amazon Web Services, commonly known by the acronym AWS, is owned by Amazon.com and provides cloud computing services on a subscription-based service. Out of the three players on this list, Amazon Web Services is the oldest and most well-known cloud utility computing provider.

It has a larger user base than the other two on this list, with its reliability being a key notable feature. Amazon Web Services have different cloud services including; Amazon S3, which is known for its cloud object storage and Amazon EC2, which is known for its cloud computing service.

AWS launched as an Infrastructure as a Service provider. But over time has led the wave innovation into serverless computing, platform as a service and offers a range of cloud computing resources.

While AWS has experienced outages it is very reliable and a service thousands of companies entrust their cloud systems to managing. They have a track record of being up and running 99.99% of the time, which is one of the reasons why they're such a popular choice.

Google Cloud

Google Cloud, also known as GCP (Google Cloud Platform), is of course part of Google. GCP uses the same infrastructure as Google, meaning that it has several useful integrations with services like Google Docs, Google Sheets, and other functional Google apps.

Google Cloud arrived a little later than Amazon Web Services, getting onto the scene in 2011. Yet, even in the shorter amount of time that it’s been around, Google Cloud has made a huge impact, creating a strong presence in the industry.

Recently, they’ve released Google Enterprise Services, which allows for even further integration with the Google Ecosystem. Google Cloud Services have options for virtual private cloud, cloud migration, hybrid cloud options and their google compute engine.

GCP is Great for Artificial Intelligence

Google Cloud has native support for Kubernetes and offers the least expensive Tensor computing options across the board. The combination makes it the preferred platform for extremely heavy computing jobs, like training AI models, operating on large clusters of accelerated virtual machines. Converting large amounts of scanned documents into text via OCR, training Natural Language Models, or training Vision enabled Neural Networks are some of the use cases where GCP shines.

These large jobs sometimes involve hundreds, if not thousands, of Tensor-accelerated computers (that include either a GPU or Google's own TPU designs). Even more, these large clusters are created and fully provisioned within 5-10 minutes, synchronize between themselves, compute results, and shut down. This allows results to be produced typically within hours or days that would otherwise take months or years for on-premise infrastructure.

Microsoft Azure

Microsoft Azure, first called just Azure when it launched in 2010, is the third service provider we’ll be looking at on this list. Since its launch, the Azure cloud service has seen great progress, becoming one of the most successful players in the industry.

For those that heavily rely on the Microsoft ecosystem, the addition of this cloud computing feature has been a much-needed addition, boosting the functionality of the whole platform. MS Azure includes hybrid cloud options and the Azure Kubernetes service. Microsoft Azure also has options for container service and app service.

We have also seen a tremendous number of users from industries who compete directly with Amazon and absolutely do not want their infrastructure running on Amazon services. Given the breadth of Amazon's products and services the number of companies looking to Azure as the go-to alternative continues to grow.

What are the benefits of cloud computing

One of the main benefits of cloud computing is that it can help reduce IT costs. Instead of having to invest in and maintain your own on-premises infrastructure, you can use cloud-based services. This can help reduce your upfront capital expenses, as well as your ongoing operational costs.

Increase business agility and flexibility. For example, you can quickly scale up or down as needed, without having to make a large upfront investment. This can help you respond quickly to changes in demand.

Cloud computing can improve your disaster recovery capabilities. For example, you can replicate your data and applications to a remote location and then access them if your primary site goes down.

Cloud computing can enable remote work in a few different ways. First, cloud-based applications and services can be accessed from anywhere with an internet connection. This means that employees can work remotely and developers can access data on a cloud server through a secure internet connection. You can also then outsource the management of your cloud to a nearshore team and reduce costs.

With the ability to migrate between on-premise and different cloud platforms businesses can avoid vendor lock in that can drive cost higher. In addition with offering from the cloud service vendor like AWS Cloudfront businesses can manage cloud spending.

What are some use cases for cloud computing

Cloud computing today offers a host of services that can be used for a wide range of applications, including the following:

Cloud storage: Services such as Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3), Google Cloud Storage, and Microsoft Azure Storage provide scalable object storage in the cloud. This can be used for storing a variety of data, including backups, media files, and application data.

Cloud computing: Services such as Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2), Google Compute Engine (GCE), and Microsoft Azure Virtual Machines (VMs) provide computing power resources in the cloud. This can be used for hosting web applications, running batch jobs, or storing data.

Cloud databases: Services such as Amazon DynamoDB, Google Cloud Datastore, and Microsoft Azure SQL Database provide managed relational and non-relational databases in the cloud. This can be used for storing structured and unstructured data such as customer information, product data, and order data. It also given rise to a host of other services to enable the data driven enterprise and cloud based data visualization.

Cloud analytics: Services such as Amazon Elastic MapReduce (EMR), Google BigQuery, and Microsoft Azure HDInsight provide cloud-based data processing and analytics. This can be used for analyzing data to gain insights into customer behavior, product trends, or other business data.

Cloud security: Services such as Amazon Inspector, Google Cloud Security Scanner, and Microsoft Azure Security Center provide cloud-based security scanning and monitoring. This can be used for identifying and remedying security threats.

Final Thoughts

All three of these cloud service provider platforms are fantastic for handling big data, storing your company information, and processing compute needs. Depending on what you’re looking for, one of these services will stand out to you as the best for your business.

When deciding on which cloud provider is right for you and your company, it will depend on what features you want in a cloud platform. Amazon Web Service vs Google Cloud vs Microsoft Azure, are all excellent cloud providers. The service that will be best for your business is the one that aligns best with your goals and intentions. If you need a high level of security, then Microsoft Azure might be the best, while if you need cost-effectiveness, then Google Cloud could be the service for you.

No matter which you go for, you’ll be entering into a cloud platform that is innovative, scalable, and reliable for your organization.

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At at Azumo, we are a highly recognized nearshore software development services company building web, mobile, data and cloud applications for customers globally.

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