In a short period of time, cloud computing has shifted from a buzzword to a robust technology vectoring the present-day IT domain.
For many reasons, cloud software development is a promising technology for companies regardless of their industry focus. This article provides important facts and essential aspects of cloud computing and discusses its benefits and challenges for businesses.
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What Is Cloud Computing?
The term cloud computing encompasses a range of services delivered via the internet by cloud providers.
Cloud-based refers to computing resources (servers, storage, networking), tools (runtime, OS, middleware) and ready-made solutions (analytics, monitoring) that users leverage on demand.
Cloud-based development means that you don’t need to build and maintain your own physical infrastructure (servers or data centers) or install development tools to create software. You can use the required technology services and computing power delivered by third-party cloud vendors.
Cloud Computing Features
The following are some distinct features of cloud solutions.
- Cloud solution servers are located in remote data centers.
- The responsibility for cloud infrastructure management and maintenance is with the provider, not the user.
- A pay-as-you-go pricing model is typical for cloud services.
- Users can access cloud services anytime, from any device and location.
- The cloud can scale up and down, depending on client needs. This means that you don’t have to worry about acquiring additional data storage infrastructure if you need more space or support unneeded resources if you don’t use them.
- You don’t need to download and install cloud software on your device.
On-Premise vs. Cloud Solutions
Cloud hosting has become an excellent alternative to the traditional approach, which typically means there is on-premise IT infrastructure within a company.
To choose between the two, you should consider the following points:
- Budget. In-house infrastructure requires significant initial expenses. Cloud hosting costs much less.
- Need for technical staff. On-premise solutions demand a dedicated technical team for monitoring and support. Conversely, the provider maintains cloud solutions; this is none of your concern.
- Required flexibility and scalability. If your business expands, you can easily increase cloud storage capacity. Scaling up the on-premise infrastructure is problematic because you need to buy and deploy additional servers. But if you know your project is not going to scale up or down, on-premise infrastructure can be a good option.
- Level of control. If you need full control over hardware and software, you should have your own infrastructure. In the case of cloud hosting, you don’t have access to hardware and some operations.
- Needed security. You can better protect your data when everything is located within your company. Cloud data storage and processing don’t guarantee full protection: there can be breaches and data leakage, an issue most relevant to public clouds. However, the question is debatable because private cloud providers are taking significant steps toward improving data protection.
Web-Based Apps vs. Cloud-Based Apps
The terms web-based and cloud-based are often used interchangeably, but not quite correctly so. Cloud and web solutions share similarities because cloud apps are an advanced version of web apps.
- Both types of solutions require an internet connection to access services.
- They are accessible from anywhere 24/7 and can run on multiple devices and operating systems.
- All cloud applications are web applications, but not all web applications are cloud applications.
There are also some important distinctions between web and cloud solutions.
- Web apps run on web browsers only, while the function of cloud apps doesn’t depend on browsers (you can access them via a web browser or install them on mobile devices).
- Web-based solutions need a continuous internet connection. Cloud-based solutions can work offline because they can cache data locally and synchronize it when the connection is restored.
- Cloud solutions use multiple remote data centers; web apps utilize a single remote data center.
- Features and functionality of cloud apps are easily scalable; the scalability of web apps is limited.
- Cloud apps offer a high level of customization to users and developers. Web apps are not highly customizable.
Social media websites, online banking and e-Commerce stores are good examples of web-based solutions. Dropbox, Slack and Gmail are some typical cloud-based solutions.
Cloud Models: Public, Private, Community, Hybrid
There are four basic cloud deployment models: public, private, community and hybrid. Each model has its advantages and disadvantages. To choose the right model for your project, you should consider a range of factors such as the number of users, privacy concerns, budget and more.
Public clouds are shared resources that multiple users can access simultaneously. They do not allow sophisticated customization but do provide high scalability and fast implementation at a reasonable price. The drawback of public clouds is a possible vulnerability in terms of data privacy. Choose this form of software if:
- lots of people use your application
- your projects require team collaboration
- your vendor has a well-established security policy
- you need additional capacity for peak times.
Private clouds are not available to the general public. They are designed for the needs of a specific company and its exclusive use. While such solutions are quite costly, they provide a more individual approach, enhanced customization and better data control. The private model suits you if:
- your organization needs a high level of security and data protection
- your project is continually changing and growing.
Note! Some companies dealing with public cloud technologies offer a private version and vice versa, so you can develop cloud-based personal software as well as a public version while working with a single provider.
Community clouds provide the ability to share infrastructure, data and resources between several organizations.
This deployment model is perfect for multiple companies that want to collaborate within one domain (e.g. healthcare).
The hybrid cloud is a mix of the two previous models. This model includes both public and private options and provides different control levels (external and internal). The hybrid cloud is convenient because you can choose the most suitable environment for each aspect of your business. The drawback is that you must keep an eye on all of them simultaneously to ensure that the whole process is in order. The cost is also higher.
You may use a hybrid cloud if you provide services for numerous clients, and a public cloud is necessary to interact with them, but data security is of high importance and should be kept within a virtual private network.
Types of Cloud Services
As mentioned, cloud providers deliver a range of services, from storage to ready-made solutions. Hence, cloud services are divided into three basic models: IaaS, PaaS and SaaS.
Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) delivers computing resources (servers, storage, networks) using virtualization technology. In other words, IaaS is a virtual data center that replaces physical hardware.
System administrators work with IaaS: they install and maintain operating systems, runtime, middleware, and applications.
Examples: AWS, VMware
Platform as a Service (PaaS) is a virtual software development platform.
Developers work with PaaS: they use built-in tools to create, test, launch and customize applications. With this model, customers focus on their app development, not on infrastructure maintenance.
Examples: Microsoft Azure, Heroku
Software as a Service (SaaS) is the delivery of ready-to-use software solutions.
End users leverage SaaS products to complete tasks such as communication, storage and analytics.
Examples: Office 365, Google Drive
The world’s list of cloud providers is topped by Amazon Web Services (AWS), followed by Microsoft Azure, Google, IBM, Alibaba and Oracle.
However, when choosing a cloud solution, one should not be limited to big market players. Backed up by rich cloud computing expertise and a significant number of successful projects, SaM Solutions has created its own PaaS — SaM CloudBOX. This private cloud relies on DevOps best practices to help businesses jump-start their software development projects.
Cloud Software Development Advantages
More and more organizations are choosing cloud migration. The following are some factors that influence the adoption of cloud computing and the growth of this marketplace.
- Cost efficiency. Cloud-related costs are lower than those of desktop software; the variety of payment options, such as pay-as-you-go, one-time payment, and others, allow users to significantly cut software maintenance expenses. Also, this approach eliminates the need to invest in on-premises hardware and removes license fees.
- Extended flexibility. The cloud allows for easy and quick scaling up and down of system capacity.
- Rapid deployment. The deployment of a system in the cloud is time-effective as it may take only a few minutes.
- Unlimited storage capacity. Cloud technology does not limit a company’s storage space or compel it to extend it, unlike desktop software.
- Facilitated disaster recovery. The cloud’s backup and recovery processes are much more streamlined than the same processes on a physical device.
- Automated software integration and updates. Cloud computing enables automated software integration and updating and allows users to skip additional optional configuration and customization.
- Improved team collaboration. You can unify resources in the cloud and enable team members to access the information from any place. This facilitates collaboration and streamlines processes within a team.
Cloud Software Development Challenges
As with any new process, the adoption of cloud software has some obstacles and may be subject to some risks.
- Compatibility. Not all workloads can be moved to the cloud, or the process may be extremely painful. This refers to cases in which legacy applications run on outdated platforms, have limited internet bandwidth or intensive CPU and input-output capacity requirements, or have an inappropriate structure. Another significant factor is that cloud software should be compatible with the company’s policies, needs and technological infrastructure.
- Technical challenges. As with any other system, the cloud is prone to outages and other malfunctions, and keeping up with high technology standards does not prevent these problems.
- Security issues. Entrusting sensitive data to a third-party service provider can potentially compromise the security and safety of that data. Also, this potentially increases the chances of hacker attacks.
The Basics of Cloud Migration
If your company is considering moving its workloads to the cloud, here is the checklist to help you do so with maximal efficiency.
Proper preparation and planning is half of the success. Сonsider the following aspects to develop your migration strategy:
- Prioritize workloads that will be moved to the cloud. We suggest starting with the less critical ones. This helps minimize risks in case of any issues or system malfunction.
- Check the software architecture. Examine if the current architecture requires modifications against the new cloud environment, as it differs significantly from the on-premises environment.
- Investigate how the migration will influence the workload’s performance. There must be positive changes in performance. If your investigation shows no changes or even negative changes, figure out the reason. It may turn out to be that in this specific case, migration is irrelevant. If you are still sure that your workload can be moved to the cloud, check your strategy for possible pain points.
- Explore how the application or database downtime will affect customers’ businesses.
- Develop an algorithm for updating, troubleshooting, performance assessment and other routine matters.
- Prepare your staff for the adoption of new technology.
- Develop a security policy.
In 2011, Gartner identified five approaches to the migration process and named them the “Five Ways”:
- Refactoring. This process implies improving your application’s architecture to scale it, extend its functionality and enhance its performance so that it better suits the new environment.
- Rehosting. This cloud server migration method means application deployment in a different IT environment and slight changes in its configuration to add scalability. Also, it can be used as preparation for workload refactoring.
- Revision. Usually a stepping stone for rehosting and refactoring, this is the modification and extension of the existing code to make the best use of the cloud infrastructure.
- Rebuilding (aka re-architecting). This method stipulates the complete change of the existing application code. It concerns the overall software structure, not just its elements. The method is similar to refactoring but is not the same, as it helps achieve architectural change.
- Replacing. You just discard your application and turn to Software as a Service (SaaS).
Nowadays, companies alter and/or mix these principles to fit their specific business requirements.
Read also: Migrating to Azure: Best Practices
After the application has been migrated, check the following:
- Does the application work?
- Have you moved all of the data?
- Can users access it?
- Do all of the internal software components communicate properly?
- Can an admin monitor the application’s performance and manage it?
Ideally, an automated testing strategy helps estimate whether the migration was successful or not. If you cannot apply automated verification, try to do it manually.
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Get Ready for a Shift
We are witnessing a steady growth in the popularity of cloud solutions across countries and industries. For most companies, the move from on-premise IT landscapes to a hybrid or full cloud model is inevitable.
SaM Solutions highly recommends turning to subject-matter experts for software development or migration, as only professionals can successfully complete the journey to the cloud.
We have a track record of successful experience in cloud-based software development. Working with our experienced programmers and consultants, you will have access to all of the necessary information and will be able to decide on the exact model while staying within budget.