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Cloud Benefits

Service-oriented IT

Within the last decade or so, a fundamental shift has started to come about, against the background of the ubiquity of computing devices in users' business and personal lives and the deployment of IP networks and the distributed architecture they have enabled. IT per se is becoming commoditised, and the computing element of designers' requirements are shifting to a service paradigm, delivered over networks to which user access is faster due to widespread broadband availability. Cloud computing is merely the next step in the further migration of IT delivery towards a service-based approach. Abstraction of actual resources within the infrastructure is a key approach to achieving the flexibility afforded by cloud computing, but an understanding of how real-world resources underpin cloud computing, and how elements have come to combine as marketable services, is useful background (see Figure).

Service-orientated IT

Infrastructure elements such as servers, storage, network equipment, and others (which can be at lower levels, such as power and cooling) are generally held to form a layer known as Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS). The layer that adds application platform capabilities such as development and integration services, and perhaps database services, is referred to as Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS).

The application layer, and related services such as collaboration and content services, are those that are generally best understood, and referred to as Software-as-a-Service (SaaS). Each of these can be offered, or consumed, as a service. Most scenarios referred to as cloud computing are either IaaS or PaaS offerings, or a combination of those. The term SaaS is generally used for business-level offerings such as salesforce.com.

It is important also to take into account some general characteristics that apply to all three aspects of this model of 'layers' around cloud computing: