Cloud services are infrastructure, platforms, or software that are hosted by third-party providers and made available to users through the internet.
Cloud services facilitate the flow of user data from front-end clients (e.g., users’ servers, tablets, desktops, laptops—anything on the users’ ends), through the internet, to the provider’s systems, and back. Cloud services promote the building of cloud-native applications and the flexibility of working in the cloud. Users can access cloud services with nothing more than a computer, operating system, and internet connectivity.
What are examples of cloud services?
All infrastructure, platforms, software, or technologies that users access through the internet without requiring additional software downloads can be considered cloud computing services—including the following as-a-Service Solutions.
Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) provides users with computing, networking, and storage resources.
Platforms-as-a-Service (PaaS) provides users with a platform on which applications can run, as well as all the IT infrastructure required for it to run.
Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) provides users with—essentially—a cloud application, the platform on which it runs, and the platform’s underlying infrastructure.
Function-as-a-Service (FaaS), an event-driven execution model, lets developers build, run, and manage app packages as functions without maintaining the infrastructure.
Clouds are IT environments that abstract, pool, and share scalable resources across a network. Clouds enable cloud computing, which is the act of running workloads within a cloud environment. Clouds are a type of PaaS because hardware and an application software platform are provided by another party.
How do cloud services work?
Like all other IT solutions, cloud services rely on hardware and software. However, unlike traditional hardware and software solutions, users don’t need anything other than a computer, network connection, and operating system to access cloud services.
- When supplying users with a cloud infrastructure, cloud services providers detach computing capabilities from hardware components, such as separating:
- Processing power from central processing units (CPUs)
- Active memory from random access memory (RAM) chips
- Graphics processing from the graphics processing units (GPUs)
- Data storage availability from data centres or hard drives
- This abstraction is typically accomplished through virtualization and virtual machines. Once separated, the storage, computing, and networking components are provided to users through the internet as infrastructure—or IaaS. This kind of cloud service has led to the rise of cloud storage, which stores big data as part of the Internet of Things (IOT).
Cloud service providers can also use their hardware resources to create cloud platforms, which are online environments where users can develop code or run apps. Building a cloud platform requires more than just abstracting a computer’s capabilities from its hardware components—like when providing cloud infrastructure. Providing a cloud platform requires additional levels of development to incorporate technologies like containerization, orchestration, application programming interfaces (APIs), routing, security, management, and automation. User experience design (UX) is also an important consideration in order to create a navigable online experience.
Cloud platforms are a type of PaaS. And if the infrastructural components holding up the PaaS are highly scalable and sharable, it might be considered a cloud. The best examples of PaaS clouds include public clouds and managed private clouds.
The final widely accepted cloud service that providers can offer is a full web application—known as cloud software or SaaS. This requires the highest development investment because the cloud provider is literally offering an online app to customers.
Cloud software can be provided using a cloud-native approach, which is an application architecture combining small, independent, and loosely coupled microservices. Multiple microservices can be packaged into individual Linux containers managed by a container orchestration engine like Kubernetes or Red Hat Open Shift and other providers. The final product is a cloud app that can be optimized by the microservice without impacting other microservices that—together—make up the whole app.