I was greatly amused when I read an interview of a famous Technocrat from the Web Hosting industry. The part that really amused me was his reply to a question about “Cloud” computing and hosting. This IT Professional is the head of a leading Web Hosting Software Provider. His company offers a renown Web Hosting Control Panel, but has not once used the word “Cloud” in association with any of it’s products or services. His simple response to this fact was that they themselves were unsure of the meaning of this term “Cloud” and what was really expected off of them when they would start selling “Cloud” based products or services. This article attempts to identify the various meanings that people in the IT industry attribute to the term “Cloud”.
Recently, Cloud hosting has been given the meaning of an elastic system which can rapidly scale up or scale down to exactly what the user needs. This means that you can start building your website or application with minimum resources on the same platform and as your application expands, your hosting resources and storage space will also expand to match up to the requirements. This would be useful for testing and development, especially when the resources required per project or per module can fluctuate constantly. It could also be useful for an eCommerce portal which needs to scale up on a daily basis, based on the popularity and visitor traffic. This functionality can also be achieved with virtualization technology and other similar software.
Cluster Hosting is another system where parallel computer systems are used to boost the efficiency and speed of the website or application. Each computer in the cluster usually performs a separate service or function and all the servers in sync form a powerful network for the users purpose. Cloud Hosting seems to be the same, but with a difference. The differences can vary from provider to provider, but by and large there is a great similarity it shares with Clusters. This makes it even more ambiguous and difficult to differentiate it with cluster hosting. To further complicate clarity, we have Grid Hosting, which also uses multiple computer systems to perform a task with greater speed and efficiency. The line of difference between Grid Hosting and Cluster Hosting is distinguishable by some technical brainstorming. However, the true meaning of Cloud Hosting remains a mystery which each one wants claim to have solved.
Another important feature which is being attributed to Cloud Hosting is that the resources are “Pay As You Go” i.e. every connection, every process, every thread and every action performed is micro monitored and you are billed for the real resources used. This may become an expensive affair if you are hosting a high volume application. Similar functionality can be achieved by customized software which is available fir shared hosting as well. Infact, compared to earlier times now most control panels offer in built functionality to allocate and bill for resource usage automatically.
Some providers use the term Cloud Hosting to offer Web Application Hosting. You may already be using such services in your daily life. Gmail, Google Drive, Zoho, Sound Cloud, Amazon AWS are all examples which our now integral to our work and the services that we receive from different vendors.
We often wonder, whether the simple old vanilla “Shared Hosting” is now rebranded as Cloud Hosting, with a few bells and whistles thrown in. Should we say “Old wine in new bottle”? Till we are certain about the meaning of what these services entail, we too will avoid using it in marketing and promotional material for our hosting services.