Public cloud: digital transformation the flexible way
The public cloud is freely available to companies and private individuals over the internet. The services offered include storage space, computing capacity, infrastructures and applications. The cloud makes investment in hardware and software superfluous. Companies usually opt for a pay-as-you-grow model.
In contrast to a private cloud, the public cloud makes its service available not just to individual organizations, but also to a multitude of users via the public internet. While the services are often free of charge to private individuals and are financed through advertising, there are flexible payment options for companies. What they all have in common is that payment is usually for the actual service provided according to usage; but there are also some subscription models.
For users of public cloud services, there is also the advantage that they can reduce both the need to buy hardware and software and the requirements for support from in-house IT. Finally, companies that get their IT and applications from the public cloud work a lot more flexibly. The services they book can be bumped up or reduced as required, with just a few clicks.
In contrast to a private cloud, the public cloud makes its service available not just to individual organizations, but also to a multitude of users via the public internet.
In order to call a cloud environment a public cloud, it must meet various criteria. Access is provided via public network structures like the internet and must be possible for a large number of users. All resources are provided to users as required and can be adapted flexibly. In addition, all public cloud services offer good, fast scalability. Billing is based on usage. Customers pay only for the services that they actually use. The prerequisite for this is measurement and transparent representation of computing capacity, bandwidth and storage space.
Hyperscalers are the operators of the big public clouds, in particular the top three: Amazon, Microsoft and Google. The term refers to their capacity to provide enormous computing and storage capacities from their networked data centers, in other words, to scale their service. Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure and the Google Cloud Platform together cover around 75 percent of the entire public cloud market. Large companies often use the services of more than one public cloud provider.
More and more companies in Germany and Europe are falling back on cloud solutions like pluscloud, which are offered exclusively in local data centers. They then have access to flexible IT infrastructures but also the certainty that a high level of data protection is guaranteed, in accordance with the GDPR. There is also no risk that data can be seen by the US authorities under the US CLOUD Act.
The big three
Some companies regard the public cloud as a form of internal data center, only much bigger and more powerful. But public clouds are more than server farms on which business applications are run. Google, Amazon and Microsoft have played a fundamental part through their cloud initiatives in changing the architecture of software. Today large-scale business applications are broken down into small, independent building blocks, so-called microservices, which develop quickly and are optimally scalable in the cloud.
As a consequence, the public cloud business has developed into a software ecosystem of its own, which is the basis for a new generation of business applications. And because the public cloud allows value creation from data, it has even created new value chains for the economy in recent years. One example is networked industrial production, which can be organized easily and cost-effectively via the Google, Amazon or Microsoft platforms.
The big public clouds are the digital freeways of the 21st century. They facilitate data exchange between programs, companies, public entities and people.
But what are the differences between the hyperscalers? The short answer: the different cloud stacks. The long answer is more complicated. Companies have to consider three groups of distinctive features before making a decision in favor of one (or more) public cloud platform(s): their variety of services, their performance classes and workload-specific services and their target audiences. What the company is primarily looking for also plays a big part. Is it performance or security, or perhaps compliance?
Fortunately, the decision on a public cloud solution is different from the decision about which hardware to buy. Multi-cloud strategies are fundamentally based on the idea that the company can change from one provider to another at any time and even distribute the same workloads over several resources.
Amazon AWS: market leader in e-commerce
In 2006 the biggest online retailer in the world established its subsidiary Amazon Web Services (AWS) in order to make better use of the capacity of its data centers around the world and make money from them. Now AWS offers over 200 different services in the areas of data processing, data storage, virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI), big data, artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT). The AWS cloud currently consists of 80 availability zones in 25 regions, and it is growing all the time. With a million active customers and tens of thousands of partners, AWS is the largest and most dynamic ecosystem worldwide. It’s down to AWS that a start-up today needs nothing more than an internet connection, a credit card and two programmers with laptops.
Microsoft Azure: popular with medium-sized enterprises
Microsoft breathed life into its cloud platform in 2010 and is now in second place among the hyperscalers. Azure offers users over 100 services that allow individual configuration in the area of cloud computing. The core target audience is system developers who design tailor-made solutions for their customers. Microsoft’s trump cards are the variety of languages it offers and the opportunity to integrate Mac and Windows into all available applications.
The Azure architecture is based on three technological pillars:
- Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) for applications from the cloud;
- Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) for renting out computing and storage capacity;
- Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) for provisioning of development platforms on the internet.
Google Cloud Platform: the specialist in mass data and AI
Google is the rapidly growing cloud challenger to Amazon and Microsoft, with an intuitive cloud portal and attractive tariffs. While Amazon has built up its cloud competence with the eye of a retailer, for Google the priority is productive networking of large volumes of data. The Google Cloud provides innovative tools for big data analysis and artificial intelligence. Detailed documentation, open programming interfaces and source codes make it easy for programmers and analysts to draw on huge volumes of data from various sources in real time and to analyze them for their own market success.
To capture its product vision more precisely, in fall 2020 Google renamed its integrated communication and collaboration environment from “G Suite” to “Google Workspace.” Initially, this is available only to the paying customers of G-Suite for Business. Private users have to be patient, along with non-profit organizations and educational establishments.
The 8 benefits of the public cloud
As companies pay only for the resources that they need, they can upscale or downscale their resource allocations easily. With a public cloud, the services are always used to the best possible effect and unavoidable peaks and troughs in workloads can be offset.
The extremely flexible price structure – even down to payment by the hour – is one of the big advantages of the public cloud. Companies save on investments in servers, setup and maintenance.
As the maintenance of the hardware and networks is in the hands of the cloud provider, the company does not have to worry about keeping its infrastructure up to date or performing security upgrades.
Good IT engineers are difficult to find. As management of a public cloud is more straightforward than setting up your own IT system of a similar sort, the bright sparks in the company can focus on areas that directly increase revenue.
Medium-sized enterprises don’t like to tie themselves down over a long period. The public cloud does not involve any long-term commitment or pre-financing. Pay-as-you-grow models are common and make the business relationship extremely easy and unproblematic.
Companies previously had to invest in hardware and storage with plenty of spare capacity to protect themselves against failures. In the public cloud, data can be mirrored automatically at various locations so that data and applications are always available.
Global at all times
Companies whose employees and offices are scattered over several countries benefit from the public cloud because the providers themselves have a global profile. They have data centers distributed over various regions and their customers can always choose the one that meets their business or data protection requirements.
No risk of failure
Nearly all public cloud providers guarantee 99.99% operating time and zero failure risk. As their cloud system links several servers together, if one component fails another automatically picks up the workload, creating the best guarantee of problem-free, continuous performance for business-critical applications.
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