Cloud Computing Explained To Dummies

Cloud computing, or “cloud computing”, is everywhere. But this computer concept is still vague for the general public. Catch up session.

The phenomenon of “cloud computing” is becoming more and more widespread in companies and the general public is starting to know it in the form of remote storage services, or streaming music. The cloud is on everyone’s lips.

Bernard Ourghanlian is technical director and security of Microsoft France. For L’Express, he explains what the cloud is, and what he point.

How do you define cloud computing?

The general public has long used cloud computing without knowing it. When you use your webmail, Hotmail, Gmail or other, we make the cloud. Cloud computing is accessing computer resources that are somewhere through the internet. It can be accessed for free, as is the case with the webmail. On subscription, with a guaranteed level of service, Companies buy capacity, and are billed a little like water, gas or electricity: we pay for consumption. Like the electric current, you can consume as much as you want. Virtually, the power is infinite.

Can we say that cloud computing is a revolution for IT?

It is an economic revolution, but not technological. Because of it is based on long established technologies.

What is the interest of cloud computing?

It is mostly economic. If you are a very small company, you can launch a service without any capital investment in hardware. Thus, virtually no software start-up is investing in heavy equipment today. The second advantage is to be able to benefit from economies of scale that have economic repercussions. For example, IT resources that are not used by French companies at night, are by companies on the other side of the planet. It’s like a 24-hour factory with shared resources. This allows, for example, businesses such as e-merchants, who have a peak load at Christmas and much less charge the rest of the year, to have the necessary resources during this peak without investing in capabilities they would not use the rest of the year. That’s how Amazon started cloud services initially. They had invested in huge capacities and sought to amortize them.

What allows us to do the cloud, which we could not do before?

For example, preserve the context when changing terminals. Example: You start an Xbox Live game on your Xbox console, and you continue to play on your mobile phone.

Where are these computer resources, which are no longer local? Are some of them in France?

They may be “in the cloud”, they are on Earth, in giant datacenters that are a dozen times the size of a football field, and are filled with machines. At Microsoft, two datacenters are currently under construction. We have one in Europe, in Dublin, which has cost $ 500 million, and we have a backup in Amsterdam, which we rent to hosts. The further a data center is from the user, the longer the response time. We know how to increase the bandwidth but not decrease the latency of requests. For the general public, basically only couriers are hosted in France.

The problem is that data is held by a small number of companies, and access is based on maintaining an internet connection.

The big players in the cloud are indeed few. Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Salesforce. For more security, for businesses, there are private clouds, which are not shared. The goal is to have the same benefits, but to keep control of the environment. This type of service is offered by many actors, such as hosting companies, IBM …

As far as the general public is concerned, is it possible to know where the stored data are?

The average Internet user can not know. These data can also move. No commitment is made at this level vis-à-vis the general public.

Can the general public also lock their data in a private area, a digital safe?

This kind of service exists. To make sure that no one can access it, including the provider, you have to encrypt the data. Thus, only the user has the keys of his safe. As long as you want to store private data, it works. But copies of keys on a large scale, today we do not know how to do. If you want to share and collaborate, allow a large number of people to search in a field of encrypted data (in business for example), it is not possible because the response time becomes a lot of diving. It’s the grail of today’s cloud research.

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