If I Google the phrase “cloud computing” I get about 49,900,000 hits. That’s a lot of hits – more than 10 times the hits I get if I Google “service oriented architecture.” This made me think that cloud computing is an area I needed to learn more about.

So what are we really talking about when we talk about cloud computing? “The cloud” is a generally accepted euphemism for the Internet. End users access computing assets from the cloud using a model similar to one that homes and offices use to get electricity and water. Instead of purchasing or licensing hardware, software or other computing infrastructure, businesses contract with cloud providers for access to software applications, data storage and recovery services, development platforms, etc. This access is through the Internet (or an Intranet in cases where a private cloud is employed) so in the extreme case a business could potentially meet all their computing needs with only enough in-house assets to support browser based computing.

According to National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Cloud computing solutions deliver on-demand self-service, ubiquitous network access, location independent resource pooling, rapid elasticity and measured service. Clearly there are lots of potential benefits for a business to move to the clouds, especially small to medium businesses and start-ups. There are also some challenges and risks associated with cloud migration.

We at Unison COst Engineering are conducting on-going research in the area of cloud computing in order to help decision makers assess the costs and benefits associated with migrating their business to the clouds. I have teamied with the Data and Analysis Center for Software (DACS) to present a webinar detailing what I’ve learned and where the research is taking us. More to come. MOre to share.