Academic journal article Issues in Informing Science & Information Technology

Should the "CLOUD" Be Regulated? an Assessment

Academic journal article Issues in Informing Science & Information Technology

Should the "CLOUD" Be Regulated? an Assessment

Article excerpt

Introduction

The evolution of IT infrastructure and services has been described as one that has moved from mainframes, to PCs to Client Server to Enterprise Internet; and finally it is moving towards the ultimate outsourcing solution: the cloud computing (Laudon & Laudon, 2009). "Cloud computing" is the term given to computing based on sharing computing hardware and software resources; and as such it is based on years of research in virtualization, distributed computing, and more recently networking, web and software services (Vouk, 2004). Cloud computing is about to usher in the era of on-demand computing products and services to all who have access to the Internet.

Rosenberg and Mateos (2010) argue that with very few notable exceptions there are five main principles behind cloud computing. These principles are:

* Pooled computing resources available to any subscribing user (availability);

* Virtualized computing resources to maximize hardware utilization (high utilization);

* Elastic scaling up or down according to need (dynamic scale without Capital Expenditure or CAPEX);

* Automated creation of new virtual machines or deletion of existing ones (build, deploy, configure, provide, and move, all without manual intervention);

* Resource usage billed as used (per-usage business model).

The first principle, pooled computing, refers to any internal or external pooled non-dedicated computing assets available to any subscribing user. The second principle, the virtualization of computing resources, allows the high utilization of pooled resources. This is especially important when one considers the cost and the number of servers involved. High utilization is vital in managing costs.

The third principle offers elasticity or dynamic scalability--meaning that resources become available as needed, a kind of just-in-time system where resources are provided according to the need of the customer/user. This in turn requires a dynamic creation/deletion of virtual machines (the fourth principle). As the need for resources rise, the instances of virtual machines/applications are made available and as the needs ebb, those instances are deleted; which brings us to the fifth and the final principle: the billing. Since the resources are made available and used according to the customers' needs, the billing has to reflect the resources consumed; hence the metering model.

One of the main attractions of cloud computing for businesses is of course the attraction of marked reduction in expenditure on infrastructure (conversion of capital expenditure or CAPEX to operational expenditure or OPEX). However, outsourcing of IT infrastructure is only one layer, upon which other layers reside; each of which present other cost saving advantages, not to mention the flexibility and agility that they provide. Here we can list the layers (Weinhardt et al., 2011) as the user applications (Software as a Service or SaaS), the developer (Platform as a Service or PaaS), and of course the above mentioned IT infrastructure (Infrastructure as a Service or IaaS). The cloud encompasses all these layers, making it one of the ultimate outsourcing systems for all of the users' computing infrastructure and services.

As can be expected, the cloud computing is an exceptionally attractive proposition for all types of users, especially businesses, large organizations and even local and national governments, not to mention the ordinary users (who incidentally are already using the cloud, for example, for emails, sharing photos and documents). The promise of access to 'seemingly' unlimited resources is simply too attractive to ignore. Indeed, this promise is so alluring that some already are calling the cloud computing the 5th utility (Buyya et al., 2009) (after water, gas, electricity, and telephony).

Economies of Scale and Natural Monopoly

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