Cloud service providers (CSP) are companies that offer network services, infrastructure, or business applications in the cloud. The cloud services are hosted in a data center that can be accessed by companies or individuals using network connectivity.
The large benefit of using a cloud service provider comes in efficiency and economies of scale. Rather than individuals and companies building their own infrastructure to support internal services and applications, the services can be purchased from the CSP, which provide the services to many customers from a shared infrastructure.
There are several different forms of services that can be used “in the cloud” by CSPs, including software, often referred to as Software as a Service (SaaS), a computing platform for developing or hosting applications, known as Platform as a Service (PaaS); or an entire networking or computing infrastructure, known as Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS). The divisions, however, are not always clear-cut, as many providers may offer multiple flavors of cloud services, include traditional web or application hosting providers. For example, you might go to a cloud provider, such as Rackspace, who started as a web hosting company and buy either PAAS or IAAS services. Many cloud providers are focusing on specific verticals, such as hosting healthcare applications in a secure IAAS environment.
Amazon and Rackspace
Several large cloud initiatives helped draw attention to the CSP in the mid-to-late 2000s. Amazon helped popularize the idea of cloud services with Amazon Web Services (AWS), which provides its IAAS service for web hosting and applications to millions of customer. Amazon originally developed AWS as a way to leverage the significant infrastructure it had built up for its own e-Commerce services. In addition, several software companies such as Salesforce.com and NetSuite, built their own enterprise software services in the cloud, creating the market for SAAS. Hosting providers such as Terremark and Rackspace offered web hosting and other hosted business services for IAAS
Other major cloud service providers include Cisco, Citrix, Google, IBM (SoftLayer), Oracle, Microsoft (Azure), and SAP, Rackspace, and Verizon (which acquired Terremark). Apple and Salesforce are also big players in cloud services, though they are mostly focused on delivering their own applications rather than hosting applications for others.
Below is a list of some of the major CSPs and their approaches:
|Cloud Service Provider||IAAS||PAAS||SAAS|
Customer Focus: Cost, Reliability and Security
For customers of cloud services, the ease of use and outsourced management of such an approach is appealing. An IT manager, for example, can give employees instant access to business applications they may need in the cloud, simply by signing them up. The economies of scale have also decreased the cost of services such as email (in many cases free) or Web hosting.
But there are also tradeoffs in the cloud. As enterprises move their applications and infrastructure to the cloud, they also give up control. Reliability and security are major concerns. Many CSPs are focusing on providing high levels of service and security, and PaaS and IaaS often come with performance guarantees. A common goal might be 99.9% or 99.99% uptime.
Because the CSP also hosts data storage and applications, customers must be assured that their data will be secure and that the data center where the applications or services are hosted meet certain requirements. Some of the certifications for data centers include SSAE16 and ISO certification, which minimum levels of security, availability, safety, and reliability.
As CSPs have grown rapidly and required new levels of scalability and management they have had a large effect on computing, storage, and networking technology. The CSP boom to a large extent has driven demand for virtualization, in which hardware can be segmented for access by different customers using software techniques. The growth of the CSPs over the last ten years has also driven some of the fastest growth in technology segments ranging from servers to switches and business applications.