What are cloud
modern cloud

Author: Megan Williams

Today, if you're talking about disruption, transformation, agility or resilience for IT systems, you're talking about integrated cloud networks.

This is true whether you're aiming for support for your business continuity and disaster recovery goals or investigating local databases at the edge to move storage and computing closer to your users. Cloud services were once just a buzzword, but now they are the underpinnings for even the most basic business strategies—providing the scalability, flexibility and speed needed to keep up as businesses move through the 2020s. But this doesn't happen without a network that's fully aligned with cloud-based infrastructures and applications. So, what are cloud services, what do you need to know about evolving cloud computing services today and how are they connected to your networks?

What are cloud services?

Public cloud computing is the delivery of computing services from a centralized hyperscaler cloud service provider. Network access is by default over the Internet, but generally there are private network access options available as well. Cloud services support resource flexibility, economies of scale, faster innovation and economic flexibility. The real power of cloud is that most cloud service agreements allow you to only pay for what you use, which can help you keep operating costs low and quickly adapt to shifting business needs. The available services include a broad range of databases, analytics, software, business intelligence (BI), servers and storage.

The reliability, performance and global reach of cloud computing services have made them ubiquitous during a time of constant business disruption and unprecedented change and opportunity. The four main types of cloud computing services are:

1. Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS)

IaaS offers basic and essential infrastructure services on demand, typically on a pay-as-you-go basis. This includes computing, storage and networking resources that can be used to build applications without having to worry about building expensive infrastructure and maintaining private data centers.

Benefits include reduced need for on-premises data centers, lower hardware costs and increased access to robust infrastructure. IaaS also helps you quickly provision new applications and boost the efficiency of delivery of underlying infrastructure by bypassing the burden of acquiring and managing physical services and data centers.

2. Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS)

PaaS adds to the IaaS offerings by adding development and deployment tools on top.  It offers resources that support delivery of simple cloud-based applications all the way to advanced, cloud-enabled enterprise applications.

In addition to infrastructure, PaaS also provides middleware, BI services, database management and development tools. The cloud services provider generally manages everything except the applications and services you develop.  Many of the hyperscaler cloud service providers that started as IaaS providers have added the development tools so they are now also offering PaaS environments.

3. Software-as-a-Service (SaaS)

SaaS enables users to connect and use fully realized cloud-based applications over the internet. You'll recognize examples such as shared spreadsheets, email and calendars. More sophisticated SaaS offerings include fully realized HR, CRM, ITSM and ERP systems. Users most commonly connect over a web browser. Typically, the infrastructure lives in the service provider's cloud or data center, leaving them to manage underlying hardware and software.

The benefit of this approach is that it allows a business to focus on its own business goals quickly with minimal upfront costs by using robust business tools without having to build them from scratch on its own.

4. Serverless

Serverless computing enables faster development of applications by cutting out infrastructure management. In serverless scenarios, the service provider automatically provisions, scales and manages the infrastructure needed to run code. Many serverless systems rely on a container-based approach, where the applications are developed without the need to worry about an operating system or any underlying infrastructure because the hardware and applications have been disaggregated, or separated to the point that the application developer doesn’t have to worry about anything except the application functionality itself.  

Cloud-integrated networks and what that means today

As beneficial as cloud computing services have been, many businesses fall short of utilizing their full potential due to their lack of understanding of how cloud services affect their networks—or rather to put it another way, how their networks need to be configured to support better use of cloud services.

Today's networks carry the load of communicating increasingly complex and essential applications and data. They need to be as flexible, scalable, programmable and as secure as the cloud services environments where the applications live, or you'll have the potential of ending up with bottlenecks, gaps and security risks that could hold your business back. This is where the concept of the cloud-integrated network makes sense.

The cloud-integrated network provides more flexibility and control over how users connect, increasing visibility into traffic flows and user experience with the cloud-based applications. It does this because it connects users and applications everywhere you operate through software-defined and intent-based networking.

This level of integration, flexibility and control is critical in a world that demands businesses to respond to problems with up-to-the-minute answers in increasingly diverse environments.

The future of cloud computing in the workplace

According to the Harvard Business Review, we are only at the start of the journey of seeing the impact of innovation of cloud computing as more businesses are starting to take advantage of the possibilities. In recent months, many organizations have been able to accelerate business transformation— business to business (B2B) models to direct-to-consumer models—in a way that was not possible before.

This is the future of the cloud, where data-driven decision-making can happen at scale, and leaders can make these decisions at their fingertips. The result is that small- and medium-sized businesses can compete with larger players through automated workflows and improved insights provided by cloud-enabled workflow management systems.

The growth of remote and asynchronous work is part of the conversation, too. Emerging trends in more remote work mean workers have decreased tolerance for workflow interruptions, which are primarily rooted in high latency. Workers now place increasing demand on decision-makers to provide systems running efficiently available 24/7.

Answering the cloud computing services security question

Security concerns around cloud services have been a roadblock for many business leaders. Thankfully, there are answers.

Secure access service edge (SASE) is a cloud service that can be scaled up or down as your needs shift. SASE combines software-defined wide area networking (SD WAN) and security in a way that helps improve efficiency and security, and helps simplify WAN deployment and supporting access to the business critical cloud services.

Under SASE, security policies enforced on user sessions can be tailored to each session, such as based on the following factors:

  • Identity of the connecting entity
  • Security and compliance policies
  • Context (e.g., device health and behavior and sensitivity of resources accessed)
  • Ongoing session risk assessment

By integrating networking and security services, SASE supports zero-trust networking, helps minimize remote location hardware requirements and helps cut back on the number of end-user devices. The result can help increase security since policies are enforced centrally and equally regardless of user location. And, as new threats arise, the service provider addresses protection issues that can free you from new hardware demands.

Discover how Verizon's private cloud and edge computing solutions can help you tap into the benefits of integrated cloud networks, reliable coverage and low latency.