By Goran Novkovic, CQA, CSQE, ITIL, APM, PMP, PEng
This blog is part of a series called Manufacturing in the Cloud. This series aims to assist manufacturing organizations to evaluate how they can overcome challenges and maximize cloud computing benefits. As cloud computing services mature both commercially and technologically, this is likely to become relatively easier to achieve.
From the previous blog ‘Part II: 5 Characteristics of Cloud Computing’ we looked at the characteristics that help define what we know today as cloud computing as defined by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). In this blog, we will take a deeper look into how virtualization plays a significant part in cloud computing.
There is a widely held view that cloud computing is not a new concept. Indeed, many of the technologies and services associated with cloud computing, such as virtualization, has been in existence for some time. What is different in cloud computing is that these technologies are being implemented in new ways to provide dynamic, scalable and virtualized computing infrastructure, platforms and software.
These technologies allow manufacturing organizations to achieve improved utilization and efficiency of their service providers’ infrastructure through the controlled sharing of computing resources with other customers (multi-tenancy), and greater flexibility to scale up and down IT services. In some respects, cloud computing represents the maturing of these technologies.
Cloud computing relies on virtualization. Cloud computing depends on virtualization. Cloud services rely heavily on virtualization, but the opposite is not true. So just because we have virtual machines on our network, it doesn't mean that we've got a cloud. A cloud involves other characteristics we already discussed. So virtualization itself does not constitute a cloud. But if we've got a cloud computing environment, it implies virtualization to drive it. Virtualization technology is nothing new. It's been around for decades, but now it is being used with cloud computing to allow for the rapid elasticity or the provisioning and de-provisioning of cloud resources.
Again, we can think of cloud computing as a new business model based on old technology. The new business model part involves the fact that manufacturing organizations are not laying out a capital expenditure to provision IT services. Instead, manufacturing organizations are shifting from capital expenditures to operating expenditures, because they are paying a recurring subscription fee based on their usage over time. The old technology part includes computer networks. Computer networks have certainly increased in speed over the years. But computer networks themselves are an old technology just like virtualization is also an old technology.
Virtualization allows multiple virtual machines to run on one physical computer, all at the same time. Each of the virtual machines have their own operating system and they behave as if they are actually each running on their own separate computer (physically), but they're not. Instead, they are running on top of a hypervisor. The hypervisor manages access to the hardware for each virtual machine. Each virtual machine running an operating system can also be running a series of applications like you normally could run on a real physical computer. Virtual machines in the cloud are useful, because manufacturing organizations can host custom applications on that virtual machine in the cloud or they might develop new applications and test it all in the cloud before they roll it out in production.
HOW CLOUD PROVIDERS SCALE
Virtualization offers many benefits to the cloud environment in terms of efficient resource utilization. The utilization involves cloud computing resource utilization. Cloud providers benefit from the economies of scale. This makes it possible for the cloud provider to be able to afford the proper cloud computing equipment and to pay for the expertise to manage it, because they have so many cloud customers. If we were to acquire hardware for a single manufacturing organization, we might not fully utilize hardware capabilities. But in a cloud computing environment with virtualization, it's all pooled together and as various cloud service customers need more compute resource power, they get it. Without virtualization, large-scale and dynamic cloud computing data centers would not exist to the extent that they do today.
So with cloud computing, really what we are doing is we are using technology that's been around for a while in a different manner. That's really what cloud computing is. The cloud provider has the infrastructure on which our IT services run. So they host our services and give us access to them if we were a cloud consumer over a network. Manufacturing organizations as cloud consumers are billed for what they use in terms of the IT services.
Has your experience with cloud been successful? Have you run into issues? Email me or start a reply to this blog or in MESA’s LinkedIn Group to voice your experience or concerns.
Next week I’ll talk about the last topic in this series, Present and Future Cloud Computing.
Goran Novkovic, CQA, CSQE, ITIL, APM, PMP, PEng
Goran Novkovic has over 15 years of experience in various regulated industry sectors. His expertise is in industrial control systems (ICS) cybersecurity, control systems engineering, computer systems validation, software security and test management, cloud security and regulatory compliance. Goran has a formal education in Electrical Engineering and Project Management and possesses a master's degree in Information Technology. He has number of professional licenses and designations. He is holder of CQA (Certified Quality Auditor) and CSQE (Certified Software Quality Engineer) certifications with ASQ (American Society for Quality). Goran is certified ITIL, certified Agile Project Manager and Project Management Professional with PMI (Project Management Institute). He is licensed Professional Engineer with PEO (Professional Engineers Ontario). Goran is focused on ICS cybersecurity and he is helping organizations to establish ICS cybersecurity governance and develop effective ICS cybersecurity programs from scratch. E-mail contact: firstname.lastname@example.org