Eli5: what is cloud, in computer networking terms.


Eli5: what is cloud, in computer networking terms.

In: 5

It’s a server that you are connecting to remotely that does *something* – maybe it saves data for you like game saves and photographs, maybe it lets you run software like Word or Excel so that you don’t actually need to download those programs on your own computer. The opposite would just be good old fashioned local computing – using a USB thumbdrive to back up important data or downloading and installing Microsoft Office to use it.

“The cloud is just someone else’s server”

The Cloud refers to any service (storage, applications, hosting) hosted on the internet that are available for rent.

The point of the cloud model is you are paying someone else to manage the backend for you. This (at least in theory) reduces your cost and overhead to operate that service because someone else is doing the heavy lifting for you.

The reason the symbol of a Cloud is used to represent it, is because in network diagrams a Cloud represents a black box. You know it’s there, you know what it does, but you have no idea how it’s doing that because it’s someone else’s problem. In that sense the internet itself is a Cloud because you don’t know how your ISP is doing what it does, nor do you particularly care.

“The Cloud” is mostly hype in networking terms. It’s a fairly standard client/server model, with a rich asynchronous interface on the client side. There isn’t a single “Cloud”, but rather several companies offering specific services that don’t interface with each other. Usually, there is a bunch of interesting things gone on the server side, to let you run virtual machines and custom programs on them, but it also includes stuff like the google aps suite.

The cloud is literally just the Internet.

It’s all marketing.

Cloud gaming was gaming from the Internet.

Cloud streaming is streaming stuff online.

Cloud storage is storing your stuff on the Internet.

To be on the internet, the information needs to be on a server, that it’s a computer connected to the internet designed to be efficient at receiveing requests and delivering the responses.

Originally, you needed to set up your own server. With time, companies appeared offering the service of “setting up your server”, but there still was a specific computer dedicated to it. Later, companies started to set up generic servers, renting space on it. At the same time, big companies were setting up servers in different locations, setting them up in order to exchange information between each other, blurring the difference between each server. Companies started to set up their generic servers in a similar fashion, renting space and resources without being tied to a specific computer. This is basically the “cloud”.

The idea of “cloud” is that the idea of server as a physical thing (the specific computer where the information is) is separated from the server as an interactive thing (the management of the requests). There’s a layer between each other, this lets the “physical” side of the servers to be set up, configured and maintained without interrupting the exchange of information.

Instead of being stored on a hard drive attached to your computer, data is with a cloud storage provider (Like Amazon, Google, or Apple). These companies have a lot of brick and mortar buildings all over the world, called data centers, each one is full of servers. The cloud provider sends backups of the data around to their different data centers to ensure that it’s not lost if one server goes down.