The cloud is one of the hottest tech topics of the day—as evidenced by my spam folder. The buzz in my email spans phrases from “The cloud: It’s the next big thing!” to “The cloud is old news; it’s been around for years.” So, who is right? Regardless of what you believe, the cloud marketing hype will be around for quite some time. It could be argued that cost reduction has fueled the hype surrounding the cloud as there are obvious cost advantages to sharing an infrastructure (in the cloud); those days of begging your infrastructure team for a sandbox environment might soon be at an end. However, IT organizations still need to understand the real costs of using the cloud and cloud-service providers as data utilization, processing time, and data transfers, along with the amount of data being stored, could be more expensive in the long run.
I am of the opinion that the “cloud” of “cloud computing” has been around for several decades. Wikipedia states the following:
"Cloud computing is the use of computing resources (hardware and software) that are delivered as a service over a network (typically the Internet). The name comes from the use of a cloud-shaped symbol as an abstraction for the complex infrastructure it contains in system diagrams. Cloud computing entrusts remote services with a user's data, software and computation."
The Wikipedia description goes on to identify a whole list of “’fill-in-the-blank’- as-a-service” offerings for public cloud computing. Included are software-, infrastructure-, platform-, network-, and testing-as-a-service, often abbreviated with the first letter of the function followed by “aaS.”
There are three main categories of “the cloud,” noted as private, public, and hybrid. The private cloud is a company’s in-house infrastructure team that buys or leases hardware and supports components to operate the IT end of the business. The public cloud is basically a provider that sells access to its own hardware and software. A hybrid cloud is a composition of at least one private cloud and at least one public cloud.
To give you an example of how long the cloud has been around, I remember bringing load-injector machines out into the public domain (pre-2001) for a company, and occasionally we had to set up a VPN to secure them along with the quality center (in those days, “test center”) server. When the server was hacked, my team learned a valuable lesson about security and securing hardware out in the public domain.
Jump forward to 2003 and we find a second example of the cloud. I participated in a group that used a professional sourcing service to search for potential job candidates by matching criteria from a pool of IT professionals. As the candidates were identified for selection, a bidding round for the open position would begin. It was a great tool to find competitively skilled resources for the best price. A year later I was working for an e-commerce company that utilized a software platform (PaaS) for the containerized shipping industry. Clients would sign into the platform and conduct their shipping transactions. SaaS (software) providers have been out there for many decades, operating work functions such as human resources, payroll processing applications, and sales force automation. Whenever I was asked to review the quality assurance (QA) and quality control (QC) strategies of SaaS providers, I would always play close attention to performance, security, and data when evaluating how well they certified their product and system.
For another example of how long the cloud has been around, remember that years of disaster recovery and business continuity testing took place in the cloud. Sometimes my team tested in a shared environment, and occasionally we had a duplicate set of privately owned hardware that we set up on site at the backup facility.
Nowadays, providing access to a cloud to play out various disaster or failure scenarios would seem a much less costly approach than the traditional disaster recovery hosted site. Even small companies can afford a disaster recovery and business recovery site with little investment. There are more service providers engaged in this business than ever before as the economies of scale for sharing infrastructure costs can offer real savings to businesses.
I think we all have been playing in the clouds for some time. The cloud is not new news; in fact, the cloud has continued to evolve. Maybe the “cloud” is just a buzzword because we did not call it cloud computing years ago. You have to tip your hat to the marketing teams that generated the cloud computing concept. Isn’t storing your saved movies and TV shows an example of using the cloud, too?
The era of when an organization can lock down an employee’s desktop and control applications and products via their private cloud is right upon us. There are storage and file backup companies that can hold personal info and configuration in the cloud. There are software product testing companies offering access to their own test clouds. With these products and services, you can run test scripts and test an application on mobile and other devices across simulators and emulators all in their cloud. For the same cost-reduction reasons, this testing-as-a-service (TaaS) cloud-based model is coming of age. There are companies using resources in the cloud to test applications that are highly dependent on location and connectivity.
While it may not be new, there is tremendous momentum for continued cloud growth and penetration. The cloud presents a scalable, economical approach to infrastructure and environments that used to be traditionally managed onsite and in-house. QA professionals need to think about capitalizing on the cloud’s hype and how they can use their previous cloud experiences to their advantage in today’s industry.