Cloud Terminology – A Business Glossary
Acronyms, abbreviations and just plain confusing terminology are very common in IT and cloud computing. Even when terms are explained it often includes other buzzwords that make it no more clear as to why you should care and what it actually means to a business.
The purpose of this list is to lay out meanings in a business friendly format. New terms will be added constantly, so if something is missing or would like the BlueSilverShift take on a new term, please contact us.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) – Intelligence demonstrated by machines that mimics human cognitive functions, such as understanding human speech, playing strategic games like chess, and driving cars. AI is a system’s ability to correctly interpret and learn from external data, and to apply that learning to achieve specific goals.
(Chat) bots – That chat window that pops up on a consumer goods or services website, asking if it can help you. Often, it is a bot, and not a person, servicing the questions you enter. The bot uses artificial intelligence to determine the answer to your question.
Cloud – A non-physical data repository that loosely includes anything that is stored, processed, or running in the Internet. Inspired by the representation of the Internet as a cloud in old architecture diagrams, today the cloud includes services like OneDrive, Google Drive, iTunes, Dropbox, and myriad others.
Cloud custodian – A person who monitors, maintains, and enforces the governance of the cloud. The cloud custodian also tracks costs, and looks for workload optimization opportunities.
Cloud governance – A strategy for managing your cloud, and the policies and procedures to achieve it. Includes considerations such as nomenclature, security, workload optimization, and spend, among others.
Cloud, hybrid – A combined style of public and private cloud, which allows data and applications to be shared between them. Public cloud access allows users to scale in response to demand, while protecting sensitive or critical information behind a private firewall. This combination provides the security of private cloud and the cost efficiency of public.
Cloud, multi – More a strategy than a technology, where identical data is stored in multiple cloud environments, out of concern over committing to one provider. However, maintaining multiple environments is costly, solutions may have to be customized for each, and synchronization is difficult to ensure. Additional costs such as egress network charges and management costs mean that this strategy is one of diminishing returns.
Cloud, private – Computing services offered through the Internet or a private network to select users only. At one time, a private server would be hosted in an off-site data centre, and they would either manage it, or you would manage it remotely. The private cloud includes the scalability and elasticity of the public cloud, but with a higher level of security and privacy. However, the ccompany’s IT department will bear the cost and accountability of management.
Cloud, public – Public cloud providers, such as Azure, Google, and Amazon, offer data storage in their data centre and take responsibility its management and maintenance. Public cloud environments are open to all, and have essentially infinite scalability, many geographic locations around the world, and provide many more services than a private cloud can.
DRaaS – Disaster Recovery as a Service replicates and hosts physical or virtual servers as a fail safe in case of a catastrophic event. A function of business continuity planning, DRaaS provides timely operational recovery in case of an outage.
Egress – Outbound web traffic. Egress planning is important for two main reasons. First, in thee public cloud, ingress traffic is free. But, outbound traffic has a cost attached, and this can escalate quickly, left unattended. It’s also important to protect your system against being compromised. Without restraints in place, a server may ‘talk’ to information that is detrimental and bring that traffic into your system.
Elasticity – Elasticity is a system’s ability to automatically adjust resources against workload changes. There are two ways in which this occurs:
- Vertically – scaling out, adding more of the same compute systems. This adds power (CPU, RAM) as a resource.
- Horizontally – scaling up, going to a larger instance size to meet the demand. This adds more machines as resources.
Firewall – is a barrier between internal trusted networks, and external untrusted ones, that monitors, logs, and controls traffic based on predetermined security rules. Firewalls can provide further capabilities such as machine learning. For instance, Microsoft’s firewalls look for common threats across the world that are coming into their data centers, and which trigger responses based on what they observe. This helps the firewall to stay ahead of trends and developments as much as possible.
IaaS – Infrastructure as a Service includes services like Microsoft Azure, GCP or AWS, which allow users to host VMs in the cloud. Users don’t have to worry about hardware or infrastructure maintenance, and can run various OSs.
Ingress – Ingress is inbound traffic. It has many variations, like a web server on the front end of a system, or people connecting to a network through a remote desktop connection. Each connection type calls for a style-appropriate solution. It is important to protect ingress traffic: Left open to the world, ingress is an easy target for hacking. Solutions can include a firewall, web application, and network security groups.
Legacy – is not so different in computing terms than from its general counterpart. It simply refers to an old technology, system or application. Outdated but still in use, the “legacy” moniker often implies that it broke ground for systems that would follow. However, the business impact of legacy systems can be detrimental in lost productivity and in opportunity cost. Conversion to a new system can be complex, though, and adequate time should be allowed for planning and migration.
Lift and Shift – is the process of taking data and applications from one repository and moving them to another, usually in the cloud. This is a quick solution which does not require re-architecting, but it can be short-sighted. The cloud offers unprecedented power and potential, and failing to re-architect may result in opportunity costs and lost cost-optimization.
Machine Learning – A branch of artificial intelligence, machine learning applies data analysis to systems. These systems learn from the data and patterns they observe, then make decisions with minimal human interference. It is closely related to (the rather less futuristic sounding) computational statistics, where computers make predictions. Applied to business problems, machine learning is also referred to as predictive analysis.
Network Security Groups (NSGs) – are used in the Azure context, but their concept is universal. A security boundary that help to protect a virtual network, NSGs can be useful in partitioning a network to create a layer of security. For instance, a front-end network with customer-facing web servers might only “talk” to a back-end database using a strict port limited to one server. However, they are not a firewall; with no logging capability, mistakes can be difficult to see and can leave the virtual network open to vulnerabilities.
On-premises, on prem – refers to the server at your premises. However, many mistakenly say, “on premise.” But that would make it a conclusion inferred or following from a previous statement of proposition, rather than part of a building. In fact, you could say that our premise is to get you off premises and realizing your full cloud potential.
Operating System (OS) – The OS supports basic computer functions across hardware and software resources. Programs such as Microsoft Windows, macOS and Linux manage the computer’s memory and processes, allowing you to communicate with the computer without having to know its language. Cell phones, video game consoles, web servers and generally any device containing a computer will have an OS.
PaaS – Platform as a Service – provides a platform on which software can be created. Applications can be written much more quickly than building them from scratch, but they are in turn trickier to scale. With PaaS, organizations can write their own software without worrying about the back-end infrastructure.
Pay as you go. Just as it sounds, this is a model for purchasing cloud resource at the retail price. Public cloud vendors offer retail price lists and pricing calculators. These help you understand the cost to run a specific resource, usually on a ‘per minute, per second’ basis. Purchasing a $50,000 server is a commitment. With pay as you go, you can stop or change service as you like. There is no commitment, and therefore, little risk in testing different levels of use; you only pay for what you need.
Recovery Point Objective (RPO) – is the age of the files that must be recovered for regular business operations to resume following a system failure. Whether measured in minutes or hours, this DRaaS principle requires off-site mirrored backups to be maintained. The old process of backing up data at the end of the day is insufficient.
Reserved instances. Cloud providers offer the ability to reserve a SQL database for one- or three-years’ consumption, with substantial cost savings in exchange for prepayment. This reservation of space reduces the providers’ costs enough to pass on the savings.
SaaS – Software as a Service – in practice has been around some time. Often cloud-based, it includes email, accounting, CRM, and other on-demand services. Traditionally, customers would purchase software out-of-the-box and run it on their own machines. With SaaS, you skip the ownership part and access the service as you need it.
Scalability – a system’s ability to add resources as needed. In the cloud, scalability is infinite; on-premises it is constrained by the physical limitations of the server.
Structured Query Language (SQL) – standardized programming language for managing relational databases and performing operations on the data within them. Though it is the most widely used database language, its code may require adjustments between systems.
Subscription – is to a tenant what a room is to a house. In a house, rooms represent areas for specific purposes. Sleep takes place in the bedroom, showering in the bathroom. Similarly with subscriptions, different areas of a tenant are reserved for certain uses – and may be selectively accessible depending who has the key. Different strategies apply for resourcing within subscriptions – for instance, subscriptions can be segmented internally based on cost accountability, and interact internally with no extra egress charges.
Tenant – a dedicated space with a secure boundary, used exclusively by an entity. The tenant exists in a larger space offered by a cloud provider. This allows for resource sharing, which reduces the cost of provision. A tenant is akin to a house, surrounded by other houses, but which share roads and water lines. Alternatively, an apartment suite may share walls, but those walls provide a security boundary, and are themselves impassable. One must similarly have the key to be able to enter a tenant. Entry rules can be applied, and areas within the tenant may be further secured.
Virtual Machine (VM) – Just as it sounds, VMs emulate physical machines in their structure and functionality. There are two kinds: System VMs substitute for a real machine, allowing a full OS to operate. Process VMs execute programs in a platform-independent environment.
XaaS – Anything as a Service. Virtually anything can be a service through the Internet, and many defy traditional categorization. Storage, function, desktop, security, database…the list goes on. Even malware on the dark web is viewed as a service to prospective cyber criminals.