Introduction To Cloud Computing’s Role In The Tech Stack: Why The Internet Computer Is Different & Better

In a modernizing and digitizing world, the cloud has become an irreplaceable part of the tech stack for many Fortune 500 companies. In fact, 94% of all companies currently use cloud technology. However, there’s a shift going on, with many new Web3 projects in particular beginning to offer cloud-like services, such as data storage and servers. Although not a “cloud-business killer,” the Internet Computer has the technology and applications to grow in the cloud space for years to come. In this article, we’ll explore what cloud computing is, its applications, the market for it, and Internet Computer’s cloud-like blockchain and applications.

What Is Cloud Computing?

Cloud computing technology gives users access to storage, files, software, and servers through their internet-connected devices, including computers, smartphones, tablets, and wearables. Cloud computing essentially refers to storing and accessing data and programs over the internet (instead of on computer hard drives). It can simply be thought of as hardware and software services from a provider on the internet.

Cloud computing is traditionally split into three types of services: Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS), and Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS). Moreover, depending on one’s business needs and security concerns, customers can choose between private, public, or hybrid cloud deployment models.

(Source: Microsoft. This infographic breaks down the cloud computing market into different segments and types of clouds.)

One of the great benefits of cloud computing is that it allows a business to scale virtually in space and time, it allows a company to digitize, it gives a company access to more bandwidth, and allows a company to de-clutter their front and back-end, and be free from the limitations of storing everything on local hard drives.

(Sources: Apps Run The World, Statista. This chart shows the growth of the global cloud applications market, and from it we can see that through 2025 there will still be steady single-digit growth in the cloud applications market. Therefore, we’re likely to continue seeing more business interest and movement to the cloud for different services.)

Brief Explainer To The Types of Cloud Computing Services

  1. SaaS is a form of cloud computing where users access software applications without needing to download, install, or store that software and its various components on their devices or local hard drive. Examples of SaaS applications include Salesforce, Adobe Creative Cloud, Google Docs, iCloud, etc. This segment generates the largest share of the total cloud computing market’s revenue and has become the delivery model of choice for many enterprise applications.
  2. PaaS is a cloud computing solution that provides developers with an easy-to-use platform to create their own software, web applications, or other programming projects. PaaS services generally include an operating system, web servers, databases, and the access to one or more programming language environments. The big hitters in this market are Microsoft Azure, AWS, Google Cloud, and IBM. PaaS is the smallest cloud computing segment.
  3. IaaS provides companies with access to servers, firewalls, virtual machines, networking, storage, and other infrastructure. At the moment, traditional IT infrastructure spending is beginning to stagnate, and companies are increasingly adopting cloud IT infrastructure solutions. The largest players in this market include Amazon, Microsoft, and Alibaba.
(Sources: IDT, Statista. Here we can see a breakdown of the different cloud computing segments, clearly the SaaS segment is the most dominant, but both other segments have nonetheless continued growing at a steady rate of $10 billion and greater y-o-y.)

What Is The Internet Computer?

According to Coinbase, Internet Computer (IC) is a set of protocols that allow independent data centers around the world to band together and offer a decentralized alternative to the current centralized internet cloud providers. And according to the Internet Computer whitepaper, (see our analysis), the IC “is a radical new design of blockchain that unleashes the full potential of smart contracts, overcoming the limitations of smart contracts on traditional blockchains with respect to speed, storage costs, and computational capacity.”

Why Is The Internet Computer Creating An Alternative Tech Stack?

Essentially, Dfinity wants to allow the creation of apps that can run on the network itself rather than on servers owned by Facebook, Google, or Amazon. Why is this a problem? Because on the normal internet, both data and software are stored on specific computers — servers at one end and the other device such as the computer, and smartphone at the other. So when an individual uses an app, take Zoom for example, software running on Zoom’s servers sends data to the device and requests data from it. But the Internet Computer, through its protocol, is an alternative to this centralized practice. Instead of the software running on centralized computers, software on the IC can be run anywhere on the network’s independent data centers.

How Does The Internet Computer Replace The Need For Cloud Services?

First, besides being a smart contract platform, the IC is designed to be a complete technology stack, which means systems and services can be built to run entirely on the IC. For example, smart contracts on the IC can service HTTP requests created by end users, thus, smart contracts can directly serve interactive web experiences. Moreover, in this case, systems and services can be created without relying on corporate cloud hosting services or private servers.

Second, because the Internet Computer blockchain combines computing resources provided by independently-operated data centers around the world, unlike a public or private cloud, it’s not owned and operated by a single company. Therefore, it’s a public utility with decentralized updates and operations as defined by the IC protocol.

With these two facets, the IC essentially supplies an end-to-end solution. It doesn’t make sense for developers to use AWS to provide an interface for dApps. IC strives to do this all on-chain, thus, they want people to disregard legacy IT systems such as filesystems, databases, middleware, web servers, cloud services, CDNs, and firewalls. With that being said, IC seems positioned as an app-hosting alternative to public clouds and server-less/PaaS.

What’s An Example Of An Internet Computer Cloud Application?

One example of an IC cloud application is IC Drive, which is a decentralized private file storage dApp built on the IC. On this app users can store and securely share any files from anywhere in the world. It can be thought of as a decentralized version to Google Drive.

Besides IC Drive, there are many other applications and services that the IC provides that relate to the cloud business, for which we’ll write future articles about later. Stay tuned!

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- Crypto Analyst & Writer — Commenting on all things Web3 — Interested in smart contract platforms #Dfinity and #InternetComputer