Cloud vs. Data Center: What’s the difference?

cloud computing

Is a cloud a data center? Is a data center a cloud? Or are they two completely different things?

The terms “cloud” and “data center” may sound like interchangeable technical jargon or trendy buzz words referring to the same infrastructure, but the two computing systems have less in common than the fact that they both store data.

The Basics

The main difference between a cloud and a data center is that a cloud is an off-premise form of computing that stores data on the Internet, whereas a data center refers to on-premise hardware that stores data within an organization’s local network. While cloud services are outsourced to third-party cloud providers who perform all updates and ongoing maintenance, data centers are typically run by an in-house IT department.

Although both types of computing systems can store data, as a physical unit, only a data center can store servers and other equipment. As such, cloud service providers use data centers to house cloud services and cloud-based resources. For cloud-hosting purposes, vendors also often own multiple data centers in several geographic locations to safeguard data availability during outages and other data center failures.

For companies considering whether or not to use cloud computing versus staying with or building their own data center, there are three primary factors affecting their decision: their business needs, data security and system costs.

Does your business need a cloud or a data center?

A data center is ideal for companies that need a customized, dedicated system that gives them full control over their data and equipment. Since only the company will be using the infrastructure’s power, a data center is also more suitable for organizations that run many different types of applications and complex workloads. A data center, however, has limited capacity — once you build a data center, you will not be able to change the amount of storage and workload it can withstand without purchasing and installing more equipment.

On the other hand, a cloud system is scalable to your business needs. It has potentially unlimited capacity, based on your vendor’s offerings and service plans. One disadvantage of the cloud is that you will not have as much control as you would a data center, since a third party is managing the system. Furthermore, unless you have a private cloud within the company network, you will be sharing resources with other cloud users in your provider’s public cloud.

Cloud security vs. data center security

Because the cloud is an external form of computing, it may be less secure or take more work to secure than a data center. Unlike data centers, where you are responsible for your own security, you will be entrusting your data to a third-party provider that may or may not have the most up-to-date security certifications. If your cloud resides on several data centers in different locations, each location will also need the proper security measures.

A data center is also physically connected to a local network, which makes it easier to ensure that only those with company-approved credentials and equipment can access stored apps and information. The cloud, however, is accessible by anyone with the proper credentials anywhere that there is an Internet connection. This opens a wide array of entry and exit points, all of which need to be protected to make sure that data transmitted to and from these points are secure.

Cloud vs. data center costs

For most small businesses, the cloud is a more cost-effective option than a data center. Because you will be building an infrastructure from the ground up and will be responsible for your own maintenance and administration, a data center takes much longer to get started and can cost businesses $10 million to $25 million per year to operate.

Unlike a data center, cloud computing does not require time or capital to get up and running. Instead, most cloud providers offer a range of affordable subscription plans to meet your budget and scale the service to your performance needs. Whereas data centers take time to build, depending on your provider, cloud services are available for use almost immediately after registration.


Apple wins $1 billion in patent case against Samsung

Apple won more than $1 billion in a massive US court victory over Samsung on Friday, in one of the biggest patent cases in decades – a verdict that could have huge market repercussions.

A jury in San Jose, California awarded $1.049 billion to the US tech giant, according to reports from the courtroom. But analysts said the damages could be tripled because jurors found Samsung “willfully” infringed on patents.

The jury rejected the South Korean electronics firm’s counterclaims against Apple, which had claimed its iconic iPhone and iPad had been illegally copied.

Samsung reacted by saying the verdict was “a loss” for consumers and that Apple had “manipulated” the patent system.

The South Korean firm also said the verdict was “not the final word” in this case or other similar battles around the world.

“Today’s verdict should not be viewed as a win for Apple, but as a loss for the American consumer,” Samsung said.

“It is unfortunate that patent law can be manipulated to give one company a monopoly over rectangles with rounded corners, or technology that is being improved every day by Samsung and other companies… Samsung will continue to innovate and offer choices for the consumer.”

The decision appeared to be an overwhelming victory for Apple, but it was not immediately clear if it would halt sales of Samsung devices or affect newer models released since the case was filed.

“This is a huge, crushing win for Apple,” said Brian Love, a professor of patent law at Santa Clara University.

“All of its patents were held valid, and all but one were held to be infringed by most or all accused Samsung products. Even better for the company, five of the seven patents were held to be willfully infringed by Samsung.”

Love said this means that Judge Lucy Koh “now has the discretion to triple Apple’s damages award, which is already a monstrous and unprecedented” sum.

The case, which is almost certain to face appeal, could shake up the sizzling market for mobile devices in which Apple has been losing ground to rivals like Samsung that use the free Android system developed by Google.

“Samsung is a proxy for both Google and the other Android vendors and better protected than most,” said analyst Rob Enderle of the Enderle Group.

“I think this will force a reset on Android products as they are reengineered to get around Apple’s patents.”

The jury decided the case with over 700 separate claims in less than three days of deliberations.

In one minor snag, the judge sent them back Friday after discovering they had made damage awards for two devices not found to have infringed, and the jurors then revised the award, which had been $1.051 billion, reports said.

The verdict affects patents on a range of Samsung products including some of its popular Galaxy smartphones and its Galaxy 10 tablet – devices alleged to have been copied from the iPhone and iPad.

But some devices are not affected, including the flagship Galaxy III S recently released, although they could be targeted in separate litigation.

Technology analyst Jeff Kagan said of the verdict: “This is a great day for Apple. And it will turn into a very expensive day for Samsung.”

Kagan said it was not immediately clear if Samsung would be able to continue to use the technology and pay Apple for the right to do so, or if they must pull their devices and redesign them.

In any case, the verdict in the case – one of several pending in global courts – is likely to have massive repercussions in the hottest part of the technology sector, smartphones and tablets.

Even a delay in sales could endanger Samsung’s position in the US market, where it is currently the top seller of smartphones.

A survey by research firm IDC showed Samsung shipped 50.2 million smartphones globally in the April-June period, while Apple sold 26 million iPhones. IDC said Samsung held 32.6 percent of the market to 16.9 percent for Apple.

Samsung had steadfastly denied the charges by Apple, claiming it developed its devices independently, and countersued in the case, seeking more than $400 million for infringement on its wireless patents.

The verdict came the same day a South Korean court ruled Apple and Samsung infringed on each other’s patents on mobile devices, awarding damages to both technology giants and imposing a partial ban on product sales in South Korea.

The court banned sales in South Korea of Apple’s iPhone 4 and iPad 2, as well as Samsung’s Galaxy S and Galaxy SII among other products.

IBM Gets Allies to Chip Away at Intel

Silicon Wag\fer containg IBM Power chips

A technology worker holds a silicon wafer containing IBM Power chips. IBM

International Business Machines Corp. has enlisted Google Inc. and some other high-tech allies for a collective effort to catapult an IBM chip technology out of a shrinking niche.

The alliance the companies plan to announce Tuesday would allow many companies to license IBM microprocessor designs—based on a technology dubbed Power—that are now only found in Big Blue’s own server systems. Licensees could incorporate IBM-designed circuitry in their own chips, with members of the alliance working on related products such as servers, networking and storage devices, participants said.

Other initial members of the group, called the OpenPower Consortium, include Silicon Valley chip maker Nvidia Corp. , the Israel-based networking-technology maker Mellanox Technologies Ltd. and Taiwan-based Tyan Computer Corp., a server supplier that is a unit of MiTAC International Corp.
The effort is the latest aimed at one of Intel Corp.’s key strongholds. The x86 chip design that Intel and rival Advanced Micro Devices Inc. popularized in personal computers thoroughly dominates servers—particularly machines sold for Web-based applications now being purchased in the greatest numbers. Research firm IDC estimates x86 servers in 2012 accounted for 98% of world-wide shipments and 70% of server revenue.

IBM, meanwhile, has faced a variety of pressures in servers. The company said last month that revenue from its Power-based systems declined 25% in the second quarter from a year earlier, without disclosing dollar figures.

Those servers run the Unix operating system and compete with other high-end systems in a market that declined 19% last year to $9.2 billion, says IDC analyst Matthew Eastwood, reflecting factors that include stiffer competition for x86-based machines. IBM has the biggest share of that market, but IDC estimates that Big Blue’s revenue from those systems declined 10% to $5.1 billion in 2012.

By licensing hardware and associated software technology, IBM hopes to get more revenue from its investments in the Power chips and attract new users among “Web 2.0” companies that are buying servers in large volumes, said Bradley McCredie, an IBM vice president who also holds the title of fellow.

“We absolutely want to get into a broader ecosystem,” he said. “That is why we are doing this.”

The effort will start with Power8, a forthcoming member of the chip family that IBM plans to discuss at a technical conference this month.

IBM has shared elements of its Power technology before for different applications than servers. But the alliance’s strategy most resembles tactics pursued in chips for smartphones and tablets by ARM Holdings PLC, which licenses technology to a range of chip suppliers that compete on features and price. ARM backers are now also trying to break into servers, seeking to offer energy-efficient chips that save on space and power consumption.

Attracting users to the third option of Power chips won’t be easy, given Web companies’ massive investments to date in machines and software based on chips sold by Intel and AMD. But an endorsement from Google could help, given its status as a huge buyer of x86-based servers that it designs and assembles itself.

The Internet giant declined to discuss its plans in detail, but suggested that using Power-based systems was a possibility.

“The consortium has the potential to establish Power architecture as a viable option for applications running within Google’s data centers,” a Google spokeswoman said, adding that her company believes in “openness” and looks forward to the innovation the Power group will bring.

Other participants cite additional motivations. Nvidia, for example, hopes IBM will help market its graphics chips for use in accelerating certain jobs in Power-based servers.

“IBM is the company that knows enterprise computing best and has one of the best sales teams out there,” said Sumit Gupta, an Nvidia general manager.

Tyan sells servers to the kind of buyers the consortium is targeting, citing customers that include Inc. and China’s Tencent Holdings Ltd. Albert Mu, Tyan’s general manager, noted that the Power technology has some technical advantages over x86 chips but is costly for IBM to keep improving, given the relatively small number of Power systems sold.

Server buyers “now have no choice—it’s like 100% Intel,” Mr. Mu said. “This has limited innovation that needs to take place for the server market to continue to grow.”

An Intel spokesman declined to comment. But Andrew Feldman, a corporate vice president at AMD, said the Power consortium is emulating the ARM approach of selling chips that are tailored for specific customers—one of the reasons AMD has announced plans to start selling ARM-based chips in addition to the x86 variety.

“IBM is saying the way to attack Intel is by allowing customization,” Mr. Feldman said. “I commend them for it.”