June 2011

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Web Application into the Cloud Architecture
“We are getting data from the cloud”
Nirosha Munasinghe Nirosha Munasinghe MBusIT BSc BE (Hons) (Melb)
Product Development Manager,
Open General 

Contributing Editor

“We are getting data from the cloud”.  This has become the buzz sentence in the information communication and technology (ICT) industry over the past few years.  How valid is this sentence? For many, if data is accessed via a web browser, it’s assumed the data is extracted from the cloud.  In broad terms it is valid. But in a technical point of view all data accessed via a web browser is not from the true cloud computing architecture. The common mistake for the everyday player in the industry is the assumption that if you have a web application, you have cloud computing architecture.  Of course web application and cloud computing are highly correlated components, but the definitions must be differentiated to better understand cloud computing. This article examines the differences and correlations between web application and cloud computing.

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A web application is a software application that is accessed over a network hosted on a server. The application is coded in a browser supported language and web browsers render the application.  Google applications such as Google Earth and Gmail are a common example of a web application.  Cloud computing is the computer resource providing utility for computing.  A component of computing is the web application.  Therefore a web application is a subset of the cloud architecture. Cloud computing is lending a service as per user requirements and the web application is the platform on which the service is being used. The same single web application can service in multiple servers in different geographical regions accessed by different audiences. For example in a typical building management system, a web application can be served at the building site and for each building site there is a server hosting the web application. This is an example of a web application but not the cloud computing architecture.

Web application Architecture

As depicted in figure 1, typical web application architecture consists of a web server Eg. ISS or Apache, logic layer executing the requests in the desired manner and backend database.  The architecture normally resides on a physical server.

How do we transform the web application into cloud architecture? Typically the web application requires a middleware to transform into true cloud architecture.  From the previous example, instead of hosting multiple web application of the BMS in each building site, in a cloud computing environment the web application is hosted away from the building site. The users of each building access the BMS data from the cloud architecture. Therefore we have moved from multiple independent web applications serving each building independently to a single web application serving multiple buildings away from the building site.  What is the implication?  Increase in data traffic.  The increase in traffic is one of the primary reasons for a web application requiring middleware to move into cloud architecture.  The middleware typically performs load balancing to manage the traffic from the multiple buildings.

Web application into cloud architecture

Load balancing involves distributing the workload across multiple servers, network links, CPU, disk drives and databases to achieve optimal resource utilization, maximize throughput, minimize response time and avoid overload.  Along with the extra hardware resource, load balancing requires software executing an algorithm on the middleware to perform load balancing.

Cloud computing architecture

As seen from figure 3 the cloud architecture consists of multiple resources interacting with each other away from the premises to deliver the application. The end user does not require IT infrastructure reducing barriers entry.  It allows the user to spend resources on achieving business goals without needing to exhaust overheads on IT infrastructure and support.

It is clear that every web application does not support cloud computing architecture. The web application needs to be transformed with middleware, such as load balancers, to be a true cloud. The cloud buzz words and sentences will continue to grow over the next few years. Decision makers need to understand the true underlying technology for businesses to benefit from the cloud investment.     


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