Cloud computing has rapidly become a common infrastructure choice for both enterprise and start-up technology companies. The cloud provides an easily accessible mechanism where operating systems, applications, databases and file archives can be stored and scaled using virtualized environments.
A virtualized environment appears to the user as a fully dedicated server. In actuality, it is an encapsulated slice of the services available on a single physical machine. Each virtual environment is isolated. The applications and files uploaded to one environment are not visible to any other environment even though they are running on the same underlying hardware. A cloud-based virtual environment, once created, can be automatically duplicated and run on additional hardware servers in order to quickly increase processing power and smoothly handle higher loads. A virtual infrastructure, although isolated in appearance, does share the physical environment. Multiple businesses can run multiple virtual environments on one physical server.
Use of a cloud-based infrastructure moves responsibility for set-up and maintenance of the physical computing apparatus to the service provider. The provider handles the physical machines, disks, CPUs, memory, networking and rack space. The cloud service also provides administrative software suites to manage and monitor the virtual environments deployed on the hardware. The choice of operating system, supporting tools and computer language is for the business to decide and manage. Typically, the business creates scripts that can be run automatically and repeatedly to build out the desired virtual environment configuration, and these scripts are used when scaling the application across multiple virtual environments. The business can also set up triggers and notifications for status changes using the cloud provider’s administrative software.
Deployment and monitoring can be quite different than what is done on dedicated hosting sites. In order to migrate an existing application to a cloud-based environment, these processes can require extensive rework. It is important for a business to fully understand both the benefits and migration costs of cloud-based deployments in order to decide whether, when and how to move to a cloud infrastructure. When first exposed to cloud computing and virtualization, the concepts can seem confusing to both technical and non-technical people. It can be difficult for a business to decide whether to use cloud services, and if so, which services to engage.
The yearly Enterprise Cloud Computing and Virtualization conference, held in London, helps IT professionals and business management to better grasp the practical realities surrounding cloud infrastructures. ECCV is a conference focused on both business and technical aspects of deployment to cloud-based infrastructures. It is applicable for small, medium and large companies. The 2013 ECCV conference, which was held in March, focused on practical issues involved with cloud migration including deployment concerns, security, service-oriented architectures and current architecture standards. In addition, there were technical presentations centered on various aspects of virtualization such as server, desktop, file, storage, and I/O. Registration for the upcoming 2014 conference has already opened and is scheduled for next March.
The alternative to a cloud-based infrastructure is a dedicated hosting service. With a dedicated host server, the business controls the entire hardware server and does not share it with others. Although virtual environments are encapsulated, they can interfere with each other if one environment hosts an application that makes heavy use of the underlying hardware. Some businesses prefer to remain on dedicated host servers because of this possibility. The cost of a dedicated hosting system is usually higher than for a comparable cloud-based system. Dedicated host servers tend to be used by businesses with high traffic websites or CPU-intensive applications.
Brenda Panin is a tech and business blogger from Australia. In her free time she writes about cloud computing and virtual machine hosting, new applications for android and social media marketing.