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What is Cloud Computing?

Cloud computing is often characterized by: Virtualized computing resources, Seemingly limitless capacity / scalability, Dynamic and instant self-provisioning, Multi-tenancy, Pay-for-use pricing (In the public on-demand model)

 Everything as a Service

Unlike all of the chatter that we have been hearing and reading about for the last few years, cloud is not a buzzword, but an all-encompassing new way of delivering IT services. Although cloud computing is still in its infancy, it is taking shape and it has been clearly defined into three primary categories:

  • Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)
  • Platform as a Service (PaaS)
  • Software as a Service (SaaS)

CARI.net has always offered Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) by providing dedicated servers and server clusters on a monthly lease basis. However, we now offer Platform as a Service in the Microsoft System Center Server Management Suite Datacenter (SMSD)

 Virtualization vs. Cloud Computing

Virtualization is not cloud. While virtualization is an important foundation in building a cloud, virtualization only provides isolation of compute and memory on one physical server or a cluster of servers. Anyone can install a virtualization app like Sun/Oracle Virtualbox on top of their OS or they can install a hypervisor OS like Citrix XenServerVMware ESXi or Windows Datacenter edition with Hyper-V. However, these are still simply virtualized servers. The layers on top of the virtualization layers are what constitute “cloud computing.” These come in the form of Cloud Management tools and Orchestration Management tools.

Orchestration Management tools are much more flexible and generally work with the open source leaders like Xen and KVM as well as the leading commercial solutions like VMware’s ESX/ESXi, XenServer from Citrix and Microsoft Hyper-V. By supporting all of the industry standard hypervisors, consumers not only have the choice in building within their preferred hypervisor, but they are also able to create hybrid mixed platform environments using Linux and Windows. These tools usually remove the threat of vendor lock-in by having the ability to build the same cloud architecture on top of the various hypervisor technologies. This is the highest level of cloud computing. As one person eloquently stated:

“Virtual servers are just virtual servers, but when you have virtual networking, you have a cloud.”

 Economics / Shift from CapEx to OpEx

Consumers have been buying servers for on-site and colocation from the very beginning. Companies like CARI.net have offered reduced CapEx for many years. However, today’s consumers want ZERO CapEx and they all want to pay for only what they use. We have all heard of commodity servers, grid computing and computing fabric for many years. It is finally a reality and it is called cloud computing. Setup fees have become a thing of the past. Pay-as-you-go is all the rage.

 Reduced IT management time and expense / Increased productivity

When IT professionals can work within a virtualized cloud environment, they can “build once and replicate indefinitely.” Business leaders are really catching on to the fact that a little overtime right now will save them massive time and therefore payroll moving forward. Take a look at this standard 8-server cluster.

In the traditional server environment, the system administrator(s) would have to manually configure 8 servers. If they also need separate test and development environments, then they would have to manually configure 24 servers. Now, imagine only building and configuring 4 servers (1 load balancer, 1 web server, 1 database server and 1 application server) and them replicating them for the same 8-server cluster. Then, imagine replicating the cluster two times to achieve the desired 24 servers.

Do you think business leaders would rather pay their IT staff to build 24 servers or 4? Virtualization makes this part possible, but when you add the virtual networking capabilities in most cloud computing, setup and configuration time is slashed even more. These reductions in time and cost result in increased productivity of the entire IT staff as well as everybody who depends on it. This also provides the agility that all organizations need to be competitive today. The added security of scheduled snapshot backups and automated failover are just the icing on the cake.

 Faster IT response time

According to one very thorough survey:

  • 80% of IT organizations think they provide IT services in a timely fashion.
  • Only 8% of consumers agree.

This is an extremely wide gap. This has to be a wakeup call to IT staff everywhere. Most IT staff have been doing what they do for so long that they are comfortable and confident in what they do every day, but this survey clarifies that changes need to be made. 82% of IT consumers want self-service IT services. Cloud computing provides self-service IT services and will help bring IT departments in line with business objectives.

 Instant Self Service Provisioning

The two main topics of discussion at the Cloud Expo 2010 were economics and instant self-service provisioning. According to survey after survey, these are the two primary reasons that organizations are moving off of traditional servers and into the cloud. Cloud computing is providing an API into the datacenter. No longer do users have to contact the datacenter to request changes to their infrastructure Consumers can self-provision in an instant Instead of waiting days or even weeks for their servers to be available, they can provision new servers in hours or even minutes.

 Access anywhere at any time (web-based interface) and Control over all architecture

Cloud computing enables policy-driven network provisioning and managed security. It also enables reusable infrastructure; basically, this is copy/paste imaging of servers. IT departments are provided with more control over a central repository of server image templates. One survey stated that 95% of requests are for standard builds, yet in the real-world jungle of infrastructure is a myriad of mix-and-match systems.

Larger organizations need the ability to segment IT services (and therefore budget) by departments and/or business units. In traditional server environments, IT requests are usually in the form of a requisition that has to clear many hurdles to get cleared by a purchasing department. Then they have to purchase equipment, wait for it to arrive and then configure it. This can take weeks or even months. Cloud computing enables these same organizations to maintain their own pool of IT resources and segment virtual services on an as needed basis. CARI.net provides every kind of managed hosting that you might need, from dedicated servers, to server clusters (or farms), to public, private and hybrid cloud computing. If you have more questions, do not hesitate to contact us.

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