It seems like just about everybody is in the cloud business these days. They are basically offering their own versions of 3 different cloud architectures. These are the public cloud, private cloud and hybrid cloud. All of the different cloud services run on one or more of these cloud models.
The most popular and prevalent type of cloud is the public cloud. This is a special purpose data center owned and operated by a cloud service provider who seeks to provide services to many paying customers simultaneously. The cloud data center is the type of data center we’d all like to have, but few can afford. It is in a large secure facility with fire suppression and a couple of layers of backup power. There are multiple fiber optic lines connecting to the outside world for redundancy.
In fact, redundancy is a key to successful cloud operations. One of the key selling features is reliability. In fact, many business oriented cloud companies offer Service Level Agreements (SLAs) that define the uptime you can expect, how fast service will be restored in the rare event it is lost, and what compensation you’ll receive for not having your cloud service available. These SLAs are similar to what telecom carriers offer and distinguish enterprise level cloud providers from consumer type services.
Redundancy means multiple everything. That includes servers, batteries, diesel generators, Ethernet switches, routers, wireline connections, environmental control, and staffing. Any decent cloud company has a full time technical staff ready to address issues around the cloud.
The companion to redundancy is virtualization. This is the real magic behind the cloud. Virtualization became popular with IT departments because so many applications don’t use the full capacity of the server. They either run at a fraction of the maximum throughput or occasionally burst to more than the server can handle. By connecting multiple physical servers in a virtualized environment, each application can take the resources it needs at any given moment without hogging an expensive server that mostly idles. The load can be spread among multiple physical servers automatically to handle peak loads.
In fact, this is how you can build the second type of cloud yourself. Set up your own data center as a virtualized environment of servers, storage and WAN connections and you can provide computing for your entire organization including remote business locations.This is the private cloud. You own it. You maintain it. You keep all the resources for yourself.
Economy of scale suggests that public cloud with multiple tenants are going to cost you less than running your own private could. You may want to go with the private option anyway when you have high security requirements or heavy regulatory compliance requirements. The other reason is if you have a unique environment that requires specialized hardware, software or operating systems.
A fairly new wrinkle is the private cloud in the public data center. In this case, the cloud service provider sets up a fully dedicated infrastructure that serves only your needs. It is not interconnected with the public cloud facilities. An advantage of this approach is that you can maintain the privacy of having your own cloud without the capital investment and maintenance headaches of ownership.
The third type of cloud is called the hybrid cloud. It is a combination of private and public clouds. For instance, you may use a public cloud for many of your applications but keep a smaller private cloud in-house for your most sensitive or proprietary functions. You can decide how much cross-connection occurs so that the private and public clouds can share information. You may even want a cloud service company to create a hybrid cloud for you using their public cloud infrastructure and special facilities for your dedicated private cloud.
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