Cloud Computing 101: Offsite IT Infrastructure and Remote Environment Management

Cloud computing is a great solution for IT organizations looking to offload the expense and manpower of building a datacenter and maintaining its assets. It allows companies to focus their IT staff on mission-critical business initiatives. Maintaining IT infrastructure is a full-time job. You must constantly manage the physical facility datacenter, racks, cables, vendor maintenance agreements, vendor service personnel security access, hardware issues, power outages, and more. What if you could limit your worries to the operating systems and databases running on your servers, your development environment, or applications? That is what cloud computing is all about.

Cloud computing lets another company—in the case of the public cloud—host your IT environment on servers in their datacenters. That company absorbs the headaches and cost of running a datacenter. While there is still a cost to you, it can be significantly cheaper than building and managing a datacenter yourself. In the cloud, you can access your IT assets from anywhere in the world with internet access—provided that your workstation has the proper security settings to do so. There are some caveats, so you should assess each situation carefully when considering migration to the cloud.

Types of Clouds

There are two main types of clouds: public and private. Public clouds are typically put up by a service provider—such as Google Cloud Platform, Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, IBM SoftLayer, and Oracle Cloud. Public cloud providers build the datacenters, manage the hardware, and provide a web interface to provision and use your cloud service—all for a fee. With a private cloud you build your own infrastructure within your own environment with a software stack such as OpenStack or an appliance from a hardware vendor. These implementations focus more on efficient IT infrastructure utilization and self-service benefits.

Cloud computing has self-service and virtualization components. Service providers build browser-based public cloud interfaces that are self-service. They make it easy for even a non-IT end user to provision a server, database, or application—depending on the cloud delivery method used. Interfaces typically present a wizard that asks users a few high-level configuration questions and provision assets based on responses. Such assets are typically virtualized, which assists in hiding the underlying infrastructure from the end user. The end user is typically not concerned with the physical server—or where CPU resources, memory, or disk storage comes from. This allows for more efficient use of IT infrastructure supporting the cloud.

The cloud also provides disaster recovery infrastructure. You can replicate data from on-site infrastructure and cloud datacenters to other datacenters. This provides you with the ability to recover in the event of a disaster that affects your primary IT site.

Delivery Models

Cloud providers provide a choice of multi-tenant or single-tenant environments. In a multi-tenant environment, you share a physical server, operating system, or database “container” with other clients for a “time share” of resources. In a single-tenant environment, you have exclusive access to an entire physical server rather than a virtual machine. In general, there are five primary delivery models:

  • Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS): With this model, the server and the operating system are automatically provisioned. Automatic provisioning stops there, as you are then responsible for managing the operating system.
    • Advantage: You don’t worry about the datacenter or server and can simply administer the operating system. You can install software you need and configure as required—typically with root access on UNIX and Linux servers.
  • Platform as a Service (PaaS): With this model, the server; operating system; and development tools are automatically provisioned. Automatic provisioning stops there, as you are then responsible for software development.
    • Advantage: You don’t worry about the datacenter, server, database, version-control software installation, development tools installation, or compiler software installation. You simply develop and host your applications.
  • Database as a Service (DBaaS): With this model, the server; operating system; database software installation; and database creation process are automatically provisioned. Automatic provisioning stops here, as you are then responsible for Database Administration (DBA) tasks.
    • Advantage: You don’t worry about the datacenter, server, database software installation, database creation, or initial configuration. You simply administer and use the database.
  • Storage as a Service (STaaS): With this model, you don’t worry about maintaining storage subsystems and SANs. You simply direct your applications to the cloud provider that hosts storage.
    • Advantage: You don’t worry about the datacenter, server, SAN switches, cables, disk subsystem installation, or configuration. You simply use the storage.
  • Software as a Service (SaaS): With this model, the server; operating system; and application are automatically provisioned for you. Automatic provisioning stops here, and is typically the top of the technology stack. You are responsible for administering or using the application.
    • Advantage: You don’t worry about the datacenter, server, database, application, or installation. You just use the application for your business.

Galileo Performance Explorer is a SaaS cloud offering that offers performance analysis of a company’s IT assets. Lightweight agents installed on various operating systems and storage devices send raw performance data to a secure facility that hosts the environment. Galileo then processes raw data and renders intuitive graphs and data for rapid analysis and troubleshooting. Galileo’s developers understood that clients may not desire another on-site installation or appliance, so they engineered the concept to keep as much out of the client’s datacenter as possible.

That—in a nutshell—is cloud computing. While the cloud has yet to experience broad acceptance from all of the major IT providers, it currently gains significant momentum in the field. Now some companies will never move to the cloud. Others will take their time. Still others will only take some of their infrastructure to the cloud. That said, many companies are already moving their entire IT infrastructure to the cloud. There is a lot of opportunity in this area. Make no doubt about it, the age of the cloud is here.

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