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Discover what cloud infrastructure is, the benefits and disadvantages of moving to the cloud, how to choose a cloud provider, and more.
Cloud infrastructure refers to the combination of virtual tools and resources which are packed together, giving users a means of connecting remotely to a central network, and supporting the delivery of a cloud-based service or product to the end customer.
Most cloud infrastructures are created and accessed through the internet rather than through a physical data structure, with cloud infrastructures based within the premises of the cloud service provider (e.g., AWS, Azure, GCP, etc.) rather than each individual organization — moving everything the business and its customer base needs access to — online.
This article is designed to unpick the power of the cloud, looking at:
In order to understand what cloud infrastructure is and how it works, a good starting point is to think of a physical business structure and what the IT set-up in an office looks like — both in supporting employees and delivering your product or service.
In an office, you need computers, storage, hardware, servers, and plenty of space in which to store all of these different components.
All of this demands a physical presence which translates to cost, limited access in terms of geography, and plenty of personnel resources — all of which then need to be maintained, powered, and kept operating efficiently and effectively.
Cloud infrastructure takes all of that and places it in a virtual space that is unlimited, more cost-effective, and infinitely flexible in the way it works and provides scalable operations.
Through cloud infrastructure, organizations can create their own backend set up that supports their operations and requirements, bringing resources together remotely in a flexible and efficient way.
Additionally, they can also provide a seamless trail of information that passes from the operational backend system of a business, through to the frontline customer-facing data presented online: for example, the stock levels of a specific product, pricing structures for various package deals, and updated information on a content-driven site.
This is what is known as cloud architecture, taking each of the basic cloud infrastructure components and pooling them together to create the perfect blueprint for a business
and its end customer.
The main components that make up cloud infrastructure break down into four key groups:
Composed of physical equipment which can be stored at any location, hardware includes the equipment necessary to link machines to a single cloud.
Hardware components include servers, power supplies, memory and storage, processing units, and more — all of which are responsible for the performance, security, and availability of services and information for both a business and an individual user.
The foundation of cloud computing, virtualization is what connects all the hardware together and ensures that devices can work without a physical connection to the hardware.
It separates the service itself from its physical location or PC, allowing users to access services and applications remotely. One of the key benefits presented by the use of virtualization is the scale of growth that an organization or cloud network can employ, based on need and consumption.
Storage ensures that data is constantly backed up, retaining the most recent version of any file or data entry, and connecting everything together as required for remote access.
Virtualization resources are again responsible for providing the link between hardware and cloud storage, with three main storage solutions available:
The network starts with a physical presence and then adds a layer of virtual support and communication on top to permit cloud resources to be shared by users who are listed as part of the same network.
In a business setting, it is this that allows all employees to log into a single intranet server and access all the relevant files for their job from a remote working location — with the network (public or private) creating the link between the hardware, data, and the device from which it is being accessed.
The way that these different components (hardware, virtualization, storage, and network) are configured is called cloud architecture. Cloud infrastructure includes the tools themselves, used to design and build that architecture.
An organization can design and build its own cloud architecture based on its services, applications, communications, and management tools. The finished architecture is unique to the business, using the tools laid out as part of the cloud infrastructure.
Infrastructure is what allows a company to continue to grow, scale-up, and develop without constantly expanding the physical requirements of the business.
Migrating from a physical reliance to one in the cloud means lower costs both in set up and in the long term — primarily because you no longer have to rely on the physical download of software and applications that bring business operations and services to life.
Now, it can all be accessed through the internet — and that opens business services and products up exponentially.
It reduces the need for ongoing maintenance ownership of a physical central data center, and instead allows a company to save money on IT requirements, space, and other bills associated with a physical data presence. The pay-as-you-go service model also means that many applications are only paid for as they are used, removing the costs associated with services that aren’t even used.
Cloud infrastructure also provides organizations more freedom in the way they can operate, grow, and expand in different areas — with Deloitte reporting that a move towards cloud technology allows a company to “better handle constantly shifting business and workforce needs.”
Some of the key benefits of utilizing cloud infrastructure include:
As with any technology solution, one of the biggest challenges that cloud infrastructure faces is the constant innovation of the industry. Some of the key limitations include:
There are three core delivery models in the cloud infrastructure industry. These are known as IaaS, SaaS, and PaaS, and they each build the service from a different foundation point.
IaaS is considered to be the standard in the industry and operates on a “buy as you need” basis. An IaaS infrastructure model gives organizations the flexibility to shrink or upscale the resources they use as required, ensuring that they never pay for unused infrastructure.
The provider delivers all the networking, data storage, servers, and virtualization that an organization needs, with the business itself handling the software side.
IaaS is most commonly used by testing and development firms, customer-facing website and application development, analytics, and data storage. For companies that want to manage a large portion of their cloud computing, IaaS is the solution to opt for. You can learn more about IaaS here.
SaaS is popular because it places all the data in a cloud server and completely removes the need for a business to host or store any of their own information.
Users can access web-based applications through their cloud portal, by renting use of an app on a pay-as-you-go basis. SaaS providers are responsible for delivering full support which includes the maintenance of both the cloud infrastructure itself and the individual applications used by the business.
Some typical examples of SaaS in action include email servers that can be accessed by employees or users from remote locations, all logging into the cloud to access their own profile within the internet-based application.
By only paying for what you use, companies can ensure cost-effective management of their cloud infrastructure. You can learn more about SaaS and its applications here.
Through a PaaS system, companies are provided with an entire infrastructure managed by the cloud service provider, covering everything from the operating systems to the ability to test and develop their applications entirely within the cloud.
Organizations using a PaaS cloud infrastructure can develop and grow their own branches of various applications through the provision from their server. This allows the business to innovate and expand according to market demand much more quickly than if they had to build their own application systems each and every time.
In this way, changes can hit the market faster and more cost-effectively, building on the existing applications without having to recreate them. You can find out more about PaaS here.
Here are five best practices that can help an organization migrate and adopt cloud infrastructure efficiently and successfully:
When it comes to migrating to cloud computing, there are three big cloud providers in the marketplace, dedicated to delivering the services required by organizations of all sizes:
In a comparison between the three, there are a number of advantages and challenges that each presents, whether it be cost usage (per hour in the case of AWS and per minute in the case of Azure and GCP), the delivery model, or the finite details such as the processor and servers used.
Most organizations will find that all three of the top players provide similar services but in their own cloud stratosphere, which means that the differences between the three are embedded in the way they offer their services rather than what those services are.
For example, GCP focuses on smaller enterprises while Amazon is dedicated to delivering cloud support to the largest companies on a global scale.
Let’s take a closer look:
When comparing the top service providers, understanding how they store data and what they offer in terms of scalability and development is key.
Cloud infrastructure includes the components that make it possible to design the cloud architecture that will help your company grow, scale up (or down) quickly, and adapt to business needs.
Migrating to cloud infrastructure can be a huge exercise in cost-cutting, but only when your cloud environment is configured properly, you take advantage of the right services offered by your cloud provider, and you understand how architecture affects your cloud costs.
Having a cloud cost management tool that will help you understand your cloud costs and make informed architecture decisions during your migration can mean the difference between wasting and saving thousands of dollars.
CloudZero has helped companies, like ResponseTap and Validity, successfully migrate their products and services to the cloud, all while helping them save money and visualize their costs. and discover how CloudZero can help you migrate your product or service from your physical data center to the cloud.
Cody Slingerland, a FinOps certified practitioner, is an avid content creator with over 10 years of experience creating content for SaaS and technology companies. Cody collaborates with internal team members and subject matter experts to create expert-written content on the CloudZero blog.
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