Essentially, cloud infrastructure consists of a set of virtual tools and resources that help deliver cloud-based services and products.
For companies, cloud infrastructure liberates them from building their own physical data centers. Instead, they rent computing capacity on a need-by-need basis. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
In this post, we’ll define cloud infrastructure, examine cloud computing types, delivery models, and more. This way, you can more easily choose what cloud computing components suit your workload requirements, from performance to security, to cloud costs.
What Is Cloud Infrastructure?
Cloud infrastructure is a set of hardware and software components that enable organizations to create, process, and store workloads remotely over the Internet. This practice is called cloud computing, and cloud infrastructure refers to all the components that power it.
Unlike on-site data centers, cloud infrastructure is owned and maintained by a dedicated cloud service provider (CSP). This means you do not have to purchase, install, and maintain the components on your own. You pay a subscription to access them, increasing or decreasing capacity as needed.
The three most popular cloud providers are Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform.
The cloud providers manage the underlying servers, storage, networking, and virtualization hardware and software. You usually just need to allocate the compute, storage, and networking resources needed for your specific workloads over the internet.
What Are The Components Of Cloud Infrastructure?
The main components of cloud infrastructure break down into four key groups:
Hardware is physical equipment that can be stored anywhere and is used to connect computing machines to a cloud.
Hardware components include servers, power supplies, memory and storage, processing units, and more — all of which play an important role in providing services, information, and security to businesses and individuals.
Virtualization is the process of creating a virtual version of a physical machine. It is used to create an abstracted machine layer that allows multiple virtual machines to run on a single physical machine. This helps to reduce hardware costs, improve scalability, and provide better security.
Cloud storage is a type of data storage that enables businesses and individuals to store, edit, backup, and share their data online. It can also be more secure, accessible from anywhere with an internet connection, and cheaper than traditional data storage methods.
Cloud storage comes in three main forms.
- Block Storage – A type of technology that stores data in blocks, which are fixed-size units of data. Block storage is used for storing data that is accessed randomly, such as operating system files, database files, and application files.
- File Storage – Most commonly linked to the file manager storage system on a regular PC.
- Object Storage – Suitable data storage architecture for unstructured data.
A network in cloud computing is a cluster of interconnected computers and devices that are used to share resources and data. Cloud networks can be private, public, or hybrid.
- Private networks are owned and operated by a single organization and are not accessible to the public.
- Public networks are owned and operated by a third-party provider and are accessible to anyone with an internet connection.
- Hybrid networks combine elements of both private and public networks.
Cloud Infrastructure Vs. Cloud Architecture
Although cloud architecture and cloud infrastructure are often used interchangeably, they differ in several key ways.
Cloud architecture refers to the overall design of a cloud computing environment, including the hardware, software, and networking components. It also describes the processes and procedures for managing and operating the cloud environment.
Meanwhile, cloud infrastructure refers to the physical hardware and software components that make up a cloud computing environment. This includes servers, storage devices, networking equipment, and operating systems.
Here are some other key differences between cloud architecture and cloud infrastructure:
- Cloud architecture is a conceptual design, while cloud infrastructure is its physical implementation.
- While the cloud architecture describes how a cloud environment is supposed to function, cloud infrastructure comprises the components that make it work.
- A cloud architecture describes how the components of a cloud environment work together, whereas cloud infrastructure specifies the features and capabilities of particular components.
Ultimately, IT professionals are typically responsible for designing and implementing cloud architectures. In most cases, cloud service providers provide the physical hardware and software that makes up a cloud environment.
The Benefits Of Using Cloud Infrastructure
There are several benefits to using cloud infrastructure.
Startup costs are lower
Cloud computing systems eliminate the need to purchase, install, and maintain an optimal computing environment as with on-premises systems. This is often a huge saving, whether you are a startup or an enterprise.
Supports rapid deployments
The cloud environment does not need to be purchased, provisioned, and endlessly tested before you can launch and test your idea. In fact, cloud providers such as Google Cloud offer pre-built virtual machines you can use right away.
You can increase or decrease the size and capacity of your cloud environment simply by tapping a few buttons in your cloud account, unlike on-premises IT systems.
In cloud computing, the cloud provider handles many of the hardware tasks, such as installation, system upgrades, and patching. As a result, you can spend more time improving your core product, rather than worrying about the infrastructure.
Cloud infrastructure can be more cost-effective
Sharing cloud resources allows organizations to take advantage of economies of scale to reduce operating costs per unit. Furthermore, you can more easily track, analyze, and optimize cloud costs than on-prem spend.
The Limitations Of Using Cloud Infrastructure
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:
You can encrypt your data and follow data security best practices, but you’ll still use someone else’s infrastructure to transfer it. There is still a slim chance that data could be compromised.
After a while, you may find that you’ve invested too much in a single CSP to switch to a more affordable, secure, or reliable provider. Or it may get too expensive or too complicated to migrate elsewhere, leaving you with little choice.
Scalability has another side (if you are not vigilant)
High-scalability can be a cost challenge if you do not reign in cloud costs at the first signs of overspending. The faster the scalability, the more expensive a cost anomaly can get.
Operating in the cloud means the network is reliant on a strong network connection to operate effectively and efficiently. This can prove challenging for remote employees and customers who try to access your service from far-flung locations.
Cloud Infrastructure Delivery Models
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.
Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)
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.
Software as a Service (SaaS)
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 its 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.
Platform as a Service (PaaS)
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 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.
Cloud Infrastructure Management Best Practices
Here are five best practices that can help an organization migrate and adopt cloud infrastructure efficiently and successfully:
- Changing to cloud computing infrastructure is a strategic change in your business, and should be approached with the same focus on policy as any other change. This will ensure a seamless transition and bring the entire organization on board.
- Research the different cloud solutions and options, and select the infrastructure that best supports your requirements — both in the delivery models explored above and the potential of different cloud networks for different business operations.
- Consider how you can use modern technology to your advantage, for example, Artificial Intelligence. Cloud servers are designed to support the use of these tools, and it is worth exploring whether they can help with automating your services or supporting a global expansion plan.
- Tier optimization to make the most commonly accessed data easier to find on a higher level than that which is rarely searched for and opened. This is a simple hack that can streamline internal and external access within the network and works in much the same way as a multi-tiered file manager.
- Governance is key to ensuring that your data is always safely secured and up to date. It’s worth having a plan in place in case of disaster. Things can go wrong where technology is concerned, so putting in place a risk mitigation plan is a good way of preparing for the worst and ensuring that should it happen, your employees know what to do.
Migrating To The Cloud And Choosing A Cloud Service Provider
The following are three examples of the top cloud providers you can use to migrate and operate in the cloud.
Amazon Web Services Cloud (AWS)
AWS offers robust Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) solutions. It also offers 240+ cloud services and products, covering all industries. Better yet, AWS has a presence in most regions, providing your business with global reach.
However, AWS may be overwhelming for smaller companies and has complex cloud pricing.
Microsoft Azure Cloud
Azure is particularly strong in its enterprise solutions. It is also ideal for its Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) offerings. Azure may also be an attractive option if you already own Windows licenses or feel they are too expensive to use on AWS.
Google Cloud Platform (GCP)
GCP is a good choice for organizations that want a cloud provider with an emphasis on Artificial Intelligence, data analytics, and Machine Learning models. GCP is also more SMB-friendly than Azure and AWS.
Migrate To The Cloud With Cost Confidence
Now here’s the thing. There is a common misconception among organizations that migrating workloads to cloud infrastructure will automatically result in cost savings. In reality, that’s not always the case.
In fact, reducing cloud costs and maximizing cloud infrastructure ROI should always be a conscious decision. And, for the best results, you’ll want to start before the actual cloud migration.
You can simplify this process by choosing a true cloud cost optimization platform like CloudZero. With CloudZero, you can:
- Track, analyze, and understand your cloud migration costs at any stage, so you can deploy cloud services efficiently.
- Get immediate actionable insights about your cloud infrastructure costs by the hour, per customer, per feature, per environment, per team, and more.
- Allocate 100% of your cloud costs regardless of how complex your environment may be.
- Create and track your cloud budget against your targets, receiving timely alerts as you hit milestones.
- Receive context-rich cost anomaly alerts so your team can pinpoint and fix infrastructural issues that could lead to overspending.