What is cloud infrastructure

What is cloud infrastructure

by Mike Sweetman
02 August 2019

Cloud infrastructure is different from the usual data center infrastructure in that it is virtualized, offered as a service and used over the Internet. The five main components of the cloud infrastructure are servers, storage systems, networks, computing resources, and security systems.

Cloud Infrastructure as a Service

Infrastructure as a service (IaaS) forms the basic level of cloud-based computing, allowing users to easily create virtualized and easily scalable IT platforms. In this model, equipment hosted by a third-party vendor becomes available to users for rapid deployment in a virtualized environment. 

Users access all of these resources through a web-based management console or API interface. The scale of IaaS services varies according to demand, and customers only pay for the resources they actually use.

Cloud infrastructure includes an abstraction layer to virtualize resources and presents them to customers by API, CLI and modern web dashboards.

Infrastructure is only the first stage and basement of offering a platform as a service (PaaS). It includes a comprehensive development environment that is hosted in the cloud and includes an OS, a web server, tools, a programming language, a database, a network, servers, a storage system, and more.

The PaaS solution provider is responsible for locating and maintaining systems and often creates solutions tailored to the unique needs of the customer. 

Many providers offer a pay-as-you-go model and other interactive pricing models for Iaas, PaaS, SaaS, etc. types of cloud systems.

Key cloud components of the IaaS.

The cloud consists of user and server platforms, as well as a high-speed network that connects them. An end-user device, such as a computer, tablet, or mobile phone, can act as a user platform.

IaaS provides customers ready to use solutions based on:

  • Virtualization
  • Networking
  • Storage
  • Servers

A server platform is a physical infrastructure or software application that is accessed through a delivery network, which is usually the Internet, but in some cases, can be an intranet. 

Fig. 1. Main IaaS cloud components.

Private vs public cloud infrastructures.

Public cloud

IT infrastructure provided by an external provided as a service. A business gets the power it needs by turning to its cloud service. A distinctive feature of cloud solutions is paying only for the used capacities. By applying for service in the "cloud", the company avoids the cost of infrastructure. If you have a small company and you have to deploy new expensive IT solutions or search for new IT employees with a unique specialization, then you should take advantage of cloud services.

Private cloud

Often a company has a need to use IT solutions on its own data centers, which are necessary for the business to operate. They have invested heavily in them and cloud infrastructure makes it possible to use these resources more efficiently. Private clouds are based on three key technologies:

  • Virtualization - allows maximum utilization of IT resources
  • Automation - allows you to reduce IT costs and increase the speed of response to events
  • Clustering - improves the reliability of IT solutions. 

In cloud solutions, new copies of IT systems may rise automatically in response to increased service loads. If a private data center supports all three of these technologies, then it may be called a private cloud. It is along this path that the company's own data centers will develop.

Hybrid cloud 

Sometimes companies are ready to transfer part of their infrastructure, for example, backup servers, to the cloud. However, the main working systems still remain in the local network. In this way, the company can avoid the significant costs of deploying excess capacity and at the same time have a plan for quick recovery after a crash in its own data center.

Fig. 2. Main cloud delivery models.

Leading cloud infrastructure providers.

AWS

AWS is a subsidiary of Amazon.com and provides a cloud computing platform for lease to individuals, companies, and governments on a paid subscription basis. The technology allows subscribers to have a complete virtual cluster of computers which is always available through the Internet. There is also a free subscription available for the first 12 months.  AWS is one of the most popular IaaS services.

Google

Google Cloud Platform is a set of cloud services provided by Google. In addition to management tools, a number of modular cloud services are also provided, such as cloud computing, data storage, data analysis, and machine learning, etc.  Google Cloud Platform is one of the leading cloud providers of IaaS.

Azure

Azure is a cloud-based platform and Microsoft infrastructure designed for cloud computing application developers. Azure provides a runtime environment for applications based on operating systems and on Windows Server, as well as storage locations. The system works on virtual machines using hypervisors and is one of the leading cloud providers of IaaS.

Digital Ocean

Digital Ocean is a cloud infrastructure provider with headquarters in New York and with data centers throughout the world. It was one of the first allowed to completely place cloud installations on SSD technology. In 2017, Digital Ocean was the second largest in terms of the number of publicly available servers and has an uptime of 99.99%.

Leading private cloud infrastructure systems.

Oracle

Oracle Cloud can be deployed over Public Cloud, Private Cloud, and Hybrid Cloud deployment models. They also have products such as FastConnect (cloud platform that provides private connectivity across on-premises and cloud networks) and Networking (cloud platform that provides a network with fully configurable IP addresses, subnets, routing, and firewalls to support new or existing private networks with End-to-End Security).

Red Hat

Red Hat Cloud Infrastructure is a private cloud solution based on integrated Red Hat technologies that let you build and manage an open, private Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS). Open hybrid cloud management platform Red Hat CloudForms allows deploying, monitoring, and managing cloud services on a private cloud.

IBM

IBM Cloud Computing allows building IaaS on private and hybrid cloud delivery models.  These platforms offer built-in support for virtualization. For virtualization, IBM offers IBM Websphere application infrastructure solutions. IBM has all kinds of provision modes, including private cloud, owned and operated by the customer; private cloud, owned by the customer, but operated by IBM; and private cloud, owned and operated by IBM.

Microsoft

Microsoft’s private-cloud platform Azure Stack allows building private IaaS on customer infrastructure. Microsoft provides a common management platform between the public and private clouds that helps to use and support large private cloud infrastructures. Azure Stack has access to a wide range of third-party apps from the Azure Marketplace to make installation and configuration of a private cloud quick and easy.

What are the advantages of cloud computing infrastructure?

Cloud infrastructure can be managed much more efficiently than traditional physical infrastructure, which usually requires the acquisition and assembly of individual servers, storage systems, computing, and network resources to support the operation of the application. In the case of cloud infrastructure, DevOps specialists can deploy the infrastructure programmatically using the application code.

The cloud infrastructure is flexible and scalable, making it the ideal solution for enterprise-level computing. Using technologies such as hyper-convergence or composable infrastructure, you can turn a local data center into a cloud infrastructure, which you can then integrate into a multi-cloud system and manage using a single panel.

Finally, cloud solutions save a lot of money and time on every stage of the process, including planning, deploying, processing, and supporting information systems.

Сloud systems interchangeability and migration

In practice, there are often situations when it is necessary to transfer virtual machines from one site to another; for example, from a company's private cloud to a public IaaS provider cloud. This is also true when there is a  sudden shortage of company resources or the client decides to change the cloud service provider. Migration between clouds can also be necessitated by changes in legislation.

There are various tools for migrating between the clouds that companies can choose from, depending on the scenario. For example, using solutions such as VMware vCloud Extender can facilitate the process.


Fig. 3. Cloud migration scenarios.

And with the use of such technology as containerization, it is possible to transfer applications from one cloud provider to another at the container level, with minimal costs for reconfiguring the system in a new cloud. The most popular containerization system that is used now is Docker. All modern cloud providers support Docker by default.

Thus, the user is not tied to a particular cloud and can choose in which cloud system the application will work most efficiently with budget savings.

Conclusion

Regardless of how you plan to build your infrastructure, today it is best to use cloud infrastructure. This can be either a private cloud or a public cloud, depending on the requirements for your applications in the cloud.

In general, for a modern company, regardless of its size and status, cloud technologies are needed. It doesn't matter what kind of cloud infrastructure you prefer, but it will still be a cloud infrastructure. This will save the budget and increase system stability and uptime.

And thanks to such a wonderful technology as containerization and Docker support by the main cloud providers, you can freely move from cloud to cloud and not be tightly tied to your cloud provider.

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