In recent years, stepping out from behind the closed doors of virtualisation to the open, scalable landscape of cloud computing has been touted as the answer for today’s organisations wanting to get more bang for their buck out of their operational IT budgets, Richard Vester, says EOH Cloud Services.
The push towards cloud computing is on everyone’s lips these days and often we hear sales managers and media speak with authority on the subject. However, many seem to lump virtualisation and cloud computing together as two sides of the same coin. This is intrinsically not the case. Although they can work together to create optimised computing environments they are simply not the same.
Virtualisation is the process of configuring existing hardware to run multiple instances of servers on the same computing resources, as opposed to additional physical versions of the same infrastructures, thereby slashing operational costs. These configurations can be administrated on-site or remotely via operating systems such as Windows or Linux.
On the other hand, the cloud treats computing as a service as opposed to the management of a physical infrastructure. This allows any organisation to store data and access applications on several virtual servers with access via the Internet through a single interface and without the burden of buying or refreshing physical infrastructures or software licences.
For established organisations with a long-term vision for growth of their operations, cloud computing is the service delivery enabler of their virtualisation.
Companies that have already invested heavily in virtualisation technologies can confidently bolt on cloud functionality to improve computing efficiency and inward and outward scalability, allowing businesses to concentrate on their core competencies and less on the IT department, while containing costs of data and applications stored and accessed in the cloud.
Remote virtualised infrastructures can be harnessed via the cloud to provision storage capacity, data accessibility and management of applications, to deliver service models such as SaaS, IaaS and PaaS.
However, newly established organisations that are experiencing rapid growth and are considering jumping directly into the cloud have to take a few factors into account before they take that leap, which is not only the fixed costs of rented applications, services, less IT staff and infrastructure management.
While moving away from existing computing, storage and networking infrastructure resource models for leaner, meaner organisational business processes may be alluring, there are a few real world implications of handing these crucial parts of a business over to a service provider on a silver platter.
To make an informed decision, organisations have to scrutinise their requirements and consult with service providers that have experience and a solid track record in cloud computing.
They should ask what are the costs involved to access services and applications in the cloud instead of buying and hosting them at their own premises? What are the long-term risks involved in renting versus owning from a business perspective? How secure is their data and who else has access to it?
How can service providers tailor service level agreements and provide redundancy to ensure that the organisation does not incur financial losses if the service is unavailable? How can existing infrastructure compliment cloud services and applications within an organisation to make hosted services more cost-effective?
The option for virtualisation will depend on an organisation’s capacity to incur upfront costs for technology infrastructures and skills, which will lead to a lower operational total cost of ownership in the long run.
Cloud computing offers organisations the benefits of no or little infrastructure layout, but as the demand for access to applications and resources increase, costs, if not contained, might run away with them if not properly administrated and maintained.
Either way, the reality remains that both virtualisation and cloud computing can result in significant cost benefits but rely on two different strategies. They do complement each other, but it is only through understanding and application that they can work together.