Demystifying the Cloud

In the current technology segment, there is no buzzword used more than ‘the cloud.’  This mystical term conjures up all kinds of thoughts, many of which are most likely inaccurate.

So what is the cloud?  In the most simple terms, the cloud is nothing more than an implementation of server virtualization, leveraging that technology to make your Internet application, and therefore any servers you have, easy to move, scale, and effectively support your target market at a lower price point than dedicated physical servers.

Server virtualization has been around for more than a decade, maturing to the level where embracing it is now a no-brainer.  While moving to virtual servers still has a dependency on hardware, a virtual server can quickly and easily be moved to different hardware, minimizing any downtime when the inevitable hardware failures does come up.

When it does come time to add more resources to your server, a virtual server allows this to be quick and painless with little to no downtime.  Memory, hard drive space, and CPU resources can be added without waiting on a vendor to ship the physical resource.  To help remove the mysticism from ‘the cloud,’ though, virtual server resources do, in fact, have to be virtually mapped to physical resources that exist somewhere.  The cloud is not some magical wonderland where cloud servers just exist on their own.

A big advantage that the cloud brings, in combination with the worldwide availability of the Internet, is the ability to have multiple servers strategically deployed to various locations around the world.  This helps improve the end user experience by reducing the distance that their requests travel, and additionally minimizing impacts from any regional Internet outages.

Lastly, making the move to virtual servers, and in a sense, ‘the cloud,’ helps reduce your costs.  By distributing the back-end hardware costs over all the encapsulated virtual servers using that hardware (hopefully clustered), you can now cost effectively deploy servers that perform as well, and often times better, than their physical counterparts without any long-term contracts.  From a financial perspective, it just makes sense.

So what are you waiting for?  Toss away (actually recycle) those physical servers and join the growing trend of Internet applications hosted in ‘the cloud.’