Cloud infrastructure consists of back-end elements primarily comprising of server hardware components, virtual machines, storage and networking facilities, and software that provides access to the cloud for applications and other services. It can also refer to on-demand service delivered through the Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) model.
In simple terms, in order to support the computing requirements of a cloud, the hardware and software components like servers, network, and virtualization software collectively are referred to as cloud infrastructure. It is one of the most basic products of cloud computing services. With the utilization of cloud infrastructure, users can create and configure their own IT infrastructure, just as they would with a physical data center infrastructure.
As opposed to a physical medium, the cloud-based infrastructure can be set up easily, replaced, and deleted. Apart from Software as a Service (SaaS) and Platform as a Service (PaaS), Infrastructure as a service (IaaS) provides virtualized computing resources over the internet. The basic delivery model is a highly automated offering where computing resources are provided to the user for storage and networking purposes. This ensures that the user has their own IT infrastructure and hence do not have to pay for the construction of a physical infrastructure. Also known as Hardware as a Service (HaaS), it encompasses cost-saving strategies and additional computing capacity without the need for capital investment.
Infrastructure as a Service plays an integral role in cloud computing as it automates administrative tasks, helps in scalability and internet connectivity. Delivered via a public, private and hybrid cloud, the infrastructure resides on the bottom layer of cloud computing stack, as PaaS occurs in the middle layer and finally on the top layer is the SaaS delivery. In many instances, there is a complete cloud computing solution as the IaaS is bundled with PaaS and SaaS delivery.
Cloud computing infrastructure includes components like servers, virtualization, storage, network, management, security, backup, and recovery. To help maintain and configure the cloud infrastructure, the management software is utilized effectively whereas the deployment software helps in deploying and integrating the application on the cloud.
There are various benefits of infrastructure built for cloud computing like flexibility and utilization of infrastructure investments. Increased security, lower infrastructure, energy, and facility costs are also some key integral benefits of a cloud infrastructure. Furthermore, the faster deployment of the physical and virtual resources helps in streamlining cloud computing.
The network is the key component of the cloud infrastructure as it connects to cloud services over the internet. As customers can customize the network route, it is possible to deliver network as a utility, today, over the internet. Monitoring the resources and providing security are some of the offered services that the server helps in computing the resource sharing. Cloud computing is made more reliable as cloud keeps multiple replicas of storage wherein if one storage resource fails, then it can be extracted from another one. In order to share resources in the cloud, there must be transparency in resources, load balancing, and application to scale them effectively. Since it is impossible to satisfy the demand with a single server, virtualization is an integral factor in cloud infrastructure environment.
Multi-tenancy is an integral feature of cloud infrastructure to support the ability to segregate the data storage and traffic associated with a myriad of customers. In order to track the service usage of the customer, the usage is reported to charge the customer accordingly. This feature of multi-tenancy helps in serving multiple tenants within a common access.
Instead of individual physical entities managing the storage and servers in a cloud infrastructure, the virtual abstraction is employed to function effectively. For instance, virtual servers are created to run applications and virtual storage pools are created to store data based on performance and reliability, hence infrastructure cloud includes all the physical components that run application and store data.
The most common form of cloud computing from a public perspective is the information cloud. The best example of an information cloud is the internet. The information cloud abstracts clients from the data; in simple terms, it abstracts everything from everything. For instance, a user can access stored data from a database in Nigeria from his/her personal computer in the United States.
Commonly known as internal and enterprise cloud, private clouds are part of the company’s data center where all the data is secured behind a firewall. As the company uses their own infrastructure for cloud, the maintenance, management, and updating of data centers become the responsibility of the company.
Although there is an increased security level in the private cloud as information is` withheld within the organization, there is also a hindrance to private cloud as the cost of handling data could turn out to be an expensive affair. In order to reduce an organization’s on-prem IT workload, cloud providers like Rackspace and VMware deploy the private cloud infrastructure.
A private cloud is not very different from a public cloud when it comes to basic benefits like self-service, scalability, handling big data, multi-tenancy etc. Some of the popular private cloud examples are IBM’s Blue Cloud, Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2).
For a public cloud hosting solution, the organization is completely devoid of any management of the data centers. As the term suggests, in public cloud, the data is stored in the solution provider’s data center and hence the entire responsibility of the maintaining and managing the data relies on the public cloud provider. Although there are very rare instances of security breaches in public cloud, the organization has no control over a public cloud as data is kept away from their own infrastructure. The most popular public cloud hosting solution providers are Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure as global organizations utilize the cloud computing services to handle the massive amount of data in their cloud storage.
The hybrid cloud environment utilizes a mix of on-prem private cloud and third-party public cloud services together by functioning within the two platforms. As the workload is moved between private and public clouds, there is control over the computing and cost based needs giving a greater flexibility and more data deployment options. Hybrid cloud computing delivers the benefit of both the types of computing – private and public, like flexibility, scalability, cost efficiencies with a minimal risk of data exposure.
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