What is Cloud Infrastructure? Exploring the Power of Cloud Solutions

In this article, we will provide a definition of IT infrastructure, discuss the key elements of this system, describe the most common types of IT infrastructure, and compare the advantages of each from the perspective of a business.

What are the basics of cloud infrastructure, and how does it differ from server infrastructure?

Cloud infrastructure is a system of hardware and software that enables cloud computing. At the hardware level, this system consists of the same elements as traditional infrastructure solutions: servers, network equipment, and data storage.

The physical components of this infrastructure are combined into a cloud using a set of software. The main tool needed to create a cloud is a hypervisor. This program creates an abstract representation of server resources. This way, the user works with a pool of computing power taken from the entire system, rather than individual servers.

Other than the hypervisor, cloud infrastructure needs programs that provide core functionality such as a resource controller, a network management system, authentication tools, a visual interface, etc. One example of such software is OpenStack, a modular set of tools for cloud computing. If you want to learn more about this platform, read the article "OpenStack Cloud - Advantages and Disadvantages."

The cloud pool consists of the sum of characteristics of each server – CPU cores, RAM, storage space. Using this pool, the user creates virtual machines – abstract servers with any configuration. These machines are the basic working units in the cloud, like VPS in traditional infrastructure.

The principle of combining resources is the main difference between cloud infrastructure and traditional server infrastructure that uses virtualization. A regular virtual server with a fixed configuration is created based on a specific machine; the configuration of this VM is limited by the capabilities of the hardware. In contrast, a virtual machine in the cloud is created using any available resources in the system, meaning the computing resources of all servers.

Cloud infrastructure also differs from server infrastructure in its high level of automation. When renting a cloud, you get computing resources with a set of software tools; in this section, we have already mentioned several examples of basic cloud functionality. The process of building server infrastructure starts with the purchase of "bare metal"; you will have to set up data protection tools, network management tools, and other systems on your own.

"Cloud & server infrastructures consist of the same elements, but work differently."

What are the types of cloud infrastructure?

The main types of cloud infrastructure are public, private, and hybrid clouds. These types of clouds differ in their architecture – the principles of construction determined by general tasks.

A public cloud is a solution that provides computing resources to multiple users simultaneously. The pool of resources in this type of infrastructure is meant to provide scalability and fault tolerance to each client, so public clouds are built using a large number of physical servers.

A private cloud is only used by one client, and this kind of cloud is built for the needs of a specific company. Unlike in public clouds, the hardware base of a private cloud is physically isolated from other users’ equipment. A private cloud can be located either in the provider's data center or in the company's local data center.

A hybrid cloud is an infrastructure solution that allows interaction between several platforms. For example, this type of infrastructure may consist of a public cloud and a private cloud or of a cloud solution and server infrastructure.

"Hybrid clouds are the most common choice for businesses looking to adopt cloud infrastructure."

What are the main advantages of cloud infrastructure?

The main advantage of any cloud platform depends on its architecture. For example, a private cloud offers a higher level of data protection compared to a public cloud, but it is less flexible. In this section, we will compare the advantages of each type of cloud based on three factors: flexibility, security, and fault tolerance.

Factor 1: Flexibility

A cloud user can create a virtual machine for a specific task at any time and use as many resources as the process requires. This feature is useful for working with periodic or unpredictable workloads: a virtual machine can be created in a couple of minutes using the platform's built-in tools as soon as a new task appears.

In the case of public clouds, this advantage also has a financial aspect. A company can plan expenses based on resource needs rather than on required equipment. If a company needs additional computing power for a seasonal influx of customers or for a software development project, there's no need to buy a new server; the user can temporarily add the exact amount of resources needed for the task. This way, the cost of cloud infrastructure is determined by the specific goals of the company.

The capabilities of a private cloud are provided for the exclusive use of a single client, so the rental cost does not depend on the actual load. Companies often use this infrastructure for processes with predictable resource requirements. When making a decision to rent a private cloud, it is important to determine how many resources will be used constantly and how many need to be kept in reserve. This way you can take advantage of the technological benefits of the private cloud without unnecessary spending.

A hybrid cloud is a platform that allows you to take advantage of the features of multiple types of clouds simultaneously. At the early stages of business development, one platform is often enough for all processes. As the business grows, you may need to transfer internal corporate tools to a dedicated platform while maintaining the ability to quickly adapt to non-standard tasks. A combination of private and public clouds is a good way to solve this problem.

Factor 2. Security

The stereotype that public clouds are unsafe is very common. The root of this misconception lies in the understanding of the term "public": the idea is that other users can easily access your data within the cloud. In actuality, the hypervisor fully segments the system and eliminates this possibility by preventing any interaction between different users.

Public clouds offer data protection tools by default and allow you to install your own systems. Here are some basic security tools in the SIM-Networks public cloud: hardware disk encryption, VPN tunnels, firewalls, encrypted network connections, and DDoS protection.

Compared to public clouds, the advantage of private clouds is the physical isolation of data. Some industries, such as medicine and banking, prohibit the use of public clouds for confidential customer data because the information would be stored on the same hardware as other users' data. By using private clouds, institutions and enterprises with high security requirements eliminate the theoretical possibility of data falling into the wrong hands, for example, if a server is physically stolen to gain access to your "neighbor's" data.

Security in a hybrid cloud largely depends on the platforms that make up the infrastructure. However, by definition, data in such an infrastructure is separated: sensitive data can be placed in a private cloud, and less security-demanding data can be placed in a public cloud. It is unlikely that a malicious actor can bypass the multi-layered cloud security systems – and even if they do, they will only gain access to part of the company's data.

Factor 3. Fault tolerance

Processes in the cloud do not depend on the functioning of a single machine - in the event of a failure, the virtual machine will use resources from other servers and continue to operate. This advantage is achieved thanks to scale: public clouds always have enough machines to ensure uninterrupted operation for a large number of users.

Well-designed clouds also use reserve components. For example, the SIM-Networks public cloud uses the 2N+1 scheme. This means that each component has two parallel copies and one more in reserve. This way, the equipment must fail three times for the machine to go down, at which point another server will immediately pick up the load. Several availability zones are also used: they are isolated segments of one cloud based on separate hardware.

The physical isolation of a private cloud also contributes to increased fault tolerance. You can completely eliminate the risk that the actions of other users will affect the operation of your infrastructure. Considering the principle of cloud architecture, this event is unlikely in a public cloud as well. However, the use of dedicated hardware provides maximum control over its functioning.

Like with data security, hybrid cloud offers a high level of fault tolerance through data distribution. Each cloud in the system uses its own fault-tolerant mechanisms, so even if one cloud completely fails, another cloud can continue to operate. A hybrid cloud as a solution for fault tolerance is the most reliable choice, but it is not always justified in terms of the financial and resource costs required to maintain this system.

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What kinds of companies use cloud infrastructure?

Every company can find a use for cloud infrastructure, regardless of size or industry, as the market offers a wide range of solutions depending on the client's needs. SIM-Networks' cloud clients include a large network of pharmacies, a system integrator, a manufacturer of consumer goods, a real estate company, and many other businesses. You can learn more about each of these cases.

SIM-Networks specializes in creating solutions based on the client's specific needs. Our experience shows that choosing clouds is an important step towards modernizing a company's IT infrastructure. It is important to consider the business's specific needs and long-term goals and choose between public, private, or hybrid clouds depending on priorities. Contact us; the SIM-Networks team will help you choose the best solution for your specific case.

Illia Chernikov

As a copywriter for SIM-Networks, Illia is passionate about delivering high-quality, accessible content in the industry of IT infrastructure solutions and helping readers deepen their understanding of the field. His main interests lie in the business aspects of IT infrastructure and how its application helps companies achieve their goals. Illia’s other interests include literature and linguistics.

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