What is a Cloud? This is a question that generates a variety of different answers. There seems to be a general lack of consensus about what the term “Cloud” really means.
I recently had a sales person tell me that running a backup from my server room to another server room offsite was cloud storage. He said it with a lot of panache, but even so, nothing in his description indicated to me that that he was working with any cloud-based products. The word “Cloud” has become largely overused, probably in part because it sounds friendly and trendy. Often, people believe that what they are offering or using is a cloud product, when in actuality it is another kind of product altogether.
Let’s break it down. For an App to be considered a cloud app, it must be designed using an architecture that makes is extremely scalable, reliable, and robust. This typically means it should be designed using a Services Oriented Architecture. After this, the most important thing for a cloud-based app is to be on an actual cloud infrastructure.
A cloud infrastructure requires a server room designed to have certain features. The technology that makes the Cloud possible is virtualization. Virtualization enables servers to become “virtualized”, or turned into files that sit on physical servers. They look like files, but they are running complete servers inside. The advantage to this is that the files can be backed up, moved around, and recreated seamlessly. If this system is set up correctly, and a physical server goes down, you will not even notice that your virtual server has moved to another physical machine. However, this requires expensive software, complicated set up, and an integrated data system that works seamlessly with the virtualization engine and the cloud service to make the magic happen.
What I’ve just described is a Private Cloud within a single server room. That is, a Cloud in a server room owned by one company for their own use. A Public Cloud is essentially the same thing, except that server space may be offered for a fee to other companies.
The expectation of the Cloud is often to be able to cross geographical ranges. This requires multiple server
rooms that are working together under a common cloud management system. The promise of this geographical redundancy is what makes the Cloud valuable to so many businesses. The cost of protecting themselves geographically from disasters is often onerous to say the least. However, often we accept that something is a Cloud based app or service without asking for any proof beyond the marketing or sales person’s word. It is important to know if you are dealing with a geographically dispersed Cloud, a regional public Cloud, a private Cloud, or just some old-school tech in a server room.
No matter what level of infrastructure or app you are dealing with, it is important to be sure your data, records,and apps are safe, secure and recoverable. Next, you want to know if they are scalable, robust, and maintainable. Beyond that, whether your data and records are able to move to new systems if you decide to change direction. I hope that upon reading this article, the questions that you have about cloud technology haven’t changed, but the answers you are willing to accept may have.
If you have any questions or comments, feel free to send them in.