A few days ago, I tweeted the following “Interesting question posed today from a consultant. ‘What’s the difference between #virtualization and #cloud #oralce'” and I got two responses.
I’ll take a stab at it from my perspective and invite others to join in the discussion. Sound fair? Good!
One would think that server virtualization and cloud computing were interchangeable based upon the understanding that most people have. This is, because the two technologies were developed to solve the problem of maximizing resource utilization while reducing costs. Server virtualization is one of the technologies used to provide cloud computing services.
Lets start with Virtualization. Typically you take a computer, usually a server with plenty of RAM, Memory, Processing Power, etc and install a VM Application. It’s an older link but look here for some options. The VM or Virtual Machine carves out a set of resources on the host computer and allows you to install an operating system and applications which when accessed appear to the user as a physical machine. The beauty of virtualization technology is that you can install multiple VMs within the same host, considering resources are available thus reducing the server footprint in your datacenter and support overhead of the multiple machines. Here are a couple of drawbacks though:
- If the host hardware fails, then all VMs on that machine also “fail.”
- The VMs compete for resources which are limited to the capacity of the host server.
I would associate Cloud Computing to being like the Borg. More on that later. Cloud computing is the use of computing resources that are delivered as a service over a network. The sharing of these resources to is similar to that of a utility only it’s distributed over a network. Take a power company for example. All the complexities, infrastructure, and support are managed by the power company. All you have to do at your house is plug into the outlet. If you need more power you get it, and obviously your usage goes up, and so does your power bill. Similarly, with cloud computing, all the servers, storage, and support mechanisms are provided by the service provider. As your utilization changes, resources are dynamically allocated to you and appropriate pricing is applied. So back to this Borg analogy. As you can see, Cloud computing is a collective of resorces. Service providers assimilate additional resources into the cloud they become available for your applications. You aren’t limited to single resources allocated to your VM in your virtualized environment.
The benefits of cloud are very similar to that of virtulaization as they both attempt maximize resources and minimize cost. Specific benefits to cloud include:
- Leveling of the playing field: Small to Mid-sized companys can now access the same quality of resources without the capital investment in infrastructure, applications, and platform (IaaS, PaaS, & SaaS).
- Scalability: Pay as you go. If you need more resources, your get them, and as you use less, resources can be scaled down.
- Collaboration: With the services in the cloud, they can be accessed from anywhere. In some cases, local OS and hardware may no longer be and issue resulting in additional collaborative opportunites.
With all this good stuff going for cloud, what are risks? The one that comes to mind for me is availibility. With all the services in the cloud, access is only as good as the internet connection. This applies to both the service provider and the customer connectivity. Other things to consider are data ownership and privacy. Maybe one day, I post my thoughts on government in the cloud.
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