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Cloud Architecture: A Definition and Introductory GuideReading time 8 minutes
You’d have to be outside the IT industry altogether for the terms cloud computing and cloud architecture to be completely absent from your conversations. Even then, you may have used the cloud and services found therein in some shape or form. Accessing Google-hosted mail, Gmail, is one such situation where you’re using the cloud for communication. As is saving images into Apple’s aptly named iCloud. To understand what the cloud is, you’ll need to know the various types of cloud services there are. That, along with their differences, advantages, and ways to fully utilize them.
As you read this post, a clear picture of what the cloud is will be painted. In addition to that, we’ll share the latest business cases for the cloud. All that knowledge will be topped with real-life insights into how best you can manage cloud services to grow your business. Before diving straight into cloud architecture jargon, let’s fully define the concept. This way, sections that follow will be like rivets to your understanding.
What Is Cloud Architecture?
As you may have deduced from the term architecture, cloud architecture refers to the various building components that make up a cloud. The cloud, in this context, means a service often rented from a provider of computing power, storage, or business applications. You can easily imagine the cloud as a vast space with resources that you have access to from the ground. This conceptual view of the cloud ties with the majority of its characteristics.
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Cloud Computing Characteristics
Several attributes make cloud computing unique, if not revolutionary in the computing aspect. These properties set it aside from traditional ways of storing, processing, and accessing data. The four we have listed below are perhaps the core ones. They’ll help make more sense of the cloud.
- Cloud computing means your company may not require racks of servers on-site. The files you work on will be stored in a remote data center.
- The cloud requires fewer employees dedicated to maintaining its health.
- Access to the cloud isn’t restricted to users within your company’s building. Secure access can be granted to those you deem fit at any given time from all over the world.
- The cloud is infinite. You can access as much processing power and storage as your business requires for peak performance.
Unlike on-site server room–based architectures, the cloud is designed in ways that get more work done with less effort. We’ll get into the details of how you can make certain of this. For now, it’s worth going into the various types of cloud computing models that your business can implement.
Types of Cloud Architectures
The architecture of the cloud for a unique business case varies based on specific requirements. It’s because of this fact that you can specify just the amount (and type) of storage, CPU power, and even underlying environment in which to run business applications. In cases where the actual processing and storage amount aren’t as important as the business application you need, you can then rent and access just the software you need from the cloud. This takes the burden of technical maintenance of the actual machines on which the application is running off your hands.
These are the three basic cloud architecture models at your disposal.
Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)
This is the case when you rent servers from the service provider. With IaaS, you’ll have the ability to specify and manipulate how much computing power, storage, network type, and availability are required at any given time. You’d still require technical knowledge to set up the environment on which your team builds and deploys business applications. This is exactly like the on-site server room architecture, only in the cloud. A real-life example of when IaaS would be perfect would be in the financial sector. Control of the entire environment, watertight security, and custom software made in-house would require infrastructure in the cloud.
Platform as a Service (PaaS)
PaaS is a level above IaaS. The service provider takes care of the infrastructure. As such, your responsibility starts on the environment level. The platform can be an operating system container in which your developers create and deploy applications. Most software companies would fall into the real-life use case for PaaS. Peace of mind from not managing the infrastructure comes in handy for the developers. CI/CD is streamlined with only the option of adjusting the OS environment, IDEs, and other development tools.
Software as a Service (SaaS)
On the topmost level of cloud computing models comes SaaS. Neither the underlying infrastructure nor the operating system’s parameters are configurable, only the overlaying software and its tools are accessible. Online accounting software packages are a perfect use case of SaaS models. Access is limited to the confines of the software’s abilities. The rest is managed by the cloud service provider.
Further Classification of the Cloud
By now, it may seem as though you’d have to give a third-party company total custody of your data; however, that’s not a prerequisite. When setting up a custom architecture for your business, you could opt to have some of the information stored on-site. Think of disaster recovery, latency, and security, and it becomes apparent the advantages of such a scenario. Having copies of your data in the cloud protects your business from losing its data assets in the event of physical damage on-site. Local files are faster to access in comparison with those stored in servers halfway across the world. Also, data stored in different regions often will have to comply with said regions’ data laws. To explore solutions to these potential issues, cloud architecture can be further classified into the following categories.
This refers to cloud services that are accessible without any geolocational constraints. The public cloud is perfect for when you’re looking to save on maintenance costs, often meaning that you get a slice of a multitenant resource pool. Even though this poses some security concerns, you can take measures to soften or even avoid the impacts of unlawful entry into your section of the universal cloud. Public clouds are often attractive for companies in the development and testing phases of their product(s).
Also a remotely accessible cloud model. Apart from the fact that you rent a dedicated set of resources inaccessible outside a firewall, this mimics a company’s intranet, with how access is limited to its employees. The adoption of a private cloud architecture implies total control of the infrastructure. As such, capable hands would need to be on constant call to keep the service running as opposed to the almost autonomous environment in a public cloud setup. It’s best to adopt the private cloud model when data security is highly regarded.
In reality, the majority of companies, especially IT, are operating on the hybrid version of cloud computing. This is where you have bits of both the private and public cloud models in effect. Some elements of both versions will show up in varying concentrations in order to comply with company IT policies. For instance, to save on database storage and management costs, a company could have all the active data stored in the cloud, while the capable machines in their offices handle the processing required to carry out tasks.
How to Manage Your Business in the Cloud
A common misconception is that once you migrate into the cloud, you can forget the housekeeping part of your IT infrastructure. On the contrary, keeping a close watch on the cloud-based systems you own only makes for better utilization of the resources that you’re renting. As promised in the introduction, how to help you scale your business in the cloud will be shared here—the most important point being to centralize the management of your cloud resources. It’s possible to have cloud services from different providers working concurrently to keep your business profitable. Keeping tabs of all these services’ health can be a daunting task. Unless you have a single log-in portal that pulls in all the metrics from active systems for you to see and tweak when necessary.
When it comes to multitype and mixed architecture implementations, the lack of data visibility could deny you valuable insights and competitive advantage. Applying Plutora’s environment management tools can be the best way to still have total control of what happens to, and within, your cloud environment.
As the number of companies now offering cloud computing services increases, so does the number of ways you can implement the technologies. The architecture you end up crafting for your unique business requirements shouldn’t impede your overall control when it comes to security, visibility, and the management of resources. Especially given how much your business’s growth and customer satisfaction depend on these factors. A proactive approach to managing the cloud for your business ensures that you reap the most benefits from each unit of cost spent.