What Is Cloud Infrastructure?
Cloud infrastructure is a collection of components required to create cloud computing environments. This includes computing power, networking, storage, and interfaces through which users can access virtualized resources.
Virtual resources reflect the virtual resources of the physical infrastructure, including components such as memory, network switches, servers, and storage clusters. Organizations might need to run applications that users access through the Internet, telecommunications services, or wide area networks (WANs). A cloud infrastructure approach offers benefits flexibility, scalability, and lower cost of ownership to run these workloads.
Cloud infrastructure gives organizations access to data storage computing power, and networking on an on-demand basis. Instead of creating on-premises IT infrastructure or leasing data center space, organizations can now lease cloud infrastructure and required computing power through third-party providers.
Cloud infrastructure is available in the form of private clouds, public clouds, and hybrid clouds which combine these two. Organizations can also use multiple types of cloud delivery models from one or more vendors.
This is part of a series of articles about cloud optimization.
In this article:
- 4 Key Components of Cloud Computing Infrastructure
- Deployment Models for Cloud Infrastructure
- Cloud Infrastructure vs. Cloud Architecture
- Cloud Infrastructure: Benefits and Challenges
4 Key Components of Cloud Computing Infrastructure
The major components that make up the cloud infrastructure are:
Hardware includes the equipment needed to connect machines to a single cloud. Hardware components include servers, power supplies, memory and storage, and central processing units (CPUs). All of these features need to work together to provide the performance, security, and availability cloud users need.
Virtualization makes it possible to decouple computing infrastructure from the hardware that runs them. This is perhaps the most important part of a cloud infrastructure. Virtualization software plays an essential role, because it decouples data storage and computing power from the hardware itself. Virtualization also allows operators to manage their cloud infrastructure through a central user interface.
Cloud storage holds data, keeps the latest version of a file or data item and possibly also previous versions, and enables remote access as needed. Virtualization provides a link between hardware and cloud storage, enabling the three major cloud storage models:
- Block storage—sorts data into blocks instead of complete files. This is an ideal solution for storing data that is static and does not change regularly.
- File storage—like the file manager systems used with regular PCs.
- Object storage—suitable for storing unstructured data, or data that needs to frequently change.
Network infrastructure is also important for providing cloud computing services. This includes both internal networks, within the cloud environment, and external network connections to enable remote access. Network infrastructure covers many different types of hardware, including routers, switches, load balancers, and physical cables.
Deployment Models for Cloud Infrastructure
Cloud infrastructure is multi-tenant—this means it can be flexibly divided between organizations or individual users, each having separate, isolated access.
There are several cloud deployment models—in each model, the underlying infrastructure resources are the same, but allocated differently between users. The three most common cloud deployment models are:
- Public cloud—a pool of virtualized resources shared by multiple users outside the organization’s firewall. This service is typically billed on a pay-as-you-go basis and is deployed as needed. Companies are responsible for managing and operating their workloads, while the cloud provider operates public cloud infrastructure.
- Private cloud—a cloud environment dedicated to a specific organization, accessed behind their firewall. Private cloud environments are often deployed as on-premises virtualized data centers. An additional layer of automation allows users to use their virtualized infrastructure as a private cloud service. Private cloud can also be multi-tenant, enabling different groups within the organization to work in isolated cloud environments.
- Hybrid cloud—integrating public and private clouds creates a hybrid cloud model. Workloads are portable, allowing organizations to use public clouds for cost-sensitive workloads and private clouds for security-sensitive workloads.
Cloud Infrastructure vs. Cloud Architecture
The main difference between these two concepts is that the cloud infrastructure encompasses all the necessary materials to operate the cloud. In contrast, cloud architecture provides the blueprint for connecting the infrastructure components.
Cloud architecture enables the integration of various technologies to create cloud environments—it allows the cloud platform to collect abstract, share, and scale resources across the corporate network. Cloud architecture is the way you connect all the capabilities and components required to build a unified cloud experience and deliver the online platform to run applications.
Cloud platforms are usually delivered in a Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) model, with the cloud provider supplying the platform (software) and underlying infrastructure (hardware). Architecting a cloud platform goes beyond abstracting computer capabilities from the hardware—it involves creating, configuring, and offering online infrastructure to the users.
Creating a cloud architecture requires additional development levels to incorporate containers, orchestration, APIs, security, routing, automation, and management software. The design should focus on user experience (UX) to ensure easy online navigation.
Cloud infrastructure comprises the physical realization of the architecture (the design). It includes the operating system, hardware, and virtual resources to provide networking, middleware, compute, and storage services.
The cloud platform abstracts these physical resources, enabling easy scalability to accommodate the customer’s changing workload demands. It provides separate management and control for each resource—for example, it might use local storage systems instead of shared disks.
Related content: Read our guide to cloud orchestration (coming soon)
Cloud Infrastructure: Benefits and Challenges
Here are the main benefits of using a cloud infrastructure:
- Flexibility—cloud infrastructure enables you to procure rapidly accessible resources that you can self-manage to better align the infrastructure to business needs. For example, you can burst on-premises workloads into a cloud environment to utilize more resources.
- Reliability—cloud vendors build and maintain expansive infrastructure, providing various redundancy options using availability zones to deliver reliability at scale. Each vendor offers different service level agreements (SLAs) that guarantee a certain level of availability.
- Cost—cloud infrastructure can eliminate upfront capital costs spent on on-premises infrastructure, using a consumption-based model to deliver infrastructure on demand. Cloud vendors use a pay-per-usage model to bill users for the infrastructure they consume on an hourly, weekly, or monthly basis.
- Security—cloud vendors invest in and improve their infrastructure security and provide customers with features to set up their own security controls. Cloud infrastructure enables you to access high-end security features that are unavailable or too expensive.
Here are common challenges you might encounter when using cloud infrastructure:
- Shared security—cloud vendors operate under a shared security model that requires the vendor to secure their infrastructure, and customers are asked to secure their workloads and data by applying the proper configuration, monitoring, and access controls. However, overseeing cloud infrastructure and services can be complex.
- Visibility and management—cloud infrastructure utilizes a virtualization layer that abstracts the physical hardware on which workloads run. As a result, cloud customers cannot gain the visibility and control needed to properly secure their workloads and data.
- Out-of-control costs—the pay-as-you-go pricing model only works when closely allocating and monitoring cloud resources. Inactive resources, overprovisioning, and service dependencies challenges can result in unexpected cloud costs. You need to diligently monitor and manage your cloud usage to prevent overhead.
Cloud Cost Optimization with Spot by NetApp
While public cloud providers offer native tools for some cloud optimization, and even provide recommendations for potential cost reduction, they stop short of actually implementing any of those optimizations for you.
This is where Spot by NetApp’s portfolio can help. Spot not only provides comprehensive visibility into what is being spent on your cloud compute and by whom, but also:
- Generates an average saving of 68% by showing you exactly where you can use either EC2 spot instances or reserved capacity (RIs and Savings Plans) to save costs. It lets you reliably automate workload optimization recommendations in just a few clicks.
- Guarantees continuity for spot instances, ensuring even production and mission-critical applications can safely run on spot instances, using predictive algorithms and advanced automation to guarantee workload continuity.
- Manages RIs and Saving Plans portfolios, providing maximum utilization and ROI with minimal risk of financial lock-in and cloud waste.
- Maximizes savings for DevOps teams running Kubernetes with proven machine learning and automation to continuously determine and deploy the most balanced and cost-effective compute resources for your container clusters.