Because they are closely connected to each other, virtualization and cloud computing are often confused to mean the same thing. The casual layman, or even somebody from a service provider, treats both as the same. Both cloud and virtualization address the same issues: making your computing perform better while also freeing up your resources for other important stuff. But these are two actually very different technologies. The main distinction is how the hardware is managed. In virtualization, you need to manage things internally while cloud computing’s hardware is managed by the service provider or by a third-party company that provides the service.
In virtualization, you run several servers on a single set of hardware, making your hardware work harder. With the use of a hypervisor, you get several times the computing power on a single CPU, eliminating the need for more hardware, more space and more power.
Cloud computing, on the other hand, allows you to access highly virtualized infrastructures run by a third party. Your applications, for instance, are not going to be dependent on your hardware. And instead of owning everything, you only pay for what you use. In short, you only shell out money for the exact amount of RAM, storage, network and CPU cycles you actually use. As such, cloud computing can help save you money, while also being very reliable and highly available. Cloud computing allows you to be very scalable and flexible, too. You get to pay only for what you consume while also having the necessary resources available to you when you need more.
Benefits and downsides
Virtualization can help you lower your costs by maximizing the physical hardware that you already own. But unlike cloud computing, you will need to buy these servers and software. And you would also need to ensure that performance is at its best because virtual servers will be competing for the resources of your network. Plus, you would need to have IT staff to oversee your virtualized systems.
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In cloud computing, you do not need to buy the hardware you are going to use. The provider will take care of the hardware side so you do not incur any startup costs. They also would be taking care of maintaining their own systems, so you pretty much do not think about the upkeep. But this would all depend on the provider you work with. Get a bad provider and you would pretty much wish that you had bought everything instead. Plus, you do not necessarily have control over your provider. If you put your services and applications on the cloud, your operations would virtually come to a catastrophic standstill if your provider goes offline even for a short time.
When it comes to cost, there is certainly a trade-off. With virtualization, you need some money to start. But cloud computing can prove to be costlier in the long run if you use a lot of your service providers’ resources.
What is right for you?
The thing is that there is no magic formula when it comes to choosing between virtualization and cloud computing. In fact, there are instances when you can combine both to help you run your applications and get the best of both worlds. It all comes down to how well your applications perform on each platform.
No matter which you choose, you would need to be sure that your applications run as they should. And if there are problems, you should be able to ensure that they continue to run or that they are back online as soon as possible.
Security is also a concern for both. Cloud computing might take out the need to have IT staff on board to help maintain, back up and update your systems, but you also lose control over your infrastructure. However, if you have a less than secure virtualized environment, an attack on one virtual machine can lead to attacks on all the virtual machines residing on the same system.
Trying to decide between cloud computing or virtualization? Talk to Four Cornerstone now![/expand]