Cloud IT Infrastructure: Everything You Need to Know
Cloud IT infrastructure is a powerful and strategic IT deployment option for organizations looking to improve total cost of ownership (TCO) while achieving the necessary application performance, security and business agility—especially as the speed of business increases and remote work environments persist. However, to achieve the value the cloud promises, organizations must understand their business needs and engage a top cloud provider for IT infrastructure that aligns with these requirements.
What is Cloud IT Infrastructure?
Cloud IT infrastructure refers to the hardware and software components that support cloud computing services. The infrastructure is comprised of two layers: the physical layer and the abstraction layer. The physical layer includes the servers, storage devices, network components and other underlying hardware. The abstraction layer rides on the physical layer and includes virtualization software, management tools, a user interface and various software.
Cloud Service Provider
The integration of these elements eliminates the need for organizations to operate and manage onsite IT equipment. Instead, organizations can leverage the cloud IT infrastructure of a third-party cloud services provider (CSP) to access the necessary computing resources.
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Three Main Cloud Architectures
Cloud IT infrastructure is available in three cloud architectures:
Private cloud hosting dedicates equipment to a single organization. This deployment model is generally utilized to support sensitive data or business-critical applications that require heightened security or have specific regulatory and governance requirements. The private cloud computing architecture is also frequently used to address computing demands that are too expensive to operate in a public cloud.
Public cloud computing services offer a multi-tenant environment in which many organizations share the infrastructure. These environments are built and managed by public cloud providers, allowing customers to choose the amount of computing, bandwidth and storage they need.
A hybrid cloud environment integrates private and public cloud infrastructures, allowing organizations to place workloads in the private cloud architecture or environment that best supports its requirements. For example, sensitive data can be stored in the private cloud, while big data can reside in the public cloud.
How Does Cloud Computing Infrastructure Work?
Cloud IT infrastructure enables cloud computing by abstracting resources such as processing power, data storage and networking from the physical hardware that typically houses them to create virtual instances. Once separated, users can access the same virtual machines and infrastructure via the internet.
Components of Cloud Infrastructure
Cloud IT infrastructure is comprised of four core components operating systems that work together to deliver cloud resources.
The server is a computer that is configured to deliver any number of services to an organization. For example, mail servers support the delivery of email, while file servers store data and web servers support online capabilities. Private cloud deployments utilize dedicated servers to support the needs of a single organization, while public clouds partition servers to create a multi-tenant environment in which many organizations share the same server.
Cloud storage equipment allows organizations to store data in off-site file servers rather than physical data centers. Cloud-based storage is offered in incremental blocks to help organizations more tightly align their resources with their storage demands.
Virtualization separates data storage and compute power from hardware devices. Once virtualized resources are extracted, users can access cloud resources from a connected device using a graphical user interface (GUI).
Networking infrastructure—which includes switches, physical wiring, routers and load balancers—allows users to access cloud resources and data from any location using the internet.
Benefits of Cloud Infrastructure
A well-designed cloud IT infrastructure that is aligned with business priorities can offer organizations a series of advantages over an on-premise data center. To make the most of the benefits of a cloud architecture, organizations should have a clear understanding of their needs and objectives and design their cloud solution with these factors in mind.
Improved Flexibility and Scalability
Cloud IT infrastructure offers improved flexibility over traditional on-site data center deployments because organizations can adjust their cloud resources more easily to respond to operational changes. This allows organizations to easily scale bandwidth, compute or storage up or down to support seasonal or unexpected usage spikes, business growth or other business requirements. It also allows organizations to burst on-premise workloads into the cloud to supplement capacity.
Procuring physical infrastructure can be complex and slow—especially given existing supply chain obstacles. The cloud allows organizations to rapidly provision cloud resources in intentional increments to build and maintain a high-performing cloud environment that supports business needs. This agility is enriched by the cloud’s self-management capabilities that enable organizations to make service and capacity changes without CSP intervention. This efficiency strengthens the bottom line and allows IT teams to dedicate more time to business-driving initiatives rather than IT management.
COVID-19 offered a real-life lesson in the importance of accessibility. Through virtualization, cloud IT infrastructure allows users to access data and applications with any connected device, from anywhere, at any time to greatly improve employee productivity.
Cloud IT infrastructure can also offer improved reliability and resiliency over an on-premise data center. CSPs have redundancies built into their deployments to ensure uptime. They also have teams dedicated to the performance and availability of the cloud infrastructure as a service itself. For added confidence, most CSPs offer SLA-backed uptime guarantees.
Better Controlled Costs and an OpEx Model
Cloud IT and cloud infrastructure delivery models allow organizations to avoid the hefty upfront capital costs of data center construction and management. By leveraging cloud infrastructure, organizations achieve a consumption-based cost model so they pay only for the resources they use. Cloud infrastructure also offers economies of scale to further control expenses.
While there has been some skepticism over cloud security, CSPs are committed to protecting their infrastructures from security risks. Utilizing advanced firewalls, data encryption and various other security-enhancing tools, CSPs fortify their environments against cyberattacks, data breaches, viruses, distributed denial-of-service attacks and other threats. CSPs also stay current with system updates and software patches and prioritize their compliance. Organizations with more intense security demands can also leverage the dedicated environments of private or hybrid cloud architectures.
How to Manage Your Cloud Infrastructure
While cloud IT infrastructure offers a wealth of benefits, these benefits can only be achieved if the cloud deployment is closely managed to ensure it continues to support business priorities. Cloud management is an ongoing process that helps organizations identify what cloud resources are being utilized and how they are performing to help ensure the continued efficacy of the cloud strategy.
To understand what is happening in a cloud deployment, organizations can employ cloud monitoring tools. By monitoring the cloud environment, organizations gain the insight they need to avoid cloud sprawl, better control costs and strengthen performance. Public clouds generally offer native monitoring tools to help with this; however, a variety of third-party tools are also available to help organizations manage resources across multiple cloud environments. For expert support in this complex effort, organizations can leverage the managed cloud infrastructure components and services of a third party.
To ensure an effective cloud management strategy, organizations should monitor and regularly assess various elements of the cloud strategy.
Managing cloud performance largely revolves around ensuring the appropriate level of resources. This requires organizations to understand business demand for virtual services and align sufficient CPU, memory and storage resources with this demand.
Cloud infrastructure offers elastic resources, but this is only an advantage if the resources are needed. Controlling cloud costs is a balancing act that requires organizations to right-size their environments with performance and cost in mind. Without a watchful eye on capacity demands, costs can spiral out of control quickly. Organizations must remain vigilant in only provisioning the necessary cloud resources as idle resources waste money.
To further control cloud costs, organizations should also evaluate their egress fees. Data that frequently moves in and out of a public cloud can rack up costs. These workloads may be better served in another environment.
While CSPs continue to invest in their security capabilities, organizations must remember that cloud security is a shared responsibility. To protect their applications and data, organizations should integrate security best practices such as configuration management, data encryption, endpoint security measures, automated security updates, and identity and access management (IAM) into their solutions.
Cloud Governance Practices
Organizations also need to oversee their public cloud services and infrastructure for compliance and governance. While CSPs are responsible for their compliance, they are not responsible for their customers. Cloud governance can help organizations meet regulatory requirements while establishing best practices and protocols to tighten cloud management controls and help avoid cloud sprawl and other inefficiencies that can introduce security risks and unnecessary costs. Regular risk assessments and audits can help organizations ensure effective governance.
Implement the Necessary Changes
As organizations identify inefficiencies and potential risks within their public cloud architecture deployments, they need to make the necessary adjustments. Cloud infrastructure offers self-service capabilities and automation to ease organizations’ abilities to address these changes.
Self-service Capabilities. Self-service capabilities allow organizations to adapt their cloud needs easily and flexibly, without CSP assistance. This speeds up time to market, quickly delivering the necessary resources to boost performance, better manage costs and improve security.
Workflow Automation. Cloud orchestration tools can minimize recurring, manual cloud management tasks such as infrastructure provisioning and data backups. This automation enhances operational efficiencies, speeds application deployment and minimizes opportunities for human error, while helping organizations keep pace with dynamic cloud environments and evolving business requirements.
Protect Your Cloud Infrastructure with Flexential
Achieving an effective cloud IT infrastructure that supports diverse business needs can be a challenge. Flexential can help. The Flexential FlexAnywhere™ platform offers a full suite of cloud, colocation, connectivity, disaster recovery as a service (DRaaS), managed services and professional services to satisfy the most complex and challenging IT demands.
Offering robust cloud solutions, Flexential helps organizations achieve the agility to quickly deliver new capabilities and scale resources in any direction. Flexential cloud solutions are deployed out of Flexential-owned and operated data centers. These secure, compliant facilities are monitored around the clock for physical and virtual threats, outages and other potential vulnerabilities to ensure organizations’ workloads within the cloud environment are secure and running effectively. Flexential cloud deployments utilize Flexential Interconnection, including its 100 gigabits per second (Gbps) network backbone and a powerful, nationwide network of cloud nodes to meet latency requirements. Organizations earn additional peace of mind with Flexential managed network services to optimize connectivity.
Flexential cloud solutions include:
Hosted Private Cloud.
Flexential Hosted Private Cloud offers dedicated computing without the need to manage the IT infrastructure.
Hosted Private Cloud – Advanced Access.
Flexential takes its hosted private cloud a step further with its Advanced Access solution. This single-tenant cloud solution delivers full administrative permissions, so customer administrators have control over the Flexential-owned vCenter using a single console. With these advanced privileges, organizations achieve the visibility, practice management and extensibility they need to manage cloud resources and access controls without the added infrastructure expense and management responsibilities. Organizations also attain a heightened degree of personalization without risking security and compliance.
The Flexential multi-tenant hybrid cloud architecture offers a shared, highly available VMware-based compute infrastructure with customer-dedicated VMs so private data remains isolated and inaccessible to other tenants.
Before undertaking any cloud migration, organizations should conduct a cloud readiness assessment to understand both the technical and business requirements. While cloud migration can be an intense process, Flexential can help organizations navigate this process with ease.
Whether an organization is contemplating the cloud to support a remote workforce, improve agility or TCO, or replace aging infrastructure or outdated software, Flexential cloud experts can help design and deploy an effective cloud solution that protects data, optimizes applications, and accelerates innovation.
Maintain control over your IT environment and protect your data with Flexential Cloud Solutions. Schedule a consultation or learn more here.