The world of Cloud Hosting, like any niche, is comprised of an entire lexicon of terminology. Much like any other niche, a lot of the terms which make up the Cloud Hosting world are misunderstood, misused and abused. Very common terms like scalability, elastic, edge server, CDN, POP, hypervisor, nodes and SAN/SSD are all commonly misunderstood and misused.
Due to this, we are going to take the time to set the record straight so when you decide to invest in Cloud Hosting solutions or you enter into a conversation about how a CDN can increase the speed at which your content is displayed/accessed, you won’t sound like a buffoon.
1. Scalability vs. Elastic
From the outside, the terms would seem to be interchangeable. A service which is scalable – a quality Mark Cuban and Mr. Wonderful always worry about – is a service which can grow in size or shrink in size according to demand. On the same accord, when someone talks about the elasticity of a company, they generally are referring to the company’s ability to flexible with changing market conditions – to take the good and the bad, roll it into company plans and continue to operate.
In terms of Cloud Hosting, a scalable Cloud server is a hosting company which will allow you to grow or shrink your web server resources as needed. Cloud Hosting scalability means the ability to grow or shrink your servers’ RAM, CPU, Bandwidth and Disk Space in real-time coordination with market demand.
On the other hand, an elastic Cloud Hosting service generally refers to the Amazon EC2 solution or web services which are capitalizing on consumers mixing up the term with scalability. A good example of this is ElasticHosts.com. As defined by Amazon, the Amazon EC2 (Elastic Compute Cloud) is,
“a web service that provides resizable compute capacity in the cloud. It is designed to make web-scale cloud computing easier for developers. Amazon EC2’s simple web service interface allows you to obtain and configure capacity with minimal friction. It provides you with complete control of your computing resources and lets you run on Amazon’s proven computing environment.”
Scalability means resource growth or reduction based on market demand. Elastic refers to Amazon EC2.
A CDN, a Content Delivery Network, refers to the worldwide system of edge servers, nodes, data centers and web servers utilized to make content separated by vast geographic distance accessible in rapid time. To explain a CDN, we have to explain how a content delivery network works.
Right now, I am sitting in New York City. In two weeks’ time, I will be flying to Hong Kong. In the interim, I am going to want to learn about local Hong Kong news. To do that, I will access the Hong King In-Media, the Hong Kong Daily News and the Hong Kong Economic Journal. The first time I access the content from New York City, I will be pulling the web server information from the respective papers server of origination located somewhere in southern China.
To get that data quickly, the aforementioned papers all have data replication located in servers around the world. This is done so a person sitting in New York City trying to access a local Hong Kong paper can access that paper from a more local server, located in Baltimore or Boston etc., as opposed to the server of origination. This network of servers, data centers and edge servers, known as a CDN, allows users to access content stored in a geographically removed server, with speed and ease.
A very popular CDN network is Cloudflare.
3. Edge Server
Within the CDN section, we mentioned the term edge server. An edge server, as the name suggests, is a server which sits on the edge of a connected CDN network allowing the transmission and storage of replicated data. Edge servers live on the horizon between two connected networks. They are the connecting tissue between two or more connected networks which enable CDN’s to exist.
Edge servers are also used for security purposes, application purposes and email needs. Sometimes, an edge server might mistakenly be referred to as a POP.
A POP, or a Point of Presence, is any location in the world where a Cloud Hosting provider or a data center firm, holds a server storing and routing data. As eluded to, sometimes an edge server is referred to as a POP because it represents a touch point for data being carried by a Cloud hosting provider.
The basic idea behind a POP is the more points of presence a web hosting firm maintains over the globe, the more secure their data is and the easier that data is to access from any location in the world. A POP, as you might expect, helps to build, maintain and operate a CDN.
Unless you are working within the IT industry, hypervisor isn’t a term you will come into contact very often. This said, the term does pop up when researching virtualization and cloud based virtual environments.
A hypervisor is the computing machine which creates and operates virtual machines. As noted by Wikipedia, “a hypervisor or virtual machine monitor (VMM) is a piece of computer software, firmware or hardware that creates and runs virtual machines. A computer on which a hypervisor is running one or more virtual machines is defined as a host machine. Each virtual machine is called a guest machine.”
In basic terms, a hypervisor is the computer which creates, operates and maintains virtual computing environments.
Linked to hypervisors is a direct terms which refers to virtual computing environments – virtualization.
In terms of Cloud Hosting, virtualization refers to the technology which enables a hypervisor to make a hardware bound computing environment, virtual. A virtualized computing environment allows you to access the full compute capabilities of a machine virtualized on a hypervisor. Virtualization converts hard physical computing resources into virtual resources allowing users to access a computing environment without having to purchase an entire computer.
Virtualization allows a single user to run multiple computing environments, applications and programs from a single computer. Virtualization reduces computing costs, increases productivity and access higher compute resources than stored in his/her local environment.
Common Cloud hosting virtualization technologies are KVM, OpenVZ, Xen and Hyper-V.
Communication. At the end of the day, all Cloud hosting and IT systems boil down to the ability to effectively communicate between systems. Without effective communication between hypervisors, virtualized computing environments, edge servers, network routers and data storage technologies, Cloud hosting would fall apart.
This is where the Cloud hosting node comes in. A node in the Cloud refers to a communication thru/end point. The node connects different devices to one another by translating communication and passing it along with the right device. Much like a phone switch board operator in the 1950’s, the Cloud hosting node connects all data calls to the right end points.
Nodes are common in many different information technology services yet are critical in global Cloud hosting services.
Without effective nodes, the Cloud would never be possible.
8. as a Service
Cloud hosting makes heavy use of the “as a Service” technologies. The “as a Service” technologies, in terms of Cloud hosting, can be separated into three different categories – Software, Platform and Infrastructure.
As noted by the name, “as a Service” refers to technology which can be accessed via Internet connection rather than relying on locally stored data.
The bottom of the “as a Service” pyramid is Infrastructure as a Service. IaaS enables consumers to lease out web hosting infrastructure for their own computing needs. Instead of owning web hosting equipment, IaaS allows consumers to lease web hosting hardware in a data center to run their own computing needs.
DigitalOcean, Amazon, Google and Rackspace are top IaaS providers.
The middle level of the “as a Service” pyramid is Platform as a Service. PaaS enables developers to lease and rent developer tools needed for building applications, programs and computing environments. Instead of having to purchase and own the tools, PaaS enables developers to utilize computing resources and tools to build consumer facing services.
Amazon Web Services, Long Jump, Windows Azure and the IBM Smart Cloud are all top examples of PaaS providers.
The top of the “as a Service” pyramid is Software as a Service. SaaS enables consumers to lease popular programs, software and applications from a provider who hosts those programs, software and applications. A great example of this is an office leasing Office 365 for company use without ever buying a physical copy.
SaaS enables companies to lease needed software without having to replace it every few years, having to maintain it or having to fix it.
Salesforce, Microsoft Office 365, Eloqua and Oracle are all top examples of SaaS providers.
9. Internal Cloud or Private Cloud
Cloud hosting companies will offer consumers three types of Cloud solutions: internal, public or hybrid. The Internal Cloud or the Private Cloud, is a Cloud Hosting service deployed behind a stringently monitored firewall. The Private Cloud enables large scale companies and corporations to host critical business data behind a protected firewall. This deployment restricts public access from sensitive business data.
Just like a Public Cloud solution, Private Cloud Hosting data is accessible via a stable Internet connection. The major difference is to access that data, users need to either use a VPN or login to the network through password protected validation.
A VPN, or a Virtual Private Network, is a tunneling protocol access which enables users dispersed from their home location to access a private Cloud network utilizing multiple layers of security encryption.
A Virtual Private Network is commonly used by remote workers who have a need to access data stored in their company’s private Cloud.
So, the next time you get into a conversation about Cloud Hosting technologies, you can now throw around some weighty terms without sounding like a buffoon.