Cloud hosting is a big deal - it's a revolution in hosting and in IT infrastructure more generally. Companies are switching over from physical infrastructure to cloud hosted environments in their droves, so much so that by 2012, business analysts IDC expect cloud computing to capture 25% of all IT spending. And it's easy to see why...
- Massive reductions in infrastructure costs
- Instant flexibility to scale IT resources
- Faster time-to-market for new applications
- Full server hardware redundancy
- Compatibility with existing application code
So just what is cloud hosting?
It all starts with the concept of "virtualization". Virtualization allows a single physical server to be partitioned into multiple "virtual servers", each given specific allocations of the server's memory, processing power and disk space. Because the resources are virtualized, it's possible to increase and decrease them on the fly - meaning you can scale up from a small virtualized environment to a larger one as your needs increase, or scale down should they decrease. Your costs are tied to your usage and you are not paying for server resources that you don't use, as could be the case on an underutilized dedicated server.
Cloud hosting takes this concept one step further. Multiple servers are connected together over a private gigabit speed network, and a grid operating system is installed on each of them which essentially binds them together. Not only do you now have the same ability to scale resources on demand, but you also have an in-built redundancy. Any data uploaded to a virtualized environment is 1:1 mirrored on a different physical server. Furthermore, the grid operating system reserves enough spare resources to withstand the failure of a physical server. In the event that a physical server fails, the data on it remains available and the resources are simply restarted elsewhere in the cloud. Best of all, this happens automatically, and takes just 3-5 minutes to complete.