Friday, March 05, 2010

Floating on a Cloud

In a previous post I discussed some topics I would like to explore and share. Today I am going to share my thoughts about The Rack Space Cloud Products. I want to point out, that I am not being payed by rackspace for this post, and I do not currently use any of these products personally although I have had clients who have used rackspace in the past. I also plan on using every product I am about to discuss in the future.

First I want to talk about what is the cloud, and what is cloud hosting. Wikipedia says
"Cloud computing is a way of computing, via the Internet, that broadly shares computer resources instead of using software or storage on a local PC."
What this means is imagine having an infinite amount of computer resources (RAM, Bandwidth, CPU, and storage) as long as you have enough money to pay for it. The key though is you only have to pay for what you use. This is great because now when Slashdot, or any other news media talks about a website you don't have to worry about if you hardware will scale to the new huge demand, and once that demand tappers down in a month or two you are not stuck with a bunch of servers you no longer need. The concept is pay as you go so to speak.

Here is a list of some key features of the cloud. (again borrowed from wikipedia)

  • Agility improves with users' ability to rapidly and inexpensively re-provision technological infrastructure resources.
  • Cost is claimed to be greatly reduced and capital expenditure is converted to operational expenditure. This ostensibly lowers barriers to entry, as infrastructure is typically provided by a third-party and does not need to be purchased for one-time or infrequent intensive computing tasks. Pricing on a utility computing basis is fine-grained with usage-based options and fewer IT skills are required for implementation (in-house).
  • Device and location independence enable users to access systems using a web browser regardless of their location or what device they are using (e.g., PC, mobile). As infrastructure is off-site (typically provided by a third-party) and accessed via the Internet, users can connect from anywhere.
  • Multi-tenancy enables sharing of resources and costs across a large pool of users thus allowing for: Centralization of infrastructure in locations with lower costs (such as real estate, electricity, etc.), Peak-load capacity increases (users need not engineer for highest possible load-levels), and Utilization and efficiency improvements for systems that are often only 10–20% utilized.
  • Reliability improves through the use of multiple redundant sites, which makes cloud computing suitable for business continuity and disaster recovery. Nonetheless, many major cloud computing services have suffered outages, and IT and business managers can at times do little when they are affected.
  • Scalability via dynamic ("on-demand") provisioning of resources on a fine-grained, self-service basis near real-time, without users having to engineer for peak loads. Performance is monitored, and consistent and loosely-coupled architectures are constructed using web services as the system interface. One of the most important new methods for overcoming performance bottlenecks for a large class of applications is data parallel programming on a distributed data grid.
  • Security could improve due to centralization of data, increased security-focused resources, etc., but concerns can persist about loss of control over certain sensitive data, and the lack of security for stored kernels. Security is often as good as or better than under traditional systems, in part because providers are able to devote resources to solving security issues that many customers cannot afford. Providers typically log accesses, but accessing the audit logs themselves can be difficult or impossible. Furthermore, the complexity of security is greatly increased when data is distributed over a wider area and / or number of devices.
  • Maintenance cloud computing applications are easier to maintain, since they don't have to be installed on each user's computer. They are easier to support and to improve since the changes reach the clients instantly.
  • Metering cloud computing resources usage should be measurable and should be metered per client and application on daily, weekly, monthly, and annual basis. This will enable clients on choosing the vendor cloud on cost and reliability (QoS).

So that sums up what cloud computing is. Now lets get to RackSpace.

RackSpace offers three different cloud products.
  1. Cloud Servers
  2. Cloud Sites
  3. Cloud Files
Cloud Servers
Cloud Servers are scalable, affordable, and cloud-driven platform of virtualized servers. Customize and spin up new instances in minutes, or take them down, all with root access, easy-to-use management tools and, of course, our Fanatical Support. You only pay for what's provisioned.

Cloud Sites
Cloud Sites are robust, fast, and easy to use web hosting platform. With built-in redundancy, clustering, and the power of cloud computing, your websites are ready to grow with your business.

Cloud files
Cloud files are simple, scalable, and cost-effective online storage solution that leverages the power of the Cloud. Whether your storage needs are modest—or monumental—you enjoy built-in redundancy, an easy-to-use control panel, and Fanatical Support from day one.

My next posts will discuss Cloud Sites and Cloud files in more detail. These are the two products I see myself using in the coming months.
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