Cloud Compute services are provided by a range of providers worldwide, including AWS and Microsoft Azure. Still, the two most prominent names in cloud computing have provided data on their service. In Amazon's case, there's a good amount of detail on the difference between its managed and unmanaged services, what services you can choose and what you can expect when you buy a Cloud Compute subscription.
That said, Amazon also provides a more specific list of services if you're looking to build your AWS instances, but we'll put those aside for this guide.
Both providers provide a wealth of technical information about their services on the AWS and Azure sites, including detailed images of their servers, operating systems, virtualization options, data storage facilities, and critical management tools.
If you're concerned about technical complexity, it's best to read through that documentation first to identify the right services for you, but once you've got them, you can take them from there, whether you're on-premises or in the cloud.
A word of warning: you need to decide which tier of service is best for your application before you buy. If you're looking to manage your own applications, you're best off with your provider's Service Level Agreements (SLAs).
If you need a cloud service provider to install and manage your server infrastructure, you will likely get the best performance when running a workload-optimized service for a specific function.
Choosing the Right Managed or Unmanaged Cloud Compute Services
Managed compute: This service is supported by a range of in-house and outsourced services and solutions, such as Amazon's own Elastic Compute Cloud, Virtual Private Cloud (VPC), Virtual Private Servers (VPS), and Elastic Load Balancing, which makes it an excellent choice for businesses running complex server virtualization and data storage applications.
Managed services generally offer fast response times when running a high-demand application. Still, if the performance of a managed service is key to your application, you'll need to ensure it has the appropriate SLAs in place.
AWS, which offers both managed and unmanaged services, has several tools in place to manage managed services, including its managed migration tool, the ability to push new images to a managed cloud account, and access to device-level logging and analytics.
Managed services are generally more expensive than unmanaged. Still, the flexibility to scale up and down as your workload demands grow and the ability to create dedicated servers and share resources with other applications or applications you're also hosting are features you can use to your advantage.
AWS and Microsoft offer managed to compute services, but AWS will give you a guaranteed SLA and 99.99% uptime for the contract's life, whereas Microsoft does not offer SLAs but provides 99.9% uptime for the first two years.
Unmanaged compute: If you need to run your applications on your own hardware or on other systems that you can secure and manage yourself, then unmanaged compute is for you. The service is billed on-demand as our processor utilization decreases and can be managed via various tools and web apps.
These tools, and some of the cloud providers in the industry, offer a range of APIs to help you build your application or to integrate with existing tools. Still, it's best to check what capabilities they provide and get a clear idea of whether it's suited to your needs before you sign up.
Suppose you do choose to run your instances: it's important to take the time to understand the costs and requirements involved in building your system and how you can scale your business in the future, either organically or through management, if necessary.
Self-hosting: All the services we've covered so far are available to you, whether in the cloud or on-premises. But that's not to say that self-hosting doesn't have its uses.
In the past, there was a perception that the cloud made self-hosting impractical, but cloud providers such as Rackspace and HP Cloud are now supporting self-hosting.
Like managed and managed services, AWS offers a range of managed self-hosting services, ranging from all-in-one managed virtualization for developers and DevOps teams to dedicated servers, all of which guarantee 99.9% uptime for the first two years.
Managed server farms provide the infrastructure to run your own instances of your favorite server virtualization or storage services on your hardware. The cloud provider does the software maintenance and management.
AWS and Microsoft offer managed server farms, but Microsoft's Azure offering is unique. It features a Tier III data center to house the servers, plus several Tier II locations across the US for communication between systems. You'll have no fear of downtime or data corruption due to their network infrastructure.
Cloud technology brings several unique opportunities for businesses. Still, understanding how to use it to enhance your customer experience and a willingness to embrace the new way of doing things will be crucial to making the most of those opportunities.
It's also worth remembering that while the shift to the cloud makes more efficient use of resources, it can be a lonely place for smaller businesses. Those who could afford the power and cooling of the traditional data center now find themselves competing with the economies of scale that come with many cloud providers.
Sharing their limited resources with many other businesses will be more challenging, but with the right approach and tools in place, it shouldn't be that much harder.
Room to Move
Rather than join all of the disparate clouds and services, it's easier to break them down.
Ask yourself which providers can offer the most appropriate resource for your workloads and which will give you the most cost-effective service at any given time.
Several tools will come with your cloud provider, such as Vmware's Photon OS, which is designed to help users switch seamlessly between multiple hypervisors for maximum flexibility. However, it's easy to take the concept too far.
If you try to move all of your workloads to a virtualized environment, it's best to start small. The more work you do on your own, the more experience you'll have with the tools and processes involved in getting your systems up and running.
If, for instance, you're changing from physical servers to virtual servers, it's best to run your pre-existing workloads on virtualized servers and then migrate them to the cloud as part of the migration process if it's practical to do so.
Suppose your virtual environment is still configured the same as it was on your physical servers. In that case, it might be best to either rebalance the virtualized environment to match your existing environment or, if it's fully automated, get it to replicate the existing environment or even mirror it, with virtual resources seamlessly swapping over to replicate the existing environment.
To save the most on your migration costs, you may also find that moving some of your workloads to the cloud in one go is a lot more economical than doing it in stages.
You should also remember that you're not going to make significant savings just by migrating some of your workloads. While the cloud's scalability can be both a blessing and a curse, it's usually the best solution for maintaining a healthy workload mix and distribution.
No two workloads are the same; the same isn't always true for resources.
Some services might require you to run two high-capacity servers, while others can be run on four machines with a single operating system.
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These are just some of the decisions you'll have to make as you shift to the cloud, but the savings are worth the effort. However, they won't be worth it unless you plan properly and use the right tools to help you make the most of your cloud investment.
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