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As you research cloud computing, you've probably heard terms like "scalability," "reliability," and "availability." Learn the difference between these terms and how each benefits your business.
Cloud computing 101: The interrelationship of scalability, reliability, and availability
Reading time: about 7 min
While researching reasons to migrate to the cloud, you’ve probably learned that the benefits include scalability, reliability, availability, and more. But what, exactly, do those terms mean?
This article focuses on cloud computing scalability, cloud computing reliability, and cloud computing availability. You will learn that:
You need cloud scalability to meet customer demand.
You need reliability in cloud computing to ensure that your products and services work as expected.
You need cloud availability to ensure that customers can access your cloud services whenever they need to and from anywhere in the world.
You need to bring all three together to achieve true high availability.
What is scalability in cloud computing?
Cloud computing scalability refers to how well your system can react and adapt to changing demands. As your company grows, you want to be able to seamlessly add resources without losing quality of service or interruptions. As demand on your resources decreases, you want to be able to quickly and efficiently downscale your system so you don’t continue to pay for resources you don’t need.
However, there is more to scalability in the cloud than simply adding or removing resources as needed. Let’s look at some of the different types of scalability in cloud computing.
This refers to how well your cloud services are able to add and remove resources on demand. Elasticity is important because you want to ensure that your clients and employees have access to the right amount of resources as needed.
Cloud elasticity should be automatic and seamless. People accessing your cloud services should not be able to notice that resources are added or dropped. They should just have the confidence that they can access and use resources without interruptions.
Vertical scaling (or “scaling up”) refers to upgrading a single resource. For example, installing more memory or storage capacity to a server. In a physical, on-premises setup, you would need to shut down the server to install the updates.
This term is used to describe “building out” a system with additional components. For example, you can add processing power or more memory to a server by linking it with other servers. Horizontal scaling is a good practice for cloud computing because additional hardware resources can be added to the linked servers with minimal impact. These additional resources can be used to provide redundancy and ensure that your services remain reliable and available.
This term refers to a cloud computing feature that lets you automatically manage the different types of cloud scalability automatically. Cloud providers such as Amazon Web Services offer auto-scaling to enable consistent performance regardless of the current demand on resources.
Implementing and managing a cloud scaling strategy is:Convenient: You can easily increase or decrease storage capacity as needed.Flexible and fast: You can quickly respond to changing demands to keep customers up and running without delays in service.Cost-effective: You don’t have to pay for expensive hardware or provide the space to store it.Fault-tolerant: Resources can automatically be scaled to accommodate redundancies and to facilitate disaster recovery.Time-saving: Upgrading existing hardware and installing new hardware on-site can be very time-consuming. Cloud computing can take care of the scaling for you. This frees you up to focus on innovation and process improvement rather than troubleshooting errors and other issues.
Cloud computing is so scalable because the cloud service providers have the necessary hardware and software in place. They also use virtual machines (VMs) to scale up or down because:
You can easily add resources to VMs at any time with minimal impact.
You can easily move VMs to a different server that has more resources.
You can host VMs on a server cluster to share resources and balance the load.
What is reliability in cloud computing?
When you access an app or service in the cloud, you can reasonably expect that:
The app or service is up and running.
You can access what you need from any device at any time from any location.
There will be no interruptions or downtime.
Your connection is secure.
You will be able to perform the tasks you need to get your job done.
Factors like these measure the reliability of your cloud offerings. In a perfect world, your system would be 100% reliable. But that is probably not an attainable goal. In the real world, things will go wrong. You will see faults from things such as server downtime, software failure, security breaches, user errors, and other unexpected incidents.
Proper planning and cloud visualization can help you address faults quickly so that they don’t become huge problems that keep people from accessing your cloud offerings. The cloud makes it easy to build fault-tolerance into your infrastructure. You can easily add extra resources and allocate them for redundancy.
Employing measures that make your cloud system more reliable ensures that:
IaaS vs. PaaS vs. SaaS
Understand the IaaS, PaaS and SaaS cloud service models and their benefits.
What is IaaS? Infrastructure as a Service Definition
This definition explains the meaning of infrastructure as a service (IaaS), how works, how it differs from SaaS and PaaS, and the range of services it provides over the internet.
What is IaaS?
Infrastructure as a service (IaaS) is a form of cloud computing that provides virtualized computing resources over the internet. IaaS is one of the three main categories of cloud computing services, alongside software as a service (SaaS) and platform as a service (PaaS).
In the IaaS model, the cloud provider manages IT infrastructures such as storage, server and networking resources, and delivers them to subscriber organizations via virtual machines accessible through the internet. IaaS can have many benefits for organizations, such as potentially making workloads faster, easier, more flexible and more cost efficient.
In an IaaS service model, a cloud provider hosts the infrastructure components that are traditionally present in an on-premises data center. This includes servers, storage and networking hardware, as well as the virtualization or hypervisor layer.
IaaS providers also supply a range of services to accompany those infrastructure components. These can include the following:
detailed billing; monitoring; log access; security; load balancing; clustering; and
storage resiliency, such as backup, replication and recovery.
These services are increasingly policy-driven, enabling IaaS users to implement greater levels of automation and orchestration for important infrastructure tasks. For example, a user can implement policies to drive load balancing to maintain application availability and performance.
THIS ARTICLE IS PART OF
What is public cloud? Everything you need to know
Which also includes:
8 key characteristics of cloud computing
Top public cloud providers of 2023: A brief comparison
8 ways to reduce cloud costs
How does IaaS work?
IaaS customers access resources and services through a wide area network (WAN), such as the internet, and can use the cloud provider's services to install the remaining elements of an application stack. For example, the user can log in to the IaaS platform to create virtual machines (VMs); install operating systems in each VM; deploy middleware, such as databases; create storage buckets for workloads and backups; and install the enterprise workload into that VM. Customers can then use the provider's services to track costs, monitor performance, balance network traffic, troubleshoot application issues and manage disaster recovery.
Any cloud computing model requires the participation of a provider. The provider is often a third-party organization that specializes in selling IaaS. Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Google Cloud Platform (GCP) are examples of independent IaaS providers. A business might also opt to deploy a private cloud, becoming its own provider of infrastructure services.
What are the advantages of IaaS?
Organizations choose IaaS because it is often easier, faster and more cost-efficient to operate a workload without having to buy, manage and support the underlying infrastructure. With IaaS, a business can simply rent or lease that infrastructure from another business.
IaaS is an effective cloud service model for workloads that are temporary, experimental or that change unexpectedly. For example, if a business is developing a new software product, it might be more cost-effective to host and test the application using an IaaS provider.
Once the new software is tested and refined, the business can remove it from the IaaS environment for a more traditional, in-house deployment. Conversely, the business could commit that piece of software to a long-term IaaS deployment if the costs of a long-term commitment are less.
In general, IaaS customers pay on a per-user basis, typically by the hour, week or month. Some IaaS providers also charge customers based on the amount of virtual machine space they use. This pay-as-you-go model eliminates the capital expense of deploying in-house hardware and software.
When a business cannot use third-party providers, a private cloud built on premises can still offer the control and scalability of IaaS -- though the cost benefits no longer apply.
IT management responsibilities
Enterprises’ infrastructure management responsibilities change, depending on whether they choose an on-premises, IaaS, PaaS or SaaS deployment.
What are the disadvantages of IaaS?
Despite its flexible, pay-as-you-go model, IaaS billing can be a problem for some businesses. Cloud billing is extremely granular, and it is broken out to reflect the precise usage of services. It is common for users to experience sticker shock -- or finding costs to be higher than expected -- when reviewing the bills for every resource and service involved in application deployment. Users should monitor their IaaS environments and bills closely to understand how IaaS is being used and to avoid being charged for unauthorized services.
Insight is another common problem for IaaS users. Because IaaS providers own the infrastructure, the details of their infrastructure configuration and performance are rarely transparent to IaaS users. This lack of transparency can make systems management and monitoring more difficult for users.
IaaS users are also concerned about service resilience. The workload's availability and performance are highly dependent on the provider. If an IaaS provider experiences network bottlenecks or any form of internal or external downtime, the users' workloads will be affected. In addition, because IaaS is a multi-tenant architecture, the noisy neighbor issue can negatively impact users' workloads.