Comparing IaaS Providers: Cost, Security, Location: Page 2

Contracting with an IaaS (infrastructure as a service) provider can be an easy way for firms to get started with cloud computing.


You Can't Detect What You Can't See: Illuminating the Entire Kill Chain

On-Demand Webinar

(Page 2 of 2)

Servers, or “instances” as they are frequently known, represent the main compute resource in IaaS. Simply put, they will usually be instances of a virtual server running a standard operating system such as Windows or a Linux variant. The underlying virtualization technology used to support the servers isn’t significant, although some service providers make a virtue of highlighting the hypervisor they use.

Operating system choice for servers will cover both Windows and Linux platforms -- the specific versions available will vary by provider. One point worth considering when choosing an O/S is the ubiquity of that platform across service providers.

Windows Server 2008 and CentOS are universally available (with Windows attracting an extra charge for licensing). Other variants of Linux are less popular. Amazon’s AWS takes operating system selection a step further by allowing the customer to choose from a range of AMIs or Amazon Machine Images. These include customized and pre-configured setups; currently there are over 7000 “community” customized AMIs to choose from.

When a new instance is created, the boot disk on which the instance runs can be persistent or transient. Persistent disks are retained when an instance is destroyed; transient disks last only as long as the instance itself.

Separating the instance from its boot disk is beneficial in a number of ways, as it can be replicated and moved around independently. Not all service providers offer persistent boot images and it is worth checking what features are offered in order to backup or snapshot the image in case recovery is needed.

The second feature is load balancing. A load balancer provides a virtual IP network connection and distributes connection requests across a number of instances of an application. This feature can be used to spread load across a number of server instances or to add a degree of resiliency and availability to an application.

For example, if a web application has periods of high demand, an additional server instance can be created and added to the load-balancing list for the duration of the increased demand. The temporary instance can then be decommissioned when demand subsides. The major IaaS providers all offer load balancing as a feature.

In addition to the two basic features discussed, some providers (notably Amazon) have a number of other offerings available. These include storage, database and messaging.

IaaS Security

With the news of recent hack attacks, including the high profile PlayStation Network, security sits high on everyone’s list. In a Cloud environment both logical and physical security is a concern.

Poor physical controls can result in data breaches or worse, including prolonged outages. Logical security should ensure that unauthorized access can’t be achieved in what is a multi-tenant environment. Always review the security features of your Cloud provider to ensure they meet your standards or compliance rules.

IaaS Management

The definition on Cloud Computing from NIST states “minimal management effort” as a service goal. This is achieved by most providers using web interfaces displaying dashboards and control panels. Web-based management should be simple and easy to use but is unlikely to provide the features needed to deploy cloud infrastructures at scale.

Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) enable Cloud computing to be integrated into existing business processes, including change control, provisioning and billing. And for organizations that already run their IT operations as a service to internal business customers, this will be mandatory. When multiple providers are used, APIs enable a common interface to be established, irrespective of where the computing resources are located.

IaaS Cost

Finally we have the critical subject of cost. It may seem strange to discuss cost last, but in reality most providers are pretty close to each other in the cost of their services.

Of course every provider will do differentiated pricing, including the costs of some services as part of the package and charging for others. It’s worth ensuring you know the full details of what your cost model is and more importantly how that translates into any Service Level Agreements if the service is unavailable or performs poorly. This is probably the most important aspect of service provision to understand; your business could be affected by an outage against which you have no claim.

IaaS Summary

Infrastructure as a Service provides an easy way to start using Cloud Computing. Most providers offer the core services of server instances, storage and load balancing. When choosing and evaluating a service, it is important to look at issues around location, resiliency and security as well as the features and cost.

Page 2 of 2

Previous Page
1 2

Tags: cloud computing, AWS, cloud services, Redundancy, IaaS

0 Comments (click to add your comment)
Comment and Contribute


(Maximum characters: 1200). You have characters left.



IT Management Daily
Don't miss an article. Subscribe to our newsletter below.

By submitting your information, you agree that datamation.com may send you Datamation offers via email, phone and text message, as well as email offers about other products and services that Datamation believes may be of interest to you. Datamation will process your information in accordance with the Quinstreet Privacy Policy.