If you own or operate a business, you’ve probably heard a lot about cloud computing. At times, these discussions use the term “virtualization” in a way that sounds interchangeable with the cloud.
While these two technologies are related, they are not precisely the same thing.
What Is Virtualization?
Virtualization is the technology that makes it possible for the cloud to exist at all. At the most basic level, virtualization software creates multiple software-defined environments on a single physical server. You gain many benefits from that, with the biggest one being that you can use your hardware more effectively and cost-efficiently.
Virtualization has been around for a long time in various forms. When companies had the opportunity to move from capacities that were defined by the number of servers you had to a software-defined model, they gained significant flexibility in the way they provisioned IT resources.
“Over 75% of organizations utilize server virtualization. Some firms even report that they have virtualized or plan to virtualize 90% of their servers.”
What is Cloud Computing?
Cloud computing is a type of virtualization that consists of service delivery via the Internet. The cloud is virtualized hardware that is maintained by the service provider. They offer various services built on this technology, which is why cloud-based solutions are appended with as-a-service. Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) is the most commonly known type of cloud, where software is offered to customers without the end user needing to install it on their own workstations.
Cloud computing has been around before the term was officially coined. For example, web hosts offering shared hosting or virtual private servers had multiple clients using the same physical hardware. They divided up the server capabilities with virtualization software. Hosted services were essentially the same thing as a cloud-based service today. For example, hosted email servers were handled by the vendor and often virtualized so that multiple email servers were located on the same piece of hardware.
Today, some businesses put their entire infrastructure in the cloud. The cloud provider delivers everything from databases to the operating system through the Internet.
The Business Impact of Cloud Computing
One of the biggest impacts on cloud computing is solution accessibility.
A decade or two ago, only the largest enterprises had the resources necessary to use large-scale software such as enterprise resource planning applications and other complex solutions. The advanced features such as automation make it much easier to accomplish work, which gave those organizations a competitive advantage in their markets.
The little guys couldn’t compete with that.
The cloud dramatically decreases the cost and resources needed, which opens up specialized software to a much broader audience. Now, small businesses can access many of the same types of solutions as international enterprises.
Since the cloud service provider handles deployment, maintenance, installation and other IT-heavy tasks, small businesses don’t need a full department of technicians before they can start using this software.
By the end of 2018, spending on cloud computing for data centers, software and services will be $547B.
How Do Businesses Apply Virtualization and Cloud Computing?
Virtual Machines are one of the common uses of virtualization in a business. A software development that needs a way to test an application in multiple running environments can use a workstation that has a variety of operating systems delivered as VMs. The testing and quality assurance process is much easier to work through when a new OS is a click away.
As for a practical cloud application example, take Google’s G Suite. It offers a variety of back-office solutions through the cloud. The most well-known of these is Gmail, their email server offering. They also have word processing, presentation creation, and spreadsheets included in this offering. Microsoft has a similar service called Office 365, which includes Outlook, Word, PowerPoint, Excel, and more.
Enterprise resource planning platforms and customer relationship management solutions are also available through the cloud. These types of applications used to have complex installation processes and were difficult to keep updated when companies had to do it for each server or workstation. When ERP and CRM platforms function in the cloud, the service provider is the one who handles those details.
Benefits and Features of Cloud Computing and Virtualization
Both cloud computing and virtualization offer unique features and benefits to an organization.
One of the most impressive benefits of cloud computing and virtualization are the updates. The software updates are all managed on the vendor’s end. When users work, they automatically have the most up-to-date version of their application. Not only does this make it possible to continually access new features, but it also improves security by eliminating holes in patches.
Storage is another major use of virtualization, especially when it comes to cloud computing. Cloud-based storage brings a number of advantages to businesses, such as being able to increase capacity with a few clicks and putting your data in a geographically diverse (and secure) locations. Centralizing your data into an easily accessible service also makes data recovery a simple process.
DaaS is a cloud category that uses virtualization for powering the databases that your software uses. When you run into a situation where you have a higher than normal demand, you can add more database capacity without needing to add physical servers to your business.
Master the Cloud with Alliance
Modern business wouldn’t look the way that it does today without virtualization and cloud computing. The sheer number of advantages, from lower costs to increased flexibility, make virtualization a necessary part of a company’s IT strategy. From one person businesses to the largest companies in the world, everyone stands to gain from these solutions.