Increasingly, there is a confusion between cloud computing and virtualisation. One is not the same as the other. This misunderstanding contributes greatly to confusion in the minds of ITC decision-makers, but also serves to halt the journey to a cloud computing model.
Simply put, virtualisation is a consolidation technology (among other things) – whereas cloud is a business model that may leverage virtualisation, but is not a technology, says Richard Vester, Director of Cloud Services at EOH.
Cloud computing is a way for organisations to consume many things such as business processes, workflow, cost visibility, software as a service, infrastructure as a service and probably the biggest – hybrid cloud – allowing customers to keep the data they want inside their organisation and extend the external facing applications to the hosted private cloud. These things are not virtualisation.
To double-check our facts, we refer to the encyclopaedic; that know-everything tool in the sky – Wikipedia:
"In computing, virtualisation is simulating a hardware platform, operating system (OS), storage device, or network resources."
"Cloud computing is the result of evolution and adoption of existing technologies and paradigms. The goal of cloud computing is to allow users to take benefit from all of these technologies, without the need for deep knowledge about or expertise with each one of them. The cloud aims to cut costs, and help the users focus on their core business instead of being impeded by IT obstacles."
While many IT organisations boast they have ‘moved to the cloud', this is often the result of pressure from non-IT executives (the board) and the belief that virtualisation is the cloud.
We accept that one of the main enabling technologies for cloud computing is virtualisation. Need another server? Virtualisation allows the IT department to add, reduce, increase and move both their hardware and software around at will. Virtualisation brings agility to the organisation, speeds up IT operations and reduces costs.
Cloud computing, once accepted as a total protocol for running the business, brings significant value on top of virtualisation platforms by streamlining management processes and increasing efficiencies to reduce the total cost of ownership (TCO).
Cloud and virtualisation are closely related, but virtualisation is not essential to a cloud computing solution. The services that cloud computing brings to the infrastructure, those such as managing of a private cloud (in your data centre), public cloud (such as SalesForce) and managed hosted cloud (virtual servers hosted elsewhere), as well as many other added-value services, are what make virtualisation and cloud computing different to each other.
Cloud computing encompasses a broad range of IT services – from compliance to security – but the essentials are that it must bring the organisation the true values in economics and flexibility.
It may be said, then, that cloud treats computing as a utility rather than a specific product or technology. As a very basic thought, we can say that cloud computing evolved from the concept of utility computing and can be thought of as many different computers pretending to be one computing environment.
Cloud delivers compute and storage resources as a service to end-users over a network, whereas virtualisation itself does not provide the customer with a self-service layer. Without that layer, you cannot deliver compute as a service. The cloud computing model allows end-users to self-provision their own servers, applications and other resources and includes virtualisation, which in turn allows companies to fully maximise the computing resources at its disposal, but it still requires a system administrator to provision the virtual machine for the end-user.
Virtualisation abstracts the physical infrastructure, which is the most rigid component (therefore is virtual), and makes it available as a soft component that is easy to use and manage. As we have said, virtualisation provides the agility required to speed up IT operations, and reduces cost by increasing infrastructure utilisation. On the other hand, autonomic computing – found in cloud management systems – automates the process through which the user can provision resources on-demand. By minimising user involvement, automation speeds up the process and reduces the possibility of human errors. Cloud computing provides this, ensuring speed, agility, elasticity and economic returns on investment.