Everywhere you look in the web and server hosting space, you’ll see signs of the influence cloud marketing has had. There is no end of cloud servers, cloud VPS servers, cloud hosting, and cloud platform providers — many of which aren’t really cloud platforms at all.
It’s easy to see why web hosting providers are tempted to adopt the mantle of the cloud. Imagine you’re a web hosting provider with a few old dedicated servers lying around. You see that “cloud” is the marketing buzzword of the day, so you throw a hypervisor on the old servers and create a new page on your website advertising your awesome cloud servers. You might even opt to use a fancy control panel that does basically the same thing as cPanel but with more “cloudy” language.
In reality, this is not a cloud. It’s virtual private servers rebranded as the cloud. These virtual private servers are not especially scalable, fault tolerant, well-performing, or powerful — but they are cheap, especially if hundreds are squeezed on the same server. This is essentially a new spin on shared hosting: the product isn’t great for the user, but the margins are incredible for the hosting provider, plus, it’s cloud, so it must be good.
And then there’s the low end of the cloud market — the genuine cloud market, which will give you as many servers as you want, when you want them, for $5 a pop at the cheapest. These are genuine cloud servers on a cloud platform: they can be spun up or destroyed at will, and they’ll scale horizontally quite well.
But there’s a reason these platforms are cheap — you’re on your own. If your server dies, too bad. If you lose data, too bad. Network contention issues? Too bad. Storage so slow you suspect it’s connected to your server with a 56K modem? You get the idea.
So what should you be looking for in a true cloud platform engineered to take advantage of the full capabilities of cutting-edge cloud and network technology?
A high-availability platform has no single points of failure. If a cloud server goes down, it fails over onto another physical node with minimal downtime. High availability is important for building fault tolerant application hosting in the cloud.
Fast IO and Storage
Some vendors tout their SSD drives, but there’s very little advantage if those drives are connected to the cloud platform over slow network connections at risk of contention issues. Look for a cloud platform that offers Storage Access Networks (SAN) connected to compute nodes with fat pipes that can transmit data as fast as your application needs.
Ideally, Storage Access Networks should also offer high availability. In this case, high availability means that all components of the SAN — storage media, controllers, network connections, and data — are redundant. Data is stored at multiple locations within the system so that if any part of it suffers a failure, the faulty component can be immediately swapped out.
A Proven Cloud Computing Platform
Because of the popularity of cloud platforms, there are several pseudo-cloud control panels available to hosting companies. Compared to cloud computing software like OpenStack, these are woefully under-featured. OpenStack is a comprehensive cloud stack that offers battle-tested tools for building clouds with the qualities we’ve been discussing. Business cloud hosting clients shouldn’t settle for feature-lite “cloud” platforms.
A Full API
This should go without saying, but if a cloud platform doesn’t offer a comprehensive API, it doesn’t deserve the name “cloud”. Cloud platforms allow users to leverage the benefits of software control of infrastructure. The power of infrastructure-as-code shouldn’t be discounted. It’s a major benefit of deploying infrastructure on a genuine cloud platform.
A cloud platform with these features won’t fall in the $5-a-server camp. It’ll be more expensive. But the benefits outweigh the cost. If a high-availability, high-performance cloud platform sounds good to you, don’t fall for the marketing hype — choose a genuine cloud platform.
About Justin – Justin Blanchard has been responsible for leading initiatives that increase brand visibility, sales growth and B2B community engagement. He has been at the core of developing systems, tools and processes that specifically align with Server Mania’s client’s needs.