Cloud & Virtualisation

If you’re into science-fiction – and either way, we at Viastak don’t judge – you may well have come across the word “technobabble.” It essentially refers to sections of a script where the writer intentionally uses a gratuitous amount of technical-sounding waffle to disguise the fact that the science is, erm, fiction. It is designed to delight and confuse in equal measure, and whether you enjoy that feeling usually goes a long way to determining whether you’re a sci-fi fan or not. The truth is, however, that real science can make a lot of people feel the same way, with all these important-sounding technical words meshing into each other – and one example is virtualisation. The word is quite often mentioned in conjunction with cloud computing, and the relationship between the two is distorted by conflicting opinions online. So what is virtualisation? Simply put, it is the overarching term used to describe software that separates tangible infrastructures, dividing pieces of hardware into multiple parts. Using a virtual machine monitor (VMM) or virtual manager, this creates a service in which it is possible to run multiple applications simultaneously, on the same server. In theory, this enables businesses to make their IT infrastructure more efficient and flexible, while reducing financial outlay. Some say that virtualisation is the fundamental technology that powers cloud computing. There are those who say that the difference between virtualisation and cloud is simple: the former is the product, while the latter is the service it provides. They are perhaps on the right lines when they say this, but the truth is actually simpler: there is actually not any great difference at all. The issue which defines one from the other is the degree of control that one has over the hardware with a virtualised data centre. As stated above, you deal a lot more with physical infrastructure when you employ a virtualised solution: with a True Cloud solution, that side of matters is handled completely by the provider, whether that be Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, or another less prolific provider. That might sound like a lesser degree of control for the using company, but a good provider will always make the effort to work in tandem with its clients. Moreover, the main benefits that stem from a cloud solution, as opposed to a virtualised data centre, are rooted in flexibility and computing efficiency, which in turn are both a significant boon to those looking to reduce IT costs. It is related to the difference between hosted solutions and True Cloud. The cloud solution is more flexible because of its adaptable capacity according to the user’s needs, without the need for costly, time-consuming upgrades or replacements. In addition, the functions and applications of a True Cloud solution are malleable and compliant to the user’s requirements. These are flexible, while those placed on the hardware of a virtualised data centre are fixed. To conclude, if virtualisation is the raw iron, then cloud computing is the steel alloy created from building and improving on it. In principle, there is very little to differentiate the two; but what users make of either solution has a dramatic distinction. Ultimately, the cloud derives a greater return on investment through its more impressive functionality and lower costs, while never charging customers for any function they do not use. The question really comes down to whether business owners are willing to work with a provider for the sake of ROI, rather than stubbornly keep all data onsite.