Cloud computing services today vary widely in how they are packaged and labeled. But lift the lid, and all cloud services tend to have the same basic cloud computing infrastructure. It's this common infrastructure that enables these services to deliver the characteristic benefits of cloud computing.
Cloud Computing Infrastructure Fundamentals
Clouds can be public or private and offer any number of IT capabilities "as a Service". Given this variety, just what does cloud mean in terms of infrastructure?
While cloud services may differ in implementation detail, they share these common cloud computing infrastructure elements:
- Pervasive virtualization. Without virtualization—and the consequent ability to use pooled IT resources flexibly and efficiently—it's hard to imagine cloud computing. Cloud computing infrastructure typically utilizes storage and network virtualization as well as server virtualization.
- Pervasive automation. To meet unpredictable user demands and meet them instantaneously, cloud services make use of software that automates the provisioning and scaling of compute, storage, and networking resources.
- Self-service interfaces. A hallmark of cloud services is that users can invoke them through a web interface, without the assistance of the service provider. Thus a key part of cloud computing infrastructure is support for a web-oriented service API (application programming interface). Typically a web portal (which invokes the API) is made available to service users, and sometimes the API itself is exposed to service users so that they may build their own applications that call the API.
- Multi-tenancy and metering. Another defining attribute of a cloud service is that it is consumed by multiple customers (even private clouds have multiple customers in the sense of different business units within the corporation). Cloud management software and the underlying cloud computing infrastructure must support the ability to physically or logically segregate the traffic and data storage associated with different customers, and to closely track service usage per customer so that usage can be reported on and charged for.
Cloud Computing Infrastructure Extends Beyond the Data Center
A critical but often overlooked dimension of cloud architecture is the public Internet. In most cases, end users interface with cloud services through the Internet and consequently cloud service performance is susceptible to the inherent variability of the Internet. This is true even for private enterprise cloud services, if users are geographically dispersed or access the service through mobile devices.
At Akamai we help public and private cloud operators deliver high-performing cloud services through the Internet to end users connecting anywhere in the world, from any type of device. Our global content distribution and application acceleration platform spans more than 175,000 servers in over 100 countries, enabling service providers to extend their cloud network to within a single network hop of more than 90% of internet users worldwide. The result is a more reliable, more satisfying experience for cloud service users, boosting adoption rates and brand loyalty.
Learn more about why Akamai should be part of your extended cloud computing infrastructure.