What is cloud infrastructure?
Cloud infrastructure is comprised of the hardware and software components used to deliver cloud computing services.
A wide variety of resources are used to deliver cloud services infrastructure. Depending on the needs of an organization, those resources may include servers, storage, networking equipment, and virtualization components. Together, these components comprise cloud infrastructure, which is used to deliver storage, processing power, and software applications over the internet.
Now that we’ve covered cloud infrastructure’s meaning, let’s differentiate it from a couple of related terms that it might get confused with. First, there’s the umbrella term, cloud computing. Cloud computing refers to the services delivered over the cloud, while cloud infrastructure refers specifically to the physical resources (like servers and other hardware) that make up the cloud.
Then, there’s cloud architecture. Cloud architecture is the design and organization behind a cloud computing environment. It determines the configuration of cloud infrastructure. Framed in construction terms, cloud infrastructure represents the tools used to build a cloud environment, while cloud architecture is the “blueprint” behind how that environment will be built.
So, in short, cloud infrastructure refers to the physical and software components that make up a cloud computing environment, cloud computing is the delivery of resources and services over the internet, and cloud architecture is the design or “blueprint” of a cloud computing environment.
How does cloud infrastructure work?
Cloud technology infrastructure is made up of several components that work together to deliver cloud computing applications and services. These components include hardware, storage, compute, networking, security, management, and virtualization. Together, these technologies and services form the backbone of cloud computing.
Here’s more info about some of the key elements of cloud infrastructure:
Cloud environments are comprised of physical hardware that can be located in datacenters across multiple regions. The physical hardware that makes up cloud infrastructure includes servers and backup devices.
The compute layer of cloud infrastructure is responsible for running and managing virtual machines, containers, and other workloads. It employs virtualization technology to create virtualized resources that can be dynamically allocated and reconfigured.
Cloud infrastructure typically relies on cloud storage which stores data on a remote server, rather than a local hard drive. Cloud storage providers like Azure offer a variety of storage services for block, objective, and file storage that allow you to easily scale performance.
In the context of cloud infrastructure, networking allows users to connect to and deliver hybrid and cloud-native applications with low-latency.
Cloud infrastructure can include a variety of security measures like encryption, authentication, access control, and monitoring that are designed to protect your data by rapidly identifying threats.
Typically, cloud infrastructure is managed through a web-based interface that allows users to monitor, configure, and scale as needed.
These components are often used in the IaaS (infrastructure as a service) cloud computing model. IaaS allows organizations to rent compute, storage, and networking resources on-demand without the complexity of buying, managing, and maintaining physical servers. IaaS services, such as Azure IaaS, often offer flexible pricing options like pay-as-you-go, where you only pay for the resources you use.
For more information about the components of cloud infrastructure and other cloud computing terms, check out the cloud computing dictionary.
What are the benefits of cloud infrastructure?
Now that you have a basic understanding of the components of cloud infrastructure, you might be wondering about the benefits of adopting it at your organization. To start, transitioning to cloud infrastructure may offer substantial cost savings over localized options. Large cloud service providers, such as Microsoft, are able to offer services at rates that may be significantly cheaper than what it would cost to host data and other resources on-premises.
Some of the other benefits of adopting cloud infrastructure include:
Because cloud infrastructure typically relies on large providers that have massive, multitenant servers, businesses can easily scale their usage of resources, like compute power and storage, up and down with demand. And, since resources are hosted on external datacenters, doing so doesn’t require significant upfront investments on behalf of the company paying for it.
Cloud infrastructure can be accessed from virtually anywhere on many different types of devices. This enables remote work and provides organizations with the agility to quickly respond and adapt to changing business conditions.
Cloud infrastructure is typically managed by large, experienced providers who employ teams of experts to ensure everything runs smoothly. This helps ensure high availability and business continuity even amid rapidly changing conditions.
Typically, cloud infrastructure providers are reputable technology companies that have tested, proven methods for maintaining a high degree of security over the data they host on their servers. As a result, adopting cloud infrastructure can be a cost-effective way for businesses to improve their own security.
The scalability, security, and reliability of large-scale cloud infrastructure provides increased resilience in the face of disruptions.
Now that we’ve gone over the advantages of adopting cloud infrastructure, let’s get into the different deployment models for it.
What are the deployment models for cloud infrastructure?
There are three primary deployment models for cloud infrastructure: public, private, and hybrid.
In the public cloud deployment model, an organization rents infrastructure from a cloud services provider, such as Microsoft. The data on public clouds is maintained by the provider and accessed by the company using their services entirely through the internet. The advantages of public cloud deployment include heightened scalability and flexibility. It’s also often the most cost-effective model.
In the private cloud deployment model, a business builds its own cloud infrastructure using on-premises servers. Companies that handle extremely sensitive data or are required to uphold strict regulatory requirements often use private clouds to host at least some of their resources.
Finally, there’s the hybrid cloud deployment model, which is when an organization uses a private cloud for some of its workloads, and one or more public clouds for others. This model allows organizations to take advantage of the scalability and lower cost of public cloud deployment for less sensitive data, while maintaining a high degree of control and security over the data it deploys privately. And some organizations use hybrid clouds as an intermediate step while they’re moving workloads from an on-premises datacenter to a public cloud.
Given all this, you should consider the security, regulatory, and financial needs of your organization in selecting a deployment model for cloud infrastructure. Next, we’ll get into some of the other considerations you should make regarding adopting cloud infrastructure.
The key considerations for adopting cloud infrastructure
Cost modeling is used to understand and assess the cost structure of cloud infrastructure. For example, it might be used to assess the cost of scaling resources through a cloud provider versus expanding on-premises data capacity through additional servers. Azure offers a pricing calculator to help you estimate the costs of migrating your workloads.
Security is an important consideration for any company, especially those with large amounts of sensitive, important, or actionable data. The security features of cloud infrastructure include encryption, access control, and auditing to make sure data is secure and only authorized users have access to it.
Dependency on the internet:
Cloud infrastructure relies on the internet to store and provide access to your data. That means if there’s an internet outage in your area, you may not be able to access your apps and data. That said, cloud service providers typically back up data at more than one datacenter location, so your data should remain safe even if you can’t access it locally.
Some organizations have data that is legally required to be stored in a certain geographic area due to data residency laws. Given that cloud service providers store data in facilities across the globe, it may be important for an organization to consider the data residency requirements of their data when adopting cloud infrastructure. Large cloud providers, like Microsoft, can often accommodate data residency requirements by agreeing to host specified data in certain datacenters.
Sustainability is an important consideration for cloud infrastructure. It involves reducing the environmental impact of providing cloud services by using renewable energy and the efficient use of resources. Moving to cloud infrastructure may help an organization reduce its overall energy consumption and costs.
In the context of cloud infrastructure, innovation is the implementation of new technologies, such as AI, to provide new capabilities to users.
Scalability involves the ability to scale up or down to meet changes in demand. Additionally, it allows organizations to add or remove services as needed. The flexible pricing options available through providers allows them to offer highly scalable services that remain relatively affordable.
What tools and services are offered by cloud infrastructure providers?
Another advantage of cloud infrastructure is the many helpful management tools and services offered by cloud service providers. Here are a few of the tools offered by Azure:
helps you manage, govern, and secure your servers, Kubernetes clusters, and apps seamlessly in a single place, whether you’re using a public, private, or hybrid cloud deployment model.
helps you optimize your cloud investments with actionable recommendations for improving reliability, security, performance, and cost based on your usage and needs.
collects, analyzes, and helps you act on telemetry data from cloud and hybrid environments.
Azure Well-Architected Framework
is a set of tools, processes, and guidance to help you deploy, manage, and optimize your Azure services.
The Microsoft Cloud Adoption Framework for Azure
offers best practices and guidance intended to accelerate your cloud adoption journey.
The main components of cloud infrastructure include physical hardware, the compute layer, storage, virtualization, networking, security, and the management interface.
Azure is a cloud computing platform operated by Microsoft that offers more than 200 products and cloud services including infrastructure as a service (IaaS).
There are multiple cloud infrastructure certifications available, including Microsoft Azure certification. These certifications demonstrate an individual's ability to design, implement, and manage cloud infrastructure systems.