Cloud computing infrastructure is the combination of computer hardware, software and networking that enables on-demand, automated provisioning of computing resources.
This infrastructure enables massive-scale cloud providers to offer public cloud services, where customer organizations can pay to access the computing resources they need, over the internet, and scale up or down as those needs change. Organizations may also choose to deploy cloud infrastructure in their own data centers — a model known as private cloud computing — or to take a hybrid approach.
Cloud computing infrastructure, also known as Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), is one of the three main cloud computing deployment models, along with Software as a Service (SaaS) and Platform as a Service (PaaS). According to Fortune Business Insights, the entire cloud computing market was roughly $194 billion in 2019 and is projected to grow to nearly $649 billion by 2027.
Cloud Infrastructure Components
Servers are high-density computers that store data and run large, complex back-end software such as email, finance applications and databases. In a cloud computing infrastructure, one server may run multiple instances of an application and make them available to multiple customers, resulting in a more efficient use of computing resources.
Virtualization is the technology that ensures servers are being used to their full potential in a cloud infrastructure. Virtualization abstracts server hardware from the software running on top of it, essentially creating multiple virtual servers within one physical server. Each virtual server, also called a virtual machine, can operate independently of the others while running its own operating system and application.
The cloud maximizes efficiency through networking. Connecting all of the physical and virtual servers within a data center optimizes functionality. Networking further connects multiple data centers to form what we think of as the cloud — an entire distributed system operating as one, capable of executing numerous programs and storing large amounts of data. Networking is also responsible for delivering cloud services to individuals and businesses, typically via the internet.
Trillions of bytes of data are generated every day, and businesses increasingly rely on this data for analysis and insight. When the software programs that access this data move to the cloud, so does the data itself. As such, data storage makes up a sizable portion of the cloud’s infrastructure.
Cloud Infrastructure as a Service
Cloud Infrastructure as a Service describes the business of offering on-demand server, storage and network resources on a pay-per-use subscription basis. The major global IaaS providers are Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Platform.
Because of the benefits — an organization pays only for what it uses, avoids long-term commitments to hardware, and is able to easily scale — IaaS has helped fuel overall cloud adoption.
IaaS also gives organizations more flexibility through the ability to provision a server remotely. Provisioning a physical server requires obtaining the hardware, installing the required software, configuring it, and integrating it with the rest of the environment. With IaaS, an employee can do this with the click of a button — or it can happen automatically if certain conditions are met.
Benefits of Cloud Infrastructure
Cloud computing infrastructure reduces upfront costs, so established businesses or startups can get a new project up and running right away, from the idea phase to development and finally scaling. In the same vein, cloud infrastructure has given businesses access to a level of computing power and storage that would otherwise be too expensive or complex.
Cloud infrastructure also makes SaaS possible by enabling software companies to host their products in the cloud and deliver it to customers over the internet for a subscription fee. The entire SaaS sector brought in roughly $105 billion in revenue in 2020, according to Gartner.
Types of Cloud Infrastructure
Public cloud is a cloud computing deployment model in which an organization offloads all of its infrastructure needs onto the cloud provider and accesses their services remotely. Many organizations use the same public cloud at once, the management and separation of which is handled by the provider.
A private cloud computing offers many of the same benefits as a public cloud but is typically hosted in an organization’s own data center, rather than with a cloud provider.
The traditional method of running on-premises infrastructure is not considered a private cloud unless it incorporates the same principles of abstraction, automation and elasticity as found in a public cloud.
A hybrid cloud combines public and private clouds working together. The end goal is for a seamless integration between the two, with data and applications able to move between environments as needed.