The concept of the cloud keeps growing, as does the assertion that companies can get more and more out of cloud providers as technology advances.
Many companies are now making the switch from purely virtualized environments to those that are at least partly cloudy. These clouds can be private, hybrid or public, and offer a number of improvements over pure virtualization. With IaaS, SaaS and PaaS options now being advertised by companies like Citrix, Microsoft and VMware, along with new cloud products like Cloud Foundry – meant to be an open-source cloud development program – on the horizon, many companies are wondering what the next step is for their IT infrastructure. How does one go from a virtualized environment to a place in the clouds?
This is the new buzzword in the industry, and the one that many providers hope will bring clients in from the virtualization side of the fence. By offering cloud hosting options that share many characteristics with standard virtualization, providers are hoping that companies will not only make the leap to at least a limited cloud, but will find out the advantages outweigh the potential risks.
While much has been made about the so-called security issues in the cloud, along with latency and response times, improvements in all areas place cloud hosting on par with any virtual technology. By transitioning to a cloud infrastructure, a company can deploy a virtual machine (VM) in any way they wish – the sky is literally the limit – with the only factors constraining growth coming in the form of company policy and budget. A cloud based VM can be configured however a company would like it, and serve any purpose they put it to. Options like Citrix Receiver and Lab Manager Light can help end-users control their cloud experience and run their VM in whatever native OS they prefer, along with spawning new VMs and assigning them to users, and giving them the ability to support cloud access on a range of devices.
But what does all of this new-found power really do for a company? To begin, it allows IT departments to quickly deploy and test new applications, and determine if they are ready for use, need to be tweaked, or should be scrapped. Self-service control over VMs in the cloud allows company to set up and easily configure a machine specifically for the testing of applications, one that will quickly let IT techs know if an application has passed or failed. Instead of confining IT to endless rounds of conceptualization and theory, a VM can allow them to try out ideas and put them into practice, or put them out to pasture.
Of course, no mention of the self-service cloud would be complete without a mention of scalability and growth. Both of these are concepts that cloud pundits preach as the holy grail of cloud computing, and with a cloud based VM solution, companies can easily add more VMs as needed, enhance the bandwidth they can handle on a case-by-case basis, and shut down VM options if they are no longer needed. Agility and the speed to respond to customer needs are the hallmarks of the new cloud industry, and with the right virtualization tools and cloud APIs, companies will find easy ways to manage just how much of the cloud they are getting and how much it will cost.
Virtualization is an excellent first step to full cloud adoption, and self-service, private or hybrid cloud services can provide companies with a logical next move along with a robust testing environment.
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