Cloud infrastructure for sensitive workloads

vom 11.10.2019

12.09.2019 I by Henrik Hasenkamp

Business-critical applications in sensitive industries face hurdles in the cloud. Compliance and performance requirements demand dedicated servers - also as cloud services.

In recent years, cloud computing has cut off many old IT brains: expensive storage of licenses, confusing server stacks in the basement, servers staying in idle mode for hours. Thanks to the cloud, entire IT infrastructures can now be configured with just a few mouse clicks, servers are immediately available and if RAM, storage or computing power becomes scarce, the infrastructure can be easily readjusted and scaled.

However, many companies want to use dedicated servers for individual workloads. Some even need to, because they process sensitive data. Industries such as healthcare, insurance and finance require dedicated IT resources for compliance reasons. In addition, there are often time-critical tasks that are performed with high priority.

Companies with these requirements want a certain amount of resources available at all times, such as 64 permanent cores, at least 128 GB RAM or no less than eight terabytes of disk space. Traditionally, such requirements are met in the data center by dedicated hardware - a rack-mounted device specially reserved for the customer. However, such servers are difficult to integrate into cloud infrastructures. It is therefore an obvious idea for the providers of the computer in the cloud to also virtualize dedicated servers in the cloud. Such servers are described by the term "virtual locations".

Such a server is virtual because it does not differ from normal cloud servers from the user's point of view. It is requested and operated in the same way. It is dedicated because a single machine with precisely defined parameters is actually hidden behind the software layer. The concept of virtual locations thus combines the look and feel of virtual infrastructures with dedicated hardware.

How Virtual Locations Work

Virtual locations provide a direct link between the server booked by the user and the underlying resources. A correspondingly large physical device is assigned to the virtual device. Put simply, the operator reserves one of its servers in the data center for a single customer. It basically behaves like any other virtual server, but has a specific "location" in the cloud service data center.

A service offered under the name "Virtual Locations" can be booked under the infrastructure provider's simple user interface parallel to the conventional virtual servers and works seamlessly with them. It is available on the familiar user interface with the same automation capabilities. The only difference is that booking is not invoiced to the minute, but to the day. This gives users the flexibility that is common with cloud services, but also all the advantages of dedicated hardware.

Advantages of Virtual Locations

Compared to typical virtual cloud servers, virtual locations have some advantages for companies with special data sovereignty and compliance requirements:

  • All resources (CPUs, RAM, storage) are assigned exclusively to one customer. They are available at all times and do not have to be booted up and assigned.
  • It is conceivable that the assigned resources perform tasks that a virtual server cannot handle - such as number crunching, complex and tedious calculations that require very high computing power. Virtual locations on special high-performance servers can considerably accelerate the processing of compute-intensive tasks.
  • The current hypervisors of the providers do not completely cope with the dreaded "Noisy Neighbor effect" in cloud computing. This means that one user is consuming more of the shared resources than he or she deserves, thereby affecting the other users. A virtual location system is not affected as all computing power is used and is not disrupted by high utilization of shared resources.
  • Virtual locations and virtual servers work together seamlessly in a single infrastructure; in this scenario, resilience is achieved by extending the virtual location to multiple physical servers.

Disadvantages of Virtual Locations

Virtual locations are the cloud adaptation of a classic root server. They can also have certain disadvantages for users compared to a virtual server.

  • Compared to virtual servers, the reserved hardware results in higher unit costs and also higher total costs (TCO), as there is no billing to the minute.
  • In addition, users have to do without the fast start of the server. Only conventional virtual servers can be started immediately, otherwise a waiting time is to be expected.

Conclusion

Virtual locations do not replace the quickly and flexibly provided virtual servers in everyday IT life. However, they are a good complement for business-critical workloads. They also help companies in highly regulated industries to meet compliance requirements with a cloud infrastructure. However, billing on a daily basis and waiting times when starting a new virtual location increase both unit costs and TCO. Dedicated servers are therefore primarily aimed at companies that need just such a solution. (jd)

The original article in german can be found here.

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