Cloud Computing Hosting – Keeping Your Head in the Cloud
Why Cloud Hosting is becoming more important for developers and web designers.
Cloud computing has officially moved on from being just a buzz word. Start ups, ecommerce giants and freelance web designers have all embraced cloud technology in some form – from Google Apps to Basecamp.
Cloud computing offers some pretty exciting opportunities to web designers and web developers. In particular cloud servers and hosting enable web developers to develop scalable web apps and create websites backed by large environments that traditionally were only available as expensive high-end dedicated server clusters.
Cloud hosting provides users with a scalable, on-demand server infrastructure on which to build web based apps and websites. The user can grow capacity or scale it back depending on their requirements – a feature that could potentially change the way web developers (in particular web app developers) use hosting. Web designers will also find this factor useful for controlling & handling peaks in traffic that might result from “Slashdot” effects or website testing.
Cloud hosting is based on virtualization technology which is similar in principle to that which was used by Virtual Private Servers (VPS). The benefit of traditional VPS servers was that it provided a fraction of a physical machine at lower cost than buying a complete dedicated server. Performance was acceptable and each VPS had its own degree of configuration independence.
The development of processor power and virtualization hypervisors now means that virtualization flexibility and performance is now significantly better than ever before. For example Linux KVM (a virtualization engine) can now support many virtual servers running unmodified versions of Linux, Windows, FreeBSD etc on one physical machine with minimal virtualization overhead.
Cloud hosting and Virtualization
The true benefit of cloud hosting and virtualization is the ability to create and resize servers without the need to buy additional hardware or waste time on taking the physical machine apart for an upgrade. With a cloud server you can create extra servers for your site, increase the size of your existing servers or delete redundant servers and see the effect immediately.
The benefit with today’s virtualization services, in particular cloud hosting, is that the process of managing your cloud server is easy. You get a web control panel to adjust your capacity, APIs to automatically scale capacity and on-demand hourly billing so that you only pay for the capacity which you actually use when you are actually using it.
There are many types of web sites and applications where the flexible, scalable capacity offered by cloud hosting makes sense. Peaks and troughs are the most obvious reason to invest in a scalable cloud server. Ecommerce sites that get hit during the busier holidays, sites that have high value offers or product discounts, high profile PR and the natural increase of site popularity are all cases where cloud hosting can keep sites running and grow with demand (and fluctuate when demand returns to normal).
For web developers, the best technical fit for cloud hosting is when a web application has a substantial computational requirement on the server. Whilst CDNs can cover large-scale high-bandwidth distribution of static files, and dedicated RAID arrays can be used for heavy disk uses such as video streaming, neither of these can scale to handle high-volume complex server-side processing. In this instance, hybrid clusters of cloud servers together with some dedicated machines can be used where a dedicated redundant database server can be used in conjunction with a scalable front-end web server.
In summary, cloud hosting offers new capabilities to both developers and designers that combines the benefits of a dedicated server with the flexibility of the cloud. Cloud servers are also a great opportunity to simply test server and hosting configurations.
At ElasticHosts we have a free cloud hosting trial where you can set up your own cloud server to test the technology. Cloud hosting is becoming more important to the hosting mix and the ability to offer web apps that use cloud based technology is also becoming a key selling point of many applications.