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Virtualization is Not Cloud Computing

Jeff Krenek

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It seems everyone in the IT industry is focused on cloud computing. The industry has seen these trends in the past: distributed computing, client-server computing, and virtualization to name a few. You may feel that if you're not in the cloud, you are falling behind and missing some great opportunities. Well, you may be. To determine if you are, it’s important to understand what cloud computing is and how it's different from previous models and technologies.

For over a decade, organizations have employed virtualization to make workloads more portable, easier to configure, and – most importantly – capable of more fully utilizing all available compute resources. Virtualization technologies allow users to abstract the physical compute environment and cram a bunch more stuff onto a fixed set of compute resources.

Virtualization is fairly easy for IT and developers to adopt because the basic behavior models do not change. IT operators can still employ the same constructs with virtualized machines that they are used to using with physical infrastructure. They can provision a virtual machine, configure it, power it up, patch it, etc. And developers do not really need to change their programming models, either. The coding models and tools they use are generally the same between physical and virtual environments. Developers don’t really need to think about whether the target environment is a physical or virtualized.

Cloud computing is different. It's a new way of thinking about and approaching how IT operators manage environments and how developers employ those resources to solve business problems. Cloud computing is a new model that requires new methods and techniques to fully realize its benefits.

For IT operators, this means that you are no longer concerned with just machines, memory, and networking. You must now learn about platform services (PaaS) and software services (SaaS) and how to effectively manage those for your developers and organizations. Given that resources often reside outside the organization, you may feel like cloud computing, especially public cloud, obsoletes your job. But it doesn’t – it actually makes you more essential. You are needed even more now to effectively manage your IT resources across both private and public domains.

Developers face similar challenges with cloud computing. Yes, as a developer, you still need to know your programming languages and SDKs. But you have a whole new set of resources and constructs to employ that were not available in previous models. For example, cloud computing enables you to easily automate things like spinning up a database or webserver. You can also take advantage of new constructs like serverless computing. This frees you from thinking about virtual machines and resources and enables you to focus on the business problem and applications, letting the cloud environment handle the routine tasks. The cloud environment has a whole new set of tools for doing this -- and who doesn’t like learning about new tools?

You may run workloads in public clouds such as Amazon, Azure, Google, or others, and think this is ‘cloud computing’. But if you’re simply managing virtual machines and infrastructure (IaaS), you’re just doing ‘virtualization’ in the cloud and missing the real opportunities provided by the cloud model. Similarly for developers, if you are ignoring the additional platform and software services, you might also be missing out. Employing platform and software services in the cloud frees you up from concentrating on compute resources so you can focus your attention on solving business issues.

Keep in touch with us at HPE DEV HPE DEV to learn more about serverless computing, including Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) concepts and services.