Understanding the Cloud in Alaska
Alaska Internet Coming to Age
For years the Cloud has been growing. For us in Alaska it has grown slower than the lower 48. This is because the internet service in Alaska is still growing up. Now with the ability to have high speed internet delivered to our offices, the cloud has become truly available. Service providers such as Borealis Broadband make this a reality. For years, the internet through Alaska has not been able to deliver the required consistency. As with so many things, consistency is key. There is nothing more damaging to productivity than the lost time that comes from a failing connection to your key operational tools.
What is “Virtualization?”
Virtualization is at the very heart of the Cloud and allows for datacenters to allocate hardware, software, bandwidth, and other resources across many different users. At its basic level, “virtualization” is the separation of hardware and software that allows for these resources to be allocated as needed. This disassociation of software from hardware creates tremendous opportunities to scale numerous services, applications, and entire operating systems on purpose-built hardware in a segregated, secure fashion.
The Bubble Concept
Think about your operating system being encapsulated by a bubble, which never touches the physical hardware. When we’re talking about “virtualization” we are talking about creating a layer that becomes a movable connection between two things. These two things could be hardware and software, or they could be an application and an operating system.
To elaborate, take the laptop or computer you are currently working on. Let’s assume it came with a Windows 7 operating system. You cannot move the Windows 7 operating system to another PC because it is permanently installed on your PC. In order for you to move it, you would have to “blow it away”, and then call Microsoft and ask for another key to “unlock” it again. It is basically merged together with the hardware.
But virtualization removes this relationship and allows the operating system to be in its own “bubble” that can be moved to different resources when needed. So if the hard drive that the Windows 7 operating system was installed on became corrupt, it could simply be “moved” to another hard drive within the system and be rebooted there.
Why Virtualize? In Two Words: Portability & Flexibility
Keeping in mind that technology is only helpful when it becomes a useful business application; virtualization offers two very valuable benefits to your business. It makes your computer network both portable and flexible.
If you have a complete machine encapsulated in a bubble, you could run that system on any server which supports that technology. For example, one could be Dell, the other HP, one could be newer, one could be older, and the contents of the bubble wouldn’t matter. They’ve been separated from the underlying infrastructure and because of this, they are only talking to the virtualization layer … so hardware and software can be reconfigured on the fly as needed.
This also has huge value when looking at business continuity and disaster recovery. If you have backups of these “virtual machines”, they can be installed and booted anywhere. They can even be booted in the cloud; meaning that if your server was destroyed in a fire and you had an “image” of the server off-site, the server could be booted and accessed on a server in a datacenter (anywhere in the world), and accessed almost immediately by the business’ employees.
Hardware upgrades can be dealt with in exactly the same situation. When you bring a new server into the mix, there is no complicated rebuild. For physical servers, you simply bring a new one into the environment and then move the virtual machine onto it to redistribute the data.
This is simply not the case with traditional hardware – where any hardware replacement or upgrade requires lots of downtime and labor to get the operating system, applications, and data loaded and reconfigured on the new hardware. With virtualization technology you can easily and quickly redistribute resources that you have on hand, without excessive interruption, cost, or downtime.
Besides being portable, these bubbles are simple to create. When you need a new system, you no longer need to order hardware. You can carve up existing hardware, and use the complete resource, rather than letting that big CPU sit idle. This allows you to redeploy and reuse hardware quickly and easily, making it far more flexible than the hardware on its own.
This flexibility – the ability to create and divide resources as you need them, changes the game! You’re no longer limited to having enough raw hardware, you’re only limited by your ability to carve it into the pieces you need and want. Not all pieces need to be running at the same time, so you can start and stop pieces as you need them.
In A Nut Shell
There is no end to the future uses of virtualization on the Cloud. The separation of hardware and software available through virtualization can be hugely beneficial to small to medium sized businesses. In a world where a business’ server is virtualized, this portable and flexible system is now something that can be moved reconfigured, expanded, or reduced to fit a business’ needs. Virtualization offers businesses a substantially more flexible and stable network, while offering it for a much more manageable and affordable price.
Call the professionals at Alaska Computer Support to find out how the cloud can work for your company and empower you!