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What is cloud architecture?

Cloud architecture is the way technology components combine to build a cloud, in which resources are pooled through virtualization technology and shared across a network. The components of a cloud architecture include:

  • A front-end platform (the client or device used to access the cloud)
  • A back-end platform (servers and storage)
  • A cloud-based delivery model
  • A network 

Together, these technologies create a cloud computing architecture on which applications can run, providing end-users with the ability to leverage the power of cloud resources.

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Why cloud architecture?

There are many reasons to design a robust and comprehensive cloud architecture. Chief among these is to:

  • Accelerate the delivery of new apps
  • Ensure compliance with the latest regulations
  • Deliver greater transparency into resources to cut costs and prevent data breaches
  • Enable faster provisioning of resources 
  • Meet service targets consistently
  • Gain insight into IT spending patterns and cloud utilization

Fundamentals of cloud architecture

To design a framework for a cloud computing environment, organizations must carefully consider their technology requirements and business needs. Although these can vary, the fundamental components of cloud architecture remain the same across enterprises.

  • Virtualization: Virtualization is the technology on which all cloud architectures are built. It works by creating a software-based, or virtual, representation of a resource, such as a server. By abstracting hardware resources and maximizing the output of a single server, virtualization reduces the need for costly hardware while increasing efficiency and flexibility.

  • Hardware: The back-end components of enterprise data centers include servers, persistent storage and local area network equipment, such as routers and switches.

  • Middleware: These software components act as an intermediary, enabling networked computers, applications and software to communicate with each other.

  • Management: Cloud management tools allow for continuous monitoring of a cloud environment’s performance and capacity. IT teams can track usage, deploy new apps, integrate data and ensure disaster recovery, ideally all from a single console.

  • Automation software: The delivery of critical IT services through automation and pre-defined policies can significantly ease IT workloads, streamline application delivery, and reduce costs. In a cloud architecture, automation software can be used to easily scale up system resources to accommodate a spike in demand for compute power, deploy applications to meet fluctuating market demands, or ensure governance across a cloud environment. 

Types of cloud architecture

Although the details of each individual cloud architecture may vary, there are a number of common cloud architecture models. These include public, private, hybrid and multi-cloud architectures. Here’s how they compare to one another:

  • Public cloud architecture: In a public cloud architecture, computing resources are owned and operated by a cloud services provider. These resources are shared and redistributed across multiple tenants via the Internet. Advantages of the public cloud include reduced operating costs, easy scalability and low maintenance.

  • Private cloud architecture: Private cloud refers to a cloud architecture that is owned and managed privately, usually in a company’s own on-premises data center. However, private cloud can also span to include multiple server locations or leased space in geographically scattered colocation facilities. Although typically more expensive than public cloud solutions, a private cloud architecture is more customizable and can offer stringent data security and compliance options.

  • Hybrid cloud architecture: A hybrid cloud environment combines the best of both worlds—the operating efficiencies of the public cloud and data security capabilities of the private cloud. By utilizing both public and private cloud architectures, hybrid cloud helps consolidate IT resources while enabling organizations to migrate workloads between environments depending on their data security requirements. Managing this mix of applications, deployed across a combination of data center and public cloud environments, requires a solid foundation to ensure consistent infrastructure and operations wherever workloads are deployed.

  • Multi-cloud architecture: A multi-cloud architecture is one that uses multiple public cloud services. The advantages of a multi-cloud environment include greater flexibility to choose and deploy the cloud services that are most likely to satisfy varying organizational requirements. Another upside is reduced reliance on any single cloud services vendor for greater cost savings and a lower likelihood of vendor lock-in. 

What is cloud computing used for?

There are three key models of service that are driving organizations to the cloud. Each of these has its own benefits and key features. 

  • Software as a Service (SaaS): Vendors deliver and maintain applications and software to organizations over the Internet, thereby eliminating the need for end users to deploy the software locally. 
  • Platform as a Service (PaaS): This service model provides a computing platform and a solution stack as a service so that an organization can create an application or service. The service provider delivers the networks, servers and storage required to host an application while the end user oversees software deployment and configuration settings. 
  • Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS): A third-party provider eliminates the need for organizations to purchase servers, networks or storage devices by providing the necessary infrastructure. In turn, end users manage their software and applications, and only pay for the capacity they need at any given time. 

What are cloud architecture best practices?

A well-architected framework for the cloud is more than simply a technology necessity; it’s a vehicle for lower operating costs, high-performing applications and satisfied end users. By following cloud architecture principles and best practices, organizations can ensure they reap real business value from their cloud investments and future-proof their IT environment.

  • Careful upfront planning: Take the time to acknowledge your capacity needs when designing a cloud architecture. As you begin to build out your architecture, continuously test its performance to avoid experiencing unexpected glitches in production.

  • Embed security: Protect your cloud from hackers and unauthorized users by safeguarding all layers within a cloud infrastructure with data encryption, patch management and rigid policies.

  • Ensure disaster recovery: Automate recovery processes to avoid costly downtime and ensure a speedy recovery from service disruptions. Monitoring capacity and using a redundant network can also ensure a highly available architecture.

  • Maximize performance: Leverage and manage the right compute resources by continuously monitoring business demands and technology needs.

  • Cut costs: Take advantage of automated processes, managed service providers and utilization tracking to eliminate unnecessary cloud computing expenses. 

Related Topics
Cloud Computing Infrastructure
Cloud Management
Cloud Cost Management
Cloud Infrastructure Management
Cloud Security
Cloud Migration
Cloud Scalability
Cloud Elasticity
Cloud as a Service
Cloud Migration Strategy

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