Granted, when virtual servers slowly emerged in the early 2000s, my enthusiasm was limited. Why is that? Well, virtual private servers, VPS for short, spread quickly, but lacked on all ends. Immature hypervisors and management systems often caused solutions to be an unstable system, which also lacked proper management tools. Although the widespread container virtualization approach provided a high density of virtual server instances, the improper separation of the virtual hardware from the host system often caused problems in terms of stability and control.
While virtualization is rapidly gaining importance, especially by providers such as VMWare in the end customer environment, the hosting industry had to keep waiting for a long time. This was due to lack of interfaces and management tools to map the entire life cycle of a virtual machine within a single, multi-tenant, web-based interface. This not only applied to standard functions, such as shutdown and startup, but also to the management of firewall, network cards, backups, etc.
Much has happened in recent years. Various cloud management tools have been pushed to the market. Commercial vendors/tools, such as OnApp and Flexiant, or open source projects, such as CloudStack and OpenStack, all provide an interface to the virtualization solution (KVM, ESX, XEN, etc) and are driving the hosting industry in a new direction. Whether private, public or hybrid clouds, whether Linux or Windows, individual servers or entire infrastructures, these solutions offer great flexibility and not only allow the provider to offer the solutions, but also provide the necessary tools for providers AND end customers to operate and manage solutions with maximum efficiency and automation. Solutions that, due to the lack of automation and tools, were previously focused on individual server instances can now be developed to an almost unlimited extent. Clustered servers? Load balancing? Entire Windows infrastructures with AD, Exchange, and file server - connected via VPN, at a click of a button?
The journey of hosted cloud services, and thus virtual infrastructure as a service, is still in its infancy. Not least for this reason, analysts, such as Gartner, predict enormous growth in cloud computing over the next few years. In the next few weeks on this blog, we will dive a little deeper into the subject of "virtualization" (hypervisor vs. container virtualization, SSD) and venture into a comparison between commercial products, such as OnApp and the like, and open source based cloud management solutions (OpenStack and CloudStack).