The information technology and web hosting industries have become infamous over the years for a hype curve on all new technologies. Typically the curve begins when a buzzword technology or solution is introduced by a handful of companies and adopted, sometimes, by an even smaller niche. The promise of these technologies may be so great, however, that bloggers, media, and other companies drive the hype curve to such a level that the technology can go nowhere but down. Then, after it seems like the hype curve has crashed back to earth, we often find that some of the technologies end up truly being game-changers…just perhaps not on the schedule of the early hype.
An excellent example of such a curve in the past decade has been the smartphone and the mobile technologies, as a whole. We’ve gone from a decade of hype, shattered expectations, and more hype to suddenly a world where it seems virtually one has an iPhone/Android/Blackberry and…yes, there is an app for whatever you need. One recent technology that has also rode the hype rollercoaster is cloud computing and, more specifically for the web hosting industry, cloud hosting. The Small-To-Medium sized business (SMB) market segment stands to benefit greatly from the cloud hosting model as time goes by and the hosting model becomes more commonplace, yet there is a feeling among many that this is a technology that was overhyped and is now under-delivering. This, actually, couldn’t be further from the truth.
The term “cloud hosting” refers to a hosting environment in which all you, the customer, need to worry about are the resources your environment requires, whether that be network access capacity, disk storage space, or CPU processing power. In a standard hosting environment, these resources are directly tied to the server hardware and/or storage subsystems you deploy. If you need to resize your environment or scale up, you typically have two options: vertical scaling and horizontal scaling. In a vertical scaling model, you simply get bigger servers to handle the load. In a horizontal scaling model, your environment scales “out” by adding additional servers of approximately the same size so that the processing load can be distributed across these new machines. Obviously, changes in either direction (up or out) can be disruptive to an organization and is the sort of thing that keeps network, hardware, and database administrators working long hours. For customers who opt to go the cloud hosting route, however, each of the hardware resources can be almost literally dialed up (think of a big knob you can turn!) to meet demand. The most advanced cloud hosting environments actually allow you to control the times of day or of the year that the dynamic resizing occurs (think of a situation in which most of your traffic is during the day – these hosts would allow you to dial your resources down at night, which could save you money on your monthly bill!). One term that was used to describe such a model early on was “utility computing” and it is an apt description. In the cloud environment, resource capacity operates almost like your electric and water utilities…as you use more, you pay more. Use less and pay less.
Applications such as onApp (http://onapp.com/) have sprung up to allow hosting providers to effectively manage such environments. Virtualization environment providers such as Xen (http://www.xen.org) have expanded their offerings to also offer a complete cloud infrastructure platform for hosting providers to use. As these tools increase in capability and complexity, the SMB market stands to profit most because a cloud hosting environment is designed specifically to reduce the IT complexity and budgeting requirements to run your mission critical applications on. If you’ve put off considering cloud hosting, now is the time to reconsider.