Web hosting is in a constant state of evolution, something hosting companies and users alike can find frustrating. What was the “go-to” solution a year or a even six months ago can be replaced with a new, better form of hosting, often leading to a confusion on the part of consumers and users, as to where exactly on the continuum their current solution falls – are they in the middle of the pack, ahead of the game, or have they fallen behind?
Welcome to the Past
The idea of centralized computing is something that has been discussed by infrastructure providers for the better part of 30 years. Initially, this took the form of large, local server rooms that stored all data for a company in one physical location. In the first part of this decade, however, a more effective solution was found – a virtual private server, or VPS. Virtual private servers use storage and resource space that can be located off-site to store a company’s applications or data, and portion it out according to what is needed by each customer. Each slice of a virtual server is unaware that other such slices exist, and resources are split up among all users. While things such as uptime may be guaranteed by a VPS provider, the amount of resources available can vary depending on the number of users currently accessing their data, as well as the type of applications they are using. Original Windows VPS options may have been hosted on a single, non-redundant server, meaning that if one client caused a crash, the potential for catastrophic data loss was high.
The Evolution of Windows VDS
In order to offer a more robust set of services to customers, Microsoft went on to develop Windows Hyper-V VDS solutions, which at a basic level function much like a VPS. Instead of resources that are allocated to all users with a promise that a certain portion will be available at any given time, users are instead given dedicated sets of resources that are theirs and theirs alone. These VDS systems can be hosted on high availability (HA) clustered infrastructures, which can then strengthened on the back-end by SAN storage.
This combination provides high speed I/O, which is often a sticking point for VPS hosting solutions as multiple users try to access information at the same time. When a large number of requests are made on a VPS, it can bog down both the processes that are being run as well as basic response time from the server, but such Windows VDS solutions have been able to eliminate a great deal of this lag thanks to their ability to mimic the true resource allocation of a dedicated, local server.
Seeing the Future – The Potential of PaaS
Now, a new method of deploying network services and access is gaining ground, known as Platform as a Service (PaaS). In combination with cloud computing – offering a virtualization service but over a larger group of redundant computers all able to backup information – PaaS options are now able to deliver a similar experience to a Windows VDS, but without the need to buy server space. PaaS relies on what is known as the “solution stack” in order to deliver a viable set of features to a client. The layers of cloud computing are comprised of five levels, often seen arranged in a stack formation. At the top end of the cloud is the client, in this case represented by a computer or phone a company would use. Applications are the next level, followed by the platform, infrastructure, and then server itself.
PaaS options are able to facilitate the deployment and use of apps by consuming resources on the infrastructure level, but instead of paying for the cost of that infrastructure, a client can pay only for access to the platform itself, which can then be installed on any computer in a company’s network to run and develop apps. Instead of being given an allotted amount of space on a single server, a PaaS will utilize infrastructure provided by a multitude of servers, each of which are redundant. This broader approach to storage and resource use can help to lower I/O lag and also offer greater flexibility for companies who need to scale up their services or add extra levels of infrastructure.
As cloud computing continues to evolve, PaaS options are quickly coming to the forefront as a potential successor to Windows VDS solutions, providing both speed and redundancy.