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Virtualization vs. Cloud Computing; There is a Difference

TechSource Editor


Virtualization and Cloud Computing have caused quite a commotion over the last few years.  There have been lengthy discussions in many boardrooms as to which strategy to lead with and why. Heated debates around the water cooler about which approach is more efficient and dominant are very common at corporations and federal agencies alike.

Virtualization and cloud computing were  both developed to maximize the use of computing resources while streamlining processes and increasing efficiencies to reduce the total cost of ownership. While we frequently hear people discuss these two terms interchangeably; they are truly very different approaches to solving the problem of maximizing the use of available resources which leads to some important considerations when selecting between the two.

Many customers ask us,“is virtualization the same as a private cloud ?” or “do we still need a private cloud, if we’re already running a virtualized environment today?” These are both very good questions that need answers, sooner, rather than later.

In order to respond to the first question, we need to know what business problems our customer is trying to solve.  Once we have that answer, we can assess if a private cloud solution can fundamentally address that issue, or if virtualization is sufficient. This is of course assuming there is a clear understanding of the the pros and cons of both technologies. They address IT challenges in different dimensions and operate in different scopes with different levels of impact on a business.

While virtualization may be used to provide cloud computing, cloud computing is quite different from virtualization. Cloud computing to most of us, may look like virtualization and is very similar in fashion, however, it can be better described as a service where virtualization is part of a physical infrastructure.

Cloud computing was born from the concept of utility computing. Utility computing was the belief that computing resources and hardware would become a commodity to the point that companies and/or federal agencies would purchase computing resources from a central pool and pay only for resources they used. These resources would be metered, much like you buy power for your home from a power company.

The real difference between virtualization and cloud computing is actually not that difficult to understand. For instance, a self-serving model is not an essential component in virtualization, but is in cloud computing. You can certainly argue some virtualization solutions may include a self-serving component;however, it is not mandatory. In cloud computing, self-service is a crucial concept to deliver availability to any user at any time, which is what a service is all about. Furthermore, self-service is an effective mechanism to reduce the amount of training and support needed at all levels within an organization. It is a crucial vehicle to accelerate the ROI of a cloud computing solution and make it sustainable in the near future.

So, how do you decide whether you need virtualization or cloud computing?”

Both technologies can save you money, but each accomplishes this in different ways. If you choose to use virtualization, you will incur a great deal of upfront costs but will save more on operational expenditures in the long run. Cloud computing works in just the opposite fashion. You may not need many resources initially, so cloud computing will likely cost very little in the beginning. However, as your applications become more popular with your end users, the demand on resources increases and typically becomes more expensive than using virtual servers on your own infrastructure.

At the end of the day, virtualization and cloud computing are both ways to do “more with less”by maximizing the utilization of computing resources. However, please remember that they are not the same thing. While they both have advantages, you’ll want to think about factors like start-up versus long term costs and operational expenditures in both models and how that affects your staff and of course, your bottom line.


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