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What Is Cloud Infrastructure?

Cloud infrastructure is a collection of the components and elements required to provide cloud computing. This includes computing power, networking, storage, and an interface that enables users to access virtualized resources. 

Virtual resources mirror those of physical infrastructure, and they include components like memory, network switches, servers, and storage clusters. They are required to create applications that users can access through the cloud or retrieve via the internet, telecom services, and wide-area networks (WANs). The cloud infrastructure approach offers benefits like greater flexibility, scalability, and lower cost of ownership.

A cloud infrastructure enables organizations to access data storage requirements and computing capabilities as and when they need it. Rather than creating on-premise IT infrastructures or leasing data-center space, organizations can now rent cloud infrastructure and their required computing capabilities through third-party providers. 

Cloud infrastructure is available for private, public, and hybrid cloud systems. It can also be rented through cloud providers and via several cloud infrastructure delivery models.

How Does Cloud Infrastructure Work?

Cloud platform and infrastructure works through an abstraction process, such as virtualization, to separate resources from the physical hardware they are typically installed on into the cloud. These virtual resources are provisioned into cloud environments using tools like automation and management software, enabling users to access the resources they need, when they need them.

Components of Cloud Infrastructure

Any organization that purchases a cloud computing solution does so by leasing access to cloud infrastructure. This is built on four core components: data storage, networking, power, and virtualization, each of which is crucial to helping businesses deploy and deliver cloud applications and services. 

Hardware

Any cloud infrastructure requires physical hardware, which can be located at various geographical locations. This hardware includes backup devices, firewalls, load balancers, networking equipment, routers, and storage arrays. 

A key piece of hardware is servers, which are computers or devices programmed to provide services to customers or users. Web servers, which provide Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) or Hypertext Preprocessor (PHP) files, use the Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP). File servers store vast amounts of information, while mail servers enable email messages to be sent across the internet. 

In the case of private cloud, organizations can use dedicated servers that are responsible for storing information. Public cloud, on the other hand, uses a multi-tenant model, which enables a server to provide services for multiple customers.

Virtualization

Virtualization is critical to cloud infrastructure as it abstracts data storage and computing power from the hardware. This allows users to interact with a cloud infrastructure from their hardware by using a graphical user interface (GUI). Virtualization often occurs on data storage and computing resources, which makes it easier for users to access them.

Stockage

Cloud storage enables organizations to store their data in cloud-based file servers rather than their own data centers. Third-party providers, such as Microsoft Azure, Amazon Simple Storage Service, and Google Cloud Storage, are responsible for managing and maintaining data and providing remote backups. Data that organizations store in the cloud can be accessed through the internet or cloud-based applications.

Network

Networking enables the cloud resources users need to access to be delivered to them across the internet. It does this through physical hardware, such as switches, wiring, routers, and load balancers, then virtual networks on top of the physical resources. Cloud-based resources are then delivered to users across a network, typically the internet, which enables them to access cloud applications and services remotely, whenever they need them. 

Cloud networks are typically made up of various subnetworks and can be used to create virtual local-area networks (VLANs).

What Are the 3 Main Types of Cloud Architecture?

There are three main types of cloud architecture, all of which use the core components of cloud infrastructure to deliver computing services to users and organizations. 

  1. Public cloud: Public cloud architecture involves the use of third-party cloud providers, which make cloud resources available to multiple customers via the internet. These providers operate multi-tenant environments that lower the cost of data storage and computing power for customers. This approach is also effective in lowering the total cost of computing resources. However, it can present privacy issues for organizations that handle sensitive data or personally identifiable information (PII)
  2. Private cloud: In a private cloud architecture approach, cloud infrastructure is only accessed by one organization. The private cloud architecture can be built, developed, and maintained by a company’s own IT teams or delivered by external providers.
  3. Hybrid cloud: A hybrid cloud architecture can be considered the best of both worlds, providing private and public cloud infrastructures that interact within a connected but separate system. This approach is ideal for organizations that handle sensitive information and PII, allowing them to store their most critical data in private clouds and less sensitive data in public clouds. With a hybrid cloud architecture, organizations maintain their private environments while using public cloud services for other computing tasks and data storage capabilities. 

3 Cloud Infrastructure Delivery Models

Cloud infrastructure can also be delivered in different ways, typically through three standard delivery models. 

  1. Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS): An IaaS model involves cloud service providers delivering capabilities such as data storage, networking, servers, and virtualization to their customers. The customer can access as much computing power or data storage as they require but needs to have their own software platform to run it. This involves the use of applications, data, middleware, operating systems, and runtime services. IaaS is the most hands-on form of cloud delivery model, requiring organizations to control and maintain most of their own cloud resources. 
  2. Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS): The PaaS approach sees cloud service providers deliver the entire cloud infrastructure to customers. This means the data, networks, servers, and virtualization of the infrastructure will be delivered through a platform of operating systems, runtime services, and middleware. This approach enables organizations to deploy, develop, operate, and test their software and applications in a cloud environment, without the cost and complexity that typically come with building an on-premises IT infrastructure.
  3. Software-as-a-Service (SaaS): A SaaS model involves cloud service providers delivering applications through web-based portals. The SaaS approach is the most popular, widely used cloud service delivery model. All data storage is located on the service provider’s servers. Customers do not have to store application information on local hard disks, which takes a lot of hard work away from organizations. SaaS providers are responsible for delivering the entire technology stack, which includes maintaining applications and the cloud infrastructure that supports them. 

Cloud Infrastructure vs. Cloud Architecture

Cloud infrastructure differs from the cloud architecture itself. Cloud infrastructure involves the tools that are used to build a cloud environment, while cloud architecture is the concept or blueprint behind how it will be built. 

Cloud architecture outlines how the various technologies for creating a cloud computing environment will be connected. This includes the combination of components that comprise a cloud environment, including hardware, networks, operating systems, virtual resources, automation software, management tools, and container technologies. 

Advantages and Disadvantages of Cloud Infrastructure

Cloud infrastructure is becoming increasingly popular as the technology becomes more powerful, intuitive, and cost-efficient. Key advantages include:

  1. Cost: Cloud infrastructure offers major cost savings on operating expenses. Cloud customers get all the components and services they need delivered through the cloud, rather than creating, building, managing, and maintaining a data center. This saves huge amounts of spending on energy bills, IT expertise, hardware, servers, and software that accompany a physical data center. Instead, cloud infrastructure enables businesses to pay for only the data storage and computing power they need as and when they require it.
  2. Agility and flexibility: Cloud infrastructures are highly agile and flexible because they are self-managed and allow service changes to be made in a matter of minutes. This increases uptime and makes business systems efficient, enabling users to access shared data through mobile or Internet-of-Things (IoT) devices as necessary. As a result, organizations become more focused on business and issues that drive the bottom line than being bogged down in IT matters.
  3. Security: The cloud is often looked down on with skepticism for being insecure or making data easy to compromise. But enterprise-level cloud infrastructures are highly secure environments primed to protect organizations’ data against cyberattacksviruses, and data breaches through advanced firewalls and encryption keys. Furthermore, a hybrid cloud approach enables organizations to securely store their most sensitive data in private clouds while providing great user experiences by storing less sensitive applications and big data in public clouds. 

However, like any technology solution, there are cons to using cloud infrastructure. The most prominent disadvantages that organizations could encounter include:

  1. Vendor risks: The cloud is an evolving concept and technology, which means it is rapidly fluctuating and ever-improving. That also means some cloud service providers get it right while others get it wrong. If a cloud provider ceases to exist or performs a major overhaul, any organization that relies on that provider for its infrastructure becomes exposed to risk.
  2. Connection issues: Cloud infrastructure is totally reliant on the internet, which means any cloud solution is only as solid or reliable as the network connection it is built on. Users increasingly refuse to accept any downtime when accessing their favorite cloud applications and services, regardless of whether that downtime is caused by a storm, human error, or technical outage. Any cloud infrastructure needs dependable connections and networks that are supported by business promises and the delivery of service level agreements (SLAs). 
  3. Data control: Cloud infrastructure usage moves data control away from the organization to their cloud service provider of choice. Organizations are likely to have less or limited control over access to their applications, data, and any server-based tools.

Secure Your Cloud Infrastructure with Fortinet

The Fortinet Dynamic Cloud Security solutions protect organizations by giving them the confidence to deploy all application types across any cloud infrastructure. These solutions provide organizations with the control and visibility they need across their cloud infrastructures, enabling them to secure applications and provide connectivity between data centers and the cloud.

Fortinet also protects organizations’ most critical applications with the FortiWeb web application firewall (WAF), which is a Challenger in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for WAFs. The Fortinet WAF protects business-critical web applications from cyberattacks that target both known and unknown vulnerabilities, or zero-day exploits. The solution is crucial as organizations’ attack surfaces rapidly evolve every time they deploy new features, update existing features, and expose new web application programming interfaces (APIs). 

FortiWeb keeps pace with the rapidly changing threat landscape to ensure organizations are always protected from the latest known and zero-day threats. It provides advanced features and a multi-layered approach to protect against major security risks, including the Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP) Top 10 threats. FortiWeb ensures robust protection against and the identification of anomalous behavior, malicious and benign anomalies, and bot mitigation and blocking. FortiWeb can protect business applications in any cloud environment, with options for hardware appliances, virtual machines, SaaS solutions, containers, and the FortiWeb Cloud WAF-as-a-Service.

Fortinet also provides specific solutions for public cloud securityprivate cloud security, and hybrid cloud security.

FAQs

What Is Cloud Infrastructure?

Cloud infrastructure refers to the components and elements that are required to provide cloud computing. This includes computing power, networking, storage, and an interface that enables users to access virtualized resources. 

What are the main components of cloud infrastructure?

There are four core components of cloud infrastructure: hardware, virtualization, storage, and network. Hardware includes physical devices; such as backups, firewalls, load balancers, networking equipment, routers, servers, and storage arrays. Virtualization is used to abstract resources from these hardware devices. Storage enables organizations to host big data in the cloud rather than expensive physical data centers. Network enables users to access cloud-based applications and data through the internet.

What are the three types of cloud computing?

The three types of cloud computing are the Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS), and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) delivery models.