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Does a "cloud" require multiple servers? RRS feed

  • Question

  • OK, so this is a dumb question, but I am trying to settle an argument. Last Sunday my co-host and I got into a bit of a fight over defining what cloud computing is. We received a very generic question from a listener that was basically, "What is the cloud?" So we were working on the answer, and I said that any server that processes data for the user remotely over a network is esentially a cloud. My co-host argued that a server by itself can't be a cloud, because a cloud implies that the service contains multiple servers working together as one. Isn't "a cloud" or "the cloud," basically another way of saying "a server?" I know that most clouds have multiple servers in them, but why couldn't you set up a cloud service on one standalone server? In the end, we just avoided that part of the subject. You can listen to the segment if you want to. It's at http://dmbl.co/rs21 What's your take? Thanks!

    Tuesday, May 7, 2013 6:42 PM

Answers

  • I would recommend you to read - and understand this document created by NIST: http://csrc.nist.gov/publications/nistpubs/800-145/SP800-145.pdf

    this is important since all the serious major vendors are using this definition. If you are doing something else, then you are not doing cloud computing.

    -kn


    Kristian (Virtualization and some coffee: http://kristiannese.blogspot.com )

    Tuesday, May 14, 2013 7:11 AM
  • I have read that document, and it doesn't really address the fundamental question I had. Perhaps my title was misleading. I suppose, instead of "Does a "cloud" require multiple servers?" I should have asked "Isn't a cloud server by itself still a cloud server?" Of course, the setup for a serious cloud computing service has to consist of a scalable cluster of computers. My question is not how to setup a reliable, well performing cloud. My question was, how many servers do you have to have for your server to be considered a "cloud server"? One server is scalable; it can be expanded to run in a cluster. Also, a server can run several virtual servers off of one physical server, so obviously it is elastic. So, how many servers do you have to have before you can call them cloud servers? Neither the NIST definition nor the Gartner definition specifically address that because the answer is not a number. You have to have as many servers as you need to provide the resources that are required to run the service. That could be as many as several thousand or as few as one. Now, yes, some cloud services require two or more servers in their minimum system requirements, but many of them do not. Many can work, even if at less than par performance, on a single server.

    Let's say you have a cluster of 15 servers running a cloud service. What are each of those individual servers called?? Cloud servers! If 14 of the 15 servers were to fail simultaneously, what would you have? A lead network administrator in the hospital with a heart attack...and one cloud server!

    • Marked as answer by Ray Hollister Wednesday, May 15, 2013 2:59 AM
    Wednesday, May 15, 2013 2:42 AM

All replies

  • Hi,

    that's a question of faith. For me the term cloud implies that I have a huge datacenter in the background, because you need something like scalability, failure-tolerance, etc. Most of that features are not given with a single server (even if you have a huge virtualization strategy). Imagine the situation when the single server is down - that means your whole "cloud" is down. Also you can scale vertically with a single server, but there are some limits. If I scale horizontally I can run my application on n servers (where n for me is something between three and more than a hundred).

    Also cloud implies some kind of abstraction. What I mean with that is that it doesn't matter if your application is running on a single server or multiple servers and how things like the backup or update strategy of the server system works. But that are just some examples for a real complex term.

    In a simple sentence: For me cloud computing indicates that there is a massive virtualization going on which is handled by a cloud provider.

    So from the argumentation point of view I would go with your co-host, but like said - that's a question of faith and you will find as many opinions on that as there are definitions on the term "cloud computing". If you follow some marketing buzz the cloud is equals to the web itself.


    Best Regards. When you see answers and helpful posts, please click Vote As Helpful, Propose As Answer, and/or Mark As Answer. This helps us build a healthy and positive community.

    @Horizon_Net | Blog

    Tuesday, May 7, 2013 11:11 PM
  • How dare you agree with him! Arrrggghhh! :-)

    Seriously though, of course, any cloud service that is implemented on any scale would consist of multiple servers, but I don't think that means that a service that consists of only one server couldn't be called a cloud. For instance, when I ran Sugar CRM, a "cloud based" customer relationship management system, I ran it on one web server. Don't get me wrong, it wasn't a good setup, but it worked...until it didn't, but that's a different story. ha! Also, think about Ubuntu Cloud and ownCloud. Most of those are going to be setup on a single server. 

    I think that "the cloud" as the marketing departments has taken on that connotation, but essentially any server that processes data remotely is a cloud, isn't it? If you go back to the original meaning, it comes from the use of a cloud graphic in network diagrams to represent the remote server. I mean, wouldn't an Exchange server with Outlook Web Access be considered "a cloud," even if it was setup on only one server? You're right though, marketing likes to call anything on the web as "The Cloud." 
    Wednesday, May 8, 2013 12:16 AM
  • I also don't agree on the Sugar CRM or Ubuntu argument :) Just use the definition from Gartner and you'll see that a normal single server setup can't be a cloud:

    Gartner defines cloud computing as a style of computing in which scalable and elastic IT-enabled capabilities are delivered as a service.

    SugarCRM and Ubuntu Cloud can be used both in a cloud scenario, but as a single server setup you don't have the scalability and elasticity. If you take your own words into consideration any web hosting provider also would be a cloud hosting provider...


    Best Regards. When you see answers and helpful posts, please click Vote As Helpful, Propose As Answer, and/or Mark As Answer. This helps us build a healthy and positive community.

    @Horizon_Net | Blog

    Friday, May 10, 2013 10:53 AM
  • I would recommend you to read - and understand this document created by NIST: http://csrc.nist.gov/publications/nistpubs/800-145/SP800-145.pdf

    this is important since all the serious major vendors are using this definition. If you are doing something else, then you are not doing cloud computing.

    -kn


    Kristian (Virtualization and some coffee: http://kristiannese.blogspot.com )

    Tuesday, May 14, 2013 7:11 AM
  • I have read that document, and it doesn't really address the fundamental question I had. Perhaps my title was misleading. I suppose, instead of "Does a "cloud" require multiple servers?" I should have asked "Isn't a cloud server by itself still a cloud server?" Of course, the setup for a serious cloud computing service has to consist of a scalable cluster of computers. My question is not how to setup a reliable, well performing cloud. My question was, how many servers do you have to have for your server to be considered a "cloud server"? One server is scalable; it can be expanded to run in a cluster. Also, a server can run several virtual servers off of one physical server, so obviously it is elastic. So, how many servers do you have to have before you can call them cloud servers? Neither the NIST definition nor the Gartner definition specifically address that because the answer is not a number. You have to have as many servers as you need to provide the resources that are required to run the service. That could be as many as several thousand or as few as one. Now, yes, some cloud services require two or more servers in their minimum system requirements, but many of them do not. Many can work, even if at less than par performance, on a single server.

    Let's say you have a cluster of 15 servers running a cloud service. What are each of those individual servers called?? Cloud servers! If 14 of the 15 servers were to fail simultaneously, what would you have? A lead network administrator in the hospital with a heart attack...and one cloud server!

    • Marked as answer by Ray Hollister Wednesday, May 15, 2013 2:59 AM
    Wednesday, May 15, 2013 2:42 AM
  • So where does resiliency over redundancy fit into the equation? A cloud doesn't imply that the service contains multiple servers, it implies that you have "the perception of continuous availability". Now, granted, you can have a number of levels of resiliency within the datacentre from a physical point of view but a single server solution still has, well, a single point of failure.

    So, while it is obviously possible to run a small organisation with a single server, managed by System Center it still won't be a Private Cloud as it has no resiliency. It would just be a small organisation who happens to be using System Center. You could call it a Basic Cloud, but it certainly isn't a Private Cloud.

    Just my take on it, mind.

    Monday, May 20, 2013 9:39 PM
  • With a Single System management and small organization you cannot run the private cloud. it will not a good support for the cloud industry. you must follow public cloud to give your best response and authentication with a advance stored Data. OsCommerce Hosting will be the best support for cloud computing
    Monday, June 17, 2013 1:56 PM