Virtualisation versus a private cloud
Since the mid 2000s one of the prevailing trends in the IT world has been to move networks, data, operating systems and servers into an environment where they are not tied to a specific piece of hardware.
Emphasis on cloud computing
More recently there has been an emphasis on cloud computing, with more functions passing into the hands of a third party. The latter includes the option for a private cloud, dedicated to one enterprise.
The strongest distinction is that virtualised research is a fixture of an IT estate during cloud computing is offered as an on-demand service, for platform, infrastructure or software, available on a pay-as-you-go basis.
But there is after all a steady, if more low key, move to virtualised environments, with recent deals for organisations just as Thames Water and Medway NHS Trust. As well, Forrester has recently predicted a rise in demand for data virtualisation research.
As organisations consider which route to take they have to look closely at which is better to meet their business needs.
This can be difficult, not least because both are often described in language which bears little relation to business processes, nevertheless there are a number of factors that should be taken into account.
The latter as well provides the scope for efficiency savings through the utility computing model, in which the customer only pays for what they use; however if the service is heavily used the costs can increase and begin to offset the initial savings.
This can be important if it runs a number of specialised applications that have to be tailored to the platform, and if it wants to respond to changes in the use of research.
It could as well be a significant factor for organisations that are increasing their use of remote innovation or adopting a BYOD policy.
Reliability is as well the subject of a debate in other words difficult to settle. In a virtualised environment the loss of the network connection can cut access to multiple servers; however there could be a similar problem for a cloud set-up of the wide area network link goes down.
In addition, there will in the main be more scalability in the cloud, with the scope for a rapidly expanding business to increase its data holdings and processing capacity without the time and cost of a big in-house investment.
But the fanfare around cloud computing should not distract from the case for virtualisation. Overall it's not clear cut, and depends on a series of value judgements determined by the nature and circumstances of the organisation's business.
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