If there’s one thing you can say with absolute certainty about the cloud computing industry, it’s that they’re good at marketing. Anyone remotely connected to the tech sphere will be aware that cloud means on-demand pricing, elastic deployments, and flexible control interfaces, but what’s not often mentioned is that to achieve these benefits, performance takes a serious hit.
It’s not hard to see why performance and latency issues arise all the time on cloud platforms. Take a server, install an operating system, install a hypervisor on top of the OS to run a virtualization layer, create a large number of virtualized servers on top of the hypervisor, install another operating system within a virtualized server, and then you can get to installing your applications and services. Each of these layers soaks up resources from the underlying physical server — often a lot of resources. Those resources don’t come for free. Although the price may not be apparent in cloud vendor’s plans, the cost of the virtualization layer is passed on to the client. Everyone using a cloud platform necessarily pays a virtualization tax.
What does that tax get you? Flexibility and scalability marginally superior to physical deployments. You take a performance hit, risk increased latencies, and the other problems that come with the increased complexity of managing a virtualization layer, and in return you get the ability to spin up servers in minutes.
Consider an alternative scenario. You take a powerful server, install an operating system on it, install your applications and services, and you’re good to go. The entirety of the server’s resources are at your disposal.
You might think that deployments without virtualization would have a meaningful negative impact on the speed of scalability and the flexibility of deployments, but for almost every use-case, especially those that support web hosting, the impact is negligible. Scaling can be achieved horizontally by simply adding more servers to form a cluster, a bare-metal cloud, with many of the same benefits as virtualized cloud infrastructure, but without the performance and reliability hit or the virtualization tax. Any decent data center, colocation provider, or dedicated server hosting provider isn’t going to have a problem deploying servers in a time frame that’s entirely adequate to the sort of planned scaling that most businesses require, particularly if they’re using a control and management interface designed to facilitate quick scaling of physical infrastructure, like InterWorx.
We’ve seen time and again that users of cloud platforms who value performance, availability, and stability above the negligible benefits of instantaneous server deployment are disappointed by the cloud. We recently covered an example on this blog, where moving from the cloud to dedicated hardware slashed the cost and increased the performance and stability of Feedbin’s infrastructure. Users of cloud services like Amazon’s AWS have carried out extensive testing that reveals the price/performance ratio of cloud platforms is dire when compared to physical hardware.
When choosing between a virtualized cloud environment and a bare-metal cloud, for most businesses, it’s a no-brainer: avoid the virtualization tax and choose hosting where you get to use all of the resources that you pay for.
Image: Flickr/Nina Matthews Photography