Infrastructure as a service

Infrastructure as a service (IaaS) are online services that provide high-level APIs used to dereference various low-level details of underlying network infrastructure like physical computing resources, location, data partitioning, scaling, security, backup etc. A hypervisor, such as Xen, Oracle VirtualBox, Oracle VM, KVM, VMware ESX/ESXi, or Hyper-V runs the virtual machines as guests. Pools of hypervisors within the cloud operational system can support large numbers of virtual machines and the ability to scale services up and down according to customers' varying requirements.

Typically IaaS involves the use of a cloud orchestration technology like OpenStack, Apache CloudStack or OpenNebula. This manages the creation of a virtual machine and decides on which hypervisor (i.e. physical host) to start it, enables VM migration features between hosts, allocates storage volumes and attaches them to VMs, tracks usage information for billing and more.

An alternative to hypervisors are Linux containers, which run in isolated partitions of a single Linux kernel running directly on the physical hardware. Linux cgroups and namespaces are the underlying Linux kernel technologies used to isolate, secure and manage the containers. Containerisation offers higher performance than virtualization, because there is no hypervisor overhead. Also, container capacity auto-scales dynamically with computing load, which eliminates the problem of over-provisioning and enables usage-based billing.

IaaS clouds often offer additional resources such as a virtual-machine disk-image library, raw block storage, file or object storage, firewalls, load balancers, IP addresses, virtual local area networks (VLANs), and software bundles.

The NIST's definition of cloud computing defines infrastructure as a service as:

The capability provided to the consumer is to provision processing, storage, networks, and other fundamental computing resources where the consumer is able to deploy and run arbitrary software, which can include operating systems and applications. The consumer does not manage or control the underlying cloud infrastructure but has control over operating systems, storage, and deployed applications; and possibly limited control of select networking components (e.g., host firewalls).

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