What is a Cloud?

Cloud vs. Virtualization

The word “cloud” is often thrown around as an umbrella term, while “virtualization” is often confused with cloud computing. Although the two technologies are similar, they are not interchangeable, and the difference is significant enough to affect business decisions. Essentially, virtualization differs from cloud computing because virtualization is software that manipulates hardware, while cloud computing refers to a service that results from that manipulation.

The technology behind virtualization is known as a virtual machine monitor (VMM) or virtual manager, which separates compute environments from the actual physical infrastructure. Virtualization makes servers, workstations, storage and other systems independent of the physical hardware layer, said John Livesay, vice president of InfraNet, a network infrastructure services provider. “This is done by installing a Hypervisor on top of the hardware layer, where the systems are then installed.” It enables businesses to reduce IT costs while increasing the efficiency, utilization and flexibility of their existing computer hardware.

The cloud can, and most often does, include virtualization products to deliver the compute service, said Rick Philips, vice president of compute solutions at IT firm Weidenhammer. “The difference is that a true cloud provides self-service capability, elasticity, automated management, scalability and pay-as you go service that is not inherent in virtualization.”